Rent Boat, history and excursions in Siracuse Print

Siracuse, chief town of the province, is 217 Km. distant from Agrigento, 191 Km. from Caltanissetta, 58 Km. from Catania, 172 Km. from Enna, 154 Km. from Messina, 307 Km. from Palermo, 81 Km. from Ragusa, 390 Km. from Trapani. The municipality has 127.224 inhabitants, its surface measures 20.408 hectares and its population density counts 623 inhabitants for square kilometre. It rises over a flat area, 17 metres above the sea-level. The main economical activities are agriculture, cattle breeding and fishing. Since 1950s a notable industrial development has been reported. It mainly produces grapes, cereals, olives, almonds, vegetables and citrus fruits. There are also cow, sheep and pig farms.

The city of Syracuse, in a splendid position in the E part of the Sici1ian coast, stretches out over the sea with the island of Ortygia, where the major testimonies of its glorious past are to be found. Ortygia is connected by a bridge to the mainland, where the modem city extends. According to the 5th c. BC historian Thucydides the ancient city was founded in 734-733 BC by a group of Corinthian settlers led by the oecist Archias. It took its name from a near. by marsh called Syraka. Very soon Syracuse became one of the most powerful cities in Sicily. Its expansionist policy began between the 7th and 6th c. BC and led to the foundation of the colonies of Akrai (663 BC), Kasmenai (643) and Kamarina (598), which were to assume a role of primary importance in the defence of the surrounding territory . At first, power was wielded in Syracuse by the Gamoroi (aristocrats and landowners); subsequently, at the beginning of the 5th c. BC, it was exercised more democratically. In the mid-th c. the retum of the aristocrats and the establishment of the tyranny of the Deinomenids of Gela coincided with a period of expansion of the city, which set itself at the head of the Hellenist settlements of Magna Graecia in the struggle against the Carthaginians, defeating them at the famous Battle of Himera (480 BC), with the city of Agrigento as an ally. In the second phase of the Peloponnesian War Athens, jealous of Syracuse's econornic and military expansion, launched against it a powerful offensive with a naval expedition led by Nicias Lamachos and Alcibiades. Syracuse succeeded in defeating the Athenians, who were annihilated on the banks of the Assinaros., near Eloro (Helorus). The architect of the victory was the democratic faction, which took control of the town. But the Carthaginians retumed to the attack and destroyed Selinunte (409 BC), compelling Syracuse to an agreed surrender . When Dionysius I came to power (405 BC), the Carthaginian offensive started again but was held back by a pestilence which proved to be a prelude to peace. Clashes continued in the following years until a new pact was agreed upon in 392: Dionysius obtained control of the Sicel toWns, which previously had been independent; Carthage kept its domination of W Sicily. This was the moment of Syracuse's greatest splendour, and it extended the sphere of its influence as far as S and Central Italy. On Dionysius' death he was succeeded by his son Dionysius II. New intemal conflicts broke out and the Syracusans tumed for help against the tyrant to their mother-city Corinth, which in 344 despatched to Sicily an expedition under Timoleon. The Corinthian leader defeated Dionysius and peace terms were agreed. In 339 Timoleon had to face an offensive by the Carthaginians which ended in their debacle near the River Krimisos (341 BC). Timoleon now devoted himself to the restoration of order in Sicily, the recolonization of the countryside, and the strengthening of the Greek element, while maintaining a moderate political stance. He was succeeded on his death by Agathocles, the leader of the radical democratic party, who got rid of the oligarchs and in 307, during yet another war with the Carthaginians, adopted the title of King. One year lat er, having won the war, he became master of the whole island. Following his death he was succeeded by Hieron II, who remained in power for over 50 years (269-215 BC). This was the period of the appearance of the Romans on the stage of history. They strove to limit Syracuse's independence to such a next enxtent that Hieron, realizing their superior strength, eventually declared himself their ally. His successor Hieronymus entered instead into an alliance with the Carthaginians but in the end had to yield to the Romans who conquered and sacked Syracuse in 213 BC and made it part of the Province of Sicily, permitting it however to maintain the role of capital city. After the fall of Rome Syracuse followed the alternating vicissitudes of Sicily; it was occupied by the Vandals, Goths and Byzantines, until in 878 it fell into the hands of the Muslims. Under the Normans and Swabians Syracuse, though ceding the role of capital city to Palermo, continued to be of considerable importance. It also benefited from an ample restructuring of the town. Maniàce Castle is an admirable example of architecture of the epoch of Frederick II and is at the same time a symbol of his military power and of the centralization of the state ef fected by this sovereign. Under the Angevin domination Syracuse became the capital of an extensive territory with nine communes. In this period a number of elegant baronial residences, churches and convents were built, including the convents of Santa Lucia, San Benedetto and L 'Annunziata. Between the 16th and 17th c., the Spanish age, the presence of the Carmelite Jesuits led to further transformations of the city skyline, according to the dictates of the new baroque style, which in Syracuse however took on specific and characteristic connotations, and imposing bastions were built all around the city, mainly because of the pressing Turkish threat. After the earthquake in 1693 Syracuse was partially reconstructed, the work proceeding throughout the 18th c. Between the 18th and 19th c. there were considerable urbanistic and cultural transformations; many religious buildings were confiscated and destined to public use. This process was accentuated even more after the unificatjon of Italy, when it was decided to demolish the Spanish walls, and the city began to expand in land. New quarters arose which increasingly underlined the great divide between the ancjent city and the modern city. A prograrnme of recovery is now being followed which by means of conservati ve restoration procedures is saving and reviving the most significant testimonies of the city' s ancient past.

 

 

 


 

 
 

HISTORY

WHAT TO SEE

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Ortygia, piazza Duomo
Siracuse, Greece Theater
Siracuse, amphitheater
Siracuse, Grotta dei Cordari
Siracuse, Grotta dei Cordari
Siracuse, Umbertino bridge
Siracuse, Dionysius ear
 
 
 
Siracuse, Ortygia
Siracuse,temple of Minerva
Siracuse, Maniace castle
Siracuse, catacombs
Siracuse, temple of Apollo
Siracuse,temple of Minerva
 
   
     
 

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