gtp logo

Location information

Listed 38 sub titles with search on: Information about the place  for wider area of: "SIRACUSA Town SICILY" .

Information about the place (38)

Commercial WebPages



ELOROS (Ancient city) SICILY
The ancient city was located at the eastern coast of Sicily, on the mouth of the homonymous river and it was fortified. Because of the beauty of the place, it was called "The Helorian Tempe".

Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)


AKRES (Ancient city) SICILY
  Acrae (Akrai, Thuc. et alii; Akra, Steph. B.; Akraiai, Ptol.; Akraioi, Steph. B.; Acrenses, Plin.; Palazzolo), a city of Sicily, situated in the southern portion of the island, on a lofty hill, nearly due W. of Syracuse, from which it was distant, according to the Itineraries, 24 Roman miles (Itin. Ant. p. 87; Tab. Peut.). It was a colony of Syracuse, founded, as we learn from Thucydides, 70 years after its parent city, i. e. 663 B.C. (Thuc. vi. 5), but it did not rise to any great importance, and continued almost always in a state of dependence on Syracuse. Its position must, however, have always given it some consequence in a military point of view; and we find Dion, when marching upon Syracuse, halting at Acrae to watch the effect of his proceedings. (Plut. Dion, 27, where we should certainly read Akras for Makras.) By the treaty concluded by the Romans with Hieron, king of Syracuse, Acrae was included in the dominions of that monarch (Diod. xxiii. Exc. p. 502), and this was probably the period of its greatest prosperity. During the Second Punic War it followed the fortunes of Syracuse, and afforded a place of refuge to Hippocrates, after his defeat by Marcellus at Acrillae, B.C. 214. (Liv. xxiv. 36.) This is the last mention of it in history, and its name is not once noticed by Cicero. It was probably in his time a mere dependency of Syracuse, though it is found in Pliny's list of the stipendiariae civitates, so that it must then have possessed a separate municipal existence. (Plin. iii. 8; Ptol. iii. 4. § 14.) The site of Acrae was correctly fixed by Fazello at the modern Palazzolo, lofty and bleak situation of which corresponds. with the description of Silius Italicus ( tumulis glacialibus Acrae, xiv. 206), and its distance from Syracuse with that assigned by the Itineraries. The summit of the hill occupied by the modern town is said to be still called Acremonte. Fazello speaks of the ruins visible there as egregium urbis cadaver, and the recent researches and excavations carried on by the Baron Judica have brought to light ancient remains of much interest. The most considerable of these are two theatres, both in very fair preservation, of which the largest is turned towards the N., while immediately adjacent to it on the W. is a much smaller one, hollowed out in great part from the rock, and supposed from some peculiarities in its construction to have been intended to serve as an Odeum, or theatre for music. Numerous other architectural fragments, attesting the existence of temples and other buildings, have also been brought to light, as well as statues, pedestals, inscriptions, and other minor relics. On an adjoining hill are great numbers of tombs excavated in the rock, while on the hill of Acremonte itself are some monuments of a singular character; figures as large as life, hewn in relief in shallow niches on the surface of the native rock. As the principal figure in all these sculptures appears to be that of the goddess Isis, they must belong to a late period. (Fazell. de Reb. Sic. vol. i. p. 452; Serra di Falco, Antichita di Sicilia, vol. iv. p. 158, seq.; Judica, Antichita di Acre.)

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited September 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


ELOROS (Ancient city) SICILY
  Helorum, Helorus, or Elorus (Eloros or Heloros, Ptol., Steph. B.; Heloron, Scyl.: Eth. Helorinos, Helorinus), a city of Sicily, situated near the E. coast, about 25 miles S. of Syracuse, and on the banks of the river of the same name. (Steph. B. s. v.; Vib. Seq. p. 11.) We have no account of its origin, but it was probably a colony of Syracuse, p. of which it appears to have continued always a dependency. The name is first found in Scylax (§ 13. p. 168); for, though Thucydides repeatedly mentions the road leading to Helorus from Syracuse (ten Helorinen hodon, vi. 66, 70, vii. 80), which was that followed by the Athenians in their disastrous retreat, he never speaks of the town itself. It was one of the cities which remained the under the government of Hieron II. by the treaty concluded with him by the Romans, in B.C. 263. (Diod. xxiii. Exc. H. p. 50, where the name is corruptly written AiloroW): and, having during the Second Punic War declared in favour of the Carthaginians, was recovered by Marcellus in B.C. 214 (Liv. xxiv. 35). Under the Romans it appears to have been dependent on Syracuse, and had perhaps no separate municipal existence, though in a passage of Cicero (Verr. iii. 48) it appears. to be noticed as a civitas. Its name is again mentioned by the orator (lb. v. 34) as a maritime town where the squadron fitted out by Verres was attacked by pirates: but it does not occur in Pliny's list of the towns of Sicily; though he elsewhere (xxxii. 2), mentions it as a castellumn on the river of the same name: and Ptolemy (iii. 4. § 15) speaks of a city of Helorus. Its ruins were still visible in the days of Fazello; a little to the N. of the river - Helorus, and about a mile from the sea-coast. The most conspicuous of them were the remains of a theatre, called by the country people Colisseo: but great part of the walls and other buildings could be traced. The extent of them was, however, inconsiderable. These are now said to have disappeared, but there still remains between this site and the sea a curious column or monument, built of large stones, rising on a square pedestal. This is commonly regarded as a kind of trophy, erected by the Syracusans to commemorate their victory over the Athenians. But there is no foundation for this belief: had it been so designed, it would certainly have been erected on the banks of the river Asinarus, which the Athenians never succeeded in crossing. (Fazell. iv. 2. p. 215; Cluver. Sicil. p. 186; Smyth, Sicily, p. 179; Hoare, Classical Tour, vol ii. p. 136.)

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited September 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


KASMENAI (Ancient city) SICILY
  Casmenae (Kasmene, Herod. Steph. B., Kasmenai, Thuc.: Eth. Kasmenaios, Steph.), a city of Sicily founded by a colony from Syracuse, 90 years after the establishment of the parent city, or B.C. 643. (Thuc. vi. 5.) It is afterwards mentioned by Herodotus as affording shelter to the oligarchical party called the Gamori, when they were expelled from Syracuse; and it was from thence that they applied for assistance to Gelon, then ruler of Gela. (Her. vii. 155.) But from this period Casmenae disappears from history. Thucydides appears to allude to it as a place still existing in his time, but we find no subsequent trace of its name. It was probably destroyed by some of the tyrants of Syracuse, according to their favourite policy of removing the inhabitants from the smaller towns to the larger ones. Its site is wholly uncertain: Cluverius was disposed to fix it at Scicli, but Sir R. Hoare mentions the ruins of an ancient city as existing about 2 miles E. of Sta Croce (a small town 9 miles W. of Scicli), which may very possibly be those of Casmenae. They are described by him as indicating a place of considerable magnitude and importance; but do not appear to have ever been carefully examined. (Cluver. Sicil. p. 358 ; Hoare's Class. Tour, vol. ii. p. 266.)

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited August 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


LEONTINI (Ancient city) SICILY
  Leontini (Leontinoi: Eth. Leontinos: Lentini), a city of Sicily, situated between Syracuse and Catana, but about eight miles from the sea-coast, near a considerable lake now known as the Lago di Lentini. The name of Leontini is evidently an ethnic form, signifying properly the people rather than the city itself; but it seems to have been the only one in use, and is employed both by Greek and Latin writers (declined as a plural adjective1 ), with the single exception of Ptolemy, who calls the city Leontion or Leontium. (Ptol. iii. 4. § 13.) But it is clear, from the modern form of the name, Lentini, that the form Leontini, which we find universal in writers of the best ages, continued in common use down to a late period. All ancient writers concur in representing Leontini as a Greek colony, and one of those of Chalcidian origin, being founded by Chalcidic colonists from Naxos, in the same year with Catana, and six years after the parent city of Naxos, B.C. 730. (Thuc. vi. 3; Scymn. Ch. 283; Diod. xii. 53, xiv. 14.) According to Thucydides, the site had been previously occupied by Siculi, but these were expelled, and the city became essentially a Greek colony. We know little of its early history; but, from the strength of its position and the extreme fertility of its territory (renowned in all ages for its extraordinary richness), it appears to have early attained to great prosperity, and became one of the most considerable cities in the E. of Sicily. The rapidity of its rise is attested by the fact that it was able, in its turn, to found the colony of Euboea (Strab. vi. p. 272 ; Scymn. Ch. 287), apparently at a very early period. It is probable, also, that the three Chalcidic cities, Leontini, Naxos, and Catana, from the earliest period adopted the same line of policy, and made common cause against their Dorian neighbours, as we find them constantly doing in later times.
  The government of Leontini was an oligarchy, but it fell at one time, like so many other cities of Sicily, under the yoke of a despot of the name of Panaetius, who is said to have been the first instance of the kind in Sicily. His usurpation is referred by Eusebius to the 43rd Olympiad, or B.C. 608. (Arist. Pol. v. 10, 12; Euseb. Arm. vol. ii. p. 109.)
  Leontini appears to have retained its independence till after B.C. 498, when it fell under the yoke of Hippocrates, tyrant of Gela (Herod. vii. 154): after which it seems to have passed in succession under the authority of Gelon and Hieron of Syracuse; as we find that, in B.C. 476, the latter despot, having expelled the inhabitants of Catana and Naxos from their native cities, which he peopled with new colonists, established the exiles at Leontini, the possession of which they shared with its former citizens. (Diod. xi. 49.) We find no special mention of Leontini in the revolutions that followed the death of Hieron; but there is no doubt that it regained its independence after the expulsion of Thrasybulus, B.C. 466, and the period which followed was probably that of the greatest prosperity of Leontini, as well as the other Chalcidic cities of Sicily. (Diod. xi. 72, 76.) But its proximity to Syracuse became the source of fresh troubles to Leontini.
  In B.C. 427 the Leontines found themselves engaged in hostilities with their more powerful neighbour, and, being unable to cope single-handed with the Syrasans, they applied for support not only to their Chalcidic brethren, but to the Athenians also, who sent a fleet of twenty ships to their assistance, under the command of Laches and Charoeades. (Thuc. iii. 86; Diod. xii. 53.) The operations of the Athenian fleet under Laches and his successors Pythodorus and Eurymedon were, however, confined to the part of Sicily adjoining the Straits of Messana: the Leontines received no direct support from them, but, after the war had continued for some years, they were included in the general pacification of Gela, B.C. 424, which for a time secured them in the possession of their independence. (Thuc. iv. 58, 65.) This, however, did not last long: the Syracusans took advantage of intestine dissensions among the Leontines, and, by espousing the cause of the oligarchy, drove the democratic party into exile, while they adopted the oligarchy and richer classes as Syracusan citizens. The greater part of the latter body even abandoned their own city, and migrated to Syracuse; but quickly returned, and for a time joined with the exiles in holding it out against the power of the Syracusans. But the Athenians, to whom they again applied, were unable to render them any effectual assistance ; they were a second time expelled, B.C. 422, and Leontini became a mere dependency of Syracuse, though always retaining some importance as a fortress, from the strength of its position. (Thuc. v. 4; Diod. xii. 54.) In B.C. 417 the Leontine exiles are mentioned as joining with the Segestans in urging on the Athenian expedition to Sicily (Diod. xii. 83; Plut. Nic. 12) ; and their restoration was made one of the avowed objects of the enterprise. (Thuc. vi. 50.) But the failure of that expedition left them without any hope of restoration ; and Leontini continued in its subordinate and fallen condition till B.C. 406, when the Syracusans allowed the unfortunate Agrigentines, after the capture of their own city by the Carthaginians, to establish themselves at Leontini. The Geloans and Camarinaeans followed their example the next year: the Leontine exiles of Syracuse at the same time took the opportunity to return to their native city, and declare themselves independent, and the treaty of peace concluded by Dionysius with Himilco, in B.C. 405, expressly stipulated for the freedom and independence of Leontini. (Diod. xiii. 89, 113, 114; Xen. Hell. ii. 3. 5) This condition was not long observed by Dionysius, who no sooner found himself free from the fear of Carthage than he turned his arms against the Chalcidic cities, and, after reducing Catana and Naxos, compelled the Leontines, who were now bereft of all their allies, to surrender their city, which was for the second time deserted, and the whole people transferred to Syracuse, B.C. 403. (Id. xiv. 14, 15.)
  At a later period of his reign (B.C. 396) Dionysius found himself compelled to appease the discontent of his mercenary troops, by giving up to them both the city and the fertile territory of Leontini, where they established themselves to the number of 10,000 men. (Id. xiv. 78.) From this time Leontini is repeatedly mentioned in connection with the civil troubles and revolutions at Syracuse, with which city it seems to have constantly continued in intimate relations; but, as Strabo observes, always shared in its disasters, without always partaking of its prosperity. (Strab. vi. p. 273.) Thus, the Leontines were among the first to declare against the younger Dionysius, and open their gates to Dion (Diod. xvi. 16; Plut. Dion. 39, 40). Some years afterwards their city was occupied with a military force by Hicetas, who from thence carried on war with Timoleon (Ib. 78, 82); and it was not till after the great victory of the latter over the Carthaginians (B.C. 340) that he was able to expel Hicetas and make himself master of Leontini. (Ib. 82; Plut. Timol. 32.) That city was not, like almost all the others of Sicily, restored on this occasion to freedom and independence, but was once more incorporated in the Syracusan state, and the inhabitants transferred to that city. (Diod. xvi. 82.) At a later period the Leontines again figure as an independent state, and, during the wars of Agathocles with the Carthaginians, on several occasions took part against the Syracusans. (Diod. xix. 110, xx. 32.) When Pyrrhus arrived in Sicily, B.C. 278, they were subject to a tyrant or despot of the name of Heracleides, who was one of the first to make his submission to that monarch. (Id. xxii. 8, 10, Exc. H. p. 497.) But not long after they appear to have again fallen under the yoke of Syracuse, and Leontini was one of the cities of which the sovereignty was secured to Hieron, king of Syracuse, by the treaty concluded with him by the Romans at the commencement of the First Punic War, B.C. 263. (Id. xxiii. Exc. H. p. 502.) This state of things continued till the Second Punic War, when Leontini again figures conspicuously in the events which led to the fall of Syracuse. It was in one of the long and narrow streets of Leontini that Hieronymus was assassinated by Dinomenes, B.C. 215 (Liv. xxiv. 7; Polyb. vii. 6); and it was there that, shortly after, Hippocrates and Epicydes first raised the standard of open war against Rome. Marcellus hastened to attack the city, and made himself master of it without difficulty; but the severities exercised by him on this occasion inflamed the minds of the Syracusans to such an extent as to become the immediate occasion of the rupture with Rome. (Liv. xxiv. 29, 30, 39.) Under the Roman government Leontini was restored to the position of an independent municipal town, but it seems to have sunk into a state of decay. Cicero calls it misera civitas atque inanis (Verr. ii. 66); and, though its fertile territory was still well cultivated, this was done almost wholly by farmers from other cities of Sicily, particularly from Centuripa. (Ib. iii. 46, 49.) Strabo also speaks of it as in a very declining condition, though the name is still found in Pliny and Ptolemy, it seems never to have been a place of importance under the Roman rule. (Strab. vi. p. 273; Mel. ii. 7. § 16; Plin. iii. 8. s. 14; Ptol. iii. 4. § 13.) But the great strength of its position must have always preserved it from entire decay, and rendered it a place of some consequence in the middle ages. The modern city of Lentini, which preserves the ancient site as well as name, is a poor place, though with about 5000 inhabitants, and suffers severely from malaria. No ruins are visible on the site ; but some extensive excavations in the rocky sides of the hill on which it stands are believed by the inhabitants to be the work of the Laestrygones, and gravely described as such by Fazello. (Fazell. de Reb. Sic. iii. 3.)
  The situation of Leontini is well described by Polybius: it stood on a broken hill, divided into two separate summits by an intervening valley or hollow; at the foot of this hill on the W. side, flowed a small stream, which he calls the LISSUS now known as the Fiume Ruina, which falls into the Lake of Lentini, a little below the town. (Pol. vii. 6.) The two summits just noticed, being bordered by precipitous cliffs, formed, as it were, two natural citadels or fortresses; it was evidently one of these which Thucydides mentions under the name of Phoceae which was occupied in B.C. 422 by the Leontine exiles who returned from Syracuse. (Thuc. v. 4.) Both heights seem to have been fortified by the Syracusans, who regarded Leontini as an important fortress ; and we find them alluded to as the forts (ta phrouria) of Leontini. (Diod. xiv. 58, xxii. 8.) Diodorus also mentions that one quarter of Leontini was known by the name of The New Town (he Nea polis, xvi. 72); but we have no means of determining its locality. It is singular that no ancient author alludes to the Lake (or as it is commonly called the Biviere) of Lentini, a sheet of water of considerable extent, but stagnant and shallow, which lies immediately to the N. of the city. It produces abundance of fish, but is considered to be the principal cause of the malaria from which the city now suffers. (D'Orville, Sicula, p. 168 ; Smyth's Sicily, pp. 157, 158.)
  The extraordinary fertility of the territory of Leontini, or the Leontinus Campus, is celebrated by many ancient authors. According to a tradition commonly received, it was there that wheat grew wild, and where it was first brought into cultivation (Diod. iv. 24, v. 2); and it was always regarded as the most productive district in all Sicily for the growth of corn. Cicero calls it campus ille Leontinus nobilissimus ac feracissimus, uberrima Siciliae pars, caput rei frumentariae; and says that the Romans were accustomed to consider it as in itself a sufficient resource against scarcity. (Cic. Verr. iii. 1. 8, 44, 46, pro Scaur. 2, Phil. viii. 8.) The tract thus celebrated, which was known also by the name of the Laestrigonii Campi, was evidently the plain extending from the foot of the hills on which Leontini was situated to the river Symaethus, now known as the Piano di Catania. We have no explanation of the tradition which led to the fixing on this fertile tract as the abode of the fabulous Laestrygones.
  Leontini was noted as the birthplace of the celebrated orator Gorgias, who in B.C. 427 was the head of the deputation sent by his native city to implore the intervention of Athens. (Diod. xii. 53; Plat. Hipp. Maj. p. 282.)

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited August 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Megara Hyblaea

  Megara sometimes called, for distinction's sake, Megara Hyblaea (ta Megara: Eth. Megareus or Megareus Hublaios, Megarensis), a city of Sicily, situated on the E. coast of the island, between Syracuse and Catana, in the deep bay formed by the Xiphonian promontory. It was unquestionably a Greek colony, deriving its origin from the Megara in Greece Proper; and the circumstances attending its foundation are related in detail by Thucydides. He tells us that a colony from Megara, under the command of a leader named Lamis, arrived in Sicily about the time that Leontini was founded by the Chalcidic colonists, and settled themselves first near the mouth of the river Pantagias, at a place called Trotilus. From thence they removed to Leontini itself, where they dwelt for a time together with the Chalcidians; but were soon afterwards expelled by them, and next established themselves on the promontory or peninsula of Thapsus, near Syracuse. Hence they again removed after the death of Lamis, and, at the suggestion of Hyblon, a Sicilian chief of the surrounding country, finally settled at a place afterwards called the Hyblaean Megara. (Thuc. vi. 4.) Scymnus Chius follows a different tradition, as he describes the establishment of the Chalcidians at Naxos and that of the Megarians at Hybla as contemporary, and both preceding the foundation of Syracuse, B.C. 734. Strabo also adopts the same view of the subject, as he represents Megara as founded about the same time with Naxos (B.C. 735), and before Syracuse. (Scymn. Ch. 271-276; Strab. vi. p. 269.) It is impossible to reconcile the two accounts, but that of Thucydides is probably the most trustworthy. According to this the foundation of Megara may probably be placed about 726 B.C. Of its earlier history we have scarcely any information, but it would appear to have attained to a flourishing condition, as 100 years after its foundation it sent out, in its turn, a colony to the other end of Sicily, where it founded the city of Selinus, which was destined to rise to far greater power than its parent city. (Thuc. vi. 4; Scymn. Ch. 291; Strab. vi. p. 272.)
  Nothing more is known of Megara till the period of its destruction by Gelon of Syracuse, who, after a long siege, made himself master of the city by a capitulation; but, notwithstanding this, caused the bulk of the inhabitants to be sold into slavery, while he established the more wealthy and noble citizens at Syracuse. (Herod. vii. 156; Thuc. vi. 4.) Among the persons thus removed was the celebrated comic poet Epicharmus, who had received his education at Megara, though not a native of that city. (Suid. s. v. Epicharmos; Diog. Laert. viii. 3.) According to Thucydides, this event took place 245 years after the foundation of Megara, and may therefore be placed about 481 B. C. It is certain that Megara never recovered its power and independence. Thucydides distinctly alludes to it as not existing in his time as a city, but repeatedly mentions the locality, on the sea-coast, which was at that time occupied by the Syracusans, but which the Athenian general Lamachus proposed to make the head-quarters of their fleet. (Thuc. vi. 49, 96.) From this time we meet with repeated mention of a place named Megara or Megaris (Scyl. p. 4. § 6), which it seems impossible to separate from Hybla, and it is probable that the two were, in fact, identical. The site of this later Megara or Hybla may be fixed, with little doubt, at the mouth of the river Alabus (Cantaro); but there seems much reason to suppose that the ancient city, the original Greek colony, was situated almost close to the remarkable promontory now occupied by the city of Agosta or Augusta.1 It is difficult to believe that this position, the port of which is at least equal to that of Syracuse, while the peninsula itself has the same advantages as that of Ortygia, should have been wholly neglected in ancient times; and such a station would have admirably served the purposes for which Lamachus urged upon his brother generals the occupation of the vacant site of Megara. (Thuc. vi. 49.)

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited October 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks




THAPSOS (Ancient city) SICILY
  Lopaduussa (Lopaduussa, Strab. xvii. p. 834; Lopadousa, Ptol. iv. 3. § 34: Lampedusa), a small island off the E. coast of Africa Propria, opposite to the town of Thapsus, at the distance of 80 stadia, according to an ancient Periplus (Iriarte, Bibl. Matrit. Cod. Graec. p. 488). Pliny places it about 50 M. P. N. of Cercina, and makes its length about 6 M. P. (Plin. iii. 8. s. 14, v. 7. s. 7.) It really lies about 80 English miles E. of Thapsus, and about 90 NE. of Cercina.

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited August 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities


AKRES (Ancient city) SICILY
or Acra (Akrai). A town of Sicily, west of Syracuse.


ELOROS (Ancient city) SICILY
(Heloros) and Helorum. A town on the eastern coast of Sicily, south of Syracuse, at the mouth of the river Helorus.

Leontini, Leontinoi

LEONTINI (Ancient city) SICILY
   The modern Lentini, a town in the east of Sicily, about five miles from the sea, northwest of Syracuse, founded by Chalcidians from Naxos, B.C. 730, but never attained much political importance in consequence of its proximity to Syracuse. The rich plains north of the city, called Leontini Campi, were some of the most fertile in Sicily, and produced abundant crops of most excellent wheat. It was the birthplace of Gorgias, "the Nihilist."

This text is cited Sep 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Minor (he mikra), afterwards called Megara.


A town in Sicily on the east coast north of Syracuse, founded by Dorians from Megara in Greece, B.C. 728, on the site of a small town, Hybla, and hence called Megara Hyblaea, and its inhabitants Megarenses Hyblaei. From the time of Gelon it belonged to Syracuse.


(Surakousai or Surakossai, Ion. Surekousai, also Surakousai, Surakouse). Now Siracusa in Italian; Syracuse in English: the wealthiest and most populous town in Sicily. It was situated on the south part of the east coast, 400 stadia north of the promontory Plemmyrium, and ten stadia northeast of the mouth of the river Anapus, near the lake or marsh called Syraco (Surako), from which it derived its name. It was founded B.C. 734, one year after the foundation of Naxos, by a colony of Corinthians and other Dorians, led by Archias the Corinthian. The town was originally confined to the island Ortygia lying immediately off the coast; but it afterwards spread over the neighbouring mainland, and at the time of its greatest extension under the elder Dionysius it consisted of five distinct towns, each surrounded by separate walls. Some writers indeed describe Syracuse as consisting of four towns, but this simply arises from the fact that Epipolae was frequently not reckoned a portion of the city.
These five towns were:
(1) Ortygia (Ortugia), frequently called simply the Island (Nasos or Nesos), an island of an oblong shape, about two miles in circumference, lying between the Great Harbour on the west and the Little Harbour on the east. It was, as has been already remarked, the portion of the city first built, and it contained the citadel or Acropolis, surrounded by double walls, which Timoleon caused to be destroyed. In this island also was the celebrated fountain of Arethusa. It was originally separated from the mainland by a narrow channel, which was subsequently filled up by a causeway; but this causeway must at a still later time have been swept away, since we find in the Roman period that the island was connected with the mainland by means of a bridge.
(2) Achradina (Achradine) occupied originally the high ground of the peninsula north of Ortygia, and was surrounded on the north and east by the sea. The lower ground between Achradina and Ortygia was at first not included in the fortifications of either, but was employed partly for religious processions and partly for the burial of the dead. At the time of the siege of Syracuse by the Athenians in the Peloponnesian War (415), the city censisted only of the two parts already mentioned, Ortygia forming the inner and Achradina the outer city, but separated, as explained above, by the low ground between the two.
(3) Tyche (Tuche), named after the temple of Tyche or Fortune, and situated northwest of Achradina, in the direction of the port called Trogilus. At the time of the Athenian siege of Syracuse it was only an unfortified suburb, but it afterwards became the most populous part of the city. In this quarter stood the Gymnasium.
(4) Neapolis (Nea polis), nearly southwest of Achradina, was also, at the time of the Athenian siege of Syracuse, merely a suburb, and called Temenites, from having within it the statue and consecrated ground of Apollo Temenites. Neapolis contained the chief theatre of Syracuse, which was the largest in all Sicily, and many temples.
(5) Epipolae (hai Epipolai), a space of ground rising above the three quarters of Achradina, Tyche, and Neapolis, which gradually diminished in breadth as it rose higher, until it ended in a small conical mound. This rising ground was surrounded with strong walls by the elder Dionysius, and was thus included in Syracuse, which now became one of the most strongly fortified cities of the ancient world. The highest point of Epipolae was called Euryelus (Euruelos), on which stood the fort Labdalum (Labdalon).
   After Epipolae had been added to the city, the circumference of Syracuse was one hundred and eighty stadia, or upward of twenty-two English miles; and the entire population of the city is supposed to have amounted to five hundred thousand souls at the time of its greatest prosperity.
   Syracuse had two harbours. The Great Harbour, still called Porto Maggiore, is a splendid bay about five miles in circumference, formed by the island Ortygia and the promontory Plemmyrium. The Small Harbour, also called Laccius (Lakkios), lying between Ortygia and Achradina, was capacious enough to receive a large fleet of ships of war. There were several stone quarries (lautumiae) in Syracuse, which are frequently mentioned by ancient writers, and in which the unfortunate Athenian prisoners were confined. These quarries were partly in Achradina, on the descent from the higher ground to the lower level towards Ortygia, and partly in Neapolis, under the southern cliff of Epipolae. From these was taken the stone of which the city was built (Thucyd. vii. 86). The so-called "Ear of Dionysius", in which the tyrant was supposed to overhear the conversation of his captives, is probably an invention of a mediaeval writer. The city was supplied with water from an aqueduct, which was constructed by Gelon and improved by Hieron. It was brought through Epipolae and Neapolis to Achradina and Ortygia. The modern city of Syracuse is confined to the island. The remaining quarters of the ancient city are now uninhabited, and their position marked only by a few ruins. Of these the most important are the remains of the great theatre, and of an amphitheatre of the Roman period.
   The government of Syracuse was originally an aristocracy; and the political power was in the hands of the landed proprietors, called Geomori or Gamori. In course of time the people, having increased in numbers and wealth, expelled the Geomori and established a democracy. But this form of government did not last long. Gelon espoused the cause of the aristocratic party, and proceeded to restore them by force of arms; but on his approach the people opened the gates to him, and he was acknowledged without opposition tyrant or sovereign of Syracuse, B.C. 485. Under his rule and that of his brother Hieron, Syracuse was raised to an unexampled degree of wealth and prosperity. Hieron died in 467, and was succeeded by his brother Thrasybulus; but the rapacity and cruelty of the latter soon provoked a revolt among his subjects, which led to his deposition and the establishment of a democratic form of government. The next most important event in the history of Syracuse was the siege of the city by the Athenians, which ended in the total destruction of the great Athenian armament in 413. This affair, known in history as the Sicilian Expedition, was the turning point in the Peloponnesian War. The expedition set out from Athens in B.C. 415 under Alcibiades, Nicias, and Lamachus, and at first won a number of successes, so that Nicias, in 414, had seized Epipolae and begun the complete investment of Syracuse. The arrival of Gylippus, the Spartan general, turned the tide. The Syracusans defeated the Athenians, annihilated the invading army, and took Nicias and his later colleague Demosthenes prisoners.
  The democracy continued to exist in Syracuse till B.C. 406, when the elder Dionysius made himself tyrant of the city. After a long and prosperous reign, he was succeeded in 367 by his son, the younger Dionysius, who was finally expelled by Timoleon in 343. A republican form of government was again established; but it did not last long; and in 317 Syracuse fell under the sway of Agathocles. This tyrant died in 289; and the city being distracted by factions, the Syracusans voluntarily conferred the supreme power upon Hieron II., with the title of king, in 270. Hieron cultivated friendly relations with the Romans; but on his death in 216, at the advanced age of ninetytwo, his grandson Hieronymus, who succeeded him, espoused the side of the Carthaginians. A Roman army under Marcellus was sent against Syracuse; and after a siege of two years, during which Archimedes assisted his fellow-citizens by the construction of various engines of war, the city was taken by Marcellus in 212. From this time Syracuse became a town of the Roman province of Sicily.

This text is cited Sep 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


THAPSOS (Ancient city) SICILY
A city on the eastern coast of Sicily, on a peninsula of the same name (Isola degli Magnisi).

Perseus Project index


KASMENAI (Ancient city) SICILY
Total results on 9/5/2001: 4

Megara Hyblaea

Total results on 21/5/2001: 18 for Megara Hyblaea, 3 for Hyblaean Megara.


Total results on 10/4/2001: 1000 Syracuse, 769 Syracusans

Present location

Isola de Magnisi

THAPSOS (Ancient city) SICILY

The Catholic Encyclopedia



The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites


AKRES (Ancient city) SICILY
  An ancient city in the Province of Siracusa to the W of the modern center of Palazzuolo Acreide. It is on the summit of a hill, almost level but with steep and precipitous flanks except on the B side. It is between the Anapo and the Tellaro, near the mouths of which are respectively Syracuse and Eloro. The hill has been frequented since the Paleolithic period, as is shown by finds during repair under the cliff of S. Corrado.
  Akrai, founded by Syracuse in 664 B.C. (Thuc. 5.5.3), represents the first of the city's three colonies. The other two were Kasmenai and Kamarina, which were founded, according to the chronology of Thucydides, respectively in 644 and 599 B.C. Akrai was founded to protect one of the key points of access to Syracuse in the triangle of SE Sicily. Conspicuous strategic use of the site, however, preceded the foundation of the colony. The sources give little information about the initial period of the subcolony's life, but it may be supposed that it was subordinate to the mother city. Plutarch records Akrai as a stopping place of Dion during the expedition he led against Dionysios II. It is known (Diod. Sic. 23.4.1) that in the peace treaty between Rome and Syracuse in 263 Akrai was one of the cities, along with Leontinoi, Megara, Heloros/Neton/Tauromemion, to be assigned to Hieron II. Other notice of interest is that given by Pliny that counts Akrai among the civitates stipendiariae, the cities, that is, that owed a fixed tribute to Rome because their territory was considered property of the Roman people. Written mention of the city is scarce during the Roman period, even though recently acquired archaeological evidence shows continuity of life there until the Late Imperial era. In the 4th and 5th c. Akrai was the seat of an important Christian community. It is probable that the city was destroyed in 827 during the first large invasion of Arabs into Sicily.
  Temples in honor of Artemis, Aphrodite, and Kore (IGS 217) were built here, and there is evidence also of the cults of Zeus Akrios and of the nymphs. The fortification system of the city developed along the margins of the terrace that is occupied by the urban center. Traces of the structures relating to the city walls are evident along the NW, S, and E margins of the city. The position of the two principal gates has also been identified. The Siracusana gate is to the E, and the Selinuntina to the W. The latter, cited also in the inscriptions, linked Akrai with nearby Kasmenai.
  Inside the city, traces are clearly visible of the artery that crossed the urban area in an E-W direction, almost in the middle of the plateau. This area, which constituted the urban center, was itself situated at the midpoint of the level summit. Its N sector, slightly sloping toward the N, contained no archaeological remains. Apparently, although included in the circuit of the fortifications for defensive reasons, it did not make up part of the true urban center. The actual inhabited area in the central part of the level area shows well-regulated development. This is in part because the city was founded at a precise historical moment as a result of the expansionist politics of Syracuse, rather than growing gradually from a primitive nuclear settlement. The principal artery of the city has recently been brought to light for ca. 200 m, and it leads precisely between the two gates of the city mentioned above. The well-preserved tract of road is paved in volcanic rock. Excavation has also brought to light the intersections between this central road and several others, five on its N side and two on the S. The intersections are not at right angles, but rather slightly inclined, thus creating a singular urban plan not previously documented in Sicily.
  The archaeological documentation recovered in several stratified cuts made in the central area of the city dates from archaic times to the Roman Imperial period. Among the monumental urban remains is the base of a Doric peripteral temple at the highest point of the city, on the sacred acropolis, probably dedicated to Aphrodite. Included in a complex discovered in the 19th c. is a small theater with a maximum diameter of 37.5 m. It dates from the 3d c. B.C. and is made up of a cavea supported by a slope and composed of nine cunei and 12 steps, largely rebuilt. Of the original logeion only the stylobate is preserved. The pavement of the orchestra and the remnants of the stage are rebuildings from the Roman era. To the W of the theater are the remains of a small bouleuterion with three cunei that must have opened on the agora. At the rear of the theater are the two Latomie called the Intagliata and the Intagliatella, which bear traces of defunct cults for hero worship. In the Christian-Byzantine period they were transformed into habitations and sepulchers.
  The so-called Templi Ferali are found to the E of the city. They consist of niches dug into the vertical wall of a Latomia, and were evidently related to a cult of the dead. Also to be mentioned are the so-called Santoni, which are rude sculptures relating to the cult of the Great Mother, dating to the 3d c. B.C.
  To the SE of the city are the necropoleis of Torre Iudica from the archaic era, and of Colle Orbo from the Hellenistic-Roman period. The Sikel necropolis, composed of burials in artificial grottos, probably dates to the Late Bronze age. It is in the section called "Pinita" in the scenic rocky cliffs that outline the S flank of the hill of Akrai.
  The material coming from the excavations at Akrai and from its necropoleis is in the small antiquarium near the monumental complex, in the Museo Archeologico at Syracuse, and in the ludica collection, which Italy is in the process of acquiring.

G. Voza, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.


ELOROS (Ancient city) SICILY
  Ancient remains at a small city on a low hill near the coast SE of Noto on the left bank of the river Tellaro. The literary sources give scanty information on the ancient site, which was connected to Syracuse by the Helorian Road. In 493 B.C. Hippokrates defeated the Syracusans on Helorian territory, and in 263 B.C., by virtue of the peace treaty between Hieron II and Rome, the city passed under Syracusan control; it surrendered to Marcellus in 214 B.C.
  Two excavation campaigns have brought to light long sections of the ancient walls, a small temple, and some Hellenistic houses on the S slope of the modern city, where part of the theater cavea was also identified.
  A Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore has been explored on the shore immediately to the N of the city, at a short distance from the fortification walls. The sanctuary flourished from the archaic to the Hellenistic period and proved very rich in votive offerings; a complex of rooms in front contained several bothroi.
  In the S section of the urban area, a Sanctuary to Demeter has been found, dating from the second half of the 4th c. B.C. In this district, previously residential, a temple was built. Its stereobate is almost entirely preserved (20 x 10.5 m). Besides the temple, the sanctuary contained a few rectangular structures for the storage of votive offerings, a practice attested also in the extramural Koreion mentioned above. In the early 2d c. B.C. the sacred complex was delimited by a monumental stoa which has now been completely excavated. It is a long pi-shaped portico (stoa with paraskenia) with two naves, Doric columns on facade, and square pillars in the interior. The greatest length of the building is ca. 68 m, the greatest width, at the center, 7.4 m. It is one of the most important Hellenistic examples of this type of structure in Sicily. During the Byzantine period the E side of the sanctuary was occupied by a basilica with three naves, apse, and narthex, built with blocks taken from earlier buildings. The most recent excavations in the area of the sanctuary have also yielded the earliest documentation for Greek occupation at Heloros. Stratigraphic tests have produced (from the archaic levels) Protocorinthian Geometric sherds and remains of house walls of the early archaic period.
  These finds suggest that Heloros was not a relatively late foundation connected with the Syracusan expansion within the SE triangle of Sicily, but was instead one of the first outposts on the coastal zone S of Syracuse, in an area agriculturally very rich and strategically very important (the mouth of the Tellaro) especially with regard to the sites defended by the native populations.
  Among the important finds of the recent campaigns are the discovery of the S city gate and the identification of the major traffic artery within the city, which ran N-S and connected the N gate, already excavated, with the newly discovered gate.
  In Helorian territory, approximately 2.5 km to the W of the city, some polychrome mosaic floors have recently been discovered. They probably belong to a Roman Imperial villa, and are in good state of preservation; they seem of high artistic quality. A section of a vast portico is paved with a motif of medallions with geometric patterns surrounded by large and elegant laurel wreaths. The other mosaics belong to rooms opening onto the portico; the most important shows a banquet scene with people around a table set under a tent, a well-known motif which occurs also in the Little Hunt Mosaic of the Villa near Piazza Armerina. The varied and vivid polychromy, the elegance and richness of the compositons, the particular efficacy of the figured scenes make these mosaics, dating from the 4th c. A.D., a major discovery for our knowledge of the late Roman period.

G. Voza, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.


KASMENAI (Ancient city) SICILY
  The remains of an archaic city on the plateau of Monte Casale, ca. 12 km to the W of Palazzolo (ancient Akrai). A colony of Syracuse, it was founded, according to Thucydides (6.5.3), 90 years after the mother city, ca. 643 B.C. Herodotos (7.155) reports that ca. 485 B.C. Gelon removed the Syracusan Gamoroi from this city and brought them back to their home city, from which they had been expelled by the people in league with the slaves. A fragment of Philistos (Jacoby, 3 B.559, fr. 5), as emended by Pais, affirms that Kasmenai sided with Syracuse during its struggle against the rebellious Kamarina and its Sikel allies in 553-552 B.C. And in 357 Dion, after landing at Heraklea Minoa, seems to have recruited troops at Kasmenai on his way to Syracuse (Diod.Sic. 16.9.5). Insiguificant mentions of the colony occur also in Stephanos of Byzantium and in scholia to Thucydides (ed. Didot, p. 102).
  On a plateau at the edge of Monte Casale are the ruins of a circuit wall built with enormous blocks only roughly shaped. It was ca. 3400 m in length, 3 m thick, with external rectangular towers. Within the circuit the city comprised at least 38 parallel streets (ca. 3 m wide), running from NW to SE, with blocks usually no wider than 25 m. The E-W traffic utilized alleys of irregular width since the houses were aligned only along their N side. This system appears at first glance comparable to what is usually called per strigas, but it should be noted that, although stenopoi are amply attested, this settlement lacked proper orthogonal streets and especially major traffic axes, the typical plateiai of the Hippodamian cities. The four plateiai believed to have been identified through aerial photography have not yet been confirmed by systematic excavation. For the present the city must be considered, on the basis of the test excavations, pre-Hippodamian in type, with a plan that can be dated, to the second half of the 7th c. B.C.
  The importance of the town's urban system for the studies of Greek and particularly Sicilian city planning lies in the very fact that it allows us to pinpoint between the end of the 7th and the first half of the 6th c., the transition, at least in the W, from the system with parallel streets to the more sophisticated Hippodamian type, such as we see it at Selinus, Akragas, Metapontion, and Poseidonia.
  If in fact the Sicilian Greeks had already known the system per strigas during the second half of the 7th c., it seems logical that they would have employed it at Kasmenai, which started as a military colony and was therefore almost "prefabricated," thus offering the most favorable conditions for realizing on the ground the ideal model for urban planning.
  The colony was started here on the natural penetration route of Syracuse toward the interior of the island purely for military reasons, as is amply attested by the powerful wall circuit already mentioned and by the large quantity of iron weapons from the temenos of a temple which excavations have brought to light in the W corner of the plateau. From this early temple, part of the architectural and sculptural decoration in polychrome terracotta have been recovered and at least three inscriptions from the 6th c. In the necropolis the cist and chamber tombs are typically Greek. The city's main function as a military colony ceased rather early and it apparently ceased to exist at the end of the 4th c. B.C.

A. Di Vita, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.


LEONTINI (Ancient city) SICILY
  A Greek colony founded at the S edge of the Campi Leontini (modern piana di Catania). First inhabited by the Sikels, in the second half of the 8th c. B.C. (ca. 729), it was occupied by the Chalkidians of Naxos led by the Oikistes Theokles; Thucydides (6:3) mentions that the Sikels were forcibly expelled (cf. Polyaenus, Strat. 5:5.2).
  For the entire archaic period Leontinoi was autonomous. It was conquered by Hippokrates in 495 B.C., and was restored to freedom only after 466 B.C. In 427 it asked for Athenian help against Syracuse (Diod. 12:53) and was Athens' ally during the Sicilian expedition. Occupied by the Syracusans in 422 B.C, it regained independence for brief intervals but was virtually dominated by the Syracusan rulers throughout the 4th and 3d c. B.C. It was conquered by the Romans in 215 B.C.
  The ancient city lay beyond the hills to the S of present-day Lentini in Valle S. Mauro, which is flanked by two series of steep rises sloping from S to N. Polybios (7:6), in describing the city's topography, locates the agora within the valley with a city gate at either end, the Syracusan Gate to the S and the gate leading to the Campi Leontini to the N.
  In 1950, at the far end of the Valle S. Mauro the S gate of the city was discovered. One phase dates to the beginning of the 6th c. B.C., the other to the middle of the 5th c. At the end of the century it was demolished together with the surrounding fortifications, and during the 4th and 3d c. it lay under the rising ground level and was covered by a necropolis. A third defensive work, following the plan of the earlier gate, was hastily built at the end of the 3d c. over the cemetery strata.
  The gateway opened at the center of a pincer-like fortification whose projections to the E and W embraced the edges of the overhanging hills of Metapiccola and S. Mauro. The circuit wall has been uncovered for a few hundred meters and is still in an excellent state of preservation. The various chronological phases are reflected in the different construction techniques. On S. Mauro, besides the structures connected with the various phases of the gate, an earlier wall has been uncovered; it was built with large blocks set as headers, and belongs to the time when the city extended only over S. Mauro or part of it.
  Some archaic houses have been identified within the walls, and the summit of the hill, near the Aletta dwelling, has yielded numerous architectural terracottas from a temple now no longer visible.
  On the opposite hill (Metapiccola) remains of houses and the foundations of an archaic temple have been found. On the plateau at the summit of the hill were identified the remains of a Sikel village of the Iron Age.
  Two native cemeteries have been identified and explored in the Valle S. Eligio to the E, and in the Valle Ruccia to the W. The graves are in the shape of small artificial grottos and are largely preserved.
  The finds from the excavations carried out since 1950 are housed in the Archaeological Museum of Lentini, where they are arranged chronologically and with specific reference to the major phases of the city's life.

G. Rizza, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.

Megara Hyblaea

  A city on the E coast of Sicily, 20 km N of Syracuse. It was founded by the Megarians ca. 750 B.C. to judge from recent discoveries. Literary tradition dates it to 728 (Thuc. 6.4). A century later it was the metropolis of Selinuntia (Thuc. ibid.). It was destroyed in 483 B.C. by Gelon (Herod. 7.156). With the exception of a fortification built by the Syracusans at the time of the Athenian expedition (Thuc. 6.49 and 94), the site remained unoccupied until the foundation of a new colony under Timoleon ca. 340 B.C. This new city was in turn destroyed by the Romans during the second Punic war ca. 313 B.C. (Livy 24.35). A rural settlement, founded among the ruins, existed until the 6th c. A.D. when the site was abandoned.
  The first systematic explorations began at the end of the 19th c., in a necropolis. At the beginning of this century part of the wall and the remains of a large sanctuary were uncovered. (The latter is now again buried.)
  The superposition of three settlements (greatest height preserved under the ground 2.5 m) makes the interpretation of the remains difficult. The aerial photographs show the topography clearly: two plateaus standing above the sea and separated by a depression. There is no acropolis or natural defense. The area excavated is confined to a part of the N plateau. The archaic wall constructed at the end of the 6th c. encompasses both plateaus, but the fortification erected around 215 B.C., prior to the Roman attack, defended only the E portion of the N plateau. The last settlement did not extend much beyond the area of this Hellenistic fortification.
  Although the most ancient necropoleis are not known, three great necropoleis of the 6th and 7th c. in the N, W, and S have been explored. From the N necropolis comes the great kourotrophe (second quarter of the 6th c.) and from the necropolis to the S comes the mid 6th c. kouros, both of which are today in the museum at Syracuse. The necropoleis from the Hellenistic town are more dispersed and more fragmentary.
  From a historical point of view, the three phases of settlement are not of equal importance. For the last period (after 214 B.C.) may be noted some houses (numerous remains of agricultural activity). The main buildings of the preceding period (340-214 B.C.) are situated next to the agora. On its N side are the foundations of a great portico from the time of Timoleon (second half of the 4th c. B.C.) with the remains of a Doric temple in antis behind it. Elements of Ionic decoration were added to this Doric temple, which was probably dedicated to Aphrodite. To the S of the agora is a bath house from the end of the 3d c. B.C., with a round room, installations for water heating, and mosaics. To the SE are the remains of a small, square, 3d c. sanctuary with small basins for votive purposes. The most impressive structure from this period remains the powerful fortifications erected in haste to ward off the Roman menace and containing many blocks taken from buildings of the archaic period. Noteworthy are the rectangular towers and the gates, particularly the great gate on the S side with its tenaille.
  The most important phase of habitation is the archaic period, as is indicated by the size of the agora (80 x 60 m), more than twice that of the Hellenistic agora. This agora and the buildings surrounding it date from the second half of the 7th c. It is enclosed on three sides and bordered on the fourth by a great street running N-S. The principal buildings, none of which is preserved above the level of the foundations, include: on the N side, a stoa (42 x 5.8 m) with an opening (three columns) in the back wall allowing the passage of a N-S street towards the agora; on the E, the remains of another, very fragmentary stoa; to the S, two temples, one (2.5 x 7.5 m) in antis with an axial colonnade, the other (16 x 6.5 m) very ruined. All these buildings date from the second half of the 7th c. The fourth side of the agora consisted of an ensemble of structures on the far side of the street which bordered it. There were numerous remodelings here throughout the archaic period. A "heroon" from the second half of the 7th c. (13 x 9.8 m) is composed of two cellae opening on the agora, with basins for offerings, and a frontal stylobate with cupulae for libations. Farther S, the prytaneum (14 x 11 m) dates from the end of the 6th c. It consists of three rooms and a big courtyard, and was built on the site of an older building.
  This agora is the hinge, so to speak, between two residential districts of regular but differing orientation. There are precise characteristics common to the whole of the archaic city: streets 3 m wide running parallel and equidistant from one another at 25 m, with the insulae which they create divided along their length by median walls. In addition, two nonparallel streets 5 m wide across the site from E to W. There is also a single N-S street of the same width. The entire plan (agora, streets, and dwellings) dates from the second half of the 7th c. It is the oldest example we yet know of ancient Greek town planning. It should be noted that neither of those two districts is orthogonal and their differing orientation creates another element of irregularity.
  The museum contains, in addition to its presentation of the plan of the archaic city, the most important fragments of 6th c. architecture: an altar balustrade of eolic style with large volutes (first half of the 6th c.), a fragment of carved pediment (first half of the 6th c.), a metope with a carving of a two-horse chariot (around 520), and marble architectural fragments of purely Ionic style (last quarter of the 6th c.). This 6th c. presence of Ionic in Dorian colonies (cf. the Ionic temple of Syracuse) is one of the most important discoveries of recent years. Another new element provided by the recent excavations is the presence at Megara of splendid polychrome ceramics whose production flourished above all in the first half of the 6th c. The finest examples of this Megarian ceramic are displayed at the museum at Syracuse.
  Another room in the museum at Megara is given over to a reconstruction of the upper part of the facade of a 4th c. temple situated to the N of the agora.

G. Vallet, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.


  The site of the ancient city, now entirely covered by the modern one, lies on the SE coast of Sicily and once comprised a small island, Ortygia, which has yielded evidence of prehistoric life starting in the Early Paleolithic period. The Corinthians, led by Archias of the family of the Bacchiads, routed the Sikels and founded the colony in 734 B.C. The foundation of sub-colonies--Akrai in 664, Kasmenai in 624, Kamarina in 559--indicate that the city flourished. Gelon brought to the city a period of splendor and political power. In the battle of Himera in 480 B.C., Gelon and Theron of Akragas won a great victory over the Carthaginians, while the naval battle of Cumae in 474, which Hieron I won against the Etruscans, ensured the city's control over the S basin of the Mediterranean. Arts and letters flourished; philosophers and poets, among whom were Aeschylus, Simonides, and Pindar, came here to live. In 466 B.C. with the expulsion of Thrasyboulos, the successor of Hieron I, the city adopted a democratic government and for ca. 40 years enjoyed prosperity and power. Successes against the Etruscans and against Ducetius greatly enlarged the city's sphere of influence and prestige throughout Sicily.
   In the last quarter of the 5th c., in answer to Segesta's request for help by Leontinoi against Syracuse, Athens sent a fleet which was defeated in the Great Harbor. About this time Dionysios, an extremely able politician who had managed to concentrate all power into his own hands and who had negotiated peace with Carthage, transformed Ortygia into a well-provided fortress, and began the fortification of Syracuse, which included the large plateau of the Epipolai. After his death, the city lived under the rule of mediocre men until the arrival of Timoleon, who was sent from Corinth at the head of an expedition. He conquered the city and began the reorganization and rebuilding not only of Syracuse but of Greek cities that had been subject to Carthage. He was succeeded by Agathokles, son of a potter, who defeated (310 B.C.) and laid siege to Syracuse. He was successful also in Magna Graecia, thus securing for Syracuse a large territorial domain. After his death, the Carthaginians were fended off by Pyrrhos, king of Epeiros and Agathokles' father-in-law.
   In 275 B.C. Hieron II seized control of the city and ruled for 54 years. He was succeeded by his grandson Hieronimos, under whose rule the city became an ally of Carthage and fell to Rome.
   The city declined under Roman rule until Augustus sent a colony there in 21 B.C. The city's recovery lasted through the first centuries of the empire. St. Paul stopped in Syracuse on his trip to Rome, staying with the Christian community, which must have enjoyed considerable prestige in Sicily. Syracuse was served by two excellent natural harbors: the Great Harbor, formed by a large bay closed by Ortygia and the Plemmyrion (the modern peninsula of the Maddalena) into which flow the Anapo and the Ciane rivers, and the Small Harbor or Lakkios, delimited by Ortygia and the shoreline of Achradina. The five districts of the ancient city were Ortygia, Achradina, Tyche, Neapolis, and Epipolai. In Ortygia, which was supplied with fresh water (Arethusa fountain) and was easily defensible, the Corinthian colonists created the first urban nucleus. This must have soon extended to the mainland, in the area immediately beyond the isthmus, where another district was formed, Achradina, containing the agora and surrounded by the earliest cemeteries of the city (the necropolis of Fusco, of the former Spagna Garden, and of Via Bainsizza) which thus gave us the approximate limits of the district. Achradina early acquired a fortification wall. Tyche, the district which corresponds approximately to the modern S. Lucia, must have clustered around the sanctuary of the deity after whom it was named. Neapolis developed to the NW of Achradina, that is, to the W of the modern highway to Catania and as far as the Greek theater; in the Hellenistic period it received a complex of important public buildings of monumental nature and expanded into the area formerly occupied by the archaic necropoleis. Epipolai represents the vast plateau, triangular in shape, which extends to the N and W of the city and culminates in the Euryalos Fort. In the closing years of the 5th c. the plateau was encircled by a huge fortification wall that united it with the urban area solely for defense.
   Ortygia retains vestiges of the earliest sacred buildings erected by the Greek colonists. The Temple of Apollo, at the point of access into Ortygia, goes back to the beginning of the 6th c. B.C. and has considerable importance for the history of Doric architecture in the West.
   The temple, discovered in 1862 and completely excavated in 1943, was repeatedly transformed through the centuries. It has an elongated plan, a stereobate (crepidoma) with four steps and is hexastyle with 17 columns on the flanks. In front of the cella there is a second row of six columns; the cella, preceded by a distyle-in-antis pronaos, was divided into three naves by two rows of columns in two levels; its W end contained the closed area of the adyton.
   The columns of the peristyle, all set very close together, lack entasis, and are marked by 16 very shallow flutes; they are surmounted by heavy capitals with strongly compressed abaci, on which rests an unusually high epistyle. The temple frieze had tall triglyphs and narrow metopes, which took no account whatever of the spacing of the columns. Fragments of terracotta revetments with lively polychrome decoration are also preserved. The lack of equilibrium among the temple parts, the marked elongation of its forms, the depth of the front of the building, the presence of the adyton, the lack of coordination among the spatial elements of the peristyle, are the most obvious traits of the architecture of this temple. An inscription on the stylobate of the E facade attests that the building was dedicated to Apollo and was the work of Kleomenes son of Knidios.
   Another temple, on a small elevation S of the city, was dedicated to Zeus Olympios; it resembles the Apollonion but shows improved correlations among its parts. A section of the crepidoma survives, together with two incomplete shafts of the monolithic columns of the peristasis. The temple was divided into pronaos, cella, and adyton, and had 6 columns on facade and 17 on the sides. There are remains of two other impressive temples on the highest elevation of the island. Of the earlier, which was begun in the second half of the 6th c., the structures of the stereobate and several architectural members have recently been exposed. It is the only Ionic temple known in Sicily. It must have had 6 columns on the facade and 14 on the sides; it was left unfinished, presumably on the arrival of the Deinomenids. At the beginning of the 5th c. B.C., a second temple was erected parallel to the Ionic temple on the S. An Athenaion, it was probably built after Gelon's victory over the Carthaginians at Himera in 480 B.C. It was constructed within a large sacred area which already comprised sacred structures, altars and votive deposits dating from the beginning of the 6th c. The temple, hexastyle with 14 columns on the sides, contains cella, pronaos and opisthodomos, both distyle in antis. The building, constructed of local limestone and surmounted by tiles and sima in Greek marble, conforms fully with developed Doric.
   The Athenaion was transformed into a Christian church and in the 8th c. Bishop Zosimo transferred to it the episcopal see; it is even now a cathedral. The transformation of the temple into a church required the screening of the intercolumniations and the opening of arches into the isodomic outer walls of the cella. Of the Greek temple, the facades are no longer extant, but clearly visible are a good deal of the peristyle (both from within and from without the cathedral), a segment of the entablature on the N side and the general structure of the cella. No other important ancient remains survive in Ortygia.
   In Achradina, which must have been surrounded by a defensive system, almost nothing is left of the important civic buildings, for instance the stoas, the chrematisteria, the prytaneion, which are mentioned by the ancient sources. The only monumental complex partly preserved is the so-called Roman gymnasium S of the agora area. This architectural complex, comprising a small theater facing a marble temple and set within a large quadriportico, is of the 1st c. A.D.
   Neapolis is the district preserving the most conspicuous complex of ancient monumental buildings, among which the theater is particularly well known. The form of the existing theater may be 3d c. B.C., but probably there was an earlier theater by Damokopos on the site (early 5th c. B.C.?) where Aeschylus produced The Persians and The Women of Aetna, and where Epicharmos' comedies were performed. What remains of the theater today is only what was cut into the rock of the hill from which this impressive and unified structure was almost entirely derived. The cavea, ca. 134 m in diameter, is divided vertically into nine cunei separated by klimakes and horizontally by a diazoma that breaks it into summa cavea and ima cavea. Each section, at the level of the diazoma, presents inscriptions, partially preserved, which give the names of the divinities or of the members of the ruling family to which the section was dedicated. The central cuneus was dedicated to Zeus Olympios, two of the sections toward E to Demeter and Herakles, and those toward W are inscribed to Hieron II, his wife Philistis, his daughter-in-law Nereis, and his son Gelon II. These inscriptions, which must be dated between 238 and 215, are instrumental in establishing a precise chronology for the building of the theater. As for the orchestra and the whole stage building, of which almost nothing is preserved above ground level, innumerable cuttings and trenches are preserved in the rocky scarp; they are variously interpreted by scholars and bear witness to the many alterations, adaptations, and phases of this part of the theater.
   The remains of the stage, belonging to the period of Hieron II, are few and badly fragmented; it was probably of the type with paraskenia, as in the theaters at Tyndaris and Segesta. The interpretation of some markings before the stage of the Greek scene building (a long trench and a series of cuttings in the rock) has suggested the use of a wooden stage which might have been employed to perform phlyakes. More consistent evidence, especially the long foundation built with limestone blocks, further suggests a major alteration in the stage building in the Late Hellenistic period: the facade was probably provided with thyromata. In the Roman period the whole monumental stage building was moved forward toward the cavea. This move involved the covering over of the earlier parodoi, which were replaced by passageways in cryptae above which were built tribunalia. The theater was also adapted for ludi circenses and for variety shows during the Late Empire. A vast terrace overlooks the cavea and in antiquity housed two stoas set at right angle to each other.
   To the W of the theater an altar, bases for stelai and votive offerings, seem to provide evidence for the Sanctuary of Apollo Temenites whose area was crossed by the last retaining wall of the theater cavea.
   Not far from the sanctuary, a short distance to the SE of the theater, lies the so-called Altar of Hieron II. It is 198 m long and retains only an enormous rock-cut podium, with two large ramps leading to the central part of the structure where public sacrifices were offered by the city. The whole area in front of the monument was planned to impress: a vast square extended the length of the altar and hal a rectangular pool in the center; it was bordered by porticos with propylaia of the Augustan period.
   The amphitheater, probably dating from the 3d c. A.D., is one of the largest known (external dimensions 140 m and 199 m). The entire N half was cut out of the rock, and the opposite half built on artificial fill. It had two large entrances to the arena on the N and S, three corridors leading to the steps, and a service passage around the arena. In the center of the arena is a large pool serviced by two canals. In the area of the steps a podium is bordered by a marble parapet inscribed with the names of the people for whom the seats were reserved. Outside the amphitheater a large area was flanked by retaining walls and provided with entrances, rooms of various types, and water tanks; it was connected with the S entrance to the building.
   These monumental structures of Neapolis are bordered on the N by a series of quarries which provided the blocks for the ancient buildings. The so-called Ear of Dionysios, the Grotto of the Ropemakers, the Grotto of Saltpeter are famous for their acoustical properties and their picturesque appearance.
   The Epipolai, the rocky plateau of roughly triangular shape which dominates the immediate hinterland of Syracuse, was incorporated into the city for defensive reasons at the end of the 5th c. B.C. At the time of the war against Athens (416-413 B.C.), only Achradina was fortified. Dionysios fortified the Epipolai between 402 and 397 B.C. against the threat of Carthage. He produced an immense defensive system: 27 kms of fortification walls deployed at the edge of the limestone terrace and culminating at its highest point in the Euryalos Fort, one of the most grandiose defensive works in dimensions and conception to have survived from antiquity. Three huge ditches were dug into the rock to prevent a massive frontal attack against the keep of the fortress. Between the second and third ditch a defensive apparatus was accessible by means of a stepped tunnel opening onto the bottom of the third ditch; from this moat, the veritable nerve center of the entire defensive system, a network of passageways and galleries branched off and connected all the various parts of the fort. At the S end of this third ditch rose three powerful piers which supported a drawbridge. In the space between the third ditch and the main body of the fortress is a pointed bastion, S of which are the remains of a structure linking the drawbridge with the fort proper. This latter is in two parts; the first is almost rectangular in shape, defended by five towers connected by wall curtains and protected on the S by a ditch; the second part, an irregular trapezoid, contains three cisterns for the water supply of the castle; it had the function of connecting the fortress to the main defensive system. To the NE of this section of the fortress a town gate with two arches, built according to the pincer system, was protected by towers and external cross walls which channeled traffic into narrow passageways close to the wall curtains from which defense was easy.
   Not all the parts of this defensive system, brilliantly engineered under Dionysios, were contemporary but were gradually perfected through the 4th and 3d c. B.C. to conform with the changing requirements of the art of war. Transformations and adaptations were also carried out in the Byzantine period, especially in the rectangular section of the fortress.
   The Archaeological Museum includes among its exhibits much material of the Classical period.

G. Voza, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Sep 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains 127 image(s), bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.

You are able to search for more information in greater and/or surrounding areas by choosing one of the titles below and clicking on "more".

GTP Headlines

Receive our daily Newsletter with all the latest updates on the Greek Travel industry.

Subscribe now!
Greek Travel Pages: A bible for Tourism professionals. Buy online

Ferry Departures