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Sicily, said Goethe, is the key to everything. It is the largest island in the Mediterranean, the stepping-stone between Europe and Africa, the link between the Latin West and the Greek East. Sicily's strategic location has tempted Roman emperors, French princes, and Spanish kings. The subsequent struggles to conquer and keep it have played crucial roles in the rise and fall of the world's most powerful dynasties. Yet Sicily has often been little more than a footnote in books about other empires. Here is a vivid, erudite, chronicle of an island and the remarkable kings, queens, and tyrants who fought to rule it. From its beginnings as a Greek city-state to its emergence as a multicultural trading hub during the Crusades, from the rebellion against Italian unification to the rise of the Mafia, the story of Sicily is rich with extraordinary moments and dramatic characters. Writing with his customary deftness and humor, John Julius Norwich outlines the surprising influence Sicily has had on world history and tells the story of one of the world's most kaleidoscopic cultures in a galvanizing, contemporary way.
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