History of Taormina


See Taormina guide for highlights and historic monuments

A little knowledge of the ancient history of Taormina is useful in helping you make the most of your visit. Taormina was known in antiquity as 'Tauromenion' by the Greeks and then as 'Tauromenium' by the Romans.

The story of Taormina has its origins in - and is interwoven with - that of Giardini-Naxos, a Greek colony founded by Teocle and then destroyed by Dionysius (430-367 B.C.), a tyrant of Syracuse in 403 B.C.

The survivors of this destruction moved to Mount Taurus, where they founded Taormina. Over the centuries Taormina was subject to various rulers.

It was subdued by Agathocles (360-289 B.C.) and Jerone II (308-216 B.C.); and, in 203 B.C., it became subject to Roman rule - under the Romans it was also granted the status of 'federated city' which excluded it from certain obligations and allowed the town a certain level of self-government.

The Romans always held Taormina in great esteem because of its location in a crucial position for defending Sicily.

Moving forward 1000 years, the Arab conquest in 902 A.D. was a difficult time for Taormina, the city was sacked and reduced to an Arab fortress, which was then conquered by the Normans in 1078-1079.

With the Normans there was a great deal of restructuring of the city including the creation oif the 'Borgo' (village) between the Porta di Mezzo and Porta Tocco, which were enclosed by walls containing the main buildings and religious sites (monasteries).

This expansion and reconstruction continued when Taormina fell under Spanish control.

Further expansion of the city continued in the 16th century (including the construction of some aristocratic palaces and the Cathedral)

As early as the 18th century Taormina began its current activity as a resort for foreign travellers, a role which is still very important even today.