: Eth. Συρακούσιος
, Eth. Syracusanus
, Steph. B. sub voce
but Thucydides, Diodorus, &c. use the form Adj. Συρακόσιος
, which, as we learn from coins and inscriptions, was the native form; Syracusanus: Siracusa
), Eth. Syracusani
the most powerful and important of all the Greek cities in Sicily, situated on the E. coast of the island, about midway between Catana and Cape Pachynus. Its situation exercised so important an influence upon its history and progress, that it will be desirable to describe this somewhat more fully before proceeding to the history of the city, reserving, at the same time, the topographical details for subsequent discussion.
Syracuse was situated on a table-land or tabular hill, forming the prolongation of a ridge which branches off from the more elevated table-land of the interior, and projects quite down to the sea, between the bay known as the Great Harbour of Syracuse, and the more extensive bay which stretches on the N. as far as the peninsula of THAPSUS
The broad end of the kind of promontory thus formed, which abuts upon the sea for a distance of about 2 1/2 miles, may be considered as the base of a triangular plateau which extends for above 4 miles into the interior, having its apex formed by the point now called Mongibellisi,
which was occupied by the ancient fort of EURYALUS. This communicates, already stated, by a narrow ridge with the tableland of the interior, but is still a marked point of separation, and was the highest point of [p. 2.1056]
the ancient city, from whence the table-land slopes very gradually to the sea. Though of small elevation, this plateau is bounded on all sides by precipitous banks or cliffs, varying in height, but only accessible at a few points.
It may be considered as naturally divided into two portions by a slight valley or depression running across it from N. to S., about a mile from the sea: of these the upper or triangular portion was known as EPIPOLAE, the eastern portion adjoining the sea bore the name of ACHRADINA
, which thus forms in some degree a distinct and separate plateau, though belonging, in fact, to the same mass with Epipolae.
The SE. angle of the plateau is separated from the Great Harbour by a small tract of low and level ground, opposite to which lies the island of ORTYGIA
a low islet about a mile in length, extending across the mouth of the Great Harbour, and originally divided by only a narrow strait from the mainland, whilst its southern extremity was separated from the nearest point of the headland of Plemmyrium by an interval of about 1200 yards, forming the entrance into the Great Harbour.
This last was a spacious bay, of above 5 miles in circumference; thus greatly exceeding the dimensions of what the ancients usually understood by a port, but forming a very nearly land-locked basin of a somewhat oval form, which afforded a secure shelter to shipping in all weather; and is even at the present day one of the finest harbours in Sicily.
But between the island of Ortygia and the mainland to the N. of it, was a deep bight or inlet, forming what was called the Lesser Port or PORTUS LACCEIUS, which, though very inferior to the other, was still equal to the ordinary requirements of ancient commerce.
S. of the Great Harbour again rose the peninsular promontory of PLEMMYRIUM
forming a table-land bounded, like that on the N. of the bay, by precipitous escarpments and cliffs, though of no great elevation.
This table-land was prolonged by another plateau at a somewhat lower level, bounding the southern side of the Great Harbour, and extending from thence towards the interior. On its NE. angle and opposite to the heights of Epipolae, stood the temple of Jupiter Olympius, or the OLYMPIEUM, overlooking the low marshy tract which intervenes between the two table-lands, and through which the river Anapus finds its way to the sea.
The beautiful stream of the CYANE rises in a source about 1 1/2 mile to the N. of the Olympieumn, and joins its waters with those of the Anapus almost immediately below the temple. From the foot of the hill crowned by the latter extends a broad tract of very low marshy ground, extending along the inner side of the Great Harbour quite to the walls of the city itself.
A portion of this marsh, which seems to have formed in ancient times a shallow pool or lagoon, was known by the name of LYSIMELEIA
(Λυσιμέλεια, Thuc. 7.53
; Theocr. Id. 16.84), though its more ancient appellation would seem to have been SYRACO (Συρακώ
), from whence the city itself was supposed to derive its name. (Steph. B. sub voce Συρακοῦσαι; Scymn. Ch. 281
It is, however, uncertain whether the names of Syraco and Lysimeleia may not originally have belonged to different portions of these marshes.
This marshy tract, which is above a mile in breadth, extends towards the interior for a considerable distance, till it is met by the precipitous escarpments of the great table-land of the interior.
The proximity of these marshes must always have been prejudicial to the healthiness of the situation; and the legend, that when Archias and Myscellus were about to found Syracuse and Crotona, the latter chose health while the former preferred wealth (Steph. B. sub voce l.c.
), points to the acknowledged insalubrity of the site even in its most flourishing days.
But in every other respect the situation was admirable; and the prosperity of Syracuse was doubtless owing in a great degree to natural as well as political causes.
It was,r moreover, celebrated for the mildness and serenity of its climate, it being generally asserted that there was no day on which the sun was not visible at Syracuse (Cic. Ver. 5.10
), an advantage which it is said still to retain at the present day.
Syracuse was, with the single exception of Naxos, the most ancient of the Greek colonies in Sicily.
It was a Corinthian. colony, sent out from that city under a leader named Archias, son of Euagetes, who belonged to the powerful family of the Bacchiadae, but had been compelled to expatriate himself.
According to. some accounts the colony was strengthened by an admixture of Dorian or Locrian colonists with the original Corinthian settlers; but it is certain that the Syracusans regarded themselves in all ages as of pure Corinthian origin (Theocr. Id.
xvi 91), and maintained relations of the closest amity with their parent city.
The colony was founded in B.C. 734, and the first settlers established themselves in the island of Ortygia, to which it is probable that the city was confined for a considerable period. (Thuc. 6.2
; Strab. vi. p.269
; Seymn. Ch. 279--282; Marm. Par.; concerning the date, see Clinton, F. H.
vol. i. p. 164.)
The name of Ortygia is evidently Greek, and derived from the well-known epithet of Diana, to whom the island was regarded as consecrated (Diod. 5.3
); but the city seems to have assumed from the very beginning the name of Syracusae, which was derived, as already mentioned, from the name of the adjoining marsh or lake, Syraco, doubtless an indigenous name, as it has no signification in Greek.
It appears indeed that the form Syraco was used by Epicharmus for the name of the city itself, but this was evidently a mere poetic license. (Strab. viii. p.364
As in the case of most of the Greek colonies in Sicily, we have very little information concerning the early history and progress of Syracuse; but we may infer that it rose steadily, if not rapidly, to prosperity, from the circumstance that it continued to extend its power by the foundation of fresh colonies: that of Acrae within 70 years after its own establishment (B.C. 664); Casmenae 20 years later (B.C. 644), and Camarina 45 years afterwards, or B.C. 599. None of these colonies, however, rose to any considerable power: it was obviously the policy of Syracuse to keep them in the position of mere dependencies; and Camarina, having given umbrage to the parent city, was destroyed only 46 years after its foundation. (Thuc. 6.5
; Scymn. Ch. 294
.) Syracuse was not, however, free front internal dissensions and revolutions.
An obscure notice preserved to us by Thucydides indicates the occurrence of these as early as B.C. 648, which led to the expulsion of a party or clan called the Myletidae, who withdrew into exile and joined in the foundation of Himera. (Thuc. 6.5
.) Another indication of such disputes is found in Aristotle (Aristot. Pol. 5.4
), but we are unable [p. 2.1057]
to assign any definite place in chronology to the occurrence there alluded to.
At a later period we find the government in the hands of an exclusive oligarchy called the Geomori or Gamori, who, from their name, would appear to have been the descendants of the original colonists, around whom there naturally grew up a democracy or plebs,
composed of the citizens derived from other sources.
At length, about B.C. 486, a revolution took place; and the democracy succeeded in expelling the Geomori, who thereupon withdrew to Casmenae. (Hdt. 7.155
; Dionys. A. R. 6.62
But this revolution quickly led to another; Gelon, the powerful despot of Gela, having espoused the cause of the exiles. Gela was at this time at least equal, if not superior, to Syracuse in power. Hippocrates, its late despot, had extended his power over many of the other cities in the east of Sicily, and defeated the Syracusans themselves in a great battle at the river Helorus.
He would probably indeed have made himself master of Syracuse upon this occasion had it not been for the interposition of the Corinthians and Corcyraeans, who brought about a peace upon equitable terms. (Hdt. 7.154
But the expulsion of the Geomori opened a fresh opportunity to Gelon, who, putting himself at the head of the exiles, easily effected their restoration, while the people of Syracuse readily admitted Gelon himself as their ruler with despotic authority. (Ib.
This revolution (which occurred in B.C. 485) seemed at first likely to render Syracuse subordinate to Gela, but it ultimately produced a directly contrary effect. Gelon seems to have been fully alive to the superior advantages of Syracuse, and from the moment he had established his power in that city, made it the chief object of his solicitude, and directed all his efforts to the strengthening and adorning his new capital. Among other measures, he removed thither the whole body of the citizens of Camarina (which had been repeopled by Hippocrates), and subsequently more than half of those of Gela itself, admitting them all to the full rights of Syracusan citizens.
Afterwards, as he directed his arms successively against the Sicilian Megara and Euboea, he removed the wealthy and noble citizens of both those cities also to Syracuse. (Ib.
That city now rose rapidly to a far greater amount of power and prosperity than it had previously enjoyed, and became, under the fostering care of Gelon, unquestionably the first of the Greek cities in Sicily.
It was probably at this period that it first extended itself beyond the limits of the island, and occupied the table-land or heights of Achradina, which were adapted to receive a far more numerous population, and had already become thickly peopled before the time of Thucydides. (Thuc. 6.3
This portion of the city now came to be known as the Outer City (ἡ ἔξω πόλις
), while the island of Ortygia was called the Inner City, though still frequently designated as “the Island.” Strictly speaking, however, it had ceased to merit that term, being now joined to the mainland by an artificial dike or causeway. (Thuc. l.c.
From the time of Gelon the history of Syracuse becomes inseparably blended with that of Sicily in general; its position in the island being so important that, as Strabo justly remarks, whatever vicissitudes of fortune befel the city were shared in by the whole island. (Strab. vi. p.270
.) Hence it would be useless to recapitulate the events of which a brief summary has been already given. in the article SICILIA
and which are more fully detailed by all the general historians of Greece.
The following summary will, therefore, be confined to those historical events which more immediately affected the city itself, as distinguished from the political vicissitudes of the state.
There can be no doubt that Syracuse continued to flourish extremely throughout the reign of Gelon (B.C. 485--478), as well as that of his successor Hieron (B.C. 478--467), who, notwithstanding the more despotic character of his government, was in many respects a liberal and enlightened ruler. His patronage of letters and the arts especially rendered Syracuse one of the chief resorts of men of letters, and his court afforded shelter and protection to Aeschylus, Pindar, and Bacchylides. Nor was Syracuse itself deficient in literary distinction. Epicharmus, though not a native of the city, spent all the latter years of his life there, and Sophron, the celebrated writer of mimes, was a native of Syracuse, and exhibited all his principal works there.
The care bestowed upon the arts is sufficiently attested by the still extant coins of the city, as well as by the accounts transmitted to us of other monuments; and there is every probability that the distinction of Syracuse in this respect commenced from the reign of Hieron.
The tranquil reign of that monarch was followed by a brief period of revolution and disturbance; his brother Thrasybulus having, after a short but tyrannical and violent reign, been expelled by the Syracusans, who established a popular government, B.C. 466.
This was for a time agitated by fresh tumults, arising out of disputes between the new citizens who had been introduced by Gelon and the older citizens, who claimed the exclusive possession of political power; but after some time these disputes were terminated by a compromise, and the new citizens withdrew to Messana. (Diod. 11.67
The civil dissensions connected with the expulsion of Thrasybulus, which on more than one occasion broke out into actual hostilities, show how great was the extent which the city had already attained. Thrasybulus himself, and afterwards the discontented citizens, are mentioned as occupying the Island and Achradina, both of which were strongly fortified, and had their own separate walls (Diod. 11.68
); while the popular party held the rest of the city.
It is evident therefore that there were already considerable spaces occupied by buildings outside the walls of these two quarters, which are distinctly mentioned on one occasion as “the suburbs” (τὰ προαστεῖα, Ib.
68). Of these, one quarter called Tycha, which lay to the W. of Achradina, adjoining the N. slope of the table-land, is now first mentioned by name (Ibid.
); but there can be no doubt that the plain between the heights of Achradina and the marshes was already occupied with buildings, and formed part of the city, though it apparently was not as yet comprised within the fortifications.
The final establishment of the democracy at Syracuse was followed by a period of about sixty years of free government, during which we are expressly told that the city, in common with the other Greek colonies in Sicily, developed its resources with great rapidity, and probably attained to its maximum of wealth and power. (Diod. 11.68
Before the close of this period it had to encounter the severest danger it had yet experienced, and gave abundant proof of its great resources by coming off victorious in a contest with Athens, then at the very height of [p. 2.1058]
its power The circumstances of the great siege of Syracuse by the Athenians must here be related in some detail, on account of their important bearing on all questions connected with the topography of the city, and the interest they confer on its localities.
At the same time it will obviously be impossible to do more than give a very brief sketch of that memorable contest, for the details of which the reader must refer to the narrative of Thucydides, with the copious illustrations of Arnold, Grote, and Col. Leake.
It was not till the spring of B.C. 414 that the siege of Syracuse was regularly commenced.
But in the autumn of 415, the Athenians had already made a demonstration against the, city, and sailing into the Great Harbour, effected a landing without opposition near the Olympieum, where they established their camp on the shore, and erected a temporary fort at a place called Dascon (Thuc. 6.66
; Diod. 12.6
), apparently on the inner bight of the harbour, between the mouth of the Anapus and the bay now called the Bay of Maddalena.
But though successful in the battle that ensued, Nicias did not attempt to follow up his advantage, and withdrew to winter at Catana.
The next spring the Athenians landed to the N. of Syracuse, at a place called Leon, about 6 or 7 stadia from the heights of Epipolae, while they established their naval station at the adjoining peninsula of Thapsus (Magnisi
The land troops advanced at once to occupy Epipolae, the military importance of which was felt by both parties, and succeeded in establishing themselves there, before the Syracusans could dislodge them. They then proceeded to build a fort at a place called Labdalum, which is described by Thucydides as situated “on the top of the cliffs of Epipolae, looking towards Megara” (Thuc. 6.97
), and having occupied this with a garrison, so as to secure their communications with their fleet, they advanced to a place called Syce (ἡ Συκῆ
), where they established themselves, and began to construct with great rapidity a line of circumvallation across the plateau of Epipolae.1
The construction of such a line was the customary mode of proceeding in Greek sieges, and it was with the special object of guarding against it that the Syracusans had in the preceding winter extended their fortifications by running a new line of wall so as to enclose the temple of Apollo Temenites (Thuc. 6.75
), which probably extended from thence down to the Great Harbour. Nevertheless the Athenian line of circumvallation was carried on so rapidly as to excite in them the greatest alarm. Its northern extremity was made to rest on the sea at a point called Trogilus (probably near the Scala Greca
), and it was from thence carried across the table-land of the Epipolae, to the point nearest to the Great Harbour. Alarmed at the rapid progress of this wall, the Syracusans endeavoured to interrupt it by constructing a counter or cross wall (ὑποτείχισμα
or ἐγκάρσιον τεῖχος
), directed apparently from the wall recently erected around the temple of Apollo Temenites towards the southern cliff of Epipolae. (Thuc. 6.99
This wall was, however, carried by the Athenians by a sudden attack and destroyed, whereupon the Syracusans attempted a second counterwork, carried through the marshes and low ground, so as to prevent the Athenians from connecting their works on Epipolae with the Great Harbour.
But this work was, like the preceding one, taken and destroyed; and the Athenians, whose fleet had meanwhile entered the Great Harbour, and established itself there, were able to construct a strong double line of wall, extending from the cliffs of Epipolae quite down to the harbour. (Ib.
100--103.) On the table-land above, on the contrary, their works were still incomplete, and especially that part of the line of circumvallation near Trogilus was still in an unfinished state when Gylippus landed in Sicily, so that that commander was able to force his passage through the lines at this point, and effect an entry into Syracuse. (Id. 7.2.)
It is remarkable that the hill of Euryalus, though in fact the key of the position on the Epipolae, seems to have been neglected by Nicias, and was still undefended by any fortifications.
Gylippus immediately directed his efforts to prevent the completion of the Athenian lines across the table-land, and obtained in the first instance an important advantage by surprising the Athenian fort at Labdalum.
He next began to erect another cross wall, running out from the walls of the city across the plateau, so as to cross and intersect the Athenian lines; and notwithstanding repeated efforts on the part of the Athenians, succeeded in carrying this on so far as completely to cut off their line of circumvallation, and render it impossible for them to complete it. (Id. 7.4--6.) Both parties seem to have looked on the completion of this line as the decisive point of the siege; Nicias finding himself unable to capture the outwork of the Syracusans, almost despaired of success, and wrote to Athens for strong reinforcements. Meanwhile he sought to strengthen his position on the Great Harbour by occupying and fortifying the headland of Plemmyrium, which completely commanded its entrance. (lb.
4.) The Syracusans, however, still occupied the Olympieum (or Polichne, as it was sometimes called) with a strong body of troops, and having, under the guidance of Gylippus, attacked the Athenians both by sea and land, though foiled in the former attempt, they took the forts which had been recently erected on the Plemmyrium. (lb.
This was a most important advantage, as it rendered it henceforth very difficult for the Athenians to supply their fleet and camp with provisions; and it is evident that it was so regarded by both parties (Ib.
25, 31): the Syracusans also subsequently gained a decisive success in a sea-fight within the Great Harbour, and were preparing to push their advantage further, when the arrival of Demosthenes and Eurymedon from Athens with a powerful fleet restored for a time. the superiority of the Athenians. Demosthenes immediately directed all his efforts to the capture of the Syracusan counterwork on Epipolae; but meanwhile Gylippus had not neglected to strengthen his position. there, by constructing three [p. 2.1059]
redoubts or forts, each of them occupied with a strong garrison, at intervals along the sloping plateau of Epipolae, while a fort had been also erected at the important post of Euryalus, at the extreme angle of the heights. (Thuc. 7.43
.) So strong indeed was their position that Demosthenes despaired of carrying it by day, and resolved upon a night attack, in which he succeeded in carrying the fort at Euryalus, but was foiled in his attempt upon the other outworks, and repulsed with heavy loss. (lb.
The failure of this attack was considered by Demosthenes himself as decisive, and he advised the immediate abandonment of the siege.
But the contrary advice of Nicias prevailed; and even when increasing sickness in the Athenian camp had induced him also to consent to a retreat, his superstitious fears, excited by an eclipse of the moon, again caused them to postpone their departure.
The consequences were fatal. The Syracusans now became rather the besiegers than the besieged, attacked the Athenian fleet in the Great Harbour, and cut off and destroyed the whole of their right wing under Eurymedon, in the bay of Dascon. Elated with this success, they sought nothing less than the capture of the whole armament, and began to block up the mouth of the Great Harbour, from Ortygia across to Plemmyrium, by mooring vessels across it. The Athenians were now compelled to abandon all their outposts and lines on the heights, and draw together their troops as close to the naval camp as possible; while they made a final effort to break through the barrier at the entrance of the harbour.
But this attempt proved unsuccessful, and led to a complete defeat of the Athenian fleet.
There was now no course but to retreat.
The army under Nicias and Demosthenes broke up from its camp, and at first directed their course along the valley of the Anapus, till they came to a narrow pass, commanded by a precipitous ridge called the Acraean Rock (Ἀκραῖον λέπας, Thuc. 7.78
), which had been occupied in force by the Syracusans. Failing in forcing this defile, the Athenians changed their line of retreat, and followed the road to Helorus, but after forcing in succession, though not without heavy loss, the passage of the two rivers Cacyparis and Erineus, and reaching the banks of the Asinarus, the last survivors of the Athenian army were compelled to lay down their arms.
The whole number of prisoners was said to amount to 7000.
A trophy was erected by the Syracusans on the bank of the Asinarus, and a festival called the Asinaria instituted to commemorate their victory. (Thuc. 7.78
; Diod. 13.18
The failure of the Athenian expedition against Syracuse seemed likely to secure to that city the unquestionable superiority among the Greek colonies in Sicily.
But a new and formidable power now appeared--the Carthaginians, who were invited by the Segestans to support them against the Selinuntines, but who, not content with the destruction of Selinus and Himera (B.C. 410), and with that of Agrigentum (B.C. 406), pushed forward their conquests with a view of making themselves masters of the whole island. Dionysius, then a young man, took advantage of the alarm and excitement caused by this danger to raise himself to despotic power at Syracuse (B.C. 405), and he soon after concluded a peace with the Carthaginians, whose career of victory had been checked by a pestilence.
The history of the reign of Dionysius at Syracuse, which continued for a period of 38 years (B.C. 405--387), cannot be here related: it is briefly given in the Biogr. Dict.,
art. DIONYSIUS, and very fully in Grote's History of Greece,
vols. x. and xi.; but its influence and effects upon the city itself must be here noticed. From a very early period he turned his attention to the strengthening and fortification of the city, and constructed great works, partly with a view to the defence of the city against external invasion, partly for the security of his own power. One of his first operations was to convert the island of Ortygia into a strong fortress, by surrounding it with a lofty wall, fortified with numerous towers, especially on the side where it adjoined the land, where he raised a strongly fortified front, called the Pentapyla; while, for still further security, he constructed an interior fort or citadel within the island, which became the acropolis of Syracuse, and at the same time the residence of Dionysius and his successors in the despotism. Adjoining this he constructed within the lesser port, or Portus Lacceius, docks for his ships of war on a large scale, so as to be capable of receiving 60 triremes: while they were enclosed with a wall, and accessible only by a narrow entrance.
But not content with this, he a few years afterwards added docks for 160 more ships, within the Great Port, in the recess or bight of it which approaches most nearly to the Portus Lacceius, and opened a channel of communication between the two.
At the same time he adorned the part of the city immediately outside the island with porticoes and public buildings for the convenience of the citizens. (Diod. 14.7
But his greatest work of all was the line of walls with which he fortified the heights of Epipolae.
The events of the Athenian siege had sufficiently proved the vital importance of these to the safety of the city; and hence before Dionysius engaged in his great war with Carthage he determined to secure their possession by a line of permanent fortifications.
The walls erected for this purpose along the northern edge of the cliffs of Epipolae (extending from near Sta Panagia
to the hill of Euryalus, or Mongibellisi
) were 30 stadia in length, and are said to have been erected by the labour of the whole body of the citizens in the short space of 20 days. (Diod. 14.18
It is remarkable that we hear nothing of the construction of a similar wall along the southern edge of the plateau of Epipolae; though the table-land is at least as accessible on this side as on the other; and a considerable suburb called Neapolis had already grown up on this side (Diod. 14.9
), outside of the wall of Achradina, and extending over a considerable part of the slope, which descends from the Temenitis towards the marshy plain of the Anapus.
But whatever may have been the cause, it seems certain that Syracuse continued till a later period to be but imperfectly fortified on this side.
The importance of the additional defences erected by Dionysius was sufficiently shown in the course of the war with Carthage which began in B.C. 397.
In that war Dionysius at first carried his arms successfully to the western extremity of Sicily, but fortune soon turned against him, and he was compelled in his turn to shut himself up within the walls of Syracuse, and trust to the strength of his fortifications. The Carthaginian general Himilco entered the Great Port with his fleet, and established his head-quarters at the Olympieum, while he not only ravaged the country outside the walls, but made himself master of one of the suburbs, [p. 2.1060]
in which were situated the temples of Ceres and Proserpine, both of which he gave up to plunder.
But the anger of the goddesses, brought on by this act of sacrilege, was believed to be the source of all the calamities that soon befel him.
A pestilence broke out in the Carthaginian camp, from which they sustained very heavy losses, and Dionysius took advantage of their enfeebled state to make a general attack on their camp both by sea and land.
The position occupied by the Carthaginians was very much the same as that which had been held by the Athenians: they occupied the headland of Plemmyrium, on which they had erected a fort, while they had also fortified the Olympieum, or Polichne, and constructed a third fort, close to the edge of the Great Harbour for the protection of their fleet, which lay within the inner bay or harbour of Dascon. But Dionysius, by a sudden attack from the land side, carried both the last forts, and at the same time succeeded in burning a great part of the Carthaginian fleet, so that Himilco was compelled to abandon the enterprise, and by a secret capitulation secured a safe retreat for himself and the native Carthaginians in his army, abandoning his allies and mercenaries to their fate. (Diod. 14.62
The defeat of the Carthaginian armament left Dionysius undisputed master of Syracuse, while that city held as unquestioned a pre-eminence over the other cities of Sicily; and it is probable that the city itself continued to increase in extent and population.
The impregnable citadel in the island of Ortygia constructed by the elder Dionysius continued to be the bulwark of his power, as well as that of his son and successor. Even when the citizens, in B.C. 357, opened their gates to Dion, who made a triumphal entry into Achradina, and made himself master with little difficulty of the fort on the summit of Epipolae, the island still held out, and Dion was compelled to resort to a blockade, having erected a line or wall of contravallation across from the lesser port to the greater, so as effectually to cut off the garrison from all communication with the interior. (Plut. Dion.
29; Diod. 16.12
It was not till after the blockade had been continued for above a year that Apollocrates was compelled by scarcity of provisions to surrender this stronghold, and Dion thus became complete master of Syracuse, B.C. 356.
But that event did not, as had been expected, restore liberty to Syracuse, and the island citadel still remained the stronghold of the despots who successively ruled over the city. When at length Timoleon landed in Sicily (B.C. 344) Ortygia was once more in the possession of Dionysius, while the rest of the city was in the hands of Hicetas, who was supported by a Carthaginian fleet and army, with which he closely blockaded the island fortress.
But the arrival of Timoleon quickly changed the face of affairs: Ortygia was voluntarily surrendered to him by Dionysius; and Neon, whom he left there as commander of the garrison, by a sudden sally made himself master of Achradina also. Soon after Timoleon carried the heights of Epipolae by assault, and thus found himself master of the whole of Syracuse. One of the first measures he took after his success was to demolish the fortress erected by Dionysius within the Island, as well as the palace of the despot himself, and the splendid monument that had been erected to him by his son and successor. On the site were erected the new courts of justice. (Plut. Tim. 22
Syracuse had suffered severely from the long period of civil dissensions and almost constant hostilities which had preceded its liberation by Timoleon; and one of the first cares of its deliverer was to recruit its exhausted population, not only by recalling from all quarters the fugitive or exiled citizens, but by summoning from Corinth and other parts of Greece a large body of new colonists. Such was the success of his invitation that we are assured the total number of immigrants (including of course the restored exiles) amounted to not less than 60,000. (Plut. Tim. 22
The democratic form of government was restored, and the code of laws which had been introduced by Diodes after the Athenian expedition, but had speedily fallen into neglect under the long despotism of the two Dionysii, was now revived and restored to its full vigour. (Diod. 13.35
At the same time a new annual magistracy was established, with the title of Amphipolus of the Olympian Jove, who was thenceforth destined, like the Archon at Athens, to give name to the year.
The office was apparently a merely honorary one, but the years continued to be designated by the names of the Amphipoli down to the time of Augustus. (Diod. 16.70
; Cic. Ver. 2.51
There can be no doubt that the period following the restoration of liberty by Timoleon was one of great prosperity for Syracuse, as well as for Sicily in general. Unfortunately it did not last long. Less than 30 years after the capture of Syracuse by Timoleon, the city fell under the despotism of Agathocles (B.C. 317), which continued without interruption till B.C. 289. We hear very little of the fortunes of the city itself under his government, but it appears that, like his predecessor Dionysius, Agathocles devoted his attention to the construction of great works and public buildings, so that the city continued to increase in magnificence. We are told, among other things, that he fortified the entrance of the lesser port, or Portus Lacceius, with towers, the remains of one of which are still visible. During the absence of Agathocles in Africa, Syracuse was indeed exposed to the assaults of the Carthaginian general Hamilcar, who encamped, as Himilco had formerly done, at Polichne, and from thence made desultory attacks upon the city, but without any important result; and having at length made a night attack upon the fort of Euryalus, he was defeated, and himself taken prisoner. (Diod. 20.29
After the death of Agathocles, Syracuse for a short time recovered its liberty, but soon fell again under the virtual despotism of Hicetas, and subsequently passed into the hands of successive military adventurers, till in B.C. 275, the government became vested in Hieron, the son of Hierocles, who, at first with the title of general autocrator, and afterwards with that of king, continued to reign over the city till B.C. 216. His wisdom and moderation proved a striking contrast to the despotism of several of the former rulers of Syracuse, and while his subjects flourished under his liberal and enlightened rule, external tranquillity was secured by the steadiness with which he adhered to the alliance of Rome, after having once measured his strength against that formidable power.
By the treaty concluded between him and the Romans in B.C. 263, he was recognised as king of Syracuse, with the dependent towns of Acrae, Helorus, Netum, Megara, and Leontini, to which was annexed Tauromenium also, as an outlying dependency. (Diod. xxiii. Exc. H. p. 502.) Notwithstanding the small extent of his territory, [p. 2.1061]
Hieron was undoubtedly a powerful prince, and Syracuse seems to have risen, during this long period of peace and tranquillity, to a high state of wealth and prosperity. Its commercial relations with foreign countries, especially with Egypt, were assiduously cultivated and extended, while the natural resources of its fertile territory were developed to the utmost by the wise and judicious regulations of Hieron, which, under the name of the Lex Hieronica, were subsequently introduced into all parts of Sicily, and continued to be observed by the Romans, in their administration of that province.
At the same time the monarch adorned the city with many public works and buildings, including temples, gymnasia, &c., while he displayed his wealth and magnificence by splendid offerings, both at Rome and the most noted sanctuaries of Greece. On the whole it may probably be assumed that the reign of Hieron II. was the period when Syracuse attained its highest degree of splendour and magnificence, as well as of wealth and population.
But this state of things was abruptly changed after the death of Hieron. His grandson, Hieronymus, who succeeded him, deserted the alliance of Rome for that of Carthage, and though the young king was shortly after assassinated, the Carthaginian party continued to maintain its ascendency at Syracuse under two leaders named Hippocrates and Epicydes, who were appointed generals with supreme power. They shut the gates against Marcellus, who was in command of the Roman armies in Sicily, and having refused all terms of accommodation, compelled that general to form the siege of Syracuse, B.C. 214. (Liv. 24.21
The enterprise proved far more arduous than the Roman General seems to have anticipated.
He established his camp, as the Carthaginians had repeatedly done, on the height of the Olympieum; but his principal attacks were directed against the northern walls, in the neighbourhood of Hexapylum (the outlet of the city towards Leontini and Megara), as well as against the defences of Achradina from the sea. His powerful fleet gave Marcellus the complete command of the sea, and he availed himself of this to bring up his ships with powerful battering engines under the very walls which bordered the rocks of Achradina; but all his efforts were baffled by the superior skill and science of Archimedes; his engines and ships were destroyed or sunk, and after repeated attempts, both by sea and land, he found himself compelled to abandon all active assaults and convert the siege into a blockade. (Liv. 24.33
During the winter he left the camp and army at the Olympieum, under the command of T. Quinctius Crispinus, while he himself took up his winter-quarters and established a fortified camp at Leon, on the N. side of the city.
But he was unable to maintain a strict blockade by sea, and the Carthaginians succeeded in frequently throwing in supplies, so that the blockade was prolonged for more than two years; and Marcellus began to entertain little prospect of success, when in the spring of B.C. 212 an accident threw in his way the opportunity of scaling the walls by night, at a place called by Livy the Portus Trogiliorum (evidently the little cove called Scala Greca
); and having thus surprised the walls he made himself master of the gate at Hexapylum, as well as of a great part of the slope of Epipolae.
But the strong fort of Euryalus, at the angle of Epipolae, defied his efforts, and the walls of Achradina, which still retained its separate fortifications, enabled the Syracusans to hold possession of that important part of the city, as well as of the island and fortress of Ortygia.
The two quarters of Tycha and Neapolis were, however, surrendered to him, and given up to plunder, the citizens having stipulated only for their lives; and shortly after Philodemus, who commanded the garrison of Euryalus, having no hopes of relief, surrendered that important post also into the hands of Marcellus. (Liv. 25.23
.) The Roman general was now in possession of the whole heights of Epipolae, and being secured from attacks in the rear by the possession of Euryalus, he divided his forces into three camps, and endeavoured wholly to blockade Achradina.
At the same time Crispinus still held the old camp on the hill of the Olympieum. (Ib.
In this state of things a vigorous effort was made by the Carthaginians to raise the siege: they advanced with a large army under Himilco and. Hippocrates, and attacked the camp of Crispinus; while Bomilcar, with a fleet of 150 ships, occupied the Great Harbour, and took possession of the shore between the city and the mouth of the Anapus, at the same time that Epicydes made a vigorous sally from Achradina against the lines of Marcellus.
But they were repulsed at all points, and though they continued for some time to maintain their army in the immediate neighbourhood of the city, it was soon attacked by a pestilence, arising from the marshy nature of the low grounds in which they were encamped, to which both Hippocrates and Himilco fell victims, with a great part of their troops. Bomilcar, also, who had quitted the port with the view of obtaining reinforcements from Carthage, never returned, and Epicydes, who had gone out to meet him, abandoned the city to its fate, and withdrew to Agrigentum.
The defence of Syracuse was now entrusted to the leaders of the mercenary troops, and one of these, a Spaniard named Mericus, betrayed his post to Marcellus.
A body of Roman troops was landed in the night at the extremity of the island, near the fountain of Arethusa, and quickly made themselves masters of the whole of Ortygia; while Marcellus, having at the same time made a general assault on Achradina, succeeded in carrying a portion of that quarter also.
The remaining part of the city was now voluntarily surrendered by the inhabitants; and Marcellus, after taking precautions to secure the royal treasures, and the houses of those citizens who had been favourable to the Romans, gave up the whole city to be pillaged by his soldiers. Archimedes, who had contributed so much to the defence of the city, was accidentally slain in the confusion.
The plunder was said to be enormous; and the magnificent statues, pictures, and other works of art which were carried by Marcellus to Rome, to adorn his own triumph, are said to have given the first impulse to that love of Greek art which afterwards became so prevalent among the Romans. (Liv. 25.26
; Plut. Marc. 14
; Diod. xxvi. Fr. 18--20.)
From this time Syracuse sank into the ordinary condition of a Roman provincial town; but it continued to be the unquestionable capital of Sicily, and was the customary residence of the Roman praetors who were sent to govern the island, as well as of one of the two quaestors who were charged with its financial administration. Even in the days of Cicero; it is spoken of by that orator as “the greatest of Greek cities, and the most beautiful of all cities.” (Cic. Ver. 4.52
) Its public buildings had apparently suffered little, if at all, from its capture by [p. 2.1062]
Marcellus, and were evidently still extant in the days of the orator, who enumerates most of them by name. All the four quarters of the city, the Island, Achradina, Tycha, and Neapolis, were still well inhabited; though as a measure of precaution no persons of native Syracusan extraction were permitted to dwell in the Island. (Ib.
But the prosperity of Syracuse seems to have sustained a severe shock in the time of Sextus Pompeius, who, according to Strabo, inflicted upon it injuries, from which it appears never to have recovered. Such was its decayed condition that Augustus endeavoured to-recruit it by sending thither a Roman colony (B.C. 21).
But the new settlers were confined to the Island and to the part of the city immediately adjoining it, forming a portion only of Achradina and Neapolis. (Strab. vi. p.270
; D. C. 54.7
; Plin. Nat. 3.8. s. 14
It is in this part of the town that the amphitheatre and other edifices of Roman construction are still found.
But though greatly fallen from its former splendour, Syracuse continued throughout the Roman Empire to be one of the most considerable cities of Sicily, and still finds a place in the 4th century in the Ordo Nobilium Urbium of Ausonius.
The natural strength of the Island as a fortress rendered it always a post of the utmost importance.
After the fall of the Western Empire, it fell with the rest of Sicily under the dominion of the Goths, but was recovered by Belisarius in A. D. 535, and annexed to the dominions of the Byzantine emperors, in whose hands it continued till the 9th century, when it was finally wrested from them by the Arabs or Saracens. Syracuse was, with the single exception of Tauromenium, the last place in Sicily that fell into the hands of those invaders: it was still a very strong fortress, and it was not till 878, more than fifty years after the Saracens first landed in the island, that it was compelled to surrender, after a siege of nine months' duration.
The inhabitants were put to the sword, the fortifications destroyed, and the city given up to the flames. Nor did it ever recover from this calamity, though the Island seems to have always continued to be inhabited. Its fortifications were strengthened by Charles V., and assumed very much their present appearance.
The modern city, which is still confined to the narrow limits of the Island, contains about 14,000 inhabitants.
But the whole of the expanse on the opposite side of the strait, as well as the broad table-land of Achradina and Epipolae, are now wholly bare and desolate, being in great part uncultivated as well as uninhabited.
The topographical description of Syracuse as it existed in the days of its greatness cannot better be introduced than in the words of Cicero, who has described it in unusual detail. “You have often heard (says he) that Syracuse was the largest of all Greek cities, and the most beautiful of all cities. And it is so indeed. For it is both strong by its natural situation and striking to behold, from whatever side it is approached, whether by land or sea.
It has two ports, as it were, enclosed within the buildings of the city itself, so as to combine with it from every point of view, which have different and separate entrances, but are united and conjoined together at the opposite extremity.
The junction of these separates from the mainland the part of the town which is called the Island, but this is reunited to the continent by a bridge across the narrow row strait which divides them. So great is the city that it may be said to consist of four cities, all of them of very large size; one of which is that which I have already mentioned, the Island, which is surrounded by the two ports, while it projects towards the mouth and entrance of each of them.
In it is the palace of king Hieron, which is now the customary residence of our praetors.
It contains, also, several sacred edifices, but two in particular, which far surpass the others, one a temple of Diana, the other of Minerva, which before the arrival of Verres was most highly adorned.
At the extremity of this island is a fountain of fresh water, which bears the name of Arethusa, of incredible magnitude, and full of fish: this would be wholly overflowed and covered by the waves were it not separated from the sea by a strongly-built barrier of stone.
The second city at Syracuse is that which is called Achradina, which contains a forum of very large size, beautiful porticoes, a most highly ornamented Prytaneum, a spacious Curia, and a magnificent temple of Jupiter Olympius; not to speak of the other parts of the city, which are occupied by private buildings, being divided by one broad street through its whole length, and many cross streets.
The third city is that which is called Tycha, because it contained a very ancient temple of Fortune; in this is a very spacious gymnasium, as well as many sacred edifices, and it is the quarter of the town which is the most thickly inhabited.
The fourth city is that which, because it was the last built, is named Neapolis: at the top of which is a theatre of vast size; besides this it contains two splendid temples, one of Ceres, the other of Libera, and a statue of Apollo, which is known by the name of Temenites, of great beauty and very large size, which Verres would not have hesitated to carry off if he had been able to remove it.” (Cic. Ver. 4.52
Cicero here distinctly describes the four quarters of Syracuse, which were commonly compared to four separate cities; and it appears that Diodorus gave the same account. (Diod. 26.19
, ed. Didot.)
In later times, also, we find it alluded to as “the quadruple city” ( “quadruplices Syracusae,” Auson. Cl. Urb.
11). Others, however, enumerated five quarters, as Strabo tells us that it was formerly composed of five cities (πεντάπολις ἦν τὸ παλαιόν, Strab. v. p.270
), probably because the heights of Epipolae towards the castle of Euryalus were at one time inhabited, and were reckoned as a fifth town.
But we have no distinct statement to this effect.
The several quarters of the city must now be considered separately.
Pind., Diod., Strab., &c.), more commonly known simply as “the Island” (ἡ νῆσος,
Thuc., &c., and in the Doric dialect Νᾶσος
: hence Livy calls it Nasus, while Cicero uses the Latin Insula), was the original seat of the colony, and continued throughout the flourishing period of the city to be as it were the citadel or Acropolis of Syracuse, though, unlike most citadels, it lay lower than the rest of the city, its strength as a fortress being derived from its insular position.
It is about a mile in length, by less than half a mile in breadth, and of small elevation, though composed wholly of rock, and rising perceptibly in the centre.
There is no doubt that it was originally an island, naturally separated from the mainland, though in the time of Thucydides it was united with it (Thuc. 6.3
): probably, however, this was merely effected by an artificial mole or causeway, [p. 2.1063]
for the purpose of facilitating the communication with “the outer city,” as that on the mainland was then called.
At a later period it was again severed from the land, probably by the elder Dionysius, when he constructed his great docks in the two ports.
It was, however, undoubtedly always connected with the mainland by a bridge, or series of bridges, as it is at the present day.
The citadel or castle, constructed by Dionysius, stood within the island, but immediately fronting the mainland, and closely adjoining the docks or navalia
in the Lesser Port. Its front towards the mainland, which appears to have been strongly fortified, was known as the Pentapyla (τὰ πεντάπυλα,
29); and this seems to have looked directly upon the Agora or Forum, which we know to have been situated on the mainland.
It is therefore clear that the citadel must have occupied nearly the same position with the modern fortifications which form the defence of Syracuse on the land side.
These were constructed in the reign of Charles V., when the isthmus by which Ortygia had been reunited to the mainland was cut through, as well as a Roman aqueduct designed to supply this quarter of the city with water, constructed, as it appeared from an inscription, by the emperor Claudius. (Fazell. Sic.
iv. i. p. 169.)
Ortygia was considered from an early time as consecrated to Artemis or Diana (Diod. 5.3
), whence Pindar terms it “the couch of Artemis,” and “the sister of Delos” (δέμνιον Ἀρτέμιδος, Δάλου κασιγνάτα, Nem.
1.3). Hence, as we learn from Cicero (l.c.
), one of the principal edifices in the island was a temple of Diana. Some remains of this are supposed to be still extant in the NE. corner of the modern city, where two columns, with a portion of their architrave, of the Doric order, are built into the walls of a private house. From the style and character of these it is evident that the edifice was one of very remote antiquity. Much more considerable remains are extant of the other temple, noticed by the orator in the same passage--that of Minerva.
This was one of the most magnificent in Sicily. Its doors, composed of gold and ivory, and conspicuous for their beautiful workmanship, were celebrated throughout the Grecian world: while the interior was adorned with numerous paintings, among which a series representing one of the battles of Agathocles was especially celebrated. All these works of art, which had been spared by the generosity of Marcellus, were carried off by the insatiable Verres. (Cic. Ver. 4.55
.) On the summit of the temple was a shield, which served as a landmark to sailors quitting or approaching the port. (Polemon, ap. Athen. 11.462
There can be no doubt that this temple, which must have stood on the highest point of the island, is the same which has been converted into the modern cathedral or church of Sta Maria delle Colonne.
The columns of the sides, fourteen in number, are still perfect, though built into the walls of the church; but the portico and façade
were destroyed by an earthquake.
It was of the Doric order, and its dimensions (185 feet in length by 75 in breadth), which nearly approach those of the great temple of Neptune at Paestum, show that it must have belonged to the first class of ancient edifices of this description.
The style of the architectural details and proportions of the columns would render it probable that this temple may be referred to the sixth century B.C., thus confirming an incidental notice of Diodorus (viii.. Fr. 9), from which it would appear that it was built under the government of the Geomori, and therefore certainly prior to the despotism of Gelon. No other ancient remains are now extant in the island of Ortygia; but the celebrated fountain of Arethusa is still visible, as described by Cicero, near the southern extremity of the island, on its western shore.
It is still a very copious source, but scarcely answering to the accounts of its magnitude in ancient times; and it is probable that it has been disturbed and its supply diminished by earthquakes, which have repeatedly afflicted the modern town of Syracuse.
At the extreme point of the island, and outside the ancient walls, probably on the spot where the castle built by John Maniaces now stands, was situated a temple of the Olympian Juno, with an altar from which it was the custom for departing sailors to take a cup with certain offerings, which they flung into the sea when they lost sight of the shield on the temple of Minerva (Polemon, ap. Athen. l.c.). Of the other edifices in the island the most remarkable were the Hexecontaclinus (οἶκος ὁ Ἑξηκοντάκλινος καλούμενος, Diod. 16.86
), built, or at least finished, by Agathocles, but the purpose and nature of which are uncertain; the public granaries, a building of so massive and lofty a construction as to serve the purposes of a fortress (Liv. 24.21
); and the palace of king Hieron, which was afterwards made the residence of the Roman praetors (Cic. Ver. 4.52
The site of this is uncertain: the palace of Dionysius, which had been situated in the citadel constructed by him, was destroyed together with that fortress by Timoleon, and a building for the courts of justice erected on the site. Hence it is probable that Hieron, who was always desirous to court popularity, would avoid establishing himself anew upon the same site. No trace now remains of the ancient walls or works on this side of the island, which have been wholly covered and concealed by the modern fortifications.
The remains of a tower are, however, visible on a shoal or rock near the N. angle of the modern city, which are probably those of one of the towers built by Agathocles to guard the entrance of the Lesser Harbour, or Portus Lacceius (Diod. 16.83
); but no traces have been discovered of the corresponding tower on the other side.
Diod., and this seems to be the more correct form of the name, though it is frequently written Acradina; both Livy and Cicero, however, give Achradina), or “the outer city,” as it is termed by Thucydides, was the most important and extensive of the quarters of Syracuse.
It consisted of two portions, comprising the eastern part of the great triangular plateau already described, which extended from the angle of Epipolae to the sea, as well as the lower and more level space which extends from the foot of this table-land to the Great Harbour, and borders on the marshes of Lysimeleia.
This level plain, which is immediately opposite to the island of Ortygia, is not, like.the tract beyond it extending to the Anapus, low and marshy ground, but has a rocky soil, of the same limestone with the table-land above, of which it is as it were a lower step. Hence the city, as soon as it extended itself beyond the limits of the island, spread at once over this area; but not content with this, the inhabitants occupied the part of the table-land above it nearest the sea, which, as already mentioned in the general description, is partly separated by a cross valley or depression from the upper part of the plateau, or the heights of Epipolae. Hence this part of the city [p. 2.1064]
was of considerable natural strength, and seems to have been early fortified by a wall.
It is not improbable that, in the first instance, the name of Achradina was given exclusively to the heights2
, and that these, as well as the island, had originally their own separate defences; but as the city spread itself out in the plain below, this must also have been protected by an outer wall on the side towards the marshes.
It has indeed been supposed (Grote's Greece,
vol. vii. p. 556) that no defence existed on this side till the time of the Athenian expedition, when the Syracusans, for the first time, surrounded the suburb of Temenitis with a wall; but no mention is found in Thucydides of so important a fact as the construction of this new line of defence down to the Great Harbour, and it seems impossible to believe that this part of the city should so long have remained unprotected.3
It is probable indeed (though not certain) that the Agora was already in this part of the city, as we know it to have been in later times; and it is highly improbable that so important a part of the city would have been placed in an unfortified suburb.
But still more necessary would be some such defence for the protection of the naval arsenals or dockyards in the inner bight of the Great Harbour, which certainly existed before the Athenian invasion.
It seems, therefore, far more natural to suppose that, though the separate defences of Ortygia and the heights of Achradina (Diod. 11.67
) were not destroyed, the two were from an early period, probably from the reign of Gelon, united by a common line of defence, which ran down from the heights to some point near that where the island of Ortygia most closely adjoined the mainland.
The existence of such a boundary wall from the time of the Athenian War is certain; and there seems little doubt that the name of Achradina, supposing it to have originally belonged to the heights or table-land, soon came to be extended to the lower area also. Thus Diodorus describes Dionysius on his return from Gela as arriving at the gate of Achradina, where the outer gate of the city is certainly meant. (Diod. 13.113
It is probable that this gate, which was that leading to Gela, is the same as the one called by Cicero the Portae Agragianae, immediately outside of which he had discovered the tomb of Archimedes. (Cic. Tusc. Quaest. 5.2. 3
) But its situation cannot be determined: no distinct traces of the ancient walls remain on this side of Syracuse, and we know not how they may have been modified when the suburb of Neapolis was included in the city.
It is probable, however, that the wall (as suggested by Col. Leake) ran from the brow of the hill near the amphitheatre in a direct line to the Great Harbour.
Of the buildings noticed by Cicero as still adorning Achradina in his day there are scarcely any vestiges; but the greater part of them were certainly situated in the lower quarter, nearest to the island and the two ports. The Forum or Agora was apparently directly opposite to the Pentapyla or fortified entrance of the island; it was surrounded with porticoes by the elder Dionysius (Diod. 14.7
), which are obviously those alluded to by Cicero ( “pulcherrimae porticus,” Verr.
The temple of Jupiter Olympius, noticed by the orator, also adjoined the Agora; it was built by Hieron II. (Diod. 16.83
), and must not be confounded with the more celebrated temple of the same divinity on a hill at some distance from the city.
The prytaneum, which was most richly adorned, and among its chief ornaments possessed a celebrated statue of Sappho, which fell a prey to the cupidity of Verres (Cic. Ver. 4.53
), was probably also situated in the neighbourhood of the Agora; as was certainly the Timoleonteum, or monument erected to the memory of Timoleon. (Plut. Tim. 39
The splendid sepulchral monument which had been erected by the younger Dionysius in memory of his father, but was destroyed after his own expulsion, seems to have stood in front of the Pentapyla, opposite the entrance of the citadel. (Diod. 15.74
A single column is still standing on this site, and the bases of a few others have been discovered, but it is uncertain to what edifice they belonged.
The only other ruins now visible in this quarter of the city are some remains of Roman baths of little importance.
But beneath the surface of the soil there exist extensive catacombs, constituting a complete necropolis: these tombs, as in most similar cases, are probably the work of successive ages, and can hardly be referred to any particular period.
There exist, also, at two points on the slope of the hill of Achradina, extensive quarries hewn in the rock, similar to those found in Neapolis near the theatre, of which we shall presently speak.
Traces of the ancient walls of Achradina, crowning the low cliffs which bound it towards the sea, may be found from distance to distance along the whole line extending from the quarries of the Cappuccini
round to the little bay or cove of Sta Panagia
at the NW. angle of the plateau. Recent researches have also discovered the line of the western wall of Achradina, which appears to have run nearly in a straight line from the cove of Sta Panagia,
to the steep and narrow pass or hollow way that leads up from the lower quarter to the heights above, thus taking advantage of the partial depression or valley already noticed.
The cove of Sta Panagia
may perhaps be the PORTUS TROGILIORUM of Livy (25.23
), though the similar cove of the Scala Greca,
about half a mile further W., would seem to have the better claim to that designation.
The name is evidently the same with that of Trogilus, mentioned by Thucydides as the point on the N. side of the heights towards which the Athenians directed their lines of circumvallation, but without succeeding in reaching it. (Thuc. 6.99
), so called, as we are told by Cicero, from its containing an ancient and celebrated temple of Fortune, was situated on the plateau or table-land W. of Achradina, and adjoining the northern face of the cliffs looking towards Megara. Though it became one of the most populous quarters of Syracuse, no trace of its existence is found at the period of the Athenian siege; and it may fairly be assumed that there was as yet no considerable [p. 2.1065]
suburb on the site, which must otherwise have materially interfered with the Athenian lines of circumvallation, while the Syracusans would naturally have attempted to protect it, as they did that of Temenitis, by a special outwork. Yet it is a remarkable that Diodorus notices the name, and even speaks of it as a distinct quarter of the city, as early as B.C. 466, during the troubles which led to the expulsion of Thrasybulus (Diod. 11.68
It is difficult to reconcile this with the entire silence of Thucydides. Tycha probably grew up after the great wall erected by Dionysius along the northern edge of the plateau had completely secured it from attack. Its position is clearly shown by the statement of Livy, that Marcellus, after he had forced the Hexapylum and scaled the heights, established his camp between
Tycha and Neapolis, with the view of carrying on his assaults upon Achradina. (Liv. 25.25
It is evident therefore that the two quarters were not contiguous, but that a considerable extent of the table-land W. of Achradina was still unoccupied.
), or the New City, was, as its name implied, the last quarter of Syracuse which was inhabited, though, as is often the case, the New Town seems to have eventually grown up into one of the most splendid portions of the city.
It may, however, well be doubted whether it was in fact more recent than Tycha; at least it appears that some portion of Neapolis was already inhabited at the time of the Athenian invasion, when, as already mentioned, we have no trace of the existence of a suburb at Tycha.
But there was then already a suburb called Temenitis, which had grown up around the sanctuary of Apollo Temenites.
The statue of Apollo, who was worshipped under this name, stood as we learn from Cicero, within the precincts of the quarter subsequently called Neapolis; it was placed, as we may infer from Thucydides, on the height above the theatre (which he calls ἄκρα Τεμενῖτις
), forming a part of the table-land, and probably not far from the southern escarpment of the plateau.
A suburb had apparently grown up around it, which was surrounded by the Syracusans with a wall just before the commencement of the siege, and this outwork bears a conspicuous part in the operations that followed. (Thuc. 6.75
But this extension of the fortifications does not appear to have been permanent, for we find in B.C. 396 the temples of Ceres and the Cora, which also stood on the heights not far from the statue of Apollo, described as situated in a suburb of Achradina, which was taken and the temples plundered by the Carthaginian general Himilco. (Diod. 14.63
The name of Neapolis (ἡ Νέα πόλις
) is indeed already mentioned some years before (Id. 14.9), and it appears probable therefore that the city had already begun to extend itself over this quarter, though it as yet formed only an unfortified suburb.
In the time of Cicero, as is evident from his description, as well as from existing remains, Neapolis had spread itself over the whole of the southern slope of the table-land, which here forms a kind of second step or underfall, rising considerably above the low grounds beneath, though still separated from the heights of Temenitis by a second line of cliff or abrupt declivity.
The name of Temenitis for the district on the height seems to have been lost, or merged in that of Neapolis, which was gradually applied to the whole of this quarter of the city.
But the name was retained by the adjoining gate, which was called the Temenitis Gate (Plut. Dion.
29, where there seems: no doubt that we should read Γεμενίτιδας
), and seems to have been one of the principal entrances to the city.
Of the buildings described by Cicero as existing in Neapolis, the only one still extant is the theatre, which he justly extols for its large size ( “theatrum maximum,” Verr.
4.53). Diodorus also alludes to it as the largest in Sicily (16.83), a remark which is fully borne out by the existing remains.
It is not less than 440 feet in diameter, and appears to have had sixty rows of seats, so that it could have accommodated no less than 24,000 persons.
The lower rows of seats were covered with slabs of white marble, and the several cunei are marked by inscriptions in large letters, bearing the name of king Hieron, of two queens, Philistis and Nereïs, both of them historically unknown, and of two deities, the Olympian Zeus and Hercules, with the epithet of Εὐφρών.
These inscriptions evidently belong to the time of Hieron II., who probably decorated, and adorned this theatre, but the edifice itself is certainly referable to a much earlier period, probably as early as the reign of the elder Hieron.
It was used not merely for theatrical exhibitions, but for the assemblies of the people, which are repeatedly alluded to as being held in it (Diod. 13.94
; Plut. Dion.
34, 38, &c.), as was frequently the case in other cities of Greece.
The theatre, as originally constructed, must have been outside the walls of the city, but this was not an unusual arrangement.
Near the theatre have been discovered the remains of another monument, expressly mentioned by Diodorus as constructed by king Hieron in that situation, an altar raised on steps and a platform not less than 640 feet in length by 60 in breadth (Diod. 14.83
A little lower down are the remains of an amphitheatre, a structure which undoubtedly belongs to the Roman colony, and was probably constructed soon after its establishment by Augustus, as we find incidental mention of gladiatorial exhibitions taking place there in the reigns of Tiberius and Nero (Tac. Ann. 13.49
; V. Max. 1.7.8
It was of considerable size, the arena, which is the only part of which the dimensions can be distinctly traced, being somewhat larger than that of Verona. No traces have been discovered of the temples of Ceres and Libera or Proserpine on the height above: the colossal statue of Apollo Temenites had apparently no temple in connection with it, though it had of course its altar, as well as its sacred enclosure or τέμενος.
The statue itself, which Verres was unable to remove on account of its large size, was afterwards transported to Rome by Tiberius (Suet. Tib. 74
Immediately adjoining the theatre are extensive quarries, similar in character to those already mentioned in the cliffs of Achradina.
The quarries of Syracuse (Latomiae or Lautumiae) are indeed frequently mentioned by ancient authors, and especially noticed by Cicero among the most remarkable objects in the city. (Cic. Ver. 5.27
; Aelian, Ael. VH 12.44
There can be no doubt that they were originally designed merely as quarries for the extraction, of the soft limestone of which the whole table-land consists, and which makes an excellent building stone; but from the manner in which they were worked, being sunk to a considerable depth, without any outlet on a level, they were found places of such security, that from an early period they were employed [p. 2.1066]
as prisons. Thus, after the Athenian expedition, the whole number of the captives, more than 7000 in number, were confined in these quarries (Thuc. 7.86
; Diod. 13.33
); and they continued to be used for the same purpose under successive despots and tyrants.
In the days of Cicero they were used as a general prison for criminals from all parts of Sicily. (Cic. Ver. 5.27
) The orator in one passage speaks of them as constructed expressly for a prison by the tyrant Dionysius (Ib.
55), which is a palpable mistake if it refers to the Lautumiae in general, though it is not unlikely that the despot may have made some special additions to them with that view.
But there is certainly no authority for the popular tradition which has given the name of the Ear of Dionysius to a peculiar excavation of singular form in the part of the quarries nearest to the theatre.
This notion, like many similar ones now become traditional, is derived only from the suggestion of a man of letters of the 16th century.
5. Epipolae and Fort Euryalus
), was the name originally given to the upper part of the table-land which, as already described, slopes gradually from its highest point towards the sea. Its form is that of a tolerably regular triangle, having its vertex at Euryalus, and its base formed by the western wall of Achradina.
The name is always used by Thucydides in this sense, as including the whole upper part of the plateau, and was doubtless so employed as long as the space was uninhabited; but as the suburbs of Tycha and Temenitis gradually spread themselves over a considerable part of the heights, the name of Epipolae came to be applied in a more restricted sense to that portion only which was nearest to the vertex of the triangle.
It is generally assumed that there subsequently arose a considerable town near this angle of the walls, and that this is the fifth quarter of the city alluded to by Strabo and those who spoke of Syracuse as a Pentapolis or aggregate of five
But there is no allusion to it as such in the passage of Cicero already quoted, or in the description of the capture of Syracuse by Marcellus; and it seems very doubtful whether there was ever any considerable population at this remote point. No vestiges of any ancient buildings remain within the walls; but the line of these may be distinctly traced along the top of the cliffs which bound the table-land both towards the N. and the S.; in many places two or three courses of the masonry remain; but the most important ruins are those at the angle or vertex of the triangle, where a spot named Mongibellisi
is still crowned by the ruins of the ancient castle or fort of EURYALUS (Εὐρύηλος,
Thuc., but the Doric form was Εὐρύαλος,
which was adopted by the Romans).
The ruins in question afford one of the best examples extant of an ancient fortress or castle, designed at once to serve as a species of citadel and to secure the approach to Epipolae from this quarter.
The annexed plan will give a good idea of its general
|PLAN OF THE FORT EURYALUS.|
form and arrangement.
The main entrance to the city was by a double gate (A.), flanked on both sides by walls and towers, with a smaller postern or sally-port a little to the right of it.
The fortress itself was an irregular quadrangle, projecting about 200 yards beyond the approach to the gate, and fortified by strong towers of solid masonry with a deep ditch cut in the rock in front of it, to which a number of subterraneous passages gave access from within.
These passages communicating with the fort above by narrow openings and stairs, were evidently designed to facilitate the sallies of the besieged without exposing the fortress itself to peril.
As the whole arrangement is an unique specimen of ancient fortification a view is added of the external, or N. front of the fort, with the subterranean openings.
There can be no doubt that the fortress at Mongibellisi
is the one anciently known as Euryalus.
This clearly appears from the mention of that fort at the time of the siege of Syracuse by Marcellus, as one capable of being held by a separate garrison after the capture of the outer walls of Epipolae, and threatening the army of Marcellus in the rear, if he proceeded to attack Achradina. (Liv. 25.25
.) Euryalus is also mentioned by Thucydides at the time of the Athenian expedition, when it was still unfortified, as the point which afforded a ready ascent to the heights of Epipolae (Thuc. 6.99
); and it must indeed have always been, in a military point of view, the key of the whole position. Hence, the great care with which it was fortified after the occupation of Epipolae by the Athenians had shown the paramount importance of that position in case of a siege.
The existing fortifications may, indeed, be in part the work of Hieron II. (as [p. 2.1067]
supposed by Col. Leake); but it is certain that a strong fort was erected there by Dionysius I.4
, and the importance of this was sufficiently shown in the reign of Agathocles, when the attack of Hamilcar
|VIEW OF THE FORT EURYALUS.|
was repulsed by means of a strong garrison posted at Euryalus, who attacked his army in flank, while advancing to the attack of Epipolae. (Diod. 20.29
Some writers on the topography of Syracuse have supposed the fortress of Mongibellisi
to be the ancient Hexapylum, and that Euryalus occupied the site of Belvedere,
a knoll or hill on the ridge which is continued from Mongibellisi
inland, and forms a communication with the table-land of the interior.
But the hill of Belvedere,
which is a mile distant from Mongibellisi,
though somewhat more elevated than the latter point, is connected with it only by a narrow ridge, and is altogether too far from the table-land of Epipolae to have been of any importance in connection with it; while the heights of Mongibellisi,
as already observed, form the true key of that position. Moreover, all the passages that relate to Hexapylum, when attentively considered, point to its position on the N. front of the heights, looking towards Megara and Thapsus; and Colonel Leake has satisfactorily shown that it was a fort constructed for the defence of the main approach to Syracuse on this side; a road which then, as now, ascended the heights at a point a short distance W. of the Scala Greca,
where a depression or break in the line of cliffs affords a natural approach. (Leake, Notes on Syracuse,
pp. 258, 342, &c.)
The gate at Hexapylum thus led, in the first instance, into the suburb or quarter of Tycha, a circumstance completely in accordance with, if not necessarily required by, a passage in Livy (24.21
), where the two are mentioned in close connection.
It is more difficult to determine the exact position of LABDALUM, where the Athenians erected a fort during the siege of Syracuse.
The name is not subsequently mentioned in history, so that we have no knowledge of its relation to the fortifications as they existed in later times; and our only clue to its position is the description of Thucydides, that it stood “on the summit of the cliffs of Epipolae, looking towards Megara.” It was probably situated (as placed by Göller and Mr. Grote) on the point of those heights which forms a slightly projecting angle near the farmhouse now called Targia.
Its purpose was, doubtless, to secure the communications of the Athenians with their fleet which lay at Thapsus, as well as with the landing-place at Leon.
It was not till the reign of the elder Dionysius (as we have already seen) that the heights of Epipolae were included within the walls or fortifications of Syracuse. Nor are we to suppose that even after that time they became peopled like the rest of the city.
The object of the walls then erected was merely to secure the heights against military occupation by an enemy. For that purpose he in B.C. 402 constructed a line of wall 30 stadia in length, fortified with numerous towers, and extending along the whole N. front of the plateau, from the NW. angle of Achradina to the hill of Euryalus. (Diod. 14.18
The latter point must at the same time have been occupied with a strong fort.
The north side of Epipolae was thus securely guarded; but it is singular that we hear of no similar defence for the S. side.
There is no doubt that this was ultimately protected by a wall of the same character, as the remains of it may be traced all around the edge of the plateau; but the period of its construction is uncertain.
The portion of the cliffs extending from Euryalus to Neapolis may have been thought sufficiently strong by nature; but this was not the case with the slope towards Neapolis, which was easily accessible. Yet this appears to have continued the weakest side of the city, as in B.C. 396 Himilco was able to plunder the temples in the suburb of Temenitis with apparently little difficulty.
At a later period, however, it is certain from existing remains, that not only was there a line of fortifications carried along the upper escarpment as far as Neapolis, but an outer line of walls was carried round that suburb, which was now included for all purposes as part of the city. Strabo reckons the whole circuit of the walls of Syracuse, including the fortifications of Epipolae, at 180 stadia (Strab. vi. p.270
); but this statement exceeds the truth, the actual circuit being about 14 English miles, or 122 stadia. (Leake, p. 279.)
It only remains to notice briefly the different localities in the immediate neighbourhood of Syracuse, which are noticed by ancient writers in connection with that city. Of these the most important [p. 2.1068]
is the OLYMPIEUM,
or Temple of Jupiter Olympius, which stood, as already mentioned, on a height, facing the southern front of Epipolae and Neapolis, from which it was about a mile and a half distant (Liv. 24.33
), the interval being occupied by the marshy plain on the banks of the Anapus.
The sanctuary seems to have early attained great celebrity: even at the time of the Athenian expedition there had already grown up around it a small town, which was known as POLICHNE
Diod.), or the Little City.
The military importance of the post, as commanding the bridge over the Anapus and the road to Helorus, as well as overlooking the marshes, the Great Harbour, and the lower part of the city, caused the Syracusans to fortify and secure it with a garrison before the arrival of the Athenians. (Thuc. 6.75
.) For the same reason it was occupied by all subsequent invaders who threatened Syracuse; by Himilco in B.C. 396, by Hamilcar in B.C. 309, and by Marcellus in B.C. 214.
The remains of the temple are still visible: in the days of Cluverius, indeed, seven columns were still standing, with a considerable part of the substructure (Cluver. Sicil.
p. 179), but now only two remain, and those have lost their capitals. They are of an ancient style, and belong probably to the original temple, which appears to have been built by the Geomori as early as the 6th century B.C.
The adjoining promontory of Plemmyrium does not appear to have been ever inhabited, though it presents a table-land of considerable height, nor was it ever permanently fortified.
It is evident also, from the account of the operations of successive Carthaginian fleets, as well as that of the Athenians, that the Syracusans had not attempted to occupy, or even to guard with forts, the more distant parts of the Great Harbour, though the docks or arsenal, which were situated in the inner bight or recess of the bay, between Ortygia and the lower part of Achradina, were strongly fortified.
The southern bight of the bay, which forms an inner bay or gulf, now known as the bay of Sta Maddalena,
is evidently that noticed both during the Athenian siege and that by the Carthaginians as the gulf of DASCON.
(Δάσκων, Thuc. 6.66
; Diod. 13.13
The fort erected by the Athenians for the protection of their fleet apparently stood on the adjacent height, which is connected with that of the Olympieum.
Almost immediately at the foot of the Olympieum was the ancient bridge across the Anapus, some remains of which may still be seen, as well as of the ancient road which led from it towards Helorus, memorable on account of the disastrous retreat of the Athenians. They did not, however, on that occasion cross the bridge, but after a fruitless attempt to penetrate into the interior by following the valley of the Anapus, struck across into the Helorine Way, which they rejoined some distance beyond the Olympieum. Not far from the bridge over the Anapus stood the monument of Gelon and his wife Demarete, a sumptuous structure, where the Syracusans were in the habit of paying heroic honours to their great ruler.
It was adorned with nine towers of a very massive construction; but the monument itself was destroyed by Himilco, when he encamped at the adjacent Olympieum, and the towers were afterwards demolished by Agathocles. (Diod. 11.38
About a mile and a half SW. of the Olympieum is the fountain of CYANE
a copious and clear stream rising in the midst of a marsh: the sanctuary of the nymph to whom it was consecrated (τὸ τῆς Κυάνης ἱερόν,
Diod.), must have stood on the heights above, as we are told that Dionysius led his troops round to this spot with a view to attack the Carthaginian camp at the Olympieum (Diod. 14.72
); and the marsh itself must always have been impassable for troops. Some ruins on the slope of the hill to the W. of the source are probably those of the temple in question. [CYANE
] The fountain of Cyane is now called La Pisma:
near it is another smaller source called Pismotta,
and a third, known as Il Cefalino,
rises between the Cyane and the Anapus.
The number of these fountains of clear water, proceeding no doubt from distant sources among the limestone hills, is characteristic of the neighbourhood of Syracuse, and is noticed by Pliny, who mentions the names of four other noted sources besides the Cyane and the more celebrated Arethusa.
These he calls Temenitis, Archidemia, Magaea, and Milichia, but they cannot be now identified. (Plin. Nat. 3.8. s. 14
.) None of these springs ,however, was well adapted to supply the city itself with water, and hence an aqueduct was in early times carried along the heights from the interior.
The existence of this is already noticed at the time of the Athenian siege (Thuc. 6.100
); and the channel, which is in great part subterraneous, is still visible at the present day, and conveys a stream sufficient to turn a mill situated on the steps of the great theatre.
A few localities remain to be noticed to the N. of Syracuse, which, though not included in the city, are repeatedly alluded to in its history. LEON
the spot where the Athenians first landed at the commencement of the siege (Thuc. 6.97
), and where Marcellus established his winter quarters when he found himself unable to carry the city by assault (Liv. 24.39
), is probably the little cove or bay about 2 miles N. of the Scala Greca:
this is not more than a mile from the nearest point of Epipolae, which would agree with the statement of Thucydides, who calls it 6 or 7 stadia from thence; Livy, on the contrary, says it was 5 miles from Hexapylum, but this must certainly be a mistake. About 3 miles further N. is the promontory of THAPSUS
now called Magnisi
), a low but rocky peninsula, united to the mainland by a sandy isthmus, so that it formed a tolerably secure port on its S. side. On this account it was selected, in the first instance, by the Athenians for their naval camp and the station of their fleet, previous to their taking possession of the Great Harbour. (Thuc. 6.97
It had been one of the first points on the Sicilian coast occupied by Greek colonists, but these speedily removed to Megara (Thuc. 6.4
); and the site seems to have subsequently always remained uninhabited, at least there was never a town upon it.
It was a low promontory, whence Virgil appropriately calls it “Thapsus jacens.” (Verg. A. 3.689
; Ovid, Ov. Fast. 4.477
.) About a mile inland, and directly opposite to the entrance of the isthmus, are the remains of an ancient monument of large size, built of massive blocks of stone, and of a quadrangular form.
The portion now remaining is above 20 feet high, but it was formerly surmounted by a column, whence the name by which it is still known of L'Aguglia,
or “the Needle.” This monument is popularly believed to have been erected by Marcellus to commemorate the capture of Syracuse; but this is a mere conjecture, for which there is no foundation.
It is probably in reality a sepulchral [p. 2.1069]
monument. (D'Orville, Sicula,
p. 173; Swinburne, vol. ii. p. 318.)
The topography of Syracuse attracted attention from an early period after the revival of letters; and the leading features are so clearly marked by nature that they could not fail to be recognised.
But the earlier descriptions by Fazello, Bonanni, and Mirabella, are of little value. Cluverius, as usual, investigated the subject with learning and diligence; and the ground has been carefully examined by several modern travellers.
An excellent survey of it was also made by British engineers in 1808; and the researches and excavations carried on by the duke of Serra di Falco, and by a commission appointed by the Neapolitan government in 1839 have thrown considerable light upon the extant remains of antiquity, as well as upon some points of the topography.
These have been discussed in a separate memoir by the architect employed, Saverio Cavallari, and the whole subject has been fully investigated, with constant reference to the ancient authors, in an elaborate and excellent memoir by Col. Leake.
The above article is based mainly upon the researches of the last author, and the local details given in the
|COINS OF SYRACUSAE.|
great work of the duke of Serra di Falco, the fourth volume of which is devoted wholly to the antiquities of Syracuse. (Fazell. de Reb. Sic.
4.1; Bonanni, Le Antiche Siracuse,
2 vols. fol. Palermo, 1717; Mirabella, Dichiarazione della Pianta dell' antiche Siracuse,
reprinted with the preceding work; Cluver. Sicil.
1.12; D'Orville, Sicula,
pp. 175--202; Smyth's Sicily,
pp. 162--176; Swinburne, Travels in the Two Sicilies,
vol. ii. pp. 318--346; Hoare, Classical Tour,
vol. ii. pp. 140--176; Leake, Notes on Syracuse,
in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature,
2nd series, vol. iii. pp. 239--345; Serra di Falco, Antichità della Sicilia,
vol. iv; Cavallari, Zur Topographie von Syrakus,
8vo. Göttingen, 1845.) [E.H.B