|District of Butera|
Butera in the Province of Caltanissetta
|Province / Metropolitan city||Caltanissetta (CL)|
|Frazioni||Butera Scalo, Falconara, Marina di Butera, Piano della Fiera, Tenutella|
|• Mayor||Luigi Casisi|
|• Total||295 km2 (114 sq mi)|
|Elevation||402 m (1,319 ft)|
|Population (31 December 2014)|
|• Density||16/km2 (42/sq mi)|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|• Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
|Patron saint||St. Roch|
|Saint day||August 16|
Butera (Sicilian: Vutera) is an Italian town and a comune in the province of Caltanissetta, in the southern part of the island of Sicily. It is bounded by the comuni of Gela, Licata, Mazzarino, Ravanusa and Riesi. It has a population of 4,821 (2014) and is 49 km (30 mi) from Caltanissetta, the province's capital.
The etymology of the name Butera is debated.
One hypothesis is that the name is of Arabic origin. Butera was called Butirah by the Arabs, which means "steep place". The Arabic demonym al-Buthayri was used to refer to a person from Butera (Arabic: Buthayr).
Another would suggest that the name "Butera" is of Greek origin, and several contemporary scholars tend to reject the Arabic theory of Butera's etymology. This is upheld by Giovan Battista Pellegrini, who claims that "The Arabic form for Butera, always with the interdental, should be an indication of a Greek etymon with / d / (the etymological assumptions from Arabic do not satisfy)". Upholders of a Greek origin for the Butera have suggested that the word may come from bothèr (shepherd), boutherès (country which permits for summer pasture), boutyros (butter merchant) or bouteron (butter). B. Pace himself has asserted that the term, aside from boutherès, may derive also from the Graeco-Byzantine word patela (plain), which refers Butera’s location.
In the area of "Piano fiera" (a new neighborhood built below the old town) where a prehistoric necropolis still stands, is a construction called "dolmen cysts" made of stone slabs assembled in cubiform manner (a style found also throughout Sardinia). Used also in the Greek period, the monument is associated with cult practices, both Hellenic and indigenous, and characterised by the positioning of human remains inside urns (Gk: enchytrismόs) which, in turn, were placed inside these small chambers.
The history of this territory, at the time of Greek colonization, is not documented by ancient historians, and can only be reconstructed on the basis of archaeological research. Until the eighth century BC the tombs of Piano fiera do not show any relationship with the Greek area, but starting from the second half of the seventh century they were associated with rich grave goods imported from Greece.
The origins of Butera date back to the Early Bronze Age. During the 6th century BC, the town -- then likely the Omphace described by Pausanias -- was abandoned and was rebuilt only during the period of Timoleon, shortly after the middle of the fourth century BC It was, however, a small village inhabited by farmers, subject to external aggression throughout the early Middle Ages. Butera, being situated close to Gela, one of the most prominent ancient Greek cities of Sicily under Magna Graecia, was itself settled by Greeks, especially from Crete. The dialect spoken in the region was Doric Greek.
Butera was captured by the Aghlabids during the Muslim conquest of Sicily, following a 5-month siege in 853. Out of the three valli of Sicily, it was part of the Val di Noto, in the southeastern corner of the island. Following the fall of Butera to the Normans in 1091, the town's Muslim leaders were resettled in Calabria to prevent them from fomenting rebellion among the rest of the population. However, a mosque in the town is recorded even in the 12th century, as with certain other Sicilian cities such as Catania, Syracuse, Segesta and Alcamo. It was one of the last Muslim strongholds to fall, due to stubborn resistance, and was described as "one of the strongest outposts of anti-Norman sentiment." A notable Buteresi of the Norman period was 12th century poet and Quran reciter 'Abd ar-Rahman ibn Muhammed ibn 'Umar al-Buthayri, who wrote: "No life can be serene, save that in the shadows of sweet Sicily."
Following Butera’s conquest by the Normans, it became an important Lombard town and indeed was the capital of the prominent County of Butera under the Aleramici, a noble Northwest Italian family of Frankish origin, as well as the Alagona, an Aragonese family, from 1089 to 1392. Settlers from Northern Italy (including Lombardy, Piedmont, Liguria and Emilia-Romagna) as well as southern France migrated to the county, which is reflected in the presence of Gallo-Italic dialects which are still spoken in certain Sicilian towns such as Piazza Armerina and Aidone. Butera itself was re-populated with Swabians from southern Germany following its destruction by William I as a reaction to anti-monarchical resistance in 1161.
In 1392, the Alagona family lost possession of the County following their defeat by Martin I, and was passed to the Catalan prince Ugo of Santapau. In 1543, Ambrogio Santapa was nominated Prince of Butera, after defeating Hayreddin Barbarossa, the Ottoman pirate. Up until the 19th century, this was Sicily's main feudal title.
In Butera, 12-13% of the population carries the sickle-cell trait, and its prevalence amongst the town’s citizens is believed to be due to selective pressure against malaria. While some sources claim that it was introduced by the Muslim conquerors, other scientific studies claim that it was brought by the Greeks. At present, approximately 7% of the surnames in the city (457 out of 1,732) are attributed to a possible Hellenic origin.
Monuments and historical sites
- Arab-Norman Castle: from the 9th century
- Cathedral: dedicated to Saint Thomas and found in the Piazza Duomo, it was built in the 16th century.
- Church of San Rocco (Saint Roch): built in the 18th century
- Necropolis of Piano della Fiera: in use until the 6th century BC and the Hellenistic phase, its origins date to prehistoric times
- Porta Reale (Royal Gate): given this name because it was entered by Norman count Roger I with a troop of Lombard soldiers
- Piazza Dante: the city's main square, with the town hall and the Church of S. Giovanni (St John)
- Church of San Francesco (Saint Francis): the oldest church in the town, it was founded by the first Norman Christians and became a church of Franciscan monks.
References and notes
- This page contains information translanted from Italian Wikipedia's page on this article
- Karla Mallette (6 Jun 2011). The Kingdom of Sicily, 1100-1250: A Literary History. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 98, 140. ISBN 9780812204797.
- p. 456, G. B. Pellegrini, Saggi di Linguistica italiana: Storia Struttura società (1975), Boringhieri 
- Centro di studi filologici e linguistici siciliani, “Bollettino” n. 1-2, p.96, 1953, taken from 
- p.140, Sicolorum Gymnasium, 1986, taken from
- From B. Pace’s Toponimi Bizantini, p. 414-415, as found in p.213 note 141, F. Maurici's Castelli medievali in Sicilia: Dai Bizantini ai Normanni, Sellerio, Palermo, 1992, as found in 
- Piccolo, Salvatore; Darvill, Timothy (2013). Ancient Stones, The Prehistoric Dolmens of Sicily. Thornham/Norfolk: Brazen Head Publishing. p. 4. ISBN 9780956510624.
- Filippo Coarelli, Mario Torelli, Sicilia, Guide archeologiche Laterza,1992.
- Alexander Metcalfe (21 Jan 2014). Muslims and Christians in Norman Sicily: Arabic-Speakers and the End of Islam. Routledge. p. 12. ISBN 9781317829256.
- Alexander Metcalfe (21 Jan 2014). Muslims and Christians in Norman Sicily: Arabic-Speakers and the End of Islam. Routledge. p. 28. ISBN 9781317829256.
- Paul M. Cobb (21 Jul 2014). The Race for Paradise: An Islamic History of the Crusades. Oxford University Press. p. 59. ISBN 9780199532018.
- Alex Metcalfe (2009). The Muslims of Medieval Italy (illustrated ed.). Edinburgh University Press. p. 111. ISBN 9780748620081.
- Alex Metcalfe (2009). The Muslims of Medieval Italy (illustrated ed.). Edinburgh University Press. p. 100. ISBN 9780748620081.
- Jill Caskey; Adam S. Cohen; Linda Safran (22 Jun 2011). Confronting the Borders of Medieval Art (illustrated ed.). BRILL. pp. 81, 116. ISBN 9789004207493.
- Melitta Weiss Adamson (14 Oct 2013). Regional Cuisines of Medieval Europe: A Book of Essays: A Book of Essays. Routledge. p. 116. ISBN 9781135308759.
- Hubert Houben (4 Apr 2002). Roger II of Sicily: A Ruler Between East and West (illustrated ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 107. ISBN 9780521655736.
- Miriam Bloom (20 Oct 2009). Understanding Sickle Cell Disease. Univ. Press of Mississippi. pp. 35–6. ISBN 9781604737578.
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