The dynamic expansion of the Muslim world following the death of Mohammed
exposed Sicily first to Saracen raids and then to invasion. The first
invasion, by Saracens from North Africa beginning in 827, bogged
down after initial success at Agrigento and along its neighboring
in 831 a much stronger Saracen force arrived from Europe itself, where
Saracens had earlier overrun the Iberian peninsula. The Iberian invaders
seized Palermo [Panormus] in 831, but further gains came slowly against
determined resistance by Sicilians and by the imperial forces of the
Byzantine [Eastern Roman] Empire on the island. Messina fell in 843
and Enna in 859, while Syracuse and Taormina repelled successive attacks.
Finally, however, mighty Syracuse itself was captured in 877.
In a period
of 50 years the Saracens had captured all of Sicily except a few scattered
strongholds along the eastern coast, such as Taormina and Rametta.
Surprisingly, the final and complete conquest
of Sicily by the Saracens was still almost 90 years away, delayed
by internal warfare among the Saracens and by fierce Sicilian defense.