In 403 BC he besieged Naxos and with the
complicity of a traitor,
Prokles, he was able to
conquer it. The town, which for more than three centuries, exactly for 332 years, had developed
pacifically with the agriculture, sheeprearing
and trade, was set on fire and destroyed. The
Pausania (II c. A.D.) writes
that the destruction of Naxos was so total that,
in his times, neither the ruins existed anymore. After the conquest of Naxos, Dionysus encircled
the Mountain with siege.
In one night without moon, raving a snow and wind storm, his
troops, climbing up the precipices of the
Mountain, succeeded to take possession of the
acropolis, placed where the greek theater rises.
But Sicels, roused by the shouts of alarm of the
look-outs, came all together and succeeded in
chasing away again Syracusans. Dionysus,
defeated, removed the siege and returned to Syracuse. But, as a treatise stipulated with
Carthaginians some time after, exactly in 392
BC, he succeeded equally in possession of the Mountain. People retain that
Tauromenium was founded in
396 BCE by
Andromachus, father of the famous historian
Timaeus, who engaged the government of the
town. The town, placed upon a high ground, 205
metres above sea level, was an impregnable
place, above all because three of its sides were
consituted by dreadful canyons, which threw
headlong directly to sea.
Despite that, for a
surer defense of the polis, Tauromeniti added
mighty walls on the northen and southern sides,
according to the Hellenic defensive system,
which provided for a triplex curtain of walls
and only two entries to the town. The walls are
visible up to now and the ancient gates of the
town still exist. During its richest period, the
population of Tauromenium counted
inhabitants. The dominant language was the
The first arrangement of the
polis was elaborated by Andromaco and it was
affected on marble tables. Fourteen of these
tables are still guarded in the little ancient
Theater Museum. The leader of the polis was the
Eponymous. He continued in office during one
year and couldn't be elected again. Other public
magistrates were the Strategists, "Ginnasiarchi"
and "Proagori". People reunited to elect the magistrates in the
agora, placed in the actual Square Abbey.
Tauromenium entrusted the military order for
the duration of ten years to a hellenic patriot
because it had to defend from the dangerous raids of
(mercenaries in the pay of Syracuse), so called
for the Mamerte god.
Mamertines, in 288 BC, after having conquered
Messina, they pushed forward as far as under the
wall of the Tauromenium polis, but Tyndarion was able to defend it and
Worried by the danger of new raids of Mamertines
and above all for the hostile intentions of
Syracusans, in 278 Tindarione asked for help to
king of the Epirus.
The latter reached Tauromenium, greeted with
enthusiasm by Tindarione himself, but he didn't
succeeded in the enterprise.
tyrant of Syracuse, succeeded in fact in
subduing the town.
The historian Timaeus, son of Andromachus,
founder of Tauromenium, cause of his opposition
to the tyrant was exiled in Athens, where he lived during 50 years and died,
in 261 BC, at the age of 90 years.
After the Agathocles death, Syracuse was led by
Geron II, who recognized to the
Tauromeniti the autonomy, but he subdued them to the payment of the tithe, a tax which
subtracted part of the wealth producted during
However it was for the polis a period of shine
and of economic comfort.
Tauromeniti could devote themselves to the
construction of the Theater,
Nevertheless there was the danger of
Carthaginians for Tauromenium, cause they had
tried to expand from Western Sicily to the Oriental part occupied by the Greek-Sicilian
They had already, with their mighty army,
devastated and destroyed different cities, among
Camerina and Gela.
serious danger appeared, still, not only for
but for the whole Sicily:
In 264 BC the Romans arrived in Sicily called
for help by Mamertines from Messina. Syracuse,
which after the death of Gerone II had stopped the politics of alliance
with Rome, was attached and razed to the ground
by the Roman army, leaded by the
Population was massacred and died then the great
Tauromenium, to avoid the destructions and sacks
which Syracuse suffered, started a friendly
politics with Rome and, in 212 BC, it submitted to the capital.
determined in Sicily the end of the greek
civilization's period of maximum splendor.
made of Tauromenium a Roman colony, removing
many of its inhabitants and populating it with Roman families. Attracted by the beauty and mild
climate, many consuls retiring to private life
chose it as place where rest.
Many famous Roman families built luxurious
villas in the most pleasant or close to the sea
places to reside there permanently.
Spisone place took its name from Piso's family
and Calpurnia's people. Via
took its name from the matron Julia
region took its
name from the villa built by the Fabius' family.
Having submitted at once to Rome, Tauromenium
was the first free and federate civitas among
the 52 cities in the island.
Thanks to this
recognition, it was exempted from the tributes
towards Rome and many privileges were granted to
Tauromeniti, the Roman citizenship inclusive.
The town enjoyed a period of peace up to 133 BC,
during which Geron II ordered the restructuration of the Greek Theater
(that's what today the ancient Theater is called
Greek-Roman), the construction of new monuments
and he gave also an impulse to the urbanistic development.
same period the struggle for supremacy
and existence developed between Rome and
Carthage; struggle which lasted 120 years (264-146 BC) and that ended with the
destruction of Carthage,
in 146 BC, after the Three Punic Wars. The
definitive expulsion of the Carthaginians from the island
is due to the Romans, but Sicily and Tauromenium
didn't ever become Latin. Tauromenium preserved its Greek speaking up to
the birth of the vernacular in the
Norman-Swabian period. A proof of that stays in the fact that the bishop
pronounced his homilies still in Greek. The
Roman empire's history embraces five centuries, from 31 BC. to 476 AD. This
historical phase is characterized by crisis and
disorders, civic struggles, social transformations. Limiting the attention to
Sicily, we notice that the inexorable decadence
continued in all the fields and for a long time misgovernment reigned in the island. The
rural ownership tended to disappear, cause it
was ill-treated by the fiscal increases. The agrarian zones became prey for
the italic speculators and the number of
disinherited people increased. Such impoverishment, determined by more and more
greedy impositions, exasperated the
agriculturists, who rebelled against Rome. The revolts, which established an
awakening of the island independence's feelings,
the revolts of
the slaves (135-132 and 104-101 BC). Born in Sicily and fed
in Rome by the work of the people's tribune, the
brothers, revolts involved Tauromenium too.
Dozens of thousands of farmers and slaves,
rose up against the landowners and occupied
and Tauromenium. Rome sent the consul
with the order to tame
rebels. He besieged Tauromenium and as he didn't
succeed in occupying it, the consuls
came to his help. Rebels barricaded in the town and,
though they had exhausted the provisions,
resisted for a long time (it seems that to survive they even forced themselves to the
anthropophagy). For the betrayal of one slave
only, named Sepadone, the Rupilio consul succeeded in entering the town. The
captured rebels were killed atrociously or they
were chained and brought to Rome to make an exhibition of themselves in the
circuses, making them fight against starving
the whole domination period different episodes
marked how difficoult the integration with Rome
was to the Tauromeniti.
In the Taormina's forum a statue in memory of
was built, when, in 73 BC, he was sent to Sicily
to administer justice.
Verre was immediately recognized as a thief of
art masterpieces and extortioner.
He pretended, despite the town enjoyed the tax
exemption, a great deal of wheat, provisions and
Citizens decided to react and, with the
complicity of one dark night, they threw down
Then they minced it and spread the pieces,
leaving only the base to accent the outrage.
The town collaborated, instead, with
when he came to Taormina to collect informations
and useful proofs
to accuse Verre in Senate.
Verre, guessing what was coming next, went into
exile by himself in Marseille, where he died in
Cicero, satisfied for the Verre's escape, didn't
read, in front of the Superior Senatorial Court,
the five famous orations, called
He red the first only and published the others.
In these orations he wrote sharply and acutely a
lot of news about Taormina.
After Verre, Tauromenium suffered the cupidity
of another Magistrate,
son of Pompeius the Great,
then captured and killed by Anthony in Mileto.
failed, just for some time in progressive
degeneration. Three were the principal reasons
for the collapse: the
process of infiltration of Barbarians in the
most elevated ranks of the administrative
offices; the pressures on the borders and the following territorial infiltrations, in
addition to the Arabs, of powerful North
European tribes (Vandals,
the Christianity rising and prodigious
The Christian faith and doctrine,
born in Palestina, soon spread in the Roman world, threatening with the
religious, cultural and social scaffolding on
which it was founded upon the empire from the foundations.
The Romans reacted with
determination, persecuting mercilessly the
Christians. In spite of that,the strength of the faith and ideas of the
Christianity forcefully imposed and the new
religion soon arrived to Tauromenium too.
Peter Apostle and he was sent to
with the mission of evangelizing
Sicilians. He arrived in 40 BC, when the emperor was
Caligula, and practiced the apostolate for 60
years. In the island the diffusion of the Christianity was slow and
difficult, because hindered by the persisting of
pagan cults and by the continuous rising up of heretical aand
schismatic movements. But Sicily too counts many
martyrdoms for faith, above all in the humblest classes.
Among these ones
the bishop Pancras who, in 100 AD, was pierced
through and stoned by the Gentiles.
For the martyrdom immediately he was glorified and today
S. Pancras is the protector of the town.
fourth and in the fifth century After Christ, when the island was
invaded first by the
Vandals and then by
the Christians continued in
being persecuted and oppressed. Tauromenium has
been an Episcopalian center up to 1082, till
this one came abolished by the
Roger Count of
first Norman conqueror in Sicily.
When the Roman
Empire of West failed (V century AD), on the
southern coasts of Sicily the Arabs began to
raid, inciting people to the Holy War against
the unfaithful Christians. Their raids continued
in VII, VIII, IX centuries. In 827 they came
with more than ten thousands of men with the
purpose of conquering the whole Sicily.
Mazara and completed the invasion with the
conquer of Tauromenium in 902.
The town resisted the assaults till when the
emir succeeded in going into the town from
Cuseni Gate, then called the Gate of
Saracens, just to remember the unhappy invasion.
The town was sacked and destroyed. Women, old
men and children, wherever they were, into the
churches too, were slaughtered. Monuments and
churches were knocked down.
The bishop of
Procopio, fugitive, was
recognized and captured.
to pull out Procopio's heart from his breast and
ate it behind the people. Procopio's martyrdom
was painted in a fresco which we can admire in
the Church of Saint Pancratius. Survivors were
sold as slaves.
Girls on one hand were bought by
the caliph to populate the harems
of Baghdad, on the other they were sold as
brod-mares to mingle the Mediterranean race with
the Arab one. According to the legend, the
firmament cried for the dreadful massacre of
Tauromenium. In reality, during that night in
Aug 10, 902, the sky brighted for a plentful
rain of meteorites. In 909 Christians rebuilt
the town, but in 962 the Arabs, after a siege
which lasted 7 months, conquered and sacked
it again. The caliph called it
Almoezia and since
then the arab domination lasted two centuries
and half. While the Arabs were plundering and
blood-thirsty in their assaults, in
administration of territories they were wise. They brought innovations in agricolture
(production of honey, orange
and lemon), in irrigation systems and techniques
for captation of waters. Classic philosophy was
spread and studies in medicine, chemistry and
mathematics progressed (the still in use system
of numbering is the arab one). They adopted a
system for the collection of taxes which was
less oppressive. They fostered the forming of
little property and relieved the slaves
condition. During the Arab domination, Christians could
live according to their religious faith; the
only one forbidden thing was building new
churches, bringing the cross during the
procession, ringing the bells. It was then that,
close to the old towers, were built minarets and
mullions. About the Arab architecture, Sicily
has no more a lot, because the Normans destroyed
all the mosques. In each town of the island and,
then, in Taormina too, we can find some traces
of the arab domination. In a particular manner,
the arab presence brought a significant
Islamism brought progress not only to Sicily,
but to Southern Europe too, to Middle East and
to East. All that aroused alarm in the Roman
Normans and Swabians
politics entrusted the enterprise against the
Arabs to the Normans who, leaded by
Tancredi of Altavilla, were the
soldiers most dangerous for greed of prey and
audacity. In 1078
Roger, the younger Tancredi's son, stormed
Almoezia and the town took back the name of Tauromenium. In 1087 the Normans occupied the whole island
and they had from now on the problem to cure the
awful wounds caused by
They were excellent in this assignment,
demonstrating to be one of the most enlightened
dynasties at that time.
With them a new age of prosperity began for
Sicily. They didn't send away the Arabs from the
island having a tolerant spirit;
they removed the leaders only, relegating them
in the castles of Calabria, Puglia and Irpinia.
They assigned the lands with the
privilege of perpetual immunity to the monastic
orders of Greek obedience and to the Catholic
bishoprics. They reopened the
buildings for the christian cult, allowing that
the bells were again hoisted on the churches. The sovereign dominion was
imposeded on the waters and on the woods. The
right to pasture on the State lands was
recognized to the citizen. The
commercial exchanges, at last, revived the
island, even if the barter was still persisting.
official language - a
mixture of Greek with Arab language - changed and
the common language got rich of new lexical
acquisitions, syntactic and
phonetic. It was then that the so-called
vernacular language began to be speaked.
ended in the last decades of the XII century. After the Normans,
dominated by the Swabians.
Frederic the Second
one of the most enlighteneded protagonist in his
time. During his kingdom, Taormina
enjoyed a period
of prosperity which never
in other times. The Swabian dominion, however,
didn't last for a lot of time, also
of the papacy.
In 1266 the french pope
Clement IV crowned the angevin
king of Sicily. Taormina, Catania,
refused the coronation and took sides with
Konrad of Sweden.
October 29, 1268 he was defeated by Charles. Subsequently, the Charles's army, occupied Sicily.
began what people defined the bad dominion of
Angevins. Citizens were subjected to new taxes
and even to the so-called regal collections.
Civic services suffered drastic restrictions.
Discomfort due to the French oppressions led, in
March 31, 1282, to the rebellion which belongs
to history as the
Sicilian Vespers. Revolt, begun in
Palermo. Its charge for
independence involved Taormina too, where the
French monks were forced to escape from
monasteries. Palermo, determined in sending away
Angevins from Sicily, asked for intervention to
Peter III of Aragon,
who, easily, conquered
the whole isle. The military occupation due to
Peter III determined a new breaking in the reign
of the Two Sicilies: the peninsular part, leaded
by Naples, remained under the Angevins dominion,
while the isle passed under the Aragoneses one.
In 1302, with the
peace treaty of Caltabellotta,
Frederic III of Aragon was awarded the isle,
but with the prohibition to take the title of
king of Sicily. Dead in 1337, his son
Peter II succeeded Frederic III, mentioned
in the testament as,
transgressed the treaty, successor of the
Sicilian reign. He died in 1342. In
1348, plague, the Black Death, propagated in the
isle brought by the boats which came from east.
After 90 years of war between Angevins and
Aragoneses, in 1372 the peace was reached: to
Aragonese family was finally recognized the
title of King of Sicily. In 1395
was crowned King of Sicily. He died in 1409 without
legitimate heirs. The
met in Taormina, in Corvaja Palace,
and nominated successor Martin the
Great. He left the administration of
Sicily to the daughter-in-law, whom
Martin junior had married in second
weddings. The definitive submission of Sicily to
Spain brought a period of stability and
the isle was no more theatre for wars.
But The Thirty
Years' War, broken in 1618, forced Spain to
sustain huge costs and Sicily was forced to
contribute with huge subsidies.
and Hasburg's kingdom
In 1713, with
the Treaty of Utrecht, Sicily, taken away from
Spain, came assigned to Vittorio Amedeo II of
title and dignity of kingdom.
His brief reign was characterized by the
struggle with the Pope for the rights of
ecclesiastical legation (privilege for the
sovereign to practice the jurisdiction also in
In June 1714, Vittorio Amedeo II came to visit
Taormina with his wife, Ann of Orleans.
During the domination of Savoy, Spain was just
about to reconquer Sicily.
To prevent the Spanish occupation Vittorio
Amedeo II promoted an alliance among
Austria agreed to undertake but with the
condition that, defeated Spain, Sicily would
have passed to the dominion of the
To compensate the loss of Sicily, the Savoy's
reign would have had Sardinia in exchange for
A bloody war followed, that ended, in 1718, with
the defeat of the Spanish reign.
Thanks to the accord among the allies, Sicily
passed to the
The Austrian occupation in the island lasted
around 3 years.
In 1734, with
the Viennese peace treaty, Sicily came back to
the spanish power, under the bourbon
It was so that the reign unity of Sicily and
Naples was reconstitued (that is the
Reign of the Two Sicilies).
Enlightenment produced its effects in Sicily
In this period the
that struck Messina in the 1743 AD,
saved Taormina, how the licences of healthiness,
released to the residents, testify.
Despite the absolute monarchy, they made reforms
in each field.
Particularly, they limited the feudality powers
and made stop the clergy privileges.
Sant'Uffizio, notorious organ of the
Inquisition, came suppressed.
The juridical, philosophical and literary
studies spread rapidly.
They realized in Taormina important works, among
which the Messina-Catania road and the
one which from the sea leads to
the city (the today's
Ferdinand II of Bourbon, king of the Two
Sicilies, came to visit Taormina.
To remember the event, a coat of arms of the
bourbon family was placed in the upper part of
Messina Gate: an eagle which
feeds two eaglets.
The Unification of
dominion of Bourbons went on up to 1860.
ideas of the Risorgimento and the feelings of
liberty and national
unity had set on fire for some time by now also
many Sicilian minds and hearts.
Quite a lot of patriots had to run away from
Taormina for the bourbon repression, leaded by a
In the Christmas night in 1856 a lot of
conspirators were arrested by the police at the
Rosa Calatabiano's House.
The court of Messina condemned to 18 years of
prison Luigi Pellegrino, to 16 years
Vincenzo Vadala', to
14 years Carmelo
Barca, to 2 years the abbot
Cacciola and other men.
We have to remember also
Don Agostino da
Taormina, enlightened patriot.
When, in spring 1860,
Garibaldi disembarked at
free Sicily, many patriots fought with him to
send away forever the
A committee leaded by the captain
Crisafulli was formed at Taormina.
This skilled strategist succeeded in avoiding
the fight, which could have been very bloody,
with the bourbon contingent in
retreat leaded by the general
The Garibaldians arrived in Taormina the
of August 1860, leaded by
Nino Bixio, who slept at the baron
In autumn 1860 Sicily was annexed to Piedmont
and, then, to the Italian Kingdom.
Taormina stopped being the centre of the
Sicilian political and military circumstances.