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History and culture

History and culture

The first contacts between Taormina and Greece were in 735 B.C. Later Dionysius the Old”, the tyrant ruler of Syracuse, besieged the area surrounding Monte Tauro as he wanted to conquer the plains. The inhabitants of this area managed to resist this brute force but not bureaucracy: in 392 B.C., thanks to an agreement with the Carthaginians, Dionysius managed to come into possession of the Mount. He sent Andromacus to govern the area, who then founded the city of Tauromenium.
To avoid any potential attacks, the city surrendered to the powerful Rome in 212 B.C. and became one of its colonies, a holiday resort for consuls and patricians who built many luxurious villas in this area, and which was a “cow to be milked” for the Empire. The Romans demanded heavier and heavier taxes from the city, and thus blocked the economic development of the territory.

With the fall of the Roman Empire (476 A.D.), the Byzantines began the slow, difficult conversion to Christianity, and Tauromenium became a bishop’s seat (and remained so until 1082).
After the fall of the Empire, Muslims and Christians alternated in ruling the city until 962, when the Arabs finally conquered Tauromenium and renamed it Almoezia. During this period of Arab rule, the city enjoyed a period of splendor: important progress was made in agriculture (growing of oranges and lemons, irrigation systems), in philosophy, medicine and mathematics.
In 1078, the Norman Ruggero d’Altavilla, supported by the Pope, conquered Almoezia, returning it to Christian rule (even though Christians had been left quite free during Arab rule) and gave it back its original name. Norman rule also had a positive effect on the city, architecturally and culturally.
After the Normans, the Swabians arrived. During Frederick II’s rule (l194-1250) Taormina enjoyed a short but intense period of prosperity.
However, the Pope (a Frenchman) did not approve of the Swabians or Swabian rule and crowned his fellow Frenchman Charles of Anjou as King of Sicily.
Taormina, together with other towns on the island, refused to acknowledge Charles of Anjou as their new monarch, and continued to support the Swabians, although they were unsuccessful. The hostility felt towards the French broke out into the revolt of the Sicilian Vespers in 1282.

After almost a century of conflict, Sicily passed into the hand of the Spanish and Palazzo Corvaja in Taormina became the seat of the Sicilian Parliament.
There was then a period of stability that lasted for several centuries, in spite of the heavy taxation imposed by the Spanish.
Later, from 1713 onwards, Sicily fell under the rule of the Savoia dynasty, the Austrians and the under the Spanish once more. This latter period helped to develop Taormina, and important works were completed, such as the roads that connected the city of Messina to Catania and the one that joined the city to the sea. Spanish dominion lasted until August 3
rd 1860 when the “Thousand” reached Taormina under the leadership of Nino Bixio.

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