The origins of Syracuse
The history of Syracuse has distant origins. In fact, the birth of the city of Syracuse seems to date back to 734 B.C., founded by a group of Corinthian settlers. In reality, the year of its foundation does not find unanimous agreement among historians. The most accredited dates on which the city is thought to have been founded come from the Greek historian Thucydides: 734 or 733 B.C.
The history of Syracuse, however, as demonstrated by the discovery of vast archaeological areas, started far earlier. The process of anthropization, in fact, seems to have begun millennia before the arrival of the Greek civilization, more specifically, from the Neolithic age. Syracuse was a polis of significant importance, as well as one of the most important metropolises of the ancient world. During the Second Punic War in 212 B.C., it fell at the hands of the Romans, and it was at this time that it became the capital of the Sicilian Province.
The city lost its power as, in the meantime, Rome was on the rise. During this period Syracuse hosted the Roman Praetors, who were appointed to rule over Sicily. The Roman era contributed to the downsizing of the city’s power but, at the same time, landmarks of great importance were erected, such as the Roman Amphitheater, the Roman Gymnasium, and the intricate network of catacombs, which is the largest after the one in Rome.
Tradition has it that Syracuse was the first city in which a Christian community was founded, and as evidence of this we can observe the inscription inside the Cathedral of Syracuse that reads in Latin: “Ecclesia Syracusana Prima Divi Petri Filia Et Prima Post Antiochenam Christo Dicata,” which translates to “The church of Syracuse is the first daughter of St. Peter and the first, after the church of Antioch, to be dedicated to Christ.”
During the Middle Age, the city was conquered by the Byzantine general Belisarius who, together with Syracuse, subjugated the whole of Sicily under his rule. By a political design desired by Constant II, which included the defeat of the Lombards, Syracuse became “Capital of the Roman Empire.” After more than a five-year period, Emperor Constant II was assassinated and power returned to Constantinople.
In the 9th century, Syracuse managed to withstand a first Arab siege, but fell permanently and inexorably during the second, which occurred in the Spring of 878. This episode marked the end of Syracuse’s hegemony over Sicily.
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