King of Sicily, duke of Apulia and Calabria

The Norman king and his peoples

Despite the heterogeneity of the population, Roger II succeeded in maintaining social peace by following a policy of equilibrium and tolerance, exceptional for this period and inconceivable elsewhere.
A simple enumeration of the population present shows the different hues of the Norman-Sicilian civilisation: Romans, Lombards from southern Italy (Longobardi), Greeks, Arabs and Berbers, Italians from the north (Lombardi), Franks, Jews, (very numerous, but without any territorial base), and also other minorities on the mainland: Armenians, Slavs from the Balkans, Bulgarians etc.
Three elements can define each people: a law, a religion, a language which, did not always belong to the particular ethnic group, reinforced the coherence between different groups, and was further bolstered by mixed marriages. There was a cohabitation of different laws; Greek, Lombard, Roman, Norman, Frank, North-Italian, Sunni Muslim, Mosaic; the Christian religions, Greek or Roman rites, Islam, adopted by numerous Greeks from Sicily since the ninth century, and Jewish; and finally languages, Latin, Greek and Arab etc.
In Sicily, a Christian state, the notion of total equality did not exist, as Muslims and Jews, given their inferior status, were forced to pay a special tax (djizyab). Nevertheless, the communities kept the specific institutions that were indispensable for their religion and law.
All this was possible due to the personal position of power of Roger, rather than the institutions. The first signs of disintegration of this balance started when William came to power, and especially during the reign of William II where anti-Arab pogroms started. The Greeks gradually disappeared from administrative positions, but pacifically without violence. Sicilian and Maltese Islam disappeared definitively under Frederick II who deported the survivors to Apulia in the 1220ís.

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