Origins: Greek Age
All ancient authors and scholars agree in representing Catania as a Greek colony named Katane. The exact date of its foundation is not recorded, even if is generally reported to have been around 730 BC.Catania had to suffer several assaults and dominations: Syracusans, Athenians, Carthaginians and many others tried and conquer the city in ancient times – and sometimes they succeeded. Anyway, one thing is certain: the city played the role of one of the most important cultural centre of the whole Magna Graecia: it was the birthplace of the philosopher and legislator Charondas, the place of residence of the great poet Stesichorus, while Xenophanes, the philosopher of Elea, also spent the latter years of his life there.
In the First Punic War, Catania was under the submission of Rome: it seems that the city continued to maintain its friendly relations with the Romans, though not enjoying the advantages of a confederate city. However, Catania rose to a position of great prosperity under the Roman rule: Cicero repeatedly mentions it as, in his time, a wealthy and flourishing city.It subsequently suffered severely from the ravages of Sextus Pompeius, and was of the cities to which a colony was sent by Augustus. Catania retained its colonial rank, as well as its prosperity, throughout the period of the Roman Empire.After one of the most serious eruptions of Mount Etna happened, in 121 BC, and the city was overwhelmed by streams of lava, and consequently exempted, for 10 years, from its usual contributions to the Roman state.
After being sacked by the Vandals and having been ruled by the Ostrogoths, Catania was conquered in 535 by the Eastern Roman Empire, under which it remained until the IX century. It was the seat of the Byzantine governor of the island.Later on, the city came to be under the Islamic emirate of Sicily until 1072, when it fell to the Normans of Roger I of Sicily, while it was subsequently ruled a bishop-count. In 1194–1197, German soldiers sacked the city, after the conquest of the island by emperor Henry VI. In 1232, it rebelled to Henry's son, Frederick II, who later built here a massive castle and also made it a royal city, ending the dominance of the bishops. Catania was then one of the main centres of the Sicilian Vespers revolt (1282) against the House of Anjou, as well as the seat of the crowning of the new Aragonese king of Sicily, Peter I. The city's importance grew at the point that it was chosen by the same dynasty as a Parliament and Ro yal se at. Catania lost its capital role when, in the early XV century, Sicily was turned into a province of the larger Kingdom of Aragon, but kept some of its autonomy and privileges.In 1434 King Alfonso V founded here the Siciliae Studium Generale, the oldest university in Sicily.
With the unification of Castile and Aragon (early XVI century), Sicily became part of the Spanish Empire. It rebelled against the foreign government in 1516 and 1647.In 1693 the city was completely destroyed by earthquakes and by lava flows that ran over and around it into the sea. The city was then rebuilt in the Baroque architecture that nowadays characterizes it, mainly thanks to the projects of leading architect Giovanni Battista Vaccarini.
From unified Italy to today
Catania was one of the vanguards of the movement for the Sicilian autonomy in the early XIX century.In 1860 Giuseppe Garibaldi's Expedition of the Thousand conquered Sicily for Piedmont from the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Since the following year Catania was part of the newly unified Italy, whose history it shares since then.During WWII Catania was repeatedly bombed by the allies, and almost 100,000 of its inhabitants were moved to the neighbouring villages.After the conflict, from the early 1960s (and with a remarkable acceleration during the 1990s) to these days, Catania enjoyed a development and an economic, social and cultural effervescence.