: Eth. Ταυρομενίτης
, Eth. Tauromenitanus
), a Greek city of Sicily, situated on the E. coast of Sicily, about midway between Messana and Catana.
It was only about 3 miles from the site of the ancient Naxos, and there is no doubt that Tauromenium did not exist as a city till after the destruction of Naxos by Dionysius of Syracuse, B.C. 403; but the circumstances connected with its foundation are somewhat confused and uncertain. [NAXOS
] It appears, however, from Diodorus that after the destruction of Naxos, the remaining inhabitants of that city were driven into exile, and its territory was assigned by Dionysius to the neighbouring Siculi.
These, however, did not re-occupy the site of the ancient city, but established themselves on a hill to the N. of it, which was called the hill of Taurus (ὁ λόφος ὁ καλούμενος Ταῦρος
). Here they at first constructed only a temporary camp (in B.C. 396), but afterwards erected walls and converted it into a regular fortress or town, to which they gave the name of Tauromenium. (Diod. 14.58
The place was still in the hands of the Siculi in B.C. 394, and they held it against the efforts of Dionysius, who besieged the city in vain for great part of the winter, and though he on one occasion forced his way within the walls by a nocturnal surprise, was again driven out and repulsed with heavy loss. (Ib.
But by the peace concluded in B.C. 392, it was expressly stipulated that Tauromenium should be subject to Dionysius, who expelled the greater part of the Siculi that had settled there, and supplied their place with his own mercenaries. (Ib.
96.) From this time we hear no more of Tauromenium till B.C. 358, when we are told that Andromachus, the father of the historian Timaeus, brought together all the remains of the exiled Naxians, who were still scattered about in different parts of Sicily, and established them all at Tauromenium. (Id. 16.7.)
This is related by Diodorus as if it were a new foundation, and even as if the name
had then first been applied to the city, which is in direct contradiction with his former statements. What had become of the former inhabitants we know not, but there is little doubt that the account of this resettlement of the city is substantially correct, and that Tauromenium now for the first time became a Greek city, which was considered as taking the place of Naxos, though it did not occupy the same site. (Wesseling, ad Diod.
14.59.) Hence Pliny's expression, that Tauromenium had formerly been called Naxos (Plin. Nat. 3.8. s. 14
) is nearly, though not strictly, correct.
The new settlement seems to have risen rapidly to prosperity, and was apparently already a considerable town at the time of the expedition of Timoleon in B.C. 345.
It was the first place in Sicily where that leader landed, having eluded the vigilance of [p. 2.1114]
the Carthaginians, who were guarding the straits of Messana, and crossed direct from Rhegium to Tauromenium. (Diod. 16.68
; Plut. Tim. 10
The city was at that time still under the government of Andromachus, whose mild and equitable administration is said to have presented a strong contrast with that of the despots and tyrants of the other Sicilian cities.
He welcomed Timoleon with open arms, and afforded him a secure resting place until he was enabled to carry out his plans in other parts of Sicily. (Diod. l.c.;
) It is certain that Andromachus was not deprived of the chief power, when all the other tyrants were expelled by Timoleon, but was permitted to retain it undisturbed till his death. (Marcellin. Vit. Thucyd.
§ 27.) We hear, however, very little of Tauromenium for some time after this.
It is probable that it passed under the authority of Agathocles, who drove the historian Timaeus into exile; and some time after this it was subject to a domestic despot of the name of Tyndarion, who was contemporary with Hicetas of Syracuse and Phintias of Agrigentum. (Diod. xxii. Exc. H.
p. 495.) Tyndarion was one of those who concurred in inviting Pyrrhus into Sicily (B.C. 278), and when that monarch landed with his army at Tauromenium, joined him with all his forces, and supported him in his march upon Syracuse. (Diod. l.c.
pp. 495, 496.)
A few years later we find that Tauromenium had fallen into the power of Hieron of Syracuse, and was employed by him as a stronghold in the war against the Mamertines. (Ib.
It was also one of the cities which was left under his dominion by the by the treaty concluded with him by the Romans in B.C. 263. (Diod. xxiii. p. 502.)
This is doubtless the reason that its name is not again mentioned during the First Punic War.
There is no doubt that Tauromenium continued to form a part of the kingdom of Syracuse till the death of Hieron, and that it only passed under the government of Rome when the whole island of Sicily was reduced to a Roman province; but we have scarcely any account of the part it took during the Second Punic War, though it would appear, from a hint in Appian (App. Sic. 5
), that it submitted to Marcellus on favourable terms; and it is probable that it was on that occasion it obtained the peculiarly favoured position it enjoyed under the Roman dominion. For we learn from Cicero that Tauromenium was one of the three cities in Sicily which enjoyed the privileges of a “civitas foederata” or allied city, thus retaining a nominal independence, and was not even subject, like Messana, to the obligation of furnishing ships of war when called upon. (Cic. Ver. 2.66
But the city suffered severe calamities during the Servile War in Sicily, B.C. 134--132, having fallen into the hands of the insurgent slaves, who, on account of the great strength of its position, made it one of their chief posts, and were able for a long time to defy the arms of the consul Rupilius. They held out until they were reduced to the most fearful extremities by famine, when the citadel was at length betrayed into the hands of the consul by one of their leaders named Sarapion, and the whole of the survivors put to the sword. (Diod. xxxiv. Exc. Phot.
p. 528; Oros. 5.9
.) Tauromenium again bore a conspicuous part during the wars of Sextus Pompeius in Sicily, and, from its strength as a fortress, was one of the principal points of the position which he took up in B.C. 36, for defence against Octavian.
It became the scene also of a sea-fight between a part of the fleet of Octavian, commanded by the triumvir in person, and that of Pompeius, which terminated in the defeat and almost total destruction of the former. (Appian, App. BC 5.103
--111, 116; D. C. 49.5
In the settlement of Sicily after the defeat of Pompey, Tauromenium was one of the places selected by Augustus to receive a Roman colony, probably as a measure of precaution, on account of the strength of its situation, as we are told that he expelled the former inhabitants to make room for his new colonists. (Diod, 16.7.) Strabo speaks of it as one of the cities on the E. coast of Sicily that was still subsisting in his time, though inferior in population both to Messana and Catana. (Strab. vi. pp. 267, 268.) Both Pliny and Ptolemy assign it the rank of a “colonia” (Plin. Nat. 3.8. s. 14
; Ptol. 3.4.9
), and it seems to have been one of the few cities of Sicily that continued under the Roman Empire to be a place of some consideration. Its territory was noted for the excellence of its wine (Plin. Nat. 14.6. s. 8
), and produced also a kind of marble which seems to have been highly valued. (Athen. 5.207
.) Juvenal also speaks of the sea off its rocky coast as producing the choicest mullets. (Juv. 5.93
The Itineraries place Tauromenium 32 miles from Messana, and the same distance from Catana. (Itin. Ant.
p. 90; Tab. Peut.
) It continued after the fall of the Roman Empire to be one of the more considerable towns of Sicily, and from the strength of its position was one of the last places that was retained by the Greek emperors; but it was taken by the Saracens in A.D. 906 after a siege of two years, and totally destroyed, a calamity from which it has never more than partially recovered.
The present town of Taormina
is a very poor place, with about 3500 inhabitants; but it still occupies the ancient site, on a lofty hill which forms the last projecting point of the mountain ridge that extends along the coast from Cape Pelorus to this point.
The site of the town is about 900 feet above the sea, while a very steep and almost isolated rock, crowned by a Saracen castle, rises about 500 feet higher: this is undoubtedly the site of the ancient Arx or citadel, the inaccessible position of which is repeatedly alluded to by ancient writers. Portions of the ancient walls may be traced at intervals all round the brow of the hill, the whole of the summit of which was evidently occupied by the ancient city. Numerous fragments of ancient buildings are scattered over its whole surface, including extensive reservoirs of water, sepulchres, tesselated pavements, &c., and the remains of a spacious edifice, commonly called a Naumachia, but the real destination of which it is difficult to determine.
But by far the most remarkable monument remaining at Taormina
is the ancient theatre, which is one of the most celebrated ruins in Sicily, on account both of its remarkable preservation and of the surpassing beauty of its situation.
It is built for the most part of brick, and is therefore probably of Roman date, though the plan and arrangement are in accordance with those of Greek, rather than Roman, theatres; whence it is supposed that the present structure was rebuilt upon the foundations of an older theatre of the Greek period.
The greater part of the seats have disappeared, but the wall which surrounded the whole cavea
is preserved, and the proscenium
with the back wall of the scena
and its appendages, of which only traces remain in most ancient theatres, are here preserved in singular integrity, and contribute much to the picturesque [p. 2.1115]
effect, as well as to the interest, of the ruin. From the fragments of architectural decorations still extant we learn that it was of the Corinthian order, and richly ornamented.
In size it ranks next to the theatre of Syracuse, among those of Sicily. Some portions of a temple are also visible, converted into the church of S. Pancrazio,
but the edifice is of small size and of little interest.
The ruins at Taormina
are described in detail by the Duke of Serra di Falco (Antichitá della Sicilia,
vol. v. part iv.), as well as by most travellers in Sicily. (Swinburne's Travels,
vol. ii. p. 380; Smyth's Sicily,
p. 129, &c.)
|COIN OF TAUROMENIUM.|