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