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Syracuse is a historic city on the Italian island of Sicily, the capital of the Italian province of Syracuse. The city is notable for its rich Greek and Roman history, culture, amphitheatres, architecture, and as the birthplace of the pre-eminent mathematician and engineer Archimedes.


The city was founded by Ancient Greek Corinthians and Teneans and became a very powerful city-state. Syracuse was allied with Sparta and Corinth and exerted influence over the entirety of Magna Graecia, of which it was the most important city. Described by Cicero as "the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all", it equaled Athens in size during the fifth century BCE.

It later became part of the Roman Republic and the Byzantine Empire. Under Emperor Constans II, it served as the capital of the Byzantine Empire (663–669 CE). Palermo later overtook it in importance, as the capital of the Kingdom of Sicily. Eventually the kingdom would be united with the Kingdom of Naples to form the Two Sicilies until the Italian unification of 1860 CE.

Notable Structures

circa 550 BCE

Temple of Apollo
The Temple of Apollo (Tempio di Apollo) on the island of Ortygia is the ancient most Doric temple in stone peristasis of western Greece, dated to the beginning of the sixth century BCE with a perstasis of 6x17 monolithic columns and a second row on the east. The stone colonnade, instead of the wood one, is a novelty, as stated in its inscription: "Kleomene made for Apollo (the temple), the son of Knideidas and raised the colonnade, the beautiful works". In the north there are remains of a previous building; in the west there is a Byzantine tower. It has undergone several transformations over the centuries, Byzantine Church. Arab Mosque, Norman Basilica. Incorporated in 1562 CE, in the Spanish barracks, the church of Saint Maria delle Grazie super imposed in 1664 CE, then demolished in 1864 CE. The complex work of returning the building to the original began in 1858 CE and ended in 1942 CE.

circa 1753 CE

The Cathedral of Syracuse (Duomo di Siracusa), formally the Cattedrale metropolitana della Natività di Maria Santissima, is an ancient Catholic church in Syracuse, Sicily, the seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of Siracusa. The cathedral stands in the city's historic core on Ortygia Island. Its structure is originally a Greek doric temple, and for this reason it is included in a UNESCO World Heritage Site designated in 2005 CE. The present cathedral was constructed by Saint Bishop Zosimo of Syracuse in the 7th century CE. The battered Doric columns of the original temple were incorporated in the walls of the current church.

circa 1753 CE

Roman Amphitheatre
The Roman Amphitheatre is one of the best preserved structures in the city of Syracuse, Sicily, from the early Imperial period (possibly circa first century CE). The amphitheatre is located in the ancient suburb of Neapolis, in what is now an archaeological park, near the Greek theatre and the Altar of Hieron. The amphitheatre is on a different orientation to these other structures and probably follows the lines of an urban plan developed in the late classical period. The amphitheatre is largely excavated out of the living rock and in the north east it takes advantage of the slope of the same rocky outcrop which the Greek theatre is built into. Almost nothing of the superstructure, which was built from masonry, survives.


Temple E
The Temple E, also known as the Temple of Hera or according to some scholars Temple of Aphrodite, is a Greek temple of the Doric order. It is found on the hill to the east of the city's acropolis. It was built towards the middle of the sixth century BCE on top of the foundations of a more ancient building. It is the best conserved of the temples of Selinus but its present appearance is the result of anastylosis (reconstruction using original material) performed—controversially—in 1959 CE, by the Italian archaeologist Jole Bovio Marconi. Four metopes are preserved: Heracles killing the Amazon Antiope, the marriage of Hera and Zeus, Actaeon being torn apart by Artemis’ hunting dogs, Athena killing the Giant Enceladus, and another more fragmentary one perhaps depicting Apollo and Daphne. All of them are kept in the Antonino Salinas Regional Archeological Museum.


Spring of Arethusa
The Spring or Fountain of Arethusa (Fonte Aretusa) is a natural fountain on the island of Ortygia in the historical centre of the city of Syracuse in Sicily. According to Greek mythology, the fresh water fountain is the place where the nymph Arethusa, the patron figure of ancient Syracuse, returned to earth's surface after escaping from her undersea home in Arcadia. The Fountain of Arethusa, the river Ciane, south of Syracuse, and the river Fiume Freddo in the province of Catania are the only places in Europe where papyrus grows.


Altar of Hieron
The Altar of Hieron (Ara di Ierone) or the Great Altar of Syracuse is a monumental grand altar in the ancient quarter of Neapolis in Syracuse, Sicily. It was built in the Hellenistic period by King Hiero II and is the largest altar known from antiquity. The altar was part of a larger complex. Below the structure, on the eastern side, there was a natural grotto, about 18 metres deep which contained votive offerings, some of which were deposited in the Archaic and Classical periods, long before the altar was built. The altar is mentioned by Diodorus Siculus, who attributes its construction to Hiero II. Stylistic analysis of the sculptural fragments from the altar confirms this, showing that they were made at the same time as the third phase of the nearby Greek theatre, which belongs after 235 BCE.

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