The first colony founded by the Greeks in Sicily, in 734-33 B.C. according
to Thucydides (6.3). The site, in the district of Giardini, is on a level area
of lava flow from the Moio volcano between the mouth of the Santa Venera stream
(SW) and a small bay NE which was favorable as a landing. The area, closed in
by the ridges of Monte Tauro, where Taormina is situated, is ca. 1 km from the
Alcantara river, which must have constituted the only important means of communication
with the inland areas.
The site appears to have been inhabited from prehistoric times. Remains of neolithic huts have been isolated as has a flourishing settlement of the Bronze Age (with pottery in the style of Thapsos). For the period immediately preceding colonization, traces of the presence of the Sikels have been found who, according to Strabo, were in the area when the Greeks arrived. The founders of Naxos were primarily Chalkidians, but Ionians were also involved, and their leader was Thoukles.
Notices regarding life in the colony in the 7th and 6th c. B.C. are sparse. The only notable episode in this period is the foundation of Kallipolis. At the beginning of the 5th c. B.C., Naxos, together with other Chalkidian cities, was attacked by Hippokrates of Gela and the citizens expelled. Only after 460 B.C. did life in the city begin again. In the war between Syracuse and Athens, Naxos was on the side of Athens. Some years after the defeat of Athens, Dionysios of Syracuse took the city (404-403 B.C.) through a ruse, according to Polyainos (5.2.5), destroyed it, and gave its territory to the Sikels, while the citizenry was dispersed (Diod. 14.87). In the second half of the 4th c. B.C., a new city arose over the destroyed one and coined its own money. Recently, some of its tombs have been discovered. A small nucleus of homes must have survived around the bay down to the Roman and Byzantine periods.
In addition to large sections of the perimeter of the walls, excavations have brought to light elements of the urban plan from the archaic and Classical periods. To date, two phases have been recognized: one dating to the 7th-6th c., and the second corresponding to the reconstruction of 460 B.C. There is particular interest in the first phase of the settlement for the study of Greek city planning, since it is part of a colonial foundation which precedes the work of Hippodamos of Miletos. Some quarters have been partially explored including the N sector, a group of dwellings N of the W sacred precinct, and the E sector.
The sacred precinct in the extreme SW corner of the city near the Santa Venera has been uncovered almost entirely. This is perhaps the temenos epithalassion of Aphrodite mentioned by our sources (App. Bell. Civ. 5.109). There is also a trapezoidal enclosure built in two periods (between the end of the 7th c. and the middle of the 6th c. B.C.). It contains the foundations of two buildings: Temple A, the oldest (about 600 B.C.) and Temple B (525 B.C.). There are also a square altar with three steps and two kilns for architectural terracottas and pottery of the same date as Temple A.
The walls which enclose the temenos are imposing and were constructed of lava rock of quite accurate polygonal workmanship, comparable to the walls at Delphi and at Smyrna. They constitute one of the the most interesting examples of such workmanship in the W Mediterranean area. That technique, in fact, is rarely encountered in this area in the archaic period (cf. the examples at Velia and at Lipari).
To the two sacred buildings have been attributed two architectural terracotta friezes of which numerous examples are extant collected in a storeroom near the N wall of the temenos (wall E). The most recent series, belonging to Temple B, is composed of simas and chests with molded and painted decorations. There is a frieze of lotus and palm leaves, evidently based on Ionic models.
The series of Silenos antefixes must have adorned smaller buildings and are of various types, from one very old example with a counterpart in Samian models dating to the second half of the 6th c. to more recent ones from the mid 5th c. B.C. The materials found in the sacred precinct comprise terracotta figurines (usually standing female figures with a dove or flower on the breast), various types of pottery, and numerous spear and sword points. These materials were found deposited in trenches or in thysiai, together with the bones of sacrificed animals, often near stones which were set upright and used as stelai. These thysiai were set out around the altar.
The potters' quarter has been extensively explored. It was situated on the edge of the city, in the N sector in the vicinity of Colle Salluzzo. There is also a complex of three kilns, two circular and one square, which were active in the 6th and 5th c. B.C. Remains of buildings have been brought to light which were used for the working of pottery and as depositories for equipment, among which the molds for Sileni antefixes and for figurines have been discovered. The site of the altar of Apollo Archagetes is not known, but it was nearby that the Greeks united before their expeditions and, according to Thucydides (6.3), it was outside the city.
In the necropolis a group of tombs dating to the 6th-5th c. B.C. have been recovered W of the Santa Venera, ca. 600 m from the river, while 4th c. tombs have come to light in the immediate environs of the river as well as over the slopes of the hill on which the modern cemetery is located.
The renowned coinage of Naxos (6th-5th c. B.C.) shows consistently the head of a bearded Dionysos in profile, crowned with ivy and grape clusters hanging from vine shoots. Later, other subjects were substituted, such as the crouching Silenos raising a kantharos on high.
Naxos produced pottery of distinctive character particularly in the 8th c. and 7th c. B.C. It is distinguished from the other Sicilian shops (those at Syracuse and at Megara Hyblaia) by decorative motifs which nearly always recall the influence of Euboean-Cycladic pottery.
The initial dig in the archaeological zone has already been opened to the public and the site will, as time goes on, extend over a large part of the city. Today, it includes the Sanctuary of Aphrodite, the W stretch of the city walls, and the quarter of the vase makers in the district of Salluzzo. An Antiquarium situated on Punta di Schiso is now being built.
P. Pelagatti, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains 56 image(s), bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.
A Greek city on the eastern coast of Sicily, founded B.C. 735 by the Chalcidians of Euboea, and the first Greek colony established in the island. In B.C. 403 the town was destroyed by Dionysius of Syracuse; but nearly fifty years afterwards (358) the remaining Naxians scattered over Sicily, were collected by Andromachus, and a new city was founded on Mount Taurus, to which the name of Tauromenium was given.
This text is cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
Naxus (Nachos: Eth. Nachios: Capo di Schiso). An ancient city of Sicily,
on the E. coast of the island between Catana and Messana. It was situated on a
low point of land at the mouth of the river Acesines (Alcantara), and at the foot
of the hill on which was afterwards built the city of Tauromenium. All ancient
writers agree in representing Naxos as the most ancient of all the Greek colonies
in Sicily; it was founded the year before Syracuse, or B.C. 735, by a body of
colonists from Chalcis in Euboea, with whom there was mingled, according to Ephorus,
a certain number of Ionians. The same writer represented Theocles, or Thucles,
the leader of the colony and founder of the city, as an Athenian by birth; but
Thucydides takes no notice of this, and describes the city as a purely Chalcidic
colony; and it seems certain that in later times it was generally so regarded.
(Thuc. vi. 3; Ephor. ap. Strab. vi. p. 267; Scymn. Ch. 270-277; Diod. xiv. 88.
Concerning the date of its foundation see Clinton, F. H. vol. i. p. 164; Euseb.
Chron. ad 01. 11. 1.) The memory of Naxos as the earliest of all the Greek settlements
in Sicily was preserved by the dedication of an altar outside the town to Apollo
Archegetes, the divine patron under whose authority the colony had sailed; and
it was a custom (still retained long after the destruction of Naxos itself) that
all Theori or envoys proceeding on sacred missions to Greece, or returning from
thence to Sicily, should offer sacrifice on this altar. (Thuc. l. c.; Appian,
B.C. v. 109.) It is singular that none of the writers above cited allude to the
origin of the name of Naxos; but there can be little doubt that this was derived,
as stated by Hellanicus (ap. Steph. B. s. v. Chalkis), from the presence among
the original settlers of a body of colonists from the island of that name.
The new colony must have been speedily joined by fresh settlers from Greece, as within six years after its first establishment the Chalcidians at Naxos were able to send out a fresh colony, which founded the city of Leontini, B.C. 730; and this was speedily followed by that of Catana. Theocles himself became the Oekist, or recognised founder, of the former, and Euarchus, probably a Chalcidic citizen, of the latter. (Thuc. l. c.; Scymn. Ch. 283-286; Strab. vi. p. 268.) Strabo and Scymnus Chius both represent Zancle also as a colony from Naxos, but no allusion to this is found in Thucydides. But, as it was certainly a Chalcidic colony, it is probable that some settlers from Naxos joined those from the parent country. (Strab. vi. p. 268; Scymn. Ch. 286; Thuc. vi. 4.) Callipolis also, a city of uncertain site, and which ceased to exist at an early period, was a colony of Naxos. (Strab. vi. p. 272; Scymn. Ch. l. c.) But notwithstanding these evidences of its early prosperity, we have very little information as to the early history of Naxos; and the first facts transmitted to us concerning it relate to disasters that it sustained. Thus Herodotus tells us that it was one of the cities which was besieged and taken by Hippocrates, despot of Gela, about B.C. 498-491 (Herod. vii. 154); and his expressions would lead us to infer that it was reduced by him under permanent subjection. It appears to have afterwards successively passed under the authority of Gelon of Syracuse, and his brother Hieron, as we find it subject to the latter in B.C. 476. At that time Hieron, with a view to strengthen his own power, removed the inhabitants of Naxos at the same time with those of Catana, and settled them together at Leontini, while he repeopled the two cities with fresh colonists from other quarters (Diod. xi. 49). The name of Naxos is not specifically mentioned during the revolutions that ensued in Sicily after the death of Hieron; but there seems no doubt that the city was restored to the old Chalcidic citizens at the same time as these were reinstated at Catana, B.C. 461 (Id. xi. 76); and hence we find, during the ensuing period, the three Chalcidic cities, Naxos, Leontini, and Catana, generally united by the bonds of amity, and maintaining a close alliance, as opposed to Syracuse and the other Doric cities of Sicily. (Id. xiii. 56, xiv. 14; Thuc. iii. 86, iv. 25.) Thus, in B.C. 427, when the Leontini were hard pressed by their neighbours of Syracuse, their Chalcidic brethren afforded them all the assistance in their power (Thuc. iii. 86); and when the first Athenian expedition arrived in Sicily under Laches and Charoeades, the Naxians immediately joined their alliance. With them, as well as with the Rhegians on the opposite side of the straits, it is probable that enmity to their neighbours at Messana was a strong motive in inducing them to join the Athenians; and during the hostilities that ensued, the Messanians having on one occasion, in B.C. 425, made a sudden attack upon Naxos both by land and sea, the Naxians vigorously repulsed them, and in their turn inflicted heavy loss on the assailants. (Id. iv. 25.)
On occasion of the great Athenian expedition to Sicily (B.C. 415), the Naxians from the first espoused their alliance, even while their kindred cities of Rhegium and Catana held aloof; and not only furnished them with supplies, but received them freely into their city (Diod. xiii. 4; Thuc. vi. 50). Hence it was at Naxos that the Athenian fleet first touched after crossing the straits; and at a later period the Naxians and Catanaeans are enumerated by Thucydides as the only Greek cities in Sicily which sided with the Athenians. (Thuc. vii. 57.) After the failure of this expedition the Chalcidic cities were naturally involved for a time in hostilities with Syracuse; but these were suspended in B.C. 409, by the danger which seemed to threaten all the Greek cities alike from the Carthaginians. (Diod. xiii. 56.) Their position on this occasion preserved the Naxians from the fate which befell Agrigentum, Gela, and Camarina; but they did not long enjoy this immunity. In B.C. 403, Dionysius of Syracuse, deeming himself secure from the power of Carthage as well as from domestic sedition, determined to turn his arms against the Chalcidic cities of Sicily; and having made himself master of Naxos by the treachery of their general Procles, he sold all the inhabitants as slaves and destroyed both the walls and buildings of the city, while he bestowed its territory upon the neighbouring Siculi. (Diod. xiv. 14, 15, 66, 68.)
It is certain that Naxos never recovered this blow, nor rose again to be a place of any consideration: but it is not easy to trace precisely the events which followed. It appears, however, that the Siculi, to whom the Naxian territory was assigned, soon after formed a new settlement on the hill called Mount Taurus, which rises immediately above the site of Naxos, and that this gradually grew up into a considerable town, which assumed the name of Tauromenium. (Diod. xiv. 58, 59.) This took place about B.C. 396; and we find the Siculi still in possession of this stronghold some years later. (Ib. 88.) Meanwhile the exiled and fugitive inhabitants of Naxos and Catana formed, as usual in such cases, a considerable body, who as far as' possible kept together. An attempt was made in B.C. 394 by the Rhegians to settle them again in a body at Mylae, but without success; for they were speedily expelled by the Messanians, and from this time appear to have been dispersed in various parts of Sicily. (Diod. xiv. 87.) At length, in B.C. 358, Andromachus, the father of the historian Timaeus, is said to have collected together again the Naxian exiles from all parts of the island, and established them on the hill of Tauromenium, which thus rose to be a Greek city, and became the successor of the ancient Naxos. (Diod. xvi. 7.) Hence Pliny speaks of Tauromenium as having been formerly called Naxos, an expression which is not strictly correct. (Plin. iii. 8. s. 14.) The site of Naxos itself seems to have been never again inhabited; but the altar and shrine of Apollo Archegetes continued to mark the spot where it had stood, and are mentioned in the war between Octavian and Sextus Pompey in Sicily, B.C. 36. (Appian, B.C. v. 109.)
There are no remains of the ancient city now extant, but the site is clearly marked. It occupied a low but rocky headland, now called the Capo di Schiso, formed by an ancient stream of lava, immediately to the N. of the Alcantara, one of the most considerable streams in this part of Sicily. A small bay to the N. affords good anchorage, and separates it from the foot of the bold and lofty hill, still occupied by the town of Taormina; but the situation was not one which enjoyed any peculiar natural advantages.
The coins of Naxos, which are of fine workmanship, may almost all be referred to the period from B.C. 460 to B.C. 403, which was probably the most flourishing in the history of the city.
This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited June 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
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