Tauromenium means residence on the Taurus, the mountain where the city was built by Greek people. According to legend, however, the place was inhabited by a Minotaur or, better still, by a Centaur named Taurus, as a figure in ancient coins of the city, to which is attributed the foundation and the first name of the city. Another tradition recalls how two princes of Palestine, Taurus and Mena, founded the city, giving it the name Tauromena.
The city, situated on a height of 205 metres above sea level, was an impregnable place, because three sides of it were made up of frightening ravines, which plunged directly into the sea. Despite this, the Tauromenites, for a safer defense of the polis, added mighty walls on the north and south sides, following the Hellenic defensive system, which included a triple curtain wall and only two points of access to the city. Still today the walls are visible and there are the ancient gates of the city.
In 212 BC Tauromenium, in order to avoid being destroyed and sacked as Syracuse, started a policy of friendship towards Rome and then was submitted. With this act the period of maximum splendour of Greek civilization in Sicily ceased to exist. Cesare Ottaviano made Taormina a Roman colony, leaving many of its inhabitants away from the city and populating it with Roman families. Attracted by the beauty and mild climate, many consuls who withdrew from public life chose it as a resting place.