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Catania History
Foundation
All ancient authors agree in representing Catania as a Greek colony named Κατάνη (Katánē—see also List of traditional Greek place names) of Chalcidic origin, but founded immediately from the neighboring city of Naxos, under the guidance of a leader named Euarchos (Euarchus).

The exact date of its foundation is not recorded, but it appears from Thucydides to have followed shortly after that of Leontini (modern Lentini), which he places in the fifth year after Syracuse, or 730 BCE. (Thuc. vi. 3; Strabo vi. p. 268; Scymn. Ch. 286; Scyl. § 13; Steph. B. s. v.)

Greek Sicily
The only event of its early history which has been transmitted to us is the legislation of Charondas, and even of this the date is wholly uncertain.
But from the fact that his legislation was extended to the other Chalcidic cities, not only of Sicily, but of Magna Graecia also, as well as to his own country (Arist., Pol. ii. 9), it is evident that Catania continued in intimate relations with these kindred cities.
It seems to have retained its independence till the time of Hieron of Syracuse, but that despot, in 476 BCE, expelled all the original inhabitants, whom he established at Leontini, while he repeopled the city with a new body of colonists, amounting, it is said, to not less than 10,000 in number, and consisting partly of Syracusans, partly of Peloponnesians.
He at the same time changed its name to Αἴτνη (Aítnē, Aetna or Ætna, after the nearby Mount Etna, an activevolcano), and caused himself to be proclaimed the Oekist or founder of the new city. As such he was celebrated by Pindar, and after his death obtained heroic honors from the citizens of his new colony. (Diod. xi. 49, in 66; Strab. l.c.; Pind. Pyth. i., and Schol. ad loc.)
But this state of things was of brief duration, and a few years after the death of Hieron and the expulsion of Thrasybulus, the Syracusans combined with Ducetius, king of the Siculi, to expel the newly settled inhabitants of Catania, who were compelled to retire to the fortress of Inessa (to which they gave the name of Aetna), while the old Chalcidic citizens were reinstated in the possession of Catania, 461 BCE. (Diod. xi. 76; Strab. l. c.)
The period which followed the settlement of affairs at this epoch appears to have been one of great prosperity for Catania, as well as for the Sicilian cities in general: but we have no details of its history till the great Athenian expedition to Sicily (part of the larger Peloponnesian War).
On that occasion the Catanaeans, notwithstanding their Chalcidic connections, at first refused to receive the Athenians into their city: but the latter having effected an entrance, they found themselves compelled to espouse the alliance of the invaders, and Catania became in consequence the headquarters of the Athenian armament throughout the first year of the expedition, and the base of their subsequent operations against Syracuse. (Thuc. vi. 50-52, 63, 71, 89; Diod. xiii. 4, 6, 7; Plut. Nic. 15, 16.)
We have no information as to the fate of Catania after the close of this expedition: it is next mentioned in 403 BCE, when it fell into the power of Dionysius I of Syracuse, who sold the inhabitants as slaves, and gave up the city to plunder; after which he established there a body of Campanian mercenaries.
These, however, quit it again in 396 BCE, and retired to Aetna, on the approach of the great Carthaginian armament under Himilco and Mago. The great sea-fight in which the latter defeated Leptines, the brother of Dionysius, was fought immediately off Catania, and the city apparently[weasel words] fell, in consequence, into the hands of the Carthaginians. (Diod. xiv. 15, 58, 60.)
But we have no account of its subsequent fortunes, nor does it appear who constituted its new population; it is only certain that it continued to exist. Callippus, the assassin of Dion, when he was expelled from Syracuse, for a time held possession of Catania (Plut. Dion. 58); and when Timoleon landed in Sicily we find it subject to a despot named Mamercus, who at first joined the Corinthian leader but afterwards abandoned his alliance for that of the Carthaginians, and was in consequence attacked and expelled by Timoleon. (Diod. xvi. 69; Plut. Timol. 13, 30-34.)
Catania was now restored to liberty, and appears to have continued to retain its independence; during the wars of Agathocles with the Carthaginians, it sided at one time with the former, at others with the latter; and when Pyrrhus landed in Sicily, Catania was the first to open its gates to him, and received him with the greatest magnificence. (Diod. xix. 110, xxii. 8, Exc. Hoesch. p. 496.)

Roman Rule
In the First Punic War, Catania was one of the first among the cities of Sicily, which made their submission to the Roman Republic, after the first successes of their arms in 263 BC. (Eutrop. ii. 19.) The expression of Pliny (vii. 60) who represents it as having been taken by Valerius Messala, is certainly a mistake.
It appears to have continued afterwards steadily to maintain its friendly relations with Rome, and though it did not enjoy the advantages of a confederate city (foederata civitas), like its neighbors Tauromenium (modern Taormina) and Messana (modern Messina), it rose to a position of great prosperity under the Roman rule.
Cicero repeatedly mentions it as, in his time, a wealthy and flourishing city; it retained its ancient municipal institutions, its chief magistrate bearing the title of Proagorus; and appears to have been one of the principal ports of Sicily for the export of corn. (Cic. Verr. iii. 4. 3, 83, iv. 23, 45; Liv. xxvii. 8.)
It subsequently suffered severely from the ravages of Sextus Pompeius, and was in consequence one of the cities to which a colony was sent by Augustus; a measure that appears to have in a great degree restored its prosperity, so that in Strabo's time it was one of the few cities in the island that was in a flourishing condition. (Strab. vi. pp. 268, 270, 272; Dion Cass. iv. 7.)
It retained its colonial rank, as well as its prosperity, throughout the period of the Roman Empire; so that in the 4th century Ausonius in his Ordo Nobilium Urbium, notices Catania and Syracuse alone among the cities of Sicily. (Plin. iii. 8. s. 14; Ptol. iii. 4. § 9; Itin. Ant. pp. 87,90, 93, 94).

Locational Significance
One of the most serious eruptions of Etna happened in 121 BCE, when great part of Catania was overwhelmed by streams of lava, and the hot ashes fell in such quantities in the city itself, as to break in the roofs of the houses.
Catania was in consequence exempted, for 10 years, from its usual contributions to the Roman state. (Oros. v. 13.) The greater part of the broad tract of plain to the southwest of Catania (now called the Piana di Catania, a district of great fertility), appears to have belonged, in ancient times, to Leontini or Centuripa (modern Centuripe), but that portion of it between Catana itself and the mouth of the Symaethus, was annexed to the territory of the latter city, and must have furnished abundant supplies of grain.
The port of Catania also, which was in great part filled up by the eruption of 1669, appears to have been in ancient times much frequented, and was the chief place of export for the corn of the rich neighboring plains. The little river Amenanus, or Amenas, which flowed through the city, was a very small stream, and could never have been navigable.


Catania's Renown in Antiquity
Catania was the birth-place of the philosopher and legislator Charondas; it was also the place of residence of the poet Stesichorus, who died there, and was buried in a magnificent sepulchre outside one of the gates, which derived from thence the name of Porta Stesichoreia. (Suda, under Στησίχορος.)
Xenophanes, the philosopher of Elea, also spent the latter years of his life there (Diog. Laert. ix. 2. § 1), so that it was evidently, at an early period, a place of cultivation and refinement.
The first introduction of dancing to accompany the flute, was also ascribed to Andron, a citizen of Catania (Athen. i. p. 22, c.); and the first sundial that was set up in the Roman forum was carried thither by Valerius Messala from Catania, 263 BCE. (Varr. ap. Plin. vii. 60.)
But few associations connected with Catania were more celebrated in ancient times than the Legend of the Pii Fratres, Amphinomus and Anapias, who, on occasion of a great eruption of Etna, abandoned all their property, and carried off their aged parents on their shoulders, the stream of lava itself was said to have parted, and flowed aside so as not to harm them.
Statues were erected to their honor, and the place of their burial was known as the Campus Piorum; the Catanaeans even introduced the figures of the youths on their coins, and the legend became a favorite subject of allusion and declamation among the Latin poets, of whom the younger Lucilius and Claudian have dwelt upon it at considerable length.
The occurrence is referred by Hyginus to the first eruption of Etna that took place after the settlement of Catania. (Strab. vi. p. 269; Paus. x. 28. § 4; Conon, Narr. 43; Philostr. Vit. Apoll. v. 17; Solin. 5. § 15; Hygin. 254; Val. Max. v. 4. Ext. § 4; Lucil. Aetn. 602-40; Claudian. Idyll. 7; Sil. Ital. xiv. 196; Auson. Ordo Nob. Urb. 11.)

From the Fall of the Roman Empire to Unification of Italy
Please help improve this section by expanding it. Further information might be found on the talk page. (June 2008)
After the fall of the Roman Empire, Catania, like the rest of Sicily, became subjected to a series of empires, dynasties:[10]

Byzantine (6th–9th century)
Arab (9th–11th century)
Norman (11th–12th century)
Swabian (12th–13th century)
Angevin (13th century)
Aragon (13th–15th century)
Spain (15th–18th century)
Kingdom of Savoy 18th century
Austria 18th century
Bourbon 18th century up to the Unification of Italy in 1861
In 1693 the city was completely destroyed by earthquakes and by lava flows which ran over and around it into the sea. The city was then rebuilt in the precious baroque architecture that nowadays enjoys.

Catania in Unified Italy
Please help improve this section by expanding it. Further information might be found on the talk page. (June 2008)
In 1860 General Garibaldi freed Sicily putting an end to fourteen centuries of foreign domination, and since 1861 Catania is a free city of Italy, whose history it shares since then.
After World War II, and the constitution of Italian Republic (1946), the history of Catania is, like the history of other cities of Southern Italy, an attempt to catch up with the economic and social development of the richer Northern Italy and to solve the problems that for historic reasons plague the south of Italy, namely a heavy gap in industrial development and infrastructures, and the presence of criminal organisations.
This notwithstanding, Catania during the 60s (and partly during the 90s) enjoyed a great development and an economic, social and cultural effervescence.
In the last years, Catania economy and social development somewhat faltered and in these years the city is facing economic and social stagnation.

 

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