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Cathedral of Siracusa in Sicily during a sunny day with tourists taking pictures

Siracusa

Overview

  From its superb location on the eastern Sicilian coast, the city of Siracusa extends off the island of Ortigia, where the most important traces of its glorious past can be found. Ortigia is linked to the mainland by bridge, and it’s on the mainland that the modern city lies. Founded in 734-733 BC by a group of Corinthians colonists, it took the name of Syraka. To Syracuse is related the name of Dionysius I, one of the greatest princes of his time, who ensured its hegemony over the Magna Graecia and conquered a great prestige throughout the Mediterranean. Only with great sacrifice and deception, the Romans managed to conquer the city, defended by the extraordinary works of Archimedes, in 212 BC. Despite its decline, Syracuse remained the best known and most important city of Sicily, to the point that the East Emperor Costante II chosen Siracusa as the capital of his empire. Only after the Arab conquest in 878, it lost its supremacy among the cities of Sicily and began its slow decline.

Landmarks

Noto, Siracusa, Sicily The Temple of Apollo and Artemis It dates back to the first half of the sixth century and therefore, it is the oldest of the great Greek temples in Sicily. Over the centuries, it was transformed into a Byzantine church, a mosque, a Christian basilica and all the successive transformation were discovered during the excavations carried out between 1.938 and 1.943. The temple was Doric and it presents some peculiarities due to the archaic era. The Cathedral The Cathedral overlooks the square, surrounded by elegant baroque buildings (these, among other things, are a feature of Ortigia, as they are located everywhere on the island) and it occupies an ancient holy place. The Archaeological Park of Neapolis The “Latomie” are stone quarries from which the materials were removed to extend the urban area of Syracuse. The most evocative is the “Latomia del Paradiso”, that is in a lush garden. The famous "Ear of Dionysius”, a large cave where there is an extraordinary acoustic amplification effect.  The legend says that the tyrant from whom the cave takes its name, hidden near a crack on the rock, used to listen to any conversation, even if whispered, of prisoners locked up in it. Not far away is the "Cava dei Cordari" (taking its name from the word meaning “the person who make the rope”). Finally, in order, the smaller “Latomia”.     The Greek Theater It's the most perfect expression of the theatrical architecture and it’s and one of the largest Greek theaters in the world (138.60 m its diameter). In the theater, which is carved into the rock of the hill, there took place the first tragedies and comedies of famous authors such as Aeschylus and Epicharmus, and the old stage is used still today. Every two years the National Institute of Ancient Drama organizes here the classical performances, with dramas of the ancient Greece.     The Hierone Altar The remains of this huge structure are near the theater. It was an altar, nearly 200 meters long, where public sacrifices used to take place.   The Roman Amphitheater It dates back to the third or fourth century AD, and its shape is is elliptical, with an external diameter of 140 and 119 meters, slightly smaller than the Arena of Verona. From 1.526, Spain led to the systematic spoliation of the monuments in the Neapolis to build the fortifications of Ortigia, causing great damages to structures that, probably, were still well preserved. The monuments were brought to light during the following excavations of the nineteenth century.
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