Naxos (Sicily)
Naxos or Naxus was an ancient city of Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

, on the east coast of the island between Catana (modern Catania
Catania is an Italian city on the east coast of Sicily facing the Ionian Sea, between Messina and Syracuse. It is the capital of the homonymous province, and with 298,957 inhabitants it is the second-largest city in Sicily and the tenth in Italy.Catania is known to have a seismic history and...

) and Messana (modern Messina). It was situated on a low point of land at the mouth of the river Acesines (modern Alcantara
Alcantara (river)
The Alcantara is a river in Sicily. It has its source on the south side of Monti Nebrodi and its mouth in the Ionian Sea at Capo Schiso in Giardini-Naxos. The river is long....

), and at the foot of the hill on which was afterwards built the city of Tauromenium (modern Taormina
Taormina is a comune and small town on the east coast of the island of Sicily, Italy, in the Province of Messina, about midway between Messina and Catania. Taormina has been a very popular tourist destination since the 19th century...



All ancient writers agree in representing Naxos as the most ancient of all the Greek colonies in Sicily; it was founded the year before Syracusae, or 735 BC, by a body of colonists from Chalcis
Chalcis or Chalkida , the chief town of the island of Euboea in Greece, is situated on the strait of the Evripos at its narrowest point. The name is preserved from antiquity and is derived from the Greek χαλκός , though there is no trace of any mines in the area...

 in Euboea
Euboea is the second largest Greek island in area and population, after Crete. The narrow Euripus Strait separates it from Boeotia in mainland Greece. In general outline it is a long and narrow, seahorse-shaped island; it is about long, and varies in breadth from to...

, with whom there was mingled, according to Ephorus
Ephorus or Ephoros , of Cyme in Aeolia, in Asia Minor, was an ancient Greek historian. Information on his biography is limited; he was the father of Demophilus, who followed in his footsteps as a historian, and to Plutarch's claim that Ephorus declined Alexander the Great's offer to join him on his...

, a certain number of Ionians
The Ionians were one of the four major tribes into which the Classical Greeks considered the population of Hellenes to have been divided...

. The same writer represented Theocles , or Thucles, the leader of the colony and founder of the city, as an Athenian
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 by birth; but Thucydides
Thucydides was a Greek historian and author from Alimos. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC...

 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. Strabo
Strabo, also written Strabon was a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher.-Life:Strabo was born to an affluent family from Amaseia in Pontus , a city which he said was situated the approximate equivalent of 75 km from the Black Sea...

 vi. p. 267; Scymn. Ch. 270-77; 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
Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in Greek and Roman mythology...

, 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
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

, or returning from thence to Sicily, should offer sacrifice on this altar. (Thuc. l. c.; Appian
Appian of Alexandria was a Roman historian of Greek ethnicity who flourished during the reigns of Trajan, Hadrian, and Antoninus Pius.He was born ca. 95 in Alexandria. He tells us that, after having filled the chief offices in the province of Egypt, he went to Rome ca. 120, where he practised as...

, 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.
Stephanus of Byzantium
Stephen of Byzantium, also known as Stephanus Byzantinus , was the author of an important geographical dictionary entitled Ethnica...

 s. v. ), from the presence among the original settlers of a body of colonists from the island of that name
Naxos (island)
Naxos is a Greek island, the largest island in the Cyclades island group in the Aegean. It was the centre of archaic Cycladic culture....


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 (modern Lentini
Lentini , historically Leontini, Leontinoi , or Leontium, is a town and comune in the Province of Syracuse, southeast Sicily .-History:...

), 730 BC; 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. 283-86; Strab. vi. p. 268.) Strabo and Scymnus Chius
Scymnus of Chios was a Greek geographer. He was said to have been the author of a periegesis in prose.An anonymous verse periegesis first published at Augsburg in 1600, originally ascribed to Marcianus of Heraclea, was long thought to be the lost work of Scymnus, but this was shown not to be the...

 both represent Zancle (modern Messina) 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
Callipolis is the commonly used Latinized form of Kallipolis, the Greek name of several ancient cities, notably:*Kallipolis in Caria*Kallipolis, a Hellespont-port on the Thracian Chersonesus, the modern Gallipoli...

 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
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 tells us that it was one of the cities which was besieged and taken by Hippocrates
Hippocrates of Gela
Hippocrates was the second tyrant of Gela and ruled from 498 BC to 491 BC. He was the brother of Cleander and succeeded him to the throne after his death. With him, Gela began its expansion phase; Hippocrates aimed to conquer all of southeastern Sicily in order to build a great state with Gela as...

, despot of Gela
Gela is a town and comune in the province of Caltanissetta in the south of Sicily, Italy. The city is at about 84 kilometers distance from the city of Caltanissetta, on the Mediterranean Sea. The city has a larger population than the provincial capital, and ranks second in land area.Gela is an...

, about 498-91 BC (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
Gelo , son of Deinomenes, was a 5th century BC ruler of Gela and Syracuse and first of the Deinomenid rulers.- Early life :...

, and his brother Hieron, as we find it subject to the latter in 476 BC. 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, 461 BC (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 427 BC, 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
Laches (person)
Laches was an Athenian aristocrat and general during the Peloponnesian War. His date of birth is unknown, but Plato asserts, not implausibly, that he was distinctly older than Socrates, who was born around 470 BC.In 427 BCE, Laches and Charoeades were sent to Sicily with a fleet of 20 ships in...

 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 425 BC, 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 (415 BC), the Naxians from the first espoused their alliance, even while their kindred cities of Rhegium (modern Reggio di Calabria) 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 409 BC, by the danger which seemed to threaten all the Greek cities alike from the Carthaginians
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

. (Diod. xiii. 56.) Their position on this occasion preserved the Naxians from the fate which befell Agrigentum (modern Agrigento
Agrigento , is a city on the southern coast of Sicily, Italy, and capital of the province of Agrigento. It is renowned as the site of the ancient Greek city of Akragas , one of the leading cities of Magna Graecia during the golden...

), Gela, and Camarina
thumb|240px|Remains of the Temple of Athena.Kamarina is an ancient city of Sicily, southern Italy, situated on the south coast, about 27 kilometers South East of Gela . It was founded by Syracuse in 599 BC, but destroyed by the mother city in 552 BC. Its remains are today in the municipality of...

; but they did not long enjoy this immunity. In 403 BC, Dionysius of Syracuse
Dionysius I of Syracuse
Dionysius I or Dionysius the Elder was a Greek tyrant of Syracuse, in what is now Sicily, southern Italy. He conquered several cities in Sicily and southern Italy, opposed Carthage's influence in Sicily and made Syracuse the most powerful of the Western Greek colonies...

, 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 396 BC; and we find the Siculi still in possession of this stronghold some years later. (Id. 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 394 BC by the Rhegians to settle them again in a body at Mylae (modern Milazzo
Milazzo is a town and comune in the province of Messina, Sicily, Italy.The city is situated between two bays, one of Milazzo and the east to the west of Patti, in a strategic place in the north-eastern Sicily.Located 43 km from the provincial capital, is part of the metropolitan area of the Strait...

), 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 358 BC, Andromachus
Andromachus (ruler of Tauromenium)
Andromachus was the ruler of Tauromenium in Sicily in the middle of the 4th century BCE, and the father of the historian Timaeus. He is said to have been by far the best of the rulers of Sicily at that time. He assisted Timoleon in his expedition against Dionysius of Syracuse in 344 BCE. ....

, the father of the historian Timaeus
Timaeus (historian)
Timaeus , ancient Greek historian, was born at Tauromenium in Sicily. Driven out of Sicily by Agathocles, he migrated to Athens, where he studied rhetoric under a pupil of Isocrates and lived for fifty years...

, 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
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 speaks of Tauromenium as having been formerly called Naxos, an expression which is not strictly correct. (Plin. iii. 8. s. 14.) The fortunes of the new city quickly rose to be a place of importance. The site of Naxos itself seems to have been never again inhabited in antiquity; 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, 36 BC. (Appian, B.C. v. 109.)


The site of the city falls into the territory of the comune
In Italy, the comune is the basic administrative division, and may be properly approximated in casual speech by the English word township or municipality.-Importance and function:...

of Giardini Naxos. 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 Cape Schisò, formed by an ancient stream of lava, immediately to the north of the Alcantara, one of the most considerable streams in this part of Sicily. A small bay to the north 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 460 BC to 403 BC, which was probably the most flourishing in the history of the city.
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