A city on the N coast of Sicily between Kalakta and Kephaloidion (district of S. Maria, Commune of Tusa, Province of Messina). It is located on a large hill overlooking the sea to the N and the valleys of the rivers Halaisos (modern Tusa) and Opikanos (modern Cicera) to the W and E respectively. It was founded in 403 B.C. by Archonides of Herbita and peopled with Sikels and Greeks who had fled to the site during the wars waged by Dionysios I (Diod. 14.16). Around the middle of the 4th c. the city minted its own coinage in the name of a federation in which it occupied a position of prominence (Head, HN 125). At the beginning of the first Punic war it was the first Sicilian town to side with Rome (Diod. 23.4); it was therefore made libera et immunis and was one of the main cities of the island until the 1st c. B.C. (Cic. Verr. 3.6.13). Having achieved the status of municipium in the Augustan period, it enjoyed considerable prosperity through the 2d and 3d c. A.D. During the Byzantine period it declined and was abandoned after the Arab invasion.
Excavation tests have shown that the urban plan is largely preserved, and systematic excavation was begun in 1970. The circuit wall (Hellenistic in date) built in isodomic masonry with curtains between piers, is among the most complete in Sicily. The E and N sides (which include an expansion downhill and an imposing terracing with buttresses uphill) are the best preserved; near the S gates, at regular intervals, are set square towers, which at times reach a height of ca. 2 m. The main urban center lies on the E plateau and shows a street system based on quasi-orthogonal principles: onto a cardo ca. 6 m wide, open decumani, all well paved with small stone blocks, which create insulae. An insula near the agora has yielded numerous Hellenistic architectural elements from a peristyle house and Roman mosaics from another. On the highest part of the hill have been found the substructures of two temples, one of which is almost certainly that of Apollo. The main monument is the agora. The square is paved with bricks and contains bases for monuments and the podium for speakers, in opus reticulatum. On its W and N sides it is bordered by an L-shaped portico with double nave and columns of stone and terracotta, which on epigraphic evidence has been identified as the basilica. Against the (rear) wall of the portico (5 m high) are small shrines containing altars and an abundance of marble floors and moldings, honorary inscriptions, and pieces of sculpture. The first plan of the agora, which was modified during Imperial times, goes back to the Hellenistic period; it was abandoned presumably after the Constantinian age. In the late Byzantine period the agora, already covered over, became the site of a poor cemetery. (G. SCIBONA) Wikidata ID: Q1434186
Info: Princeton Encyclopedia
(Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites, from Perseus Project)