Naxos

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Naxos
Location of Naxos.

Naxos is one of the old­est of the Greek colon­ies on Sicily. It sits on the north of the east­ern shore of Sicily, near Mount Etna. The ancient sources agree that the city was foun­ded at least in part, by set­tlers from Chalcis on Euboea but dis­agree on details. While Thucydides (6.3.1) states: “Of the Hellenes, the first to arrive were Chalcidians from Euboea with Thucles, their founder. They foun­ded Naxos and built the altar to Apollo Archegetes, which now stands out­side the town, and upon which the depu­ties for the games sac­ri­fice before sail­ing from Sicily.” Ephoros of Kyme, a slightly later his­tor­ian writ­ing in the fourth cen­tury BC, (Check G.L. Barber The Historian Ephoros 1935) says that it was foun­ded at the same time as Megara Hyblaea (FGrHist 70 F 137). Strabo (6.2.2) fol­low­ing Ephoros, also agrees this is one of the earli­est colon­ies. The were foun­ded at much the same time. The authors all agree that the inhab­it­ants came from Chalcis, a polis in the north of the island of Euboea. The one dis­sent­ing opinon is that of Hellanicos, an author con­tem­por­an­eous with Thucydides, records that it was co-founded not only by set­tlers from Euboea, but also from Naxos in the Cyclades (FGrH, 4 F 82).

Why the site was chosen is a dif­fi­cult argu­ment to recon­struct. Pliny the Elder (Nat. Hist. III 14) men­tions it (in the form of Tauromenium, Naxos itself had been aban­doned at this stage) at the city closest to Mount Etna which he notes is “won­drous for the flames which it emits by night.” It is tempt­ing to argue that the site occu­pies the best beach close to the moun­tain and so is an easy point to aim for when nav­ig­at­ing. This would not neces­sar­ily make it the first place to be settled, but it might make it con­cep­tu­ally the first place in Sicily.
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