On 30 March 1282, as the bells of Palermo were ringing for Vespers, the Sicilian townsfolk, crying 'Death to the French', slaughtered the garrison and administration of their Angevin King. Seen in historical perspective it was not an especially big massacre: the revolt of the long-subjugated Sicilians might seem just another resistance movement. But the events of 1282 came at a crucial moment. Steven Runciman takes the Vespers as the climax of a great narrative sweep covering the whole of the Mediterranean in the thirteenth century. His sustained narrative power is displayed here with concentrated brilliance in the rise and fall of this fascinating episode. This is also an excellent guide to the historical background to Dante's Divine Comedy, forming almost a Who's Who of the political figures in it, and providing insight into their placement in Hell, Paradise or Purgatory.
1. The Death of AntiChrist; 2. The Hohenstaufen Inheritance; 3. Across the Adriatic; 4. The search for a King: Edmund of England; 5. The search for a King: Charles of Anjou; 6. The Angevin Invasion; 7. Conradin; 8. King Charles of Sicily; 9. A Mediterranean Empire; 10. Pope Gregory X; 11. The Angevin revival; 12. The great conspiracy; 13. The Vespers; 14. The duel between Kings; 15. The end of King Charles; 16. The vespers and the fate of Sicily; 17. The vespers and the fate of Europe.
'History in the grand manner, though always with a light touch.' The Observer
'Runciman wrote with wonderful eloquence, but he never overwrote. His narrative flows uncluttered by needless reference notes - there are some, but they nearly all refer to primary sources. His is the supreme example of a well-stocked mind not needing to show off all his wares, nor does he empede the central story by tedious allusion to secondary sources.' Daily Telegraph