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The Archeology of the City of Siracusa

January 24, 2021
Lemon landscapes of Siracusa
January 26, 2021
Ph. ©

The Archeology of the City of Siracusa

Few cities in the world can present themselves to the traveller as an uninterrupted series of images that capture over three thousand years of Mediterranean civilisation. Siracusa is most certainly one of these.
Archaeological research has found traces of human settlement on the island of Ortigia centuries before the arrival of the Greek colonists, and it is undeniable that the city, built layer upon layer over 2750 years, still stands on the same site, with an urban plan that derives from the original Greek layout, established and clearly defined from the early phases of its existence, and is partly visible today.
The streets, public areas, orientation, traced more than two thousand years ago, are the skeleton on which the city grew, developing through various phases of transformation, some of which are more evident, others hidden by successive superimpositions.

Unknown artist, Ortigia, 17th century

"most lovely from whichever direction one approaches, both from the land and from the sea...

The island of Ortigia is the heart of this living city, the ideal quintessence of the definition, “historic centre”, because it has been continually inhabited for twenty-eight centuries. This fascinating place has seen Plato, Cicero and Frederick II of Swabia walk its streets, but the experience of the traveller doesn’t end at the bridge linking the island to the mainland. The entire urban area, right out to the suburbs is like a book to leaf through, to discover the most famous and iconic places of the city.
These are concentrated in two other main areas: the Neapolis city quarter with its wonderful Archeological Park which contains famous monuments like the Greek Theatre, the Roman Amphitheatre and the Ear of Dionysus; and the Epipoli quarter, where the ruins of the great Eurialo Fortress stand and the Walls of Dionysius run, embracing the city.
If you are patient and curious, you can find other themes and trails to follow: the religious architecture of the Greek city, the temples of Ortigia, the public areas and great monuments of Neapolis, the military constructions of Epipoli. The synthesis of all this, stretching beyond the city across the entire south-eastern corner of Sicily in time and in space, from remotest prehistory to the early centuries of Christianity, takes shape in the rooms of the Regional Paolo Orsi Archaeological Museum, one of the largest and richest of the Mediterranean. Within its walls, objects of rare beauty, such as the Venus Anadyomene or the sarcophagus of Adelphia can be admired alongside objects of everyday life of the past.

The archaeology of Siracusa is all this and much more; traces of the ancient city emerge here and there like silent markers of the past, sometimes closed to the public in expectation of better days, such as the complex known as the Roman Gymnasium, or the Temple of Zeus. The foundations of this temple and its two enormous columns look out over the Great Harbour from a natural terrace to the south of the city, providing a view of Ortigia that was immortalised in a famous painting by Ettore De Maria Bergler.
All this should really come as no surprise. After all, we are only talking about “the greatest and the most beautiful of the Greek cities (…) most lovely from whichever direction one approaches, both from the land and from the sea”.
Ottobre 2020

Archeozoologo e paleontologo, laureato in scienze e specializzato in beni culturali. Studia il rapporto tra uomini e animali nelle società del passato come risorsa economica, alimentare, simbolo sociale e rituale. Avido lettore di storia e dei classici della letteratura greca e latina, ma anche di saggi di astrofisica e meccanica quantistica, vive perennemente in equilibrio tra il mondo dei numeri e quello delle lettere…e scrive per SiracusaCulture.
Ettore De Maria Bergler, The ruins of the Temple of Olympian Jove at Siracusa, 1891, Palermo, Assemblea Regionale Siciliana, palazzo dei Normanni