These events took place in the course of the year 1264. The Grand Khan having learned some years after that the unfortunate issue of the expedition was to be attributed to the dissension between the two commanders, caused the head of one of them to be cut off; the other he sent to the savage island of Zorza, where it is the custom to execute criminals in the following manner. They are wrapped round both arms, in the hide of a buffalo fresh taken from the beast, which is sewed tight. As this dries, it compresses the body to such a degree that the sufferer is incapable of moving or in any manner helping himself, and thus miserably perishes.
Under Frederic II, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Sicily had been governed wisely. His son Conrad succeeded him as King of Sicily in 1250, but went to Germany, where his crown was being contested by William of Holland, leaving his illegitimate brother Manfred to administer Sicily. Conrad and his brother Henry died in 1254. Manfred continued to rule Sicily as regent for his nephew Conradin, son of Conrad, but in 1258, upon a rumor of Conradin’s death, assumed the crown.
Pope Alexander IV and his successor Urban IV, a Frenchman, would not recognize Manfred as ruler. Urban offered the Sicilian crown to a brother of Louis IX of France, Charles, Count of Anjou, who promised to hold Sicily as a fief of the holy see. Charles was compelled to conquer his new kingdom, and with a large army of Frenchmen invaded Sicily. Manfred was defeated and slain in a sanguinary battle at Grandella, near Benevento, and Charles soon made himself master of the kingdom. Young Conradin was still living, but was defeated at Tagliacozzo in 1268, and was beheaded at Naples by order of Charles.
The French earned the scarcely veiled hatred of the Sicilians by their tyranny and cruelties, and a conspiracy arose to give the crown to Pedro, King of Aragon, who had married Constance, daughter of Manfred. Charles of Anjou was not ignorant of the fact that his throne was in danger, nor was he totally unprepared. The overthrow of the French power in Sicily, however, was precipitated by an incident at Palermo on Easter Monday, the 30th of March, 1282, which led to the wholesale massacre known to history as the “Sicilian Vespers,” because of its commencement at the hour of vespers.
The Sicilians endured the French yoke—though cursing it—until the spring of 1282. The military preparations of the King of Aragon were not yet completed, nor, even if partially known in Sicily, could they inspire any immediate hope. The people were overawed by the immense armaments of Charles destined against Constantinople; and forty-two royal castles, either in the principal cities or in situations of great natural strength, served to keep