Syracuse, City of Legends: A Glory of Sicily

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The Athenian Expedition to Sicily 3. Dionysius I: Tyrant and Warlord 4. Five More Tyrants 5. Hiero II and the Roman Siege 6. Cicero and the Rise of Rome 7. Santa Lucia and the Early Christians 8. Byzantium and the Arab Siege 9. Outline to Silver decadrachm, possibly the Demareteion. By permission of the Trustees of the British Museum. Head of Zeus, bronze coin c. Silver coin, c. Hiero II with headband. Bronze coin c.

Sicily Book Suggestions

The Spanish Fortifications. Syracuse in The Little Harbour. Coat of Arms. From Wikimedia Commons. Silver decadrachm, possibly to commemorate victory over the Athenians. Temple of Olympian Zeus in Agostino Aglio. The Venus Landolina. The Adelfia Sarcophagus. The Maniace Castle in The Ligne Gate. Piazza Duomo.

Ortygia and the Great Harbour. Old Post Office and inland waterway. Basilica of Santa Lucia. Greek theatre, from Wikimedia Commons, photograph by Jerzy Strzelecki, Silver statue of Santa Lucia. Sepulchre of Santa Lucia. Maniace Castle. From The Bridgeman Art Library.

Sixteenth century frescoes from the Uffizi in Florence, Stanza della Matematica, —, attributed to Giulio Parigi — Bridgeman Art Gallery.

Temple of Apollo. List of maps 1. Syracuse during the Athenian siege. Syracuse under Dionysius I. Ancient Motya.

A Glory of Sicily

Exploring the city we could see that it was a fascinating place. I became interested in the history and started to do some research and discovered a mass of literature referring to Syracuse, but no recent book on her history and monuments. A project began to take shape and this book is the result, which is intended both for the general reader interested in the Mediterranean and for the visitor looking for specific guidance on the city. The book is in two parts.

Part I tells the story of Syracuse concentrating upon ancient times when the city was at the peak of her power. There is an outline chapter bringing the story up to and a final chapter on the modern city. It is told in narrative form, making full use of contemporary accounts. The many colourful legends which accompany the story, some well known like the sword of Damocles, make the task of disentangling fact from fiction more difficult but are full of interest in their own right.


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A prologue sets the scene and gives the views of travellers to Syracuse in the past. Part II describes the monuments and works of art to be seen today. They come from different eras and for the sake of clarity are presented in their historical context, together with maps showing their locations. Because of this division into historical eras, certain sites such as the Cathedral and the Archaeological Museum appear in more than one chapter. The story in Part I highlights the main, well-documented events and outstanding characters.

The full history, as told by the nineteenthcentury historians, is too complex and too full of twists and turns to be included in a book of this kind. Likewise, in a place so filled with relics of the past as to be almost impossible to catalogue, not every monument gets a mention.

For the story, original sources have been used wherever possible. For the monuments, the works of archaeologists and other specialists have been consulted. The conclusions of my own visits are also included. Photos, illustrations and maps play an integral part in the book to illustrate both the story and the monuments.

To help explain the material, a chronological table and a glossary have been added. A note on the use of proper names: Italian names have been preferred throughout, for the sake of consistency and clarity. Thus, the point in the harbour opposite Ortygia is called Plemmirio, which the visitor will find on the map, rather than by its classical name.

To some extent the monuments and works of art present a moving target in terms of where they can be found and when they are open, as Syracuse is going through a period of rapid change. One hears that in future the coin collection, currently to be seen in Piazza Duomo, will be moved to the Archaeological Museum.

Initiative is required to track down the things to see, and information is scarce.

Syracuse, City of Legends: A Glory of Sicily - AbeBooks - Jeremy Dummett:

This is why it can be a good idea, during a stay in the city, to hire the services of a guide for a whole or a half day. Hotels and letting agencies can advise on guides who should be booked well in advance. Although Sicily is well known for her cities, history and travel books tend to cover the whole island; this book is unusual in concentrating upon one place, with the advantage of presenting a continuous story in depth. If it can contribute to the appreciation and enjoyment of Syracuse and her province, it will have achieved its aim.

Sicilian History and Culture

I am particularly grateful to Liz Friend-Smith and her colleagues at I. Tauris for publishing it and for their suggestions on structure. Early in the project I was lucky to get some sound professional advice, pointing me in the right direction, for which I would like to thank Jeremy Mynott and Roger Crowley.

For the research, the British Library proved to be an amazing resource with highly efficient staff. During our visits to Syracuse we were well looked after by Lilla Occhipinti and Massimo Burgio, who provided us with convenient and comfortable apartments in which to stay. Getting to know the monuments was greatly helped by the presence of a guide, and we spent many happy and informative hours exploring the sites in the company of Eva Greco and Carmine Corso. They added greatly to our knowledge of the city. Other vital sources of information included the staff working at the sites, and the local bookshops and newspapers.

Family connections proved most useful, and I would like to thank the following for their contributions: Caroline Knight for her advice on obtaining illustrations; Georgina Kirk and Iain Moran for developing my website; Mark Dummett for his comments on early chapters; Cassie for sharing her recent experience of publishing a book; Alex and Henry for photography and Hermione for her help throughout the project.

The Land, The History, The People

Ciane Ragusa Avola na Noto ro S. Strategically placed between Italy and North Africa and between east and west, the island became a frontier zone for warring nations. According to the Sicilian writer Andrea Camilleri, Sicily has suffered 13 foreign dominations from which she has taken both the best and the worst.

This sequence of different cultures has made Sicily a fascinating place, quite unlike any other. The site had unique advantages, and no city has ever had a better natural position in which to develop as a maritime and commercial power. The dominant features were two magnificent harbours bounded by a rocky promontory, originally an island, and a ridge of hills beyond. The Great Harbour provided safe anchorage for a whole fleet of ships. The Little Harbour became a shipyard with protected access.

The promontory became a fortified citadel, known as Ortygia, while the ridge of hills, the Epipoli, gave protection from the interior of Sicily. In this position Syracuse became one of the best defended cities in the Mediterranean. Few cities were so praised in antiquity for the beauty of their buildings and their works of art; few cities have experienced such extremes of fortune; few cities have such an illustrious cast of characters and can say that, at their peak, they were one of the greatest cities in the world.

The usual way to approach Syracuse these days is by road from Catania. Etna is the greatest volcano in Europe and, at 3, metres high, is nearly three times the height of Vesuvius. It is still active and eruptions have caused much damage over the years, destroying villages and even threatening Catania in recent memory.

While occasionally destructive, it is not normally considered dangerous and people live on its slopes, working the land. To the south of Etna and around Catania the land is under intense cultivation, its dark, lava-enriched soil full of vineyards, orange and lemon groves and vegetable gardens.

From Catania the road to Syracuse runs down the wide coastal plain lined with eucalyptus trees, before winding up a hill to reach the plain again near the Bay of Augusta. Here an industrial plant comes into view down by the coast. This is an oil refinery and chemical works that dominate the bay with storage tanks and ugly metal towers, built in the s when oil was discovered off the Sicilian coast.