A Province Of Sicily, on the E. coast, bordering on Catania and Caltanisetta, and the Mediterranean; area, 1,429 sq. m.; pop. in 1872, 294,-885. It is chiefly mountainous, but the south is a plain. The principal rivers are the Ana-po, Abisso, and Ragusa. The valleys of these rivers, the bases of the mountains, and the districts along the coast are very fertile, and contain excellent pastures and some good timber. Agriculture and cattle raising are the chief occupations. The principal products are grain, barley, olives, wines, fruit, flax, and hemp. Among the mineral products are marble, agates, stalactites of various colors, and bitumen. The province is divided into the districts of Syracuse, Noto, and Modica.
A City (Anc. Syracusoe), capital of the province, on the E. coast, 30 m. S. S. E. of Catania, and 81 m. S. by W. of Messina; pop. in 1872, 22,179. It is fortified, and maintains a garrison, but is commanded by the heights of Achradina. It is the see of a bishop, and has a fine cathedral, partly on the site and partly composed of the ancient temple of Minerva, numerous palaces, and several churches and convents. The streets are narrow, and there are extensive ruins of amphitheatres, baths, etc. The city has some trade in w:ine, oil, brandy, fruits, salt, saltpetre, sulphur, and a little grain. - The ancient Syracusse was the largest city of Sicily; its walls, flanked by towers, were about 22 m. in circuit, and the number of inhabitants in its most prosperous period is stated by different waiters at 500,000, 900,000, and even 1,200,000. It really consisted of five towns adjoining each other, but separated by walls, viz., Ortygia, Achradina, Tyche, Neapolis, and the Epipolae, and hence was sometimes called Pentapolis. The original city was Ortygia, on an oblong island about 2 m. in circuit, between the Great or Greek harbor on the west and the Little harbor on the east; after a time it was connected with the mainland by a causeway, and was then spoken of as Ortygia on the peninsula.
Achradina, which was next in age, was on the other side of the Little harbor, and extended along the sea coast for about 3 m., E. of the port of Trogilus, without the limits of the city; it was built partly on the lowlands along the shore, and partly on the heights which rise in a wall of rocks some little distance inland. N. W. of Achradina and on the same range of heights stood Tyche, separated from it only by a double wall and a highway between; it extended northward about 2 m., and at its W. extremity were several heights named the Epipolae, which were enclosed by Dionysius the Elder and formed one vast fortress. S. of Tyche, and opposite Ortygia, on the lowlands and extending to the wall of Achradina, at the foot of the heights, was Ne-apolis or the new town. W. and S. of Ortygia, around the marshy shores of the Great harbor as far as the rocky peninsula of Plem-myrium, were suburbs and gardens. After the Roman conquest, as the city declined in wealth and population, its limits became more restricted; at the time of Augustus it occupied only Ortygia and the lower part of Achradina, and since its capture by the Saracens it has been confined to the Ortygian peninsula.
The heights of Achradina now present only a surface of rock, the ancient buildings and the soil having been alike removed. The sea has undermined the shore, the walls have disappeared, and over the elevated and extensive plain only steps hewn in the rock or a few courses of stone give evidence of the vast population which once inhabited it. On the peninsula and the lowland portion of Achradina and Neapolis, evidences of the former greatness of Syracuse are more abundant. Near the borders of Tyche, Achradina, and Neapolis is the ancient theatre hewn out of the rock and now much overgrown with bushes; it is 440 ft. in diameter, contained 60 ranges of seats, all cut in the rock, and could accommodate 24,000 spectators. Not far from this are the ruins of an amphitheatre of the Roman period. Nearer to Ortygia are the ruins of the palace of Agathocles, and on the peninsula are traces of several other palaces. The lautumioe or latomioe, originally quarries cut in the wall of rocks which formed the face of the heights of Achradina, and excavated to the depth ot 60 to 80 ft., are still perfect. Some of them were used as prisons; in one the Athenian prisoners were confined on the surrender of Nicias, and most of them perished.
Near the site of the ancient theatre, on one side of the quarry, is that remarkable prison cut in the rock, now called the "ear of Dionysius." There are also catacombs of great extent containing subterranean streets of tombs, in which Greek and Roman, Christian and Saracen, have all found burial. The remains of a great aqueduct begun by Gelon and improved by Hiero also exist. Near the left bank of the Anapo, outside the walls and S. W. of the city, are the ruins of the temple of Jupiter Olympius. The celebrated fountain of Arethusa, long in a ruinous condition and used by washerwomen, has been repaired and beautified by the city authorities; a wall separates it from the sea. There are also remains of several baths, one of them with a spiral staircase. In the museum of the modern city are preserved statues, vases, coins, and inscriptions gathered from the ruins. - Syracuse was founded by the Corinthians, under Archias, about 734 B. C. Within 70 years it began to send out colonies, among which were Acrae (664), Casmenas (about 644), and Camarina (599). In 486 an oligarchy called the Geomori, or Gamori, who had usurped the government, were overthrown.
They withdrew to Casmense, but Gelon, despot of Gela, restored them to power, reserving for himself the supreme government. (See Gelon.) Hiero, his successor (about 478), was a patron of literature and the arts. His brother Thrasybulus succeeded him in 467, but his tyranny soon caused his expulsion, and a popular government was instituted. (See Hiero.) In 415 the Athenians formed a league against Syracuse, and besieged it the following year. The Spartans came to the aid of the Syra-cusans, and in September, 413, a great naval battle was fought, in which the Athenians, under Nicias and Demosthenes, were defeated, their ships destroyed, about 30,000 men killed, and 10,000 made prisoners. In 405 Dionysius the Elder, taking advantage of the popular alarm at the aggressions of the Carthaginians, made himself despot of the city, concluded a peace with Carthage, and ruled vigorously but tyrannically for 38 years. He fortified the town, and in 397 commenced war against the Carthaginians, and defeated them.
Twelve years later he had extended his dominion over the greater part of Sicily and a part of Magna Graecia. He was succeeded in 367 by his son Dionysius the Younger, whose tyranny and debauchery brought about his expulsion by Dion in 357; he regained his power in 346, but was finally expelled by Timoleon in 343. (See Dionysius.) The restoration of liberty to Syracuse by the latter was followed by unexampled though brief prosperity; and 26 years later Agathocles acquired despotic power over the city, and used it for 28 years to plunge her in new and destructive wars. (See Agathocles.) After his death (289) a short respite was had, but soon new tyrants assumed the sway, till in 270 Hiero II. obtained supreme power, and maintained a firm and judicious administration for 54 years. In 263 he made a treaty with Rome, whose steadfast ally he thenceforward became. During his reign Syracuse attained to its highest splendor. With his death (216) a great change took place. His grandson and successor Hie-ronymus abandoned the alliance of Rome for that of Carthage, and after his death the Carthaginians brought about an open rupture with Rome, which led to the siege of Syracuse by Marcellus (214-212), a siege rendered illustrious by the patriotic efforts of Archimedes, but which finally resulted in the capture and plunder of the city.
The magnificent works of art then carried as plunder to Rome gave the first impulse to the love of Greek art among the Romans. Syracuse fell into decay, and lost in wealth and population. Augustus in vain endeavored in 21 B. C. to restore it by sending a Roman colony. In the 4th century A. D., though much decayed, it was still one of the largest cities of Sicily. It fell into the hands of the Goths at the overthrow of the western empire, but was recaptured by Belisa-rius in 535, and remained a fief of the Byzantine emperors till 878, when, after a siege of nine months, it fell into the hands of the Saracens, who massacred its inhabitants, destroyed its fortifications, and burned the city. In 1088 Count Roger of Sicily made himself master of Syracuse. It was partially rebuilt and fortified by Charles V., but in 1542, 1693, and 1757 was nearly destroyed by earthquakes. On April 8, 1849, during the Sicilian insurrection, it surrendered to the Neapolitan fleet, and in 1860 it espoused the cause of Garibaldi.
Syracuse - Ruins of Theatre in the Foreground.