Reputed Tomb Of Archimedes, Syracuse.
At present Syracuse is pitifully insignificant compared with its great predecessor; but it at least is not a heap of ruins like Selinus, nor a withered beggar like Girgenti. It has, indeed, shrunk to the original limits given it by its founders twenty-six centuries ago, - the little island called Ortygia, connected with the rest of Sicily by a causeway; yet this old sleepy town of less than thirty thousand inhabitants affords a pleasant place of residence in winter, where in the full enjoyment of a mild, agreeable climate and perennial sunshine, one can leisurely inspect the many interesting ruins which adjoin it on the mainland. What first appealed to me among these were its ancient quarries, which are still called by their old Greek name of Latomie. These were originally excavations out of which were drawn the blocks of stone of which old Syracuse was built, but they resemble now huge, sunken gardens, enclosed by perpendicular walls from eighty to one hundred and twenty feet in depth. Within them countless semi-tropical flowers, trees, and plants, completely sheltered from the winds, are growing in profusion in the warmth and splendor of Sicilian sunshine. One of them, in particular, appropriately named the "Latomia del Paradiso," is a veritable maze of orange, lemon, almond, pomegranate, olive, and wild fig trees, among which roses, bluebells, lilacs, heliotrope, geraniums, and many other fragrant plants contend for a supremacy of beauty, and show a wild exuberance of fruit and flower. Over the cliffs, surrounding these sweet labyrinths of foliage, sweep cataracts of ivy, clematis, and wistaria; for Nature here, as usual, has bravely tried to hide the gashes man has cut within her breast, and has succeeded thus in veiling these gigantic walls with pendent tapestries of luxuriant vegetation. Moreover, to complete their weird and unique aspect, enormous boulders, which have fallen from the towering cliffs, and detached masses which the excavators left untouched, lie scattered here and there amid a mass of floral beauty, like an archipelago of rocky islets in a lake of verdure. Into these mural precipices, also, many overhanging galleries have been cut, reminding one of caverns hollowed by the ocean waves.
Hieron II., King Of Syracuse.
View Of Modern Syracuse (Ortygia) From The Street Of Tombs.
A Portion Of The Latomia Del Paradiso.
Floral Canyons And Sunken Gardens.
One of these, which is seventy-four feet high, and burrows into the cliff for more than two hundred feet, has a remarkable resemblance to a monstrous human ear, and its acoustic properties are so extraordinary, that any noise at the entrance, such ♦as the clapping of the hands or the tearing of a sheet of paper, reverberates through its arches like a peal of thunder, and even a whisper can be plainly heard at its upper extremity. Hence this is called the Ear of Dio-nysius, after the Syracusan tyrant, who is said to have confined political prisoners here, whose every word was audible to him, when seated in a secret hiding place above. The largest of these quarries, covering several acres in extent, is known as the Latomi'a of the Capuchins because of an ancient monastery which adjoins it. Descending into this cliff-locked area by a winding path, we found ourselves in what appeared to be, despite its wealth of vegetation, a monster prison open to the sky, and offering no other mode of egress than the path by which we had come down. It was, in fact, as a prison that the Syracusans used it, twenty-three hundred years ago, when seven thousand captives perished there of hunger, thirst, and fever.
The " Ear Of Dionysius," Syracuse.