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TAUROMENION (Taormina) Sicily.

A city on the slopes of Mt. Tauro, 250 m above the sea, on the road from Messina to Katane. Of the early Sikel habitation little is known; only the necropolis, on the hillside above the city, has been excavated. The Greek city was founded in 358 B.C. by descendants of the Naxians, whose city on the shore below had been destroyed by Dionysios of Syracuse in 403.

The Greek agora corresponds roughly to the modern Piazza Vittorio Emanuele; its W edge may have been delimited by a Doric peristyle temple, one corner of which can be seen behind the church of S. Caterina. The foundations of a large building have lately been excavated behind the Caserma of the Carabinieri; this structure probably defined the N side of the agora. Outside the adjacent Messina gate are traces of the city wall, which appears to have followed the lines of the extant mediaeval walls. The nearby church of S. Pancrazio is founded on the ruins of a temple in antis, probably dedicated to Zeus Serapis. The scanty remains possibly of a third temple can be seen above and to the E of the theater; they underlie the upper portico of the theater structure. An important building of the Greek period has recently come to light in Via Bagnoli Croce below the theater: situated on a sloping terrace, it has a central peristyle, behind which are rooms on at least three sides. On the N is a larger room at a higher level; fragments of inscribed wall plaster suggest that this room was a library. The entire complex may then be identified as the gymnasium, the existence of which had been known from inscriptions.

Tauromenion flourished during the Roman domination, especially after the founding of a colony by Augustus in 30 B.C. The agora was retained as a forum. Behind the Greek building that delimited the N side of the agora were the municipal baths, a part of which has recently been excavated. Three large rooms of brick-faced concrete formed the S exposure of the building; these were heated, two with hypocausts. Other rooms to the N are incorporated in modern houses; parts of these can be seen in the extant walls known as the Zecca. Abutting on the temple at the W side of the forum is a small odeion, dated like the baths to the Imperial period. The scaena, directly in front of the peristyle temple, was decorated with niches; the entire structure had a wooden roof. About 100 m E of the forum is the theater, cut into the slopes of one of the city's acropoleis. It was constructed of brick and concrete in the 2d c. A.D. An earlier Greek theater was probably on the same site; to it may belong some inscribed seats and masonry walls, used as foundations for the Roman stage building. The scaenae frons, inaccurately restored, was articulated by two superimposed colonnades and pierced by three arches; the latter are open, representing a concession to the splendid site with its superb view of Aetna and the sea. The upper cavea was crowned with a vaulted colonnade. At a later period the theater was transformed into an arena. Below the forum of the city is the handsome brick wall known as the Naumachia. Decorated with alternating niches and false windows, this structure had a purely functional role; it formed the outer wall of a large two-aisled cistern, now mostly destroyed; and it served to terrace the steep hillside. Other large vaulted cisterns have survived in Vicolo Floresta and in Contrada Giafari above the town, indicating the existence of a complex system for the collection and distribution of water. Important local inscriptions, works of sculpture, mosaics, and other antiquities are kept in the small antiquarium above the theater, in anticipation of the completion of the Museo della Badia.


P. Rizzo, Tauromenion (1928); G. Libertini, “Il Teatro di Taormina,” Boll. Inst. del Dramma Antico (1930) 111f; M. Santangelo, Taormina e dintorni (1950); P. Pelagatti, “Scoperta di un edificio termale a Taormina,” Cronache di A rcheologia e Storia dell' Arte 3 (1964) 25-37; FA (1967) 2968 (gymnasium).


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