Sikans, Greeks and Romans
It is no coincidence that in Siracusa there are innumerable remains of Greek and Roman culture, according to Cicero this city was the largest Greek city and the most beautiful ever. The estimated population varies between 300,000 and almost 1,000,000.
Siracusa Archaeological Park
The Roman theater: The elliptical cavea of the amphitheater reaches dimensions of 140 x 119 meters. It was built in the 3rd century because the converted Greek theater no longer met the requirements. The arena, where gladiator games and animal agitation took place, was equipped with two entrances and a marble balustrade. Underneath this was an arched corridor for the gladiators and animals around the arena.
The ear of Dionysios, a cave carved into the rock, approx. 64 deep with a 20m high, slender arch. Caravaggio gave him his name when he visited in 1608 and, according to legend, it served the tyrant Dionysus as a prison for his bitterest enemies. The excellent acoustics allowed you to follow their conversations from the outside.
The Greek theater of Syracuse was on a par with that of Athens and later Alexandria, because with its diameter of 138.6 meters it is one of the largest theaters in ancient Greece. It was around 470 BC Chr built under Hieron I and offered space for 15,000 people. In Roman times, it was converted into an arena for gladiatorial fighting in accordance with changed habits. The Greek theater festival takes place here every year from mid-May to late June.
The so-called Altar of Hieron II was the largest sacrificial altar in antiquity with a width of 22.8 x 177.6 meters. It was probably once 15 meters high. It was dedicated to Zeus Eleutherios. Today only the huge base carved out of the rock remains. Here hundreds of oxen were sometimes sacrificed at the same time.
The Latomies: Limestone was extracted in the over ten large quarries to build the ancient city. The largest quarries include the Latomia dei Cappuccini and the Latomia del Paradiso, which also served as prisons.
The walls of Dionysios I with the Euryalos castle were the largest fortifications in antiquity. Due to the construction of the wall from 401 BC BC and during the 405 BC The armistice between Dionysios and Carthage, the 1800-hectare high plateau Epipolai was secured against enemy occupation. The fort, which protected the extreme western tip of the plateau, was built in the following centuries until the city was taken over by the Romans in 212 BC. BC continuously expanded. The huge fort was the most versatile and refined fortress in antiquity.
In the Ortigia
The Temple of Apollo: Around 570 BC It was built in 500 BC and is therefore the oldest Doric Peripteros in Sicily. Due to the different uses in post-antiquity times (Byzantine church, Arab mosque, Norman church and most recently as Spanish barracks) only the foundation and a few columns and parts of the cella wall have been preserved.
The cathedral, formerly Temple of Athena: If we stand in the cathedral, we are actually in the Temple of Athena, which was built as a temple of victory after the victorious battle at Himera (480 BC). The old temple of Athena was converted into a Christian church in the 7th century. The massive Doric columns and capitals still form the pillar of the current church. They can be seen both on the outer facade and inside.
In the daughter city of Siracusa, Palazzolo Acreide, are the excavations of the ancient Akrai. The central and most important building in the city is the exposed theater. It was probably built by Hieron II of Syracuse and once held 700 spectators. Today 12 rows of seats and foundations of the screening room are still preserved. The atmosphere is really exceptional, especially in the off-season, the theater is almost to itself. In the last week of May, students perform ancient tragedies and comedies that should not be missed.
The Sikaner tribe, who lived in Sicily in prehellenic times, left around 1300 BC. the coastal settlements like that of Thapsos and settled in the valley between the rivers Fiume Anapo in the south and Fiume Calcinara in the north. Not only were there natural caves in the limestone slopes, but soon artificial caves were also dug into the mountain.
Probably around 1100 BC the Anaktoron or the Princely Palace was built.
Otherwise, the settlement has preserved the enormous necropolis with a total of over 5000 artificially created cave tombs.
At the time of the Hellenic colonization over Syracuse, the settlement was probably at the time of the founding of the colony of Akrai around 665 BC. destroyed. The area remained settled under Greek rule, in early Christian and Byzantine times more tombs and grotto chapels were built. Pantalica gained another revival as a retreat from the invading Arabs, who also gave the place the name Buntarigah (caves). After the valley was still populated by the Normans, it was abandoned; Only the archaeologist Paolo Orsi recognized its importance in his excavation work. In 2005 it was included in the world cultural heritage.
Eloro is not particularly spectacular, but we added it to this list because it was our home beach for 12 years. You virtually walk past the archaeological site, as it lies exactly between the Pizzuta and Eloro beaches. Eloro is located about eight kilometers south of Noto at the mouth of the Tellaro river. It was built in the 8th century BC. BC probably founded from Syracuse. Finds of Greek ceramics prove this. The excavations show that the city was surrounded by a wall belt. There were two square towers, north and south. There were houses and streets from the 8th to 4th centuries BC. BC found. A small temple was found in the north, dedicated to Asclepius. There is also a large temple in the south of the excavations.