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Siracusa (Siracusa Province) is located on the Ionian sea. It is the provincial capital, alt. 16 m, on the southeast coast of Sicily, area 204.1 sq km, pop. 127,496, post-code 96100, tel. 0931. Economy: Agriculture, industry (foodstuffs, chemicals, building, electricity, iron, plastics and others). Tourism.

History: The city of Siracusa, in a splendid position in the east part of the Sicilian coast, stretches out over the sea with the island of Ortygia, where the major testimonies of its glorious past are to be found. Ortygia is connected by a bridge to the mainland, where the modern ciy extends.

According to the 5th century BC historian Thucydides the ancient city was founded in 734-733 BC by a group of Crinthian settlers led by the oecist Archias. It took its name from a nearby march called Syraka.

Very soon Siracusa became one of the most powerful cities in Sicily. Its expansionist policy began between the 7th and 6th centuries BC and led to the foundation of the colonies of Akrai (663 BC), Kasmenai (643) and Kamarina (598), which were to assume a role of primary importance in the defence of the surrounding territory.

At first, power was wielded in Siracusa by the Gamoroi (aristocrats and landowners); subsequently, at the beginning of the 5th century BC, it was exercised more democratically.

In the mid-5th century the return of the aristrocrats and the establishment of the tyranny of the Deinomenids of Gela coincided with a period of expansion of the city, which set itself at the head of the Hellenist settlements of Magna Graecia in the struggle against the Cathaginians, defeating them at the famous Battle of Himera (480 BC), with the city of Agrigento as an ally.

In the second phase of the Peloponnesian War, Athens, jealous of Siracusa's economic and military expansion, launched against it a powerful offensive with a naval expedition led by Nicias Lamachos and Alcibiades.

Siracusa succeeded in defeating the Athenians, who were annihilated on the banks of the Assinaros, near Eloro (Helorus).

The architect of the victory was the democratic faction, which took control of the town. But the Cathaginians returned to the attack and destroyed Selinunte (409 BC), the Carthaginian offensive started again but was held back by a pestilence which proved to be a prelude to peace.

Clashes continued in the following years until a new pact was agreed upon in 392: Dionysius obtained control of the Sicel towns, which previously had been independent; Carthage kept its domination of west Sicily.

This was the moment of Siracusa's greatest spendor, and it extended the sphere of tis influence as far as south and central Italy.

On Dionysius' death he was succeeded by his son Dionysius II.

New internal conflicts broke out and the Sircusans turned for help against the tyrant to their mother-city Corinth, which in 344 despatched to Sicily an expedition under Timoleon.

The Corinthian leader defeated Dionysius and peace terms were agreed. In 339 Timoleon had to face an offensive by the Carthaginians which ended in their debacle near the River Krimisos (341 BC). Timoleon now devoted himself to the restoration of order in Sicily, the recolonization of the countryside, and the strengthending of the Greek element, while maintaining a moderate political stance.

He was succeeded on his death by Agathocles, the leader of the radical democratic party, who got rid of the oligarchs and in 307, during yet another war with the Carthaginians, adopted the title of King. One year later, having won the way, he became master of the whole island. Following his death he was succeeded by Hieron II, who remained in power for over 50 years (269-215 BC)

This was the period of the appearance of the Romans on the stage of history. They strove to limit Siracusa's independence to such an extend that Hieron, realizing their superior strength, eventually declared himself their ally. His successor Hieronymus entered instead into an alliance with the Carthaginians but in the end had to yield to the Romans who conquered and sacked Siracusa in 213 BC and made it part of the Province of Sicily, permitting it however to maintain role of capital city.

After the fall of Rome, Siracusa followed the alternating vicissitudes of Sicily; it was occupied by the Vandals, Goths and Byzantines, until in 878 it fell into the hands of the Muslims.

Under the Normans and Swabians, Siracusa, though ceding the role of capital city to Palermo, continued to be of considerable importance. It also benefited from an ample restructuring of the town.

Under the Angevin domination, Siracusa became the capital of an extensive territory with nine communes. In this period a number of elegant baronial residences, churches and convents were built, in cluding the convents of Santa Lucia, San Benedetto and L'Annunziata.

Between the 16th and 17th centuries, the Spanish age, the presence of the Carmelite Jesuits led to further transformations of the city skyline

After the earthquake in 1693 Siracusa was partially reconstructed, the work proceeding throughout the 18th century. Between the 18th century and 19th century there were considerable urbanistic and cultural transformations; many religious buildings were confiscated and destined to public use. This process was accentuated even more after the unification of Italy, when it was decided to demolish the Spanish valls, and the city began to expand inland.

Points of interest are; Maniace Castle, Palazzo Cireco (the seat of the National Institude of Ancient Drama), Fountain of Artemis, Palazzo dell'Prologio, the 16th century Palazzo del Banco di Sicilia, Palazzo Mergulese-Montalto, The great Temple of Athena (built in the 5th century BC elevated to a Cathedral by Bishop Zosimo, dedicated to Madonna del Piliere), The Archbishop's Palace, The Alagonian library, Palazzo Vermexio (the seat of the Town Hall), Via Minerva (survived the 1693 earthquake, stil preserves its original features), Palazzo Benventano del Bosco, 15th century Palazzo Migliaccio, Fountain of Arethusa, Porto Grande, Maniace Castle, Galleria Regionale, 14th century Palazzo Parisio and the larger 13th century Palazzo Bellomo, Palazzi Bufardeci, Zappata-Gargallo, Castle of Euryalusm, Roman amphitheatre (construction dating from the 1st century BC, Altar of Hieron, a great altar one stadium long (198 m), Greek Theatre and latomie, Latomie, great stone quarries, Grotticelli necropolis, Crypt of San Marciano, Catacombs of San Giovanni, Archaeological Museum, Museum of Papyrus, Catacombs of Vigna Cassia.

Churches (Siracusa Diocese) include the following:

B. Maria Vergine Delle LaCrime
Chiesa di San Cristoforo (14th century; rebuilt in the 18th century, historic)
Chiesa di San Paolo (historic)
Chiesa della Concezione (constructed in the 17th century, historic)
Chiesa di Santa Lucia alla Badia (historic)
Chiesa del Collegio dei Gesuiti (historic)
Chiesa dello Spirito Santo (18th century, historic)
Chiesa di San Bendetto (historic)
Chiesa di San Francesco (With an unusual convex facade; 14th century church, historic)
Chiesa di San Giovanni (built by the Normans, historic)
Chiesa dei Cappuccini (17th century, historic)
Chiesa di Santa Lucia (historic)
Maria Madre Della Chiesa
Maria Madre di Dio
Maria SS. Ma Addolorata
Maria SS. Ma Della Misericordia e Dei Pericoli
Maria SS. Ma Mediatrice di Tutte Le Grazie
Maria Stella del Mare
Metropolitana-Nativita' di Maria SS.Ma
Santa Maria dei Miracoli (13th century church)
Santa Maria di Gesu
S. Antonio di Padova
S. Corrado Confalonieri
S. Cuore di Gesu'
S. Famiglia
S. Francesco D'Assisi
S. Giacomo Ai Miracoli
S. Giovanni Battista All'Immacolata
S. Giovanni Ev. e S. Marziano
S. Luca
S. Lucia Al Sepolcro
S. Martino Vescovo
S. Metodio
S. Paolo Apostolo
S. Pietro Al Carmine
S. Rita
S. Tommaso Apostolo Al Pantheon
SS. Salvatore
S. Maria Della Consolazione (Belvedere di Siracusa - suburb of Siracusa)
S. Giuseppe (Cassibile - suburb of Siracusa)

Events: The Pantalica Trophy, an internation cycle race, in Februrary; Baroque spring, at Noto, in April-May; Classical Plays in the Greek Theatre, in May and June of even-numbered years; the International Festival of Ballet and Music, in summer.

Families researched in these records include the following:

Links to other sites about Siracusa include:
Ancient Sicily
Italian Wikipedia
Italian Towns
Italian Postal Codes
Sicily Web
Sicilian Net
Siracusa Photos
Virtual Siracusa

My latest book on CD is titled Sicily - A Reference for Researchers and is now available. With a file for each town (plus many other files), it relates the history of Sicily as reflected in the photos, records and festivals of its towns. It contains over 2500 text and photo files and can be ordered at CD order.

Order Italy Kathy Kirkpatrick

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© Kathy Kirkpatrick 2002-2008