1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Syracuse
SYRACUSE (Gr. Συράκουσαι; Lat. Syracusae, Ital. Siracusa), a city of Sicily, the capital of a province of the same name, situated on the east coast of the island, 54 m. by rail S. by E. of Catania, and about 32 m. direct. Pop. (1881), 21,739; (1906), 23,250 (town), 35,000 (commune).
History.—Syracuse was the chief Greek city of ancient Sicily, and one of the earliest Greek settlements in the island. According to Strabo (vi. 4, p. 269) Chersicrates and Archias of Corinth, both Heraclidae, left their native city together with a band of colonists, the former stopping with half the force at Corcyra, where he expelled the Liburnians and occupied the island, while Archias proceeded to Syracuse. Thucydides (vi. 3) gives the
date as the year after the foundation of Naxos (i.e. 734 B.C.), and mentions that Archias expelled the Sicel inhabitants from the island. Their presence there was definitely proved by the discovery in 1905 of a rock-cut tomb of the beginning of the second Sicel period (see Sicily) on the west side of the island (Orsi in Notizie degli Scavi, 1905, 381), while similar tombs may be seen both on the north and south edges of the terrace of Epipolae, and on the peninsula of Plemmyrium. There is, on the other hand, no conclusive evidence for the previous existence of a Phoenician settlement on the island, though it is certainly such a place as Thucydides (vi. 2) describes as occupied by them for purposes of trade with the Sicels. The name of the island, Ortygia (ὄρτυξ, a quail), has, again, been held to point to the possible existence of an Aetolian settlement on the island before Archias came. But it is more probable that the name was given to the island owing to the establishment there by the first settlers of a special cult of Artemis (the name Ortygia appears in Homer, Odyssey, v. 123, as an island sacred to Artemis, though the identification with Delos (q.v.) is not certain), though why Corinthians should have worshipped Artemis in preference to any other deity is not clear.
Till the beginning of the 5th century B.C. our notices of Syracusan history are quite fragmentary. Almost the only question is whether, as some stray notices (see Freeman, History of Sicily, 11. 431) might suggest, the primitive kingship was retained or renewed at Syracuse, as it certainly was in other Greek colonies. A king Pollis is spoken of; of but nothing is known of his actions. It is far more certain tha Syracuse went through the usual revolutions of a Greek city. The descendants of the original settlers kept the land in their own hands, and they gradually brought the Sicel inhabitants to a state not unlike villeinage. Presently other settlers perhaps not always Greek, gathered round the original Syracuse people; they formed a distinct body, δῆμος or plebs, personally free, but with an inferior political franchise or none at all. The old citizens thus gradually grew into an exclusive or aristocratic body, called γαμόρος or landowners. We hear incidentally of disputes, seditions and changes, among others the expulsion of the Gamori early in the 5th century B.C. (Thuc. v. 5; Arist. Pol. v. 3, 5; 4, 1).
In its external development Syracuse differed somewhat from other Sicilian cities. Although it lagged in early times behind both Gela and Acragas (Agrigentum), it very soon began to aim at a combination of land and sea power. In 663 it founded the settlement of Acrae, in 643 Casmenae, and in 598 Camarina of which the first was unusually far inland. The three together secured for Syracuse a continuous dominion to the south-east
coast. They were not strictly colonies but outposts; Camarina indeed was destroyed after a revolt against the ruling city (Thuc. v. 1). Whether the inland Sicel town of Henna was ever a Syracusan settlement is doubtful. It is extremely probable that Acrae was not founded until after two obvious outposts had already been occupied-a post guarding the road to Acrae itself, and including the sacred enclosure of Apollo, which later, when it became a quarter of the city, acquired the name Temenites; and another post on the road to the north, in the upper part of the region known as Achradina. The latter was defended on the north and east by the sea, on the west by a. long straight cutting of the rock serving as a scarp on which the wall stood (see below), and on the south by extensive quarries (Freeman ii. 43, 139, 144). About the middle of the 6th century B.C. the island was connected with the mainland by a mole (Freeman ii. 140, 505). At the beginning of the 5th century B.C. Syracusan history becomes far more clear. Hippocrates, tyrant of Gela (498–491), threatened the independence of Syracuse as well as of other cities, and it was saved only by the joint intervention of Corinth and Corcyra and by the cession of the vacant territory of Camarina. In 485 the Gamori, who had been expelled by the Demos and the Sicel serfs, and had taken refuge at Casmenae, craved help of Gelo, the successor of Hippocrates, who took possession of Syracuse without opposition, and made it the seat of his power. He gave citizenship both to mercenaries and to settlers from Greece, and added to the population the inhabitants of other cities conquered by him, so that Syracuse became a city of mixed population, in which the new citizens had the advantage. He then extended the city by including within the fortifications the low ground (or at any rate the western portion of the low ground) between Upper Achradina and the island, and making the Agora there; at the same time (probably) he was able to shift the position of the crossing to the island by making a new isthmus in the position of the present one, the old mole being broken through so as to afford an outlet from the Little Harbour on the east (Lupus, p. 91). The island thus became the inner city, the stronghold of the ruler, so that, despite its low level., it is often spoken of as the “ acropolis.” Gelo's general rule was mild, and he won fame as the champion of Hellas by his great victory over the Carthaginians at Himera. He is said to have been greeted as king; but he does not seemgto have taken the title in any formal way.,
Gelo's brother and successor, Hiero (478-467), kept up the power of the city; he won himself a name by his encouragement of poets, especially Aeschylus and Simonides, and philosophers; and his Pythian and Olympian victories made him the special subject of the songs of' Pindar and Bacchylides; among the recently discovered works of the latter are three Odes (iii.-v.) written for him. He appeared also as a Hellenic champion in the defence of Cumae against the Etruscans, and he attempted after the victory to found a Syracusan colony on the island of Aenaria, now Ischia." But his internal government, unlike that of Gelo, was suspicious, greedy and cruel. After some family disputes the power passed to his brother Thrasybulus, who was driven out next year by a general rising. In this revolution Thrasybulus and his mercenaries held the fortified quarters of Ortygia and Achradina; the revolted people held the unwalled suburbs, already, it is plain, thickly inhabited. Thrasybulus yielded to the common action of Siceliots and Sicels. Syracuse thus became a democratic commonwealth. Renewed freedom was celebrated by a colossal statue of Zeus Eleutherius and by a yearly feast in his honour. But when the mercenaries and other new settlers were shut out from office new struggles arose. The mercenaries again held Ortygia and Achradina. The people now walled in the suburb of Tyche to the west of Achradina (Freeman iii. 306, 312, 456). The mercenaries were at last got rid of in 461. Although we hear of attempts to seize the tyranny and of an institution called petalism, like the Athenian ostracism, designed to guard against such dangers, popular govern ment was not seriously threatened for more than fifty years. The part of Syracuse in general Sicilian affairs has been traced in the article Sicily (q.v.); but one striking scene is wholly local, when the defeated Ducetius took refuge in the hostile city (451), and the common voice of the people bade “ spare the suppliant.” We hear of a naval expedition to the Etruscan coast and Corsica about 453 B.c. and of the great military and naval preparations of Syracuse in 439 (Diod. xii. 30). Yet all that we read of Syracusan military and naval action during the former part of the Athenian siege shows how Syracuse had lagged behind the cities of old Greece, constantly practised as they were in warfare both by land and sea.
The Athenian siege (415–13) is of the deepest importance for the topography of Syracuse, and it throws some light on the internal politics. At first complete incredulity prevailed as to the Athenian expedition (Thuc. vi. 32). Hermocrates, the best of counsellors for external affairs, is suspected, and seemingly with reason, of disloyalty to the democratic constitution. Yet he is, like Nicias and Phocion, the official man, head of a board of fifteen generals, which he persuades the people to cut down to three. Athenagoras, the demagogue or opposition speaker, has an excellent exposition of democratic principles put into his mouth by Thucydides (vi. 36–40). Through the whole siege there was a treasonable party within the city, which—for what motives we are not told—kept up a correspondence with the besiegers. When the Athenian fleet under Nicias, Alcibiades and Lamachus was at Rhegium in Italy, after the discovery of the trick that had been played by the Segestans, the question for the commanders was whether they should seek to strengthen themselves by fresh alliances on the spot or strike the blow at once. Lamachus was for immediate action, and there can hardly be a doubt that Syracuse must have fallen before a sudden attack by so formidable an armament in the summer of 415. The Syracusans were neither united nor adequately prepared for effectual defence, and it is perfectly clear that they owed their final deliverance to extraordinary good fortune. Athens had the prize within her grasp, and she lost it wholly through the persistent dilatoriness and blundering of Nicias (q.v.). It was at his advice that the summer and autumn of 415 were frittered away, and the siege not begun till the spring of 414. By that time the Syracusans were both in better spirits and better prepared; their troops were better organized, and they had built a wall from north to south across Epipolae, taking in Tyche and Ternenites, so as to screen them from attack on the side of Epipolae on the north-west. The effect of this was to bar the enemy's approach and push back his blockading lines, which had to be carried over an inconveniently large extent of ground. They did not, however, occupy Euryelus, at the western extrernity of the high ground of Epipolae, and this omission allowed the Athenians to obtain possession of the whole plateau, and to begin the investment of the city. The Syracusans had been at first thoroughly cowed; but they were cowed no longer, and they even plucked up courage to sally out and fight the enemy on the high ground of Epipolae. They were beaten and driven back; but at the suggestion of Hermocrates they carried a counter-work up the slope of Epipolae, which, if completed, would cut in two the Athenian lines and frustrate the blockade. At this point Nicias showed considerable military skill. The Syracusans' work was destroyed by a prompt and well-executed attack; and a second counter-work carried across marshy ground some distance to the south of Epipolae and near to the Great Harbour was also demolished after a sharp action, in which Lamachus fell, an irretrievable loss. However, the blockade on the land side was now almost complete, and the Athenian fleet had at the same time entered the Great Harbour. The citizens began to think of surrender, and Nicias was so confident that he neglected to push his advantages. He left a gap to the north of the circular fort which formed the centre of the Athenian lines, the point where Epipolae slopes down to the sea, and he omitted to occupy Euryelus.
The second act of the drama may be said to open with the irretrievable blunder of Nicias in letting the Spartan Gylippus first land in Sicily, and then march at the head of a small army, partly levied on the spot, across the island, and enter Syracuse by way of Epipolae, past Euryelus. Gylippus was felt to be the representative of Sparta, and of the Peloponnesian Greeks generally, and his arrival inspired the Syracusans with the fullest confidence. lust before his arrival a few ships from Corinth had made their way into the harbour with the news that a great fleet was already on its way to the relief of the city. The tables were now completely turned, and we hear of nothing but defeat and disaster for the besiegers till their final overthrow. The military skill of Gylippus enabled the Syracusan militia to meet the Athenian troops on equal terms, to wrest from them their fortified position on Plemmyrium, which Nicias had occupied as a naval station shortly after Gylippus's arrival, and thus to drive them to keep their ships on the low beach between their double walls, to take Labdalum, an Athenian fort on the northern edge of Epipolae, and make a third counter-work right along Epipolae in a westerly direction, to the north of the circular fort. The Athenians were thus reduced to such a plight that, as Nicias said in his despatch towards the close of 414, they were themselves besieged rather than besieging. The naval preparations of the Syracusans, under the advice of Hermocrates, had led them, too, to confidence in their powers of giving battle to the .Athenian fleet. In the first sea-fight, which took place simultaneously with the capture of Plemmyrium, they had been unsuccessful; but in the spring of 413 they actually won a victory over the Athenians in their own element.
On the very next day, however, a second Athenian fleet arrived under Demosthenes and Eurymedon, with seventy-three ships of war and a large force of heavy infantry and light troops. The despatch of this expedition seems to prove an almost blind confidence in Nicias, whose request to be superseded the Athenian people refused to grant. Demosthenes decided at once to make a grand attack on Epipolae, with a view to recovering the Athenian blockading lines and driving the Syracusans back within the city walls. The assault was made by night by way of Euryelus under the uncertain light of the moon, and this circumstance turned what was very nearly a successful surprise into a ruinous defeat. The affair seems to have been well planned up to a certain point, and well executed; but the Athenian van, fiushed with a first success, their ranks broken and disordered by a pursuit of the enemy over rough ground, were repulsed with great loss by a body of heavy-armed Boeotians, and driven back in disorder. The confusion spread to the troops behind them, and the action ended in wild flight and slaughter. The army was now thoroughly out of heart, and Demosthenes was for at once breaking up the camp, embarking the troops, and sailing back to Athens. (It must be remembered that the Spartans were all this time in occupation of Deceleia; see Peloponnesian War.) But Nicias could not bring himself to face the Athenian people at home, nor could he be prevailed on to retire promptly to some position on the coast, such as Catania or Thapsus. He dallied till the end of August, many weeks after the defeat, when the coming of Syracusan reinforcements decided him to depart; but on the 27th of that month was an eclipse of the moon, on the strength of which he insisted on a delay of almost another month. His fleet, too, lingered uselessly in the harbour, till after a defeat in which Eurymedon perished, though the simultaneous land attack was unsuccessful. The Syracusans now blocked the mouth of the Great Harbour, and the Athenian fleet, after a frantic effort to break out and a desperate conflict, was utterly defeated and half destroyed. The broken and demoralized army, its ranks thinned by fever and sickness, at last began its hopeless retreat, attempting to reach Catania by a circuitous route; but, harassed by the numerous Syracusan cavalry and darters, after a few days of dreadful suffering, it was forced to lay down its arms. The Syracusans sullied the glory of their triumph by putting Nicias and Demosthenes to death, and huddling their prisoners into their stone quarries—a living death, dragged out, for the allies from Greece proper to the space of seventy days, for the Athenians themselves and the Greeks of Sicily and Italy for six months longer. Games called Assinarian, from the name of the river at which the final surrender occurred, were instituted to commemorate it.
Her great deliverance and victory naturally stirred up the energies of Syracuse at home and abroad. Syracusan and Selinuntine ships under Hermocrates now play a distinguished part in the warfare between Sparta and Athens on the coast of Asia. Under the influence of Diocles the constitution became a still more confirmed democracy, some at least of the magistracies being filled by lot, as at Athens (Diod. xiii. 31, 35; Arist. Pol. v. 3–6). Diocles appears also as the author of a code of laws of great strictness, which was held in such esteem that later lawgivers were deemed only its expounders. Under these influences Hermocrates was banished in 409; he submitted to the sentence, notwithstanding the wishes of his army. He went back to Sicily, Warred with Carthage on his own account, and brought back the bones of the unburied Syracusans from Himera, but was still so dreaded that the people banished Diocles without restoring him. In 407 he was slain in an attempt to enter the city, and with him was wounded one who was presently to outstrip both rivals.
This was Dionysius (the “ Elder ”), son of another Hermocrates and an adherent of the aristocratic party, but soon afterwards a demagogue, though supported by some men of rank, among them the historian Philistus (Diod. xiii. 91, 92). By accusing the generals engaged at Acragas in the war against Carthage, by obtaining the restoration of exiles (no doubt others of the partisans of Hermocrates), by high-handed proceedings at Gela, he secured his own election first as one of the generals, then as sole general (or with a nominal colleague), with special powers. He next, by another trick, procured from a military assembly at Leontini a vote of a bodyguard; he hired mercenaries and in 406–405 came back to Syracuse as tyrant of the city (Diod. xiii. 91–96). Dionysius kept his power till his death thirty eight years later (367). But it was well-nigh overthrown before he had fully grasped it. His defeat before Gela and his consequent decision that both Gela and Camarina should be evacuated, and left for the Carthaginians to plunder, were no doubt due to previous arrangement with the latter. His enemies in the army, chiefly the horsemen, reached Syracuse before him, plundered his house, and horribly maltreated his wife. He came and took his vengeance, slaying and driving out his enemies, who established themselves at Aetna (Diod. xiii. 113). In 397 Syracuse had to stand a siege from the Carthaginians under Himilco, who took up his quarters at the Olympieum, but his troops in the marshes below suffered from pestilence, and a masterly combined attack by land and sea by Dionysius ended in his utter defeat. Dionysius, however, allowed him to depart without further pressing his advantage. This revolution and the peace with the Carthaginians confirmed Dionysius in the possession of Syracuse, but of no great territory beyond, as Leontini was again a separate city. It left Syracuse the one great Hellenic city of Sicily, which, however enslaved at home was at least independent of the barbarian. Dionysius was able, like Gelo, though with less success and less honour, to take up the role of the champion of Hellas.
During the long tyranny of Dionysius the city grew greatly in size, population and grandeur. In fact the free Greek cities and communities, in both Sicily and southern Italy, were sacrificed to Syracuse; there the greatness and glory of the Greek world in the West were concentrated. The mass of the population of Gela and Camarina in the disastrous year 405 had, at the prompting of Dionysius, taken refuge at Syracuse. Gela had in the previous year received the fugitive inhabitants of Acragas (Agrigentum), which had been sacked by the Carthaginians. Syracuse thus absorbed three of the chief Greek cities of Sicily. It received large accessions from some of the Greek cities of southern Italy, from Hipponium on its west and Caulonia on its east coast, both of which Dionysius captured in 389 B.C. There had also been an influx of free citizens from Rhegium. At the time of the Athenian siege Syracuse consisted of two quarters-the island and the “outer city” of Thucydides, generally known as Achradina, and bounded by the sea on the north and east, with the adjoining suburbs of Apollo Temenites farther inland at the foot of the southern slopes of Epipolae and Tyche west of the north-west corner of Achradina. Dionysius largely extended the fortifications. The island (Ortygia) had been provided with its own defences, converted, in fact, into a separate stronghold, with a fort to serve specially as a magazine of corn, and with a citadel or acropolis which stood apart and might be held as a last refuge. Dionysius, to make himself perfectly safe, drove out a number of the old inhabitants and turned the place into a barracks, he himself living in the citadel. For any unpopularity he may have thus incurred he seems to have made up by his great works for the defence of the city. Profiting by the experience gained during the Athenian siege, he included in his new lines the whole plateau of Epipolae, with a strong fortress at Euryelus, its apex on the west; the total length of the outer lines (excluding the fortifications of the island) has been calculated at about 12 m. The material (limestone) was quarried on the spot. Each quarter of the city had its own distinct defences, and Syracuse was now the most splendid and the best fortified of all Greek cities. Its naval power, too, was vastly increased; the docks were enlarged; and 200 new warships were built. Besides the triremes, or vessels with three banks of oars, we hear of quadriremes and quinqueremes with four and five banks of oars—larger and taller and more massive ships than had yet been used in Greek sea warfare. The fleet of Dionysius was the most powerful in the Mediterranean. It was doubtless fear and hatred of Carthage, from which city the Greeks of Sicily had suffered so much, that urged the Syracusans to acquiesce in the enormous expenditure which they must have incurred under the rule of Dionysius. Much, too, was done for the beauty of the city as well as for its strength and defence. Several new temples were built, and gymnasia erected outside the walls near the banks of the Anapus (Diod. xv. 13).
“ Fastened by chains of adamant ” was the boastful phrase in which Dionysius described his empire; but under his son, the younger Dionysius—an easy, good-natured, unpractical man—a reaction set in amongst the restless citizens of Syracuse, which, with its vast and mixed populations, must have been full of elements of turbulence and faction. But the burdensome expenditure of the late reign would be enough to account for a good deal of discontent. A remarkable man now comes to the front—Dion, the friend and disciple of Plato—and for a time the trusted political adviser of his nephew Dionysius. Dion's idea seems to have been to make Dionysius something like a constitutional sovereign, and with this view he brought him into contact with Plato. All went well for a time; but Dionysius had Philistus and others about him, who were opposed to any kind of liberal reform, and the result was the banishment of Dion from Syracuse as a dangerous innovator. Ten years afterwards, in 357, the exile entered Achradina a victor, welcomed by the citizens as a deliverer both of themselves and of the Greeks of Sicily generally. A siege and blockade, with confused fighting and alternate victory and defeat, and all the horrors of fire and slaughter, followed, till Dion made himself finally master of the mainland city. Ortygia, provisions failing, was also soon surrendered. Dion's rule lasted only three years, for he perished in 354 by the hand of a Syracusan assassin. It was, in fact, after all his professions, little better than a military despotism. The tyrant's stronghold in the island was left standing.
Of what took place in Syracuse during the next ten years we know but little. The younger Dionysius came back and from his island fortress again oppressed the citizens; the plight of the city, torn by faction and conflicts and plundered by foreign troops, was so utterly wretched that all Greek life seemed on the verge of extinction (Plato, Exist. viii.). Sicily, too, was again menaced by Carthage. Syracuse, in its extremity, asked help from the mother-city, Corinth; and now appears on the scene one of the noblest figures in Greek history, Timoleon (q.v.). To him Syracuse owed her deliverance from the younger Dionysius and from Hicetas, who held the rest of Syracuse, and to him both Syracuse and the Sicilian Greeks owed a decisive triumph over Carthage and the safe possession of Sicily west of the river Halycus, the largest portion of the island. From 343 to 337 he was supreme at Syracuse, with the hearty good will of the citizens. The younger Dionysius had been allowed to retire to Corinth; his island fortress was destroyed and replaced by a court of justice. Syracuse rose again out of her desolation— grass, it is said, grew in her streets—and, with an influx of a multitude of new colonists from Greece and from towns of Sicily and Italy, once more became a prosperous city. Timoleon, having accomplished his work, accepted the position of a private citizen, though, practically, to the end of his life he was the ruler of the Syracusan people. After his death (337) a splendid monument, with porticoes and gymnasia surrounding it, known as the Timoleonteum, was raised at the public cost to his honour.
In the interval of twenty years between the death of Timoleon and the rise of Agathocles (q.v.) to power another revolution at Syracuse transferred the government to an oligarchy of 600 leading citizens. All we know is the bare fact. It was shortly after this revolution, in 317, that Agathocles with a body of mercenaries from Campania and a host of exiles from the Greek cities, backed up by the Carthaginian Hamilcar, who was in friendly relations with the Syracusan oligarchy, became a tyrant or despot of the city, assuming subsequently, on the strength of his successes against Carthage, the title of king. Syracuse passed through another reign of terror; the new despot proclaimed himself the champion of popular government, and had the senate and the heads of the oligarchical party massacred wholesale. He seems to have had popular manners, for a unanimous vote of the people gave him absolute control over the fortunes of Syracuse. His wars in Sicily and Africa left him time to do something for the relief of the poorer citizens at the expense of the rich, as well as to erect new fortifications and public buildings; and under his strong government Syracuse seems to have been at least quiet and orderly. After his death in 289 comes another miserable and obscure period of revolution and despotism, in which Greek life was dying out; and but for the brief intervention of Pyrrhus in 278 Syracuse, and indeed all Sicily, would have fallen a prey to the Carthaginians.
A better time began under Hiero II., who had fought under Pyrrhus and who rose from the rank of general of the Syracusan army to be tyrant—king, as he came to be soon styled—about 270. During his reign of over fifty years, ending probably in 216, Syracuse enjoyed tranquillity, and seems to have grown greatly in wealth and population. Hiero's rule was kindly and enlightened, combining good order with a fair share of liberty and self-government. His financial legislation was careful and considerate; his laws as to the customs and the corn tithes were accepted and maintained under the Roman government, and one of the many bad acts of the notorious Verres, according to Cicero, was to set them aside (Cic. In Verr. ii. 13, iii. 8). It was a time, too, for great public works—works for defence at the entrance of the Lesser Harbour between the island and Achradina, and temples and gymnasia. Hiero through his long reign was the stanch friend and ally of Rome in her struggles with Carthage; but his paternal despotism, under which Greek life and civilization at Syracuse had greatly flourished, was unfortunately succeeded by the rule of a man who wholly reversed his policy.
Hieronymus, the grandson of Hiero, thought fit to ally himself with Carthage; he did not live, however, to see the mischief he had done, for he fell in a conspiracy which he had wantonly provoked by his arrogance and cruelty. There was a fierce popular outbreak and more bloodshed ; the conspirators were put to death and Hiero's family was murdered; whilst the Carthaginian faction, under the pretence of delivering the city from its tyrants, got the upper hand and drew the citizens into open defiance of Rome. M. Claudius Marcellus was then in command of the Roman army in Sicily, and he threatened the Syracusans with attack unless they would get rid of Epicydes and Hippocrates, the heads of the anti-Roman faction. Epicydes did his best to stir up the citizens of Leontini against Rome and the Roman party at Syracuse. Marcellus, therefore struck his first blow at Leontini, which was quickly stormed; and the tale of the horrors of the sack was at once carried to Syracuse and roused the anger of its population, who could not but sympathize with their near neighbours, Greeks like themselves. The general feeling was now against any negotiations with the Roman general, and, putting themselves under Epicydes and Hippocrates, they closed their gates on him. Marcellus, after an unsuccessful attempt to negotiate, began the siege in regular form (214 B.C.) by both land and sea, establishing a camp on Polichne, where stood the old temple of Olympian Zeus ; but he made his chief assault on the northern side and on the defences of Tyche, particularly at the Hexapylum, the entrance facing Megara and Leontini. His assault seawards was made mainly on Achradina, but the city was defended by a numerous soldiery and by what seem to have been still more formidable, the ingenious contrivances of Archimedes, whose engines dealt havoc among the Roman ships, and frustrated the attack on the fortifications on the northern slopes of Epipolae (Liv., xxiv. 34). Marcellus had recourse to a blockade, but Carthaginian vessels from time to time contrived to throw in supplies. At length treachery began to work within. Information was given him in the spring of 212 (two years from the commencement of the siege) that the Syracusans were celebrating a great festival to Artemis; making use of this opportunity, he forced the Hexapylum entrance by night and established himself in Tyche and on the heights of Epipolae. The strong fortress of Euryalus held out for a time, but, being now isolated, it soon had to surrender. The “outer” and the “inner city” of Thucydides still held out, whilst a Carthaginian fleet was moored off Achradina and Carthaginian troops were encamped on the spot. But a pestilence broke out in the autumn of 212, which swept them clean away, and thinned the Roman ranks. The ships sailed away to Carthage; on their way back to Syracuse with supplies they could not get beyond Cape Pachynus owing to adverse winds, and they were confronted by a Roman fleet. All hope for the city being now at an end, the Syracusans threw themselves on the mercy of Marcellus; but Achradina and the island still held out for a brief space under the Syracusan mercenaries, till one of their officers, a Spaniard, betrayed the latter position to the enemy, and at the same time Achradina was carried and taken. Marcellus gave the city up to plunder (Liv., xxv. 31), and the art treasures in which it was so rich—many of the choicest of them no doubt—were conveyed to Rome. From this time art seems to have become quite fashionable in certain Roman circles. Archimedes perished in the confusion of the sack, while he was calmly pursuing his studies (Liv., xxv. 31).
Syracuse was now simply one of the provincial cities of Rome's empire, and its history is henceforward merged in that of Sicily. It retained much of its Greek character and many of its finest public buildings, even after the havoc wrought by Marcellus. Its importance and historic associations naturally marked it out as the residence of the Roman praetor or governor of Sicily. Cicero often speaks of it as a particularly splendid and beautiful city, as still in his own day the seat of art and culture 3 (Tusc., v. 66 ; De Deor. nat., iii. 81 ; De rep. i. 21), and in his speeches against Verres (iv. 52, 53) he gives an elaborate description of its four quarters (Achradina, Neapolis, Tyche, the island).
It seems to have suffered in the civil wars at the hands of Sextus Pompeius, the son of the triumvir, who for a short time was master of Sicily ; to repair the mischief, new settlers were sent by Augustus in 21 B.C., and established in the island and in the immediately adjoining part of Achradina (Strabo, vi. 270).
It was he who probably constructed the amphitheatre. Tacitus, in a passing mention of it (Ann. xiii. 49), says that permission was granted to the Syracusans under Nero to exceed the pre-scribed number of gladiators in their shows. Caligula restored its decayed walls and some of its famous temples (Suetonius, Calig. 21). In the 4th century it is named by the poet Ausonius in his Ordo nobilium urbium, chiefly, perhaps, on the strength of its historic memories. In 665 Heraclius Constans fixed his capital here, but owing to his oppressive government was assassinated in 668. Syracuse has been a place of comparatively little importance since the year 878, when it was destroyed by the Saracens under Ibrahim ibn Ahmad.
Archaeology.—The medieval and modern town of Syracuse (with the exception of a new quarter which has sprung up since the construction of the railway between the station and the island) is confined to the island. This contains the remains of two Doric temples. The older, belonging probably to the beginning of the 6th century B.C., appears, from an inscription on the uppermost step, to have been dedicated to Apollo. It was a peripteral hexastyle, and must have had at least nineteen columns at the sides; the portion excavated shows that its total width is 74¼ ft., the width of the cella 38½ ft., the lower diameter of the columns 6¼ ft. The other temple, into which the cathedral was built in A.D. 640, is to be dated after 440 B.C. It was a peripteral hexastyle of thirty-six columns, with a total length of 160½ ft. and a total breadth of 72 ft.; the columns have a lower diameter' of 5¾ ft., and the inter-columniation is 13½ ft. It is generally regarded as the temple of Athena.
Near the west coast of the island is the famous fountain of Arethusa. According to the legend, the nymph Arethusa was changed into the fountain by Artemis to deliver her from the pursuit of the river-god Alpheus (q.v.); and the spring, which was fresh until an earthquake broke the barrier and let in the salt water, was supposed to be actually connected with the river. There are interesting remains of medieval architecture in the closely built town with its narrow streets; the beautiful 14th-century windows of the Palazzo Montalto may be especially noticed, and also the 13th-century Castello Mainace at the southern extremity of the island. The town also contains the archaeological museum, which, under the direction of Professor Orsi, is now the best arranged in the island. The discoveries of recent years in the south-eastern portion of Sicily, including especially the objects found in Sicel and Greek cemeteries, may be studied here. The isthmus connecting the island with the mainland, which was defended by strong fortifications erected by Charles V. and Philip II. (now demolished), does not occupy the site of the mole erected in the 6th or 7th century B.C., which may be recognized as having run due north from the north point of the island to the mainland near the ferry of S. Lucia. The Little Harbour was thus in origin merely a recess of the Great Harbour; and it was probably Gelo who was responsible for making it an independent port, by establishing the crossing to the island in its present position. On the land-ward side of the new isthmus was the Agora, in which remains of a colonnade of the Roman period have been found. To the west are the remains of an extensive building of the Roman period, probably a palaestra with a small Odeum attached. To the W.N.W. is the so-called Piano del Fusco, an extensive necropolis, in which over six hundred tombs, mostly of the 7th and 6th centuries B.C., have been found.4 This necropolis was included within the defensive wall of Dionysius, a portion of which, no less than 182 ft. thick, was found in 1886 running diagonally across the new cemetery, and in 1903 an outwork in front of it was discovered (P. Orsi, in Notizie degli scavi, 1903, 517). East of this point it probably followed the edge of the low terrace above the marsh (the ancient Lysimeleia), while in the other direction it ran N.N.W., making straight for the western edge of the gorge known as the Portella del Fusco, which was thus included within the fortifications, as it would otherwise have afforded a means of access to the enemy. Here the wall gained the top of the cliffs which mark the southern edge of the plateau of Epipolae, which from this point onwards it followed as far as Euryelus. The south wall of Epipolae, considerable remains of which exist, shows traces of different periods in its construction, and was probably often restored. It is built of rectangular blocks of limestone generally quarried on the spot, about 5⅓ ft. long, 2 ft. high and 2⅔ ft. deep. The thickness of the wall averages 10 ft., but varies 3 or 4 ft. each way. The point where the terrace of Epipolae narrows down to a ridge about 60 yds. wide, which is its only link with the hills to the west, had thrice proved during the Athenian siege to be the key to Syracuse. It now bears the ruins of a mighty fortress, finer than that which defends the entrance to the acropolis of Selinus-the most imposing, indeed, that has come down to us from the Greek period—which there is no doubt is the work of Dionysius. The total length of the works is about 440 yds. In front of the castle proper are three ditches, the innermost of which can be reached from the interior of the castle by a complicated system of underground passages. The front of the castle is formed by five massive towerszbehind it are two walled courtyards, to the north of the easternmost of which is the well-guarded main entrance to the plateau of Epipolae (narrower minor entrances are to be seen on both the north and the south sides) communicating by a long underground passage with the inner ditch in front of the castle proper. That this point is to be identified with Euryelus is now generally admitted (see Lupus, 125–127; Freeman, iii. 661). Earlier writers make this the site of Labdalum, and put Euryelus farther west; but Labdalum must be sought somewhat farther east, near the northern edge of the plateau, in a point not visible from the Athenian central fort (κύκλος) with a view over Megara—not therefore in the commanding position of Dionysius's fort, with an uninterrupted view on all sides. On the north side of Epipolae the cliffs are somewhat more abrupt; here the wall, of a similar construction to that on the south, is also traceable: but here it is apparently all of one period. It is, indeed, recorded by Diodorus that Dionysius built the north wall from Euryelus to the Hexapylon in twenty days for a length of 2¾ m., employing 60,000 peasants and 6000, yoke of oxen for the transport of the blocks. Several smaller entrances are to be seen in it, as in the south wall: among them one with a series of inclined planes cut in the rock, which leads to an ancient road running south-east to the neighbourhood of the theatre. The Hexapylon plays an important part in the Roman siege of Syracuse. It was the main entrance on the north, and no doubt is to be identified with the so-called Scala Greca, where the modern highroad leaves the plateau. This highroad, which probably follows an ancient line, may be reasonably held to mark the west boundary of Tyche. Five hundred yards to the east of it an interesting postern was discovered in 1895 (Orsi, in Notizie degli scavi, 1893, 168), at the point where the wall leaves the edge of the plateau and begins to follow the sea-coast; and half a mile farther on we reach the deep gorge of S. Bonagia (more correctly Panagia), which here forms the boundary between Tyche and Achradina. The west boundary of Achradina is marked farther south by a perpendicular cutting in the rock, on the top of which a wall must have run (see above). To the east of the gorge the wall still follows the edge of low cliffs of the coast, and continues to do so all along the east side of Achradina as far as the Little Harbour. On this side traces of it are very scanty, as the sea-spray has eaten away the stone.
The most important buildings of which we have any remains are to be found in the lower part of Achradina and in Neapolis, a quarter of which we hear first in the time of Dionysius, and which at first was confined to the lower ground below Temenites, but in Roman times included it and the theatre also (Lupus, 168), though it did not extend beyond the theatre to the uppermost part of the plateau. In lower Achradina remains of Roman private houses have been found, and it is in this district that the early Christians constructed their Catacombs. Those which are entered from near the 12th-century church of S. Giovanni, situated near an ancient temple, are extensive and important, and include the ancient crypt of S. Marcianus, and the type is different from that of the Roman Catacombs, the galleries being far larger (partly owing to the hardness of the limestone in which they are excavated), and having circular chambers at the points of junction. In Neapolis, on the other hand, public buildings predominate. The temple of Apollo Temenites has entirely disappeared, but the theatre, entirely hewn in the rock, is still to be seen. It is the largest in Sicily, being about 146 yds. in diameter, and having about sixty rows of seats; the eleven lower tiers were originally covered with marble. Each of the nine cunei bore a name: the inscriptions of live of them, still preserved on the rock, are in honour of Zeus, Heracles, King Hiero II., his wife Philistis, and his daughter in-law Nereis. Of the stage nothing but cuttings in the rock for foundations are visible. The situation is well chosen, commanding a splendid view over the Great Harbour. Not far off to the south-east is the amphitheatre, probably erected by Augustus when he founded a colony at Syracuse; it is partly cut in the rock and partly built. It is inferior in size only to the Colosseum and the amphitheatres of Capua and Verona, measuring about 153 by I3O yds. over all: the arena is 76, by 43 yds. To the west of the amphitheatre is the foundation of the great altar erected by Hiero II. (Diod. xvi. 85), 217 yds. long by 24 wide, and about 6 yds. in height; To the north-west of the theatre a winding road ascends through the rock, with comparatively late tomb chambers on each side of it. In this district are seen hundreds of small niches cut in the rock, as a rule about 2 ft. square and a few inches deep, which served for containing inscriptions or reliefs, sometimes of a sepulchral character, but sometimes relating to the cult of a divinity. Many of them are also found in the quarries (Orsi, in Notizie degli scavi, 1904, 277). Both the districts just described also contain huge quarries, the famous Lautumiae (from Gr. λαᾶς, stone, and τεμεῖν, to cut; hence λατομία, quarry) of Syracuse, over 100 ft. deep and of great extent (though through the collapse of the pillars supporting the undermined rock they have become still larger than they were in ancient times). They are now overgrown with luxuriant vegetation. The upper plateau (Achradina, Tyche, Epipolae itself) is now largely cultivated at the east end, less so at the west end. It is traversed by the subterranean aqueducts by which the city was supplied (see Aqueducts), and by a few ancient roads, but contains practically no remains of ancient buildings. Cuttings in the rock for the foundations of such are numerous round the south edge of Temenites and Achradina, and are to be seen at various points near the city wall. But otherwise the disappearance of the edifices of ancient Syracuse is most striking.
We have already seen that immediately outside Lower Neapolis on the south the marshes of Lysimeleia begin, which proved fatal to more than one besieging force. They are traversed by the Anapus, with its tributary the Cyane, the latter famous for the papyrus planted by the Arabs, which here alone in Europe grows wild in the stream. To the south of the Anapus is the hill of Polichne, on which stood the Olympieium, attributed on stylistic grounds to 581 B.C. Its monolithic columns, of which two are still standing, are about 21 ft. in height and 6 ft. in lower diameter: its length is estimated at 197 ft., its breadth at 66¾ ft. (Orsi, in Monumenti dei Lincei, 1903, xiii. 369). The hill was frequently occupied in attacks on Syracuse by the besieging force. It is not, however, defensible in the rear: hence Dionysius's success against the Carthaginians. The hill of Dascon is to be sought a trifle to the south-east, to the south of the mouth of the Anapus, on the edge of the Great Harbour, at the Punta Caderini. From this point southwards the shore of the Great Harbour, previously low and marshy, begins to rise, until the rocky promontory of Plemmyrium is reached, which closes it on the south. Here Sicel tombs have been found, in some of which it appears that the Athenian dead were hastily buried (Freeman iii. 365, n. 1), while a colossal tomb, attributable also to the time of the Athenian invasion, was found there in 1899.
See A. Holm and F. S. and C. Cavallari, Topografia archeological di Siracusa (Palermo, 1883), or the more handy German translation by B. Lupus, Topographie von Syracuse (Strassburg, 1887); P. Orsi, in Atti del congresso di scienze storiche, v. 181 (Rome, 1904), and in Notizie degli scavi, passim; E. Mauceri, Siracusa (Palermo, 1904); J. Führer and V. Schultze, “ Die altchristlichen Grabstätten Siziliens," Jahrbuch des k. d. arch. Inst.; Ergänzungsheft, vii. 17 sqq. (Berlin, 1907). In the hills to the west of Syracuse many Sicel villages must have existed; cemeteries of the second and third period have been found at Pantalica 15 m. to the north-west, with the ruins of the habitation of the chief of the tribe, and of the second at Cassibile, 10 m. S.S.W. (see Orsi in Monumenti dei Lincei (1899) ix. 33, 146). (E. A. F.; T. As.)
- Strabo goes on to say that Archias fell in with certain men who had come from the Sicilian Megara, and took them with him to share in his enterprise. But this version implies that Megara was founded before Syracuse, which is contrary to all other authorities. The whole question of the various tales relating to the foundation of Syracuse is discussed by E. A. Freeman, History of Sicily, i. 335
- The origin of the name Συράκουσαι is quite uncertain. It has been suggested that it may be Phoenician: and, again, the plural form has been thought to point perhaps to “ the union of two originally distinct posts," one on the island, the other on the mainland on the hill where the ruins of the Olympieum stand, known as πολίχνη—the latter being the original Syracuse.
- Netum (Noto) and Helorum, both to the S.S.W. of Syracuse, must have been among its earliest settlements (Freeman ii. 17).
- The site of Casmenae is uncertain; it was to the south-west of Syracuse, and not improbably at Spaccaforno (Freeman ii. 25).
- Holm and Cavallari (cf. Lupus, Topographie von Syrakus, 91) make the construction of the mole and of the wall across it contemporary with the fortification of Achradina in the middle of the 7th century B.C. They also consider that the original west boundary of Achradina ran down to the Little Harbour, so that the southern boundary of Achradina was the sea itself.
- Holm and Cavallari (see Lupus, p. 99) are inclined to attribute to him the addition of Tyche to the city.
- Diod. xi. 72; cf. Arist. Pol. v. 3, 10.
- The chief authorities for the siege are Thucydides (bks. vi. and vii.), Diodorus (bk. xiii.) and Plutarch, Nicias.
- The laws of Hiero are often mentioned with approval in Cicero's speeches against Verres.
- This statement made by Polybius (viii. 5) is almost incredible. Livy's account of the siege, too, is full of topographical difficulties (Lupus, 214 sqq.)
- The name is a widespread Greek name for a spring.
- Lupus, Topographie von Syraleus, 26, 88, 91. Near the ferry are a row of long parallel cuttings in the rock, which must be remains of the ancient docks, each being intended to take a ship.
- It is remarkable that hardly any tombs of the 5th century B.C. have come to light.
- The date of the fragment of city wall immediately to the north-east of the so-called palaestra is uncertain; it is therefore doubtful whether it can belong to this system of defences (Lupus, pp. 308, 331).
- As to the question whether it was finished at the time of the Carthaginian invasion of 397 B.C., see Freeman, iv. 55. In any case it must have been completed by 385 B.C.
- Here are numerous caves in the rock, used for the worship of Artemis.
- St Paul tarried at Syracuse three days on his way to Rome (Acts xxviii. 12).
- A large reservoir of the Greek period exists under the present railway station (Notizie degli scavi, 1904, 280).