Archaeological area of Naxos

The archaeological area of Naxos is part of the Archaeological Park of Naxos-Taormina, established in 2007.

The park includes, among others, the Archaeological Museum of Naxos and the adjacent archaeological area, the Ancient Theatre and Villa Caronia in Taormina, the Naturalistic Museum of Isola Bella and the church of Ss. Peter and Paul in Casalvecchio Siculo.

Naxos is the most ancient Greek colony in Sicily, founded by settlers coming from Chalkis in 734 B.C., who settled here because of the good position for the landings coming from the motherland.

After being conquered by Hippocrates of Gela in 492 BC, in 476 BC. Hieron of Syracuse deported the inhabitants of Naxos to Leontinoi, founding a new city above the walls of the archaic city.

The esuli returned to Naxos only after the fall of the Syracuse tyranny in 461-460 BC.

Naxos had always been allied with Athens and, for this reason, was razed to the ground by the new tyrant of Syracuse, Dionysius I, in 403 BC, after the Athenian defeat in the Peloponnesian War.

It can be said, following Strabo, that in the 1st century B.C., the city no longer existed, now replaced in importance by Tauromenion, the ancient Taormina. In spite of this, however, the inhabited area remained intact until the VI century A.D..

The excavations

The excavations conducted have shown the existence of two different overlapping urban areas.

The first, of archaic age datable VII – VI century B.C., the second of classical age, attributable to the time of Hieron of Syracuse.

This inhabited area was formed by three wide roads – the plateiai – built in east/west direction, cut by 14 smaller roads in north/south direction, called stenopòi.

This grid traced residential blocks, the insulae, about 39×160 m. The street intersections were marked by quadrangular bases placed at the south/east corner and identifiable as altars.

In the south-western corner of the city stood the sanctuary, dedicated to a female deity, probably Hera or Aphrodite.

The sanctuary could be accessed from two entrances to the north, towards the city, and to the south, towards the sea.

In the sanctuary are still visible the remains of two furnaces from the end of the 7th century B.C., a stepped processional altar from the 6th century B.C. and the remains of a temple from the end of the same century.

Not far away, near the mouth of the torrent Santa Venere, the “cyclopean walls“, i.e. the portion of the walls built with large blocks of lava stone, perhaps from the end of the VI century B.C., raised with the polygonal technique, to defend against the attack of Hippocrates of Gela, can be clearly identified.

The museum

The Archaeological Museum of Naxos is closely connected to the adjacent archaeological area.

The museum is housed inside a Bourbon fortino which has incorporated a 16th century tower placed by Charles V to defend the coast from pirate raids.

Most of the finds preserved in the museum come from excavations carried out in Naxos and are displayed according to topographical chronological criteria.

To the finds coming from the excavations in the Naxos area, there are also some materials coming from Taormina and found by Paolo Orsi, such as those coming from Cocolonazzo di Mola.

These are trousseaus of three sepultures, found in 1919 and that testify the contact between the local population – the Siceliotes – and the new Greek settlers.

The rooms on the ground floor recount the prehistoric phases of the site and the first colonial age, while the upper floor displays finds from the sacred area, the archaic and classical urban area and the necropolis.

Before reaching this section of the museum, the visitor will notice collections of silver coins of the classical age coming from Siceliot or Magna Graecia colonies.

Just outside the museum a portion of the fortification walls is visible, while in the 16th century coastal tower there are underwater archaeology finds found in the coast between Naxos and Taormina.