1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Taormina
TAORMINA (ancient Tauromenium), a town on the E. coast of Sicily, in the province of Messina, from which town it is 30 m. S.S.W. by rail. Pop. (1901) 4110. It has come into great favour as a winter resort, especially with British and German visitors, chiefly on account of its fine situation and beautiful views. It lies on an abrupt hill 650 ft. above the railway station, and was founded by the Carthaginian Himilco in 397 B.C. for a friendly tribe of Sicels, after the destruction, by Dionysius the Elder of Syracuse, of the neighbouring city of Naxos. In 395 Dionysius failed to take it by assault on a winter's night, but in 392 he occupied it and settled his mercenaries there. In 358 the exiles from Naxos, after wandering up and down Sicily, at last found a home there. Its commanding site gave it considerable importance. It was the city at which both Timoleon and Pyrrhus first landed. During the First Punic War it belonged to the kingdom of Hiero, and after his death it enjoyed an exceptionally favoured position with regard to Rome, being like Messana and Netum, a civitas foederata. During the first Servile War it was occupied by Eunous and some of his followers, but was at length taken by the consul Publius Rupilius in 132. It was one of the strongholds of Sextus Pompeius, and after defeating him Augustus made it into a colonia as a measure of precaution, expelling some of the older inhabitants. In the time of Strabo it was inferior in population, as we should expect, to Messana and Catana; its marble, wine and mullets were highly esteemed. In A.D. 902 it was taken and burnt by the Saracens; it was retaken in 962, and in 1078 fell into the hands of the Normans.
The ancient town seems to have had two Citadels; one of these was probably the hill above the town to the W. now crowned by a medieval castle, while the other was the hill upon which the theatre was afterwards constructed (E. A. Freeman, History of Sicily, iv. 506). There are some remains of the city walls, belonging to more than one period. It is indeed possible that one fragment of wall belongs to a period, before the foundation of the city, when the Naxians had a fortified port here (Evans in Freeman, op. cit., iv. 109 n. 1). The church of San Pancrazio, just outside the modern town, is built into a temple of the 3rd century B.C., the S. wall of the cella of which is alone preserved. Inscriptions prove that it was dedicated to Serapis. The other ruins belong in the main to the Roman period. The most famous of them is the theatre, largely hewn in the rock, which, though of Greek origin, was entirely reconstructed. The seats are almost entirely gone, but the stage and its adjacent buildings, especially the wall, in two storeys, at the back, are well preserved: some of its marble decorative details were removed for building material in the middle ages, but those that remained have been re-erected. The view from the theatre is of exceptional beauty, Mount Etna being clearly seen from the summit to the base on the S.W., while to the N. the rugged outlines of the coast immediately below, and the mountains of Calabria across the sea to the N.E. make up one of the most famous views in the world. There are also remains of a much smaller theatre (the so-called Odeum), and some large cisterns; a large bath or tank which was apparently open, known as the Naumachia, measures 426½ ft. in length and 39½ in width: only one of its long sides is now visible, and serves as a foundation for several houses in the main street of the modern town. The aqueducts which supplied these cisterns may be traced above the town. There are remains of houses, tombs, &c., of the Roman period, and fine specimens of Romanesque and Gothic architecture in the modern town.
See Rizzo, Guida di Taormina e dintorni, Catania, 1902. (T. As.)