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Messina

Messina (mās-sēˈnä) [key], city (1991 pop. 231,693), capital of Messina prov., NE Sicily, Italy, on the Strait of Messina, opposite the Italian mainland. It is a busy seaport and a commercial and light industrial center. Manufactures include processed food, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and construction materials. Founded (late 8th cent. B.C.) by Greek colonists and named Zancle, the city was captured (5th cent. B.C.) by Anaxilas of Rhegium and renamed Messana. It became involved in several wars, particularly against Syracuse and Carthage, and was taken in 282 B.C. by mercenaries called Mamertines. The Romans answered an appeal for help from the Mamertines and intervened in Sicily, thus precipitating the first of the Punic Wars. Messina was subsequently allied with Rome, and it shared the history of the rest of Sicily. The city was conquered by the Arabs in the late 9th cent. A.D. but was liberated by the Normans in 1061. It developed a thriving silk industry (which declined in the 18th cent.). Messina later came under the rule of the Angevins, the Aragonese, and the Spanish Bourbons. A heroic insurrection against the Bourbons took place from 1774 to 1778. Garibaldi took Messina in July, 1860, but the Bourbon garrison resisted in the citadel until Mar., 1861. The city suffered a severe plague in 1743 and major earthquakes in 1783 and 1908. The earthquake of Dec. 28, 1908, destroyed 90% of Messina's buildings, including fine churches and palaces, and cost about 80,000 lives; afterward the city was completely rebuilt in conformity with standards for quake-resistant construction. In World War II, the Sicilian campaign ended with the fall of Messina to the Allies on Aug. 17, 1943. Of interest in the city are the Norman-Romanesque cathedral (rebuilt after 1908) and the National Museum. Messina has a university, founded in 1548.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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