Founded by the Phoenicians in the VII century BC and called Ziz, meaning flower, it was subsequently conquered by the Romans who gave it the name Panormus (coming originally from the Greek meaning ‘big port’). Later the Arab occupation renamed it Balharm which more or less brings us to the present day Palermo. During the Arab occupation Palermo was one of the principal Islamic centres in the western world.
In 1072 the city fell to the hands of the Norman Count Roger but, fortunately, not in a violent manner. All the merchants and artisans and the Muslim population were allowed to continue their activities and professions in a normal way which is why, today, we still have examples of some of the best Arab/Norman decorative architecture in the Mediterranean. After a brief period of decadence, Palermo and Sicily passed into the hands of Frederick II of Swabia (1212) and the city once more became a powerful centre.
Other invaders such as the French Anjous, the Spanish and then in the 1700s the Bourbons from Naples who built the baroque buildings in the city, all added their own personal touches to the architecture and culture. Today, there is still some evidence of bombings from the IIWW and the last earthquake in 1968.