Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 26 >> Swordfish to Tanning >> Syracuse

Syracuse

city, ancient and bc

SYRACUSE, ancient SVIAGOSA, Sicily, a city and seaport on the southeastern extremity of the island, 80 miles southwest of Messina. It has an excellent harbor hut has greatly de clined from its ancient magnitude and splendor when it had a population of 500,000 inhabitants. Ortygia, once an island, now a peninsula, at the southeastern portion, contains all that re =ins of the ancient city. Here are seen ruins of a Greek temple, dedicated to Diana or Apollo, a castle, remains of ancient baths and mediaeval palaces, a cathedral built within the columns of a Doric temple to Diana or Minerva. There is also a museum containing valuable antiquities, coins, etc. In the southern portion of the town is the fountain of Arethusa, called la Parruca by the inhabitants, whose water became salty after an earthquake. Parts of the walls of the ancient city are preserved, which formerly enclosed the entire city on the main land, also of the two great aqueducts; a Roman amphitheatre of the age of Augustus; a Greek theatre of the 5th century B.c.; a temple to Ceres and extensive catacombs; the massive towers of the fortifications of the castle Euryalos in the northwest, subterranean pas sages hewn through solid rock, etc., with end

less ramifications in all directions. The Ear of Dionysius, a deep grotto with a wonderful echo, is 170 feet long, 60 feet high and 20 to 35 feet wide. Syracuse was founded by Greek Corinthians in 734 B.c. Its early political his tory is obscure; it is known that it thrived and itself sent out other colonies, becoming the largest and wealthiest city of the Old World. It had at one period a democratic government. In 215 B.c. it was invested by the Romans and defended by Archimedes, resisted for three years, but finally surrendered 212 B.c., remain ing in possession of the Romans till the down fall of their empire. Theocritus and Archimedes were natives of Syracuse. An increasing ex port trade is carried on in olive oil, lemons, oranges, etc. Pop. 27,352. Consult Baedeker, C., 'Southern Italy and Sicily) (16th ed., Leip zig 1912) ; Freeman, E. A., 'History of Sicily' (4 vols., Oxford 1894); Cavallari and Holm, (Topografia archeologica di (Palermo 1883, 1891).