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) Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naxos_(Sicily)Wikidata ID: Q1233293Trismegistos Geo: 38475
Info: Princeton Encyclopedia
(Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites, from Perseus Project)