|Italy at the beginning of the 11th century|
Under the tutelage of Arab-Berber domination during the 9th century, Sicily, at the beginning of the 10th century was controlled by the Fatimids of Egypt, conquerors of North Africa. The government was entrusted to the Kalbite dynasty of Banu Abi l-Husayn who would be the ruling emirs for more than a century.
Following the failure of a Byzantine conquest in 965, a process of complete Arabization of the island took place. This was facilitated by an influx of Arabs and Berbers from North Africa and a policy of economic and fiscal development. Thus Sicily conformed to the economic model of the principalities of the East: agricultural produce grown for the markets and the palace, importance given to luxury goods such as cotton and silk. Mazara, at the southwestern tip of the island, was the central port for trade in the Mediterranean. Despite all this, some rare Greek Christian communities managed to remain, in Palermo, Catania and in the Val Demon, in the northeast of the island.
The beginning of the 11th century saw the beginning of a period of serious political crisis in Sicily. Around 1030, the legitimacy of the Fatimid imamate was challenged and the Kalbite governors were expelled from the island. Dynastic quarrels between different emir factions led to political weakness in the system to the advantage of the Byzantines. In 1038, helped by the Muslim faction, the Greeks launched another attempt to conquer the island. The expedition, led by the Greek general George Maniankes, containing already three hundred Norman mercenaries provided by a Lombard prince, Guaimar IV of Salerno, nevertheless failed in 1040.