By Jane Schneider
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Additional info for Culture and Political Economy in Western Sicily
Lands described by Arab geographers as "rich in a variety of rare fruits" became "veritable deserts" in the words of Goethe, who ob served them in the eighteenth century. In his autobiographical sketch, "Places of My Infancy," Giuseppe di Lampedusa (author of The Leopard) recalled "the immeasurable scenery of feudal Sicily, "The immeasurable scenery of feudal Sicily, desolate, breathless, pressed by a leaden sun [Lampedusa 1962: 43], " op- 32 LAND USE AND SETTLEMENT "The settlement pattern concentrates population in large compact agglomerations, located on mountainsides or hilltops.
The resulting watersheds have for centuries facilitated irriga tion on the coast and represent a significant environmental resource. We have seen that if ever there were forces for autonomous development in Sicily, their roots were in the northeast, a region with its own merchant bourgeoisie and the wherewithal briefly to challenge Spain. Elsewhere, resistance to external pressure barely got off the ground. The location of Greek settlements in eastern, rather than western, Sicily probably reflected the greater agricultural potential of the eastern region, as well as its proximity to an important trade route for metals which passed through the Strait of Messina and on to Elba Altitude in meters E53 0 - 300 300 - 600 600 - 900 9 0 0 - 1500 Over 1500 (a) I I Less than 25 millimeters ΠΏ 25 - 50 millimeters i r q Over 50 millimeters (b) Map 2.
These soils are mostly clay, sometimes mixed with limestone and quite permeable, some times packed hard to create great banks of solid rock which jut abruptly out of the earth (Milone 1960: 26). Although there are no clearly definable valleys, basins of relatively low altitude are scattered throughout the interior. Lined with clay, they receive deposits of de composed calcium and sandstone washed down from surrounding mountains or carried down in tiny underground rivulets and streams. Interacting with the clay lining, these accumulations create a surface which is easily cultivated and rich.