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Greek Sicily – Teatro Antico di Taormina Taormina, Volcanos and the Aeolian Islands


Taormina is a hilltop town located on Sicily’s east coast near Mount Etna, in the Province of Messina Italy. The town is known for its Greco-Roman Teatro Antico di Taormina that still functions as a concert-theatre venue to this day. Taormina is an archaeologically significant Ancient Greek site that was settled for its strategic location, that being, a hilltop overlooking the Ionian Sea.[1] The settlement of Taormina would have been as important as Athens with its fortification, if not more so because Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean that links the continent of Europe (in the south) with North Africa and the Middle East via the sea. Sicily therefore has the same geographic, strategic significance as Crete, the largest and most southern Greek Island. Certainly the Greco-Roman Empire regarded Sicily as a defensive location of importance. Shipping was the most important mode of transportation to the Ancients as it enabled trade and interaction.  Strategically placed, elevated, ocean-lookout, fortified City States protected against attack from invaders. The Classical World therefore invested in Colonization as an advancement tool of like-minded Civilization. Sicily, its Aeolian Islands and Volcanos therefore provided a fertile place in the development of Greek Mythology and Culture, which preceded and evolved into a Greco-Roman fusion of the myths. From its Greek origin Sicily was to become a cross-cultural and highly contested melting pot where different worlds collided and lived together harmoniously. Rustic beauty, volcanic eruption and tidal waves are therefore a good metaphor to describe Sicily and its Aeolian Islands.

I will focus this essay on Taormina and its Amphitheatre, a place of cultural exchange that is still used today. The original Greek Amphitheatre of Taormina dates back to circa 300 BCE and was marble. The theatre was built into the hillside by carving into the marble to create seating, a stage and an orchestra pit. Excavation into the hillside creates amplification of the sound. Where the stone was missing in the landscape, other stone was added to complete the seating. Its column’s Capital’ are elaborate Corinthian Order Greek style but later building renovation indicates Roman overlay construction of brick that includes the Roman invention of the arch, keystone and concrete. During Roman times the Amphitheatre evolved into an Arena for the purpose of Gladiator Sport.[2]

Teatro Antico di Taormina represents the divine comedy that is Sicily, a place of Mousa, a Greek word that means ‘song’ or ‘poem.’ The amphitheatre has returned to its origin, ‘the gift of the Muses,’ associated with the Greek girl’s name Musidora.[3]


Janson, H.W. (1977) A History of Art New Revised Edition, Publisher, Thames and Hudson Ltd. London p.124 Town Planning

Mackay, Jamie. (2021) The Invention of Sicily, Publisher, Verso London – New York.

Norwich, John Julius. (2015) Sicily. A Short History from the Ancient Greeks to Cosa Nostra, Publisher, John Murray, Carmelite House London, UK.

[1] Taormina, Italy, Britannica  https://www.britannica.com >accessed 6 December 2021

[2] The Evolution of the Theater of Taormina, Taormina, Sicily. History Victoruim YouTube, >accessed 8 December 2021

[3] Musidora https://thenamesdictionary.com >accessed 7 December 2021

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