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HELOROS (Eloro) Siracusa, 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.


A. Holm, Storia della Sicilia, III:1 (1901); P. Orsi, NotSc (1899) 241-44; B. Pace, Arte e civiltà della Sicilia antica, I-III (1953) passim; G. V. Gentili, EAA 3 (1960) s.v. Eloro; A. Di Vita, “La penetrazione siracusana nella Sicilia sud-orientale” Kokalos 2 (1956) 9ff; M. T. Curró et al., MonAnt 47 (1956) cols. 207-340; G. Voza, Kokalos 14-15 (1968-1969) 360-62; id. EAA s.v. Eloro (supplementary volume in preparation).


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