Photos of the Remains From Ancient Syracuse, Sicily

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Gill, N.S. "Photos of the Remains From Ancient Syracuse, Sicily." ThoughtCo, Aug. 9, 2016, thoughtco.com/photos-remains-from-ancient-syracuse-sicily-117086. Gill, N.S. (2016, August 9). Photos of the Remains From Ancient Syracuse, Sicily. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/photos-remains-from-ancient-syracuse-sicily-117086 Gill, N.S. "Photos of the Remains From Ancient Syracuse, Sicily." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/photos-remains-from-ancient-syracuse-sicily-117086 (accessed September 23, 2017).
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Map of Syracuse, Sicily

Map of Syracuse
Corinth | Theater | Quarries | Ear of Dionysius | Altar of Hieron | Amphitheater | Damocles' Sword. Map of Syracuse, From The Atlas of Ancient and Classical Geography, by Samuel Butler (1907/8).

Syracuse, located on the east coast of Sicily, was a colony of Corinth, one of the Greek city-states. In 734 B.C. Archias of Corinth founded a settlement on the island of Ortygia. The colonists soon spread to the mainland at Achradina. Architectural remains from the 6th century B.C. include temples of Apollo, Zeus, and Athena (rebuilt in 480 B.C., and now located inside the cathedral), and an Ionic temple. Syracuse expanded to Tyche and Temenites (Neapolis).

In 415 B.C., during the Peloponnesian War, Athens launched a disastrous expedition to Syracuse: Athenians wound up as slaves working the limestone quarries.

In the early 4th century, Syracuse controlled most of Sicily and part of southern Italy. In the middle of the third century, Sicily became a Punic War battleground. Later, Rome annexed Sicily, following the siege, from 214-212, with the Romans led by Marcellus, during which Archimedes was accidentally killed.

Syracuse became home to the Roman praetor in Sicily.

Sources:

  • The Oxford Classical Dictionary. Simon Hornblower and Anthony Spawforth. © Oxford University Press 1949, 1970, 1996, 2005. Articles: Brian M. Caven "Hieron (2) II" and Arthur Geoffrey Woodhead, Roger J. A. Wilson "Syracuse".

Map: From The Atlas of Ancient and Classical Geography, by Samuel Butler (1907/8).

  1. Syracuse Map
  2. Theater
  3. Quarries
  4. Ear of Dionysius
  5. Altar of Hieron
  6. Amphitheater

02
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Theatre of Syracuse

Theatre at Syracuse Ruins
Theater at Ephesus | Corinth | Syracuse Map | Quarries | Ear of Dionysius | Altar of Hieron | Amphitheater | Damocles' Sword. Theatre at Syracuse Ruins

The great theater of Syracuse, a city of Magna Graecia (Megale Hellas) was built under the Syracusan tyrant Hiero (Hieron) I (r. c. 478-466 B.C.) by architect Democopus Myrilla.

Some people refer to the theater of Syracuse as the "Greek amphitheatre" as distinct from the "Roman amphitheatre". As you can see from the photo, the Theatre of Syracuse is a regular Greek outdoor theater: It has area for a stage and orchestra (dance floor) in front of a semicircular stone seating/viewing area. In case this isn't clear, seating in the Greek theater is only on the front side of the performance, not the back where the backstage activities went on. Etymologically, an amphitheatre (amphitheater) should have spectators on both sides, so this is not an amphitheatre, Greek or otherwise. In contemporary usage, however, the term amphitheatre is used to refer to a raised circular or semi-circular theater.

CC Flickr User Alun Salt.

  1. Syracuse Map
  2. Theater
  3. Quarries
  4. Ear of Dionysius
  5. Altar of Hieron
  6. Amphitheater

03
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Quarries of Syracuse

Quarries of Syracuse
Corinth | Syracuse Map | Theater | Ear of Dionysius | Altar of Hieron | Amphitheater. Quarries of Syracuse

The limestone quarries of Syracuse are still visible. During the period of the Peloponnesian War, the Athenians and their allies sent a disastrous naval expedition to Syracuse. Having lost not only the battle, but their fleet, they tried to escape. They failed; instead, large numbers of Athenians suffered miserable deaths in the quarries of Syracuse.

Here is what Thucydides has to say about the conditions of the Greek slaves in the quarries of Syracuse, from the public domain Jowett translation:

"(7.87) Those who were imprisoned in the quarries were at the beginning of their captivity harshly treated by the Syracusans. There were great numbers of them, and they were crowded in a deep and narrow place. At first the sun by day was still scorching and suffocating, for they had no roof over their heads, while the autumn nights were cold, and the extremes of temperature engendered violent disorders. Being cramped for room they had to do everything on the same spot. The corpses of those who died from their wounds, exposure to heat and cold, and the like, lay heaped one upon another. The smells were intolerable; and they were at the same time afflicted by hunger and thirst. During eight months they were allowed only about half a pint of water and a pint of food a day. Every kind of misery which could befall man in such a place befell them. This was the condition of all the captives for about ten weeks. At length the Syracusans sold them, with the exception of the Athenians and of any Sicilian or Italian Greeks who had sided with them in the war. The whole number of the public prisoners is not accurately known, but they were not less than seven thousand."

Picture: CC Flickr User Alun Salt.

  1. Syracuse Map
  2. Theater
  3. Quarries
  4. Ear of Dionysius
  5. Altar of Hieron
  6. Amphitheater

04
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The Ear of Dionysius

Ear of Dionysius
Corinth | Syracuse Map | Theater | Quarries | Altar of Hieron | Amphitheater | Damocles' Sword. Ear of Dionysius

The grotto or cavern known as L'Orecchio di Dionysio 'Ear of Dionysius' is so named because the shape is thought to resemble an ear and because the Ear of Dionysius is associated with a tyrant of Syracuse named Dionysius. The Ear of Dionysius was formed from the limestone quarry there, either deliberately or naturally. The acoustics are excellent. It is 23 m. high and 65 m. deep.

There are various theories about how Dionysius of Syracuse may have used the ear. He may have put prisoners there so their plans could be overheard or so their screams could be heard when they were tortured.

Source:
"From Palermo to Syracuse," Scribners Monthly, Volume 20. By Laura Winthrop Johnson, Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt, Celia Thaxter, Dora Hill Read Goodale, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Cairns Collection of American Women Writers. P. 415

Picture: CC Flickr User Alun Salt.

  1. Syracuse Map
  2. Theater
  3. Quarries
  4. Ear of Dionysius
  5. Altar of Hieron
  6. Amphitheater

05
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Altar of Hieron

Altar of Hieron
Corinth | Syracuse Map | Theater | Quarries | Ear of Dionysius | Amphitheater | Damocles' Sword. Altar of Hieron in Syracuse

Th Altar of Hieron II (Hiero II) was built between 241 and 215 B.C. "for mass sacrifices of victims when the festival of Zeus Eleutherios was held," according to The Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece.

Picturesque Sicily, by William Agnew Paton, says 450 oxen were sacrificed here to commemorate the expulsion of the tyrant Thrasybulus who ruled Syracuse ,after the first Hiero, from 466 - 465. This altar to Hieron II was located about 100 yards from the Roman amphitheater.

Picture: CC Flickr User Allie_Caulfield

  1. Syracuse Map
  2. Theater
  3. Quarries
  4. Ear of Dionysius
  5. Altar of Hieron
  6. Amphitheater

06
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Roman Amphitheater of Syracuse

Roman Amphitheater of Syracuse
Corinth | Syracuse Map | Theater | Quarries | Ear of Dionysius | Altar of Hieron | Damocles' Sword. Roman Amphitheater of Syracuse May 21, 2008.

Roman forces under M. Claudius Marcellus sacked Syracuse in 211. In 21 B.C., Syracuse became a Roman colonia 'colony'. At this time, according to the Oxford Classical Dictionary, the Roman amphitheater was built, along with a public square by the altar of Hieron II, and a monumental arch.

The plan of the Roman Amphitheater was a typical Roman amphitheater, but it had a square reservoir in the middle, supposedly for crocodiles that would feed on the corpses, according to Sicily - The New Winter Resort. Picturesque Sicily obligingly provides a first-hand description of the Roman Amphitheater at Syracuse, from the late 19th century:

"The arena, in the middle of which is a vast cistern, or 'naumachia,' is surrounded by a wall seven feet in height, with a cornice inscribed with the names of distinguished and privileged persons who once occupied the seats in the lower tiers. Beneath the first tier of sedilia is a vaulted corridor, from which eight gates open into the arena, to give entrance to wild beasts and gladiators. Of the seats on the eastern side, the two lower tiers, which were hewn from the solid rock, only remain; those on the western side of the amphitheatre have almost entirely disappeared, while of the upper tiers hardly a vestige remains."

Sources:

Picture: © Giovanni Dall'Orto

  1. Syracuse Map
  2. Theater
  3. Quarries
  4. Ear of Dionysius
  5. Altar of Hieron
  6. Amphitheater

Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Gill, N.S. "Photos of the Remains From Ancient Syracuse, Sicily." ThoughtCo, Aug. 9, 2016, thoughtco.com/photos-remains-from-ancient-syracuse-sicily-117086. Gill, N.S. (2016, August 9). Photos of the Remains From Ancient Syracuse, Sicily. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/photos-remains-from-ancient-syracuse-sicily-117086 Gill, N.S. "Photos of the Remains From Ancient Syracuse, Sicily." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/photos-remains-from-ancient-syracuse-sicily-117086 (accessed September 23, 2017).