An ancient Phoenician community founded between the 8th and 6th cent. BC, it later became a Carthaginian military base and was conquered by the Romans in 254 BC–253 BC Palermo was under Byzantine rule from AD 535 to AD 831, when it fell to the Arabs, who held it until 1072. The city's prosperity dates from the Arab domination and continued when, under the Normans, it served (1072–1194) as the capital of the kingdom of Sicily. Under King Roger II (1130–54) and later under Emperor Frederick II (1220–50), Palermo attained its main artistic, cultural, and commercial flowering. The French Angevin dynasty transferred the capital to Naples; its misrule led to the Sicilian Vespers insurrection (1282), which began in Palermo.
The city is rich in works of art; Byzantine, Arab, and Norman influence are blended in many buildings. Points of interest include the Arab-Norman Palatine Chapel (1130–40), located in the large palace of the Normans (today also the seat of the Sicilian parliament); the cathedral (founded in the late 12th cent.), which contains the tombs of Frederick II and other rulers; the Church of St. John of the Hermits (1132); the Palazzo Abbatellis (15th cent.), which houses the National Gallery of Sicily; the Gothic Palazzo Chiaramonte (1307); the Capuchin catacombs; and, among more modern structures, the Sports Palace (1998). The city has a university.
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