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, city, Italy
Syracuse (sĭrˈəkyo͞os, –kyo͞oz), Ital. Siracusa, city (1991 pop. 125,941), capital of Syracuse prov., SE Sicily, Italy, on the Ionian Sea. It has a port and is a market and tourist center. Its manufactures include machinery and processed food. The old town, on the small island of Ortygia, is connected by a bridge with the mainland, where the more modern districts are situated.

Points of Interest

Numerous remains testify to the city's past greatness. On Ortygia are the cathedral, built (7th cent. A.D.) on the remains of a Greek temple, with 12 Doric columns; the fountain of Arethusa; ruins of a temple of Apollo; and a castle built (13th cent. A.D.) by emperor Frederick II. Art and other museums are also there. Among the remains on the mainland are a large, well-preserved Greek theater (5th cent. B.C.), still used for performances of classical works; a Roman amphitheater (2d cent. A.D.); the large Greek fortress of Euralus; and the extensive Catacombs of St. John (5th–6th cent. A.D.); the remarkable archaeological museum also is on the mainland.


Founded (734 B.C.) by Greek colonists from Corinth, Syracuse grew rapidly and soon founded colonies of its own. Its democratic government was suppressed by Gelon, tyrant of Gela, who took possession of the city in 485 B.C. Under his rule, marked by a great victory (480 B.C.) over Carthage at Himera, Syracuse took the lead among the Greek cities of Sicily. Gelon's successor, Hiero I, made it one of the great centers of Greek culture; the poet Pindar and the dramatist Aeschylus lived at his court. Soon after Hiero's death a democracy was again established; it lasted from 466 B.C. to 406 B.C. During this period Syracuse extended its control over E Sicily and defeated an Athenian expedition (begun in 415 B.C. by Alcibiades) in a great land and sea battle (414 B.C.). In 406 B.C., Dionysius the Elder became tyrant. Under his long rule Syracuse reached the high point of its power and territorial expansion.

After the death of Dionysius there followed a period of bitter internal struggle in which Dionysius the Younger, Dion of Syracuse, and Timoleon were the chief protagonists. There were several decades of democratic government until tyranny was reestablished by Agathocles and Hiero II (4th–3d cent. B.C.). Hiero's reign was relatively peaceful and prosperous, but after his death Syracuse suffered catastrophically when it abandoned its traditional ally Rome in favor of Carthage, in the second of the Punic Wars. After a long siege by the Roman consul Marcellus, the city fell in 212 B.C. and was sacked; Syracuse thence was reduced to the status of a provincial town.

The period from Dionysius the Elder to 212 B.C. was brilliant in terms of culture. The philosopher Plato visited Syracuse several times, and the poet Theocritus probably lived at the court of Hiero II. The mathematician and physicist Archimedes, born (287 B.C.) in Syracuse, directed the defense of the city against the Romans and was killed during the sack of the city. Syracuse suffered another major setback in the late 9th cent. A.D., when it was badly damaged by Arab conquerors. It was captured by the Normans in 1085.


, city, United States
Syracuse (sĭrˈəkyo͞os, sĕrˈ–), city (1990 pop. 163,860), seat of Onondaga co., central N.Y., on Onondaga Lake and the Erie Canal; settled c.1788, inc. as a city 1848. It is a port of entry, and its many manufactures include electrical and electronic equipment, automobile and aircraft parts, chinaware, shoes, machinery, and pharmaceuticals. Salt springs were discovered there in 1654. Saltmaking, the city's chief industry until after the Civil War, declined under competition. However, Syracuse's location on the Erie Canal (opened there in 1819) and on rail lines stimulated industry. The city is the seat of Syracuse Univ., Le Moyne College, and the State Univ. of New York Upstate Medical Univ. Cultural facilities include the Everson Museum of Art, a salt museum, and an Erie Canal museum. An annual state fair has been held there since 1841. Nearby is Hancock International Airport, the Onondaga Reservation, and New York's first modern casino, run by the Oneidas. Recreational lakes and streams are abundant in the area.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(in Greek, Syrakusai), an ancient Greek city-state, located in the southeastern part of the island of Sicily.

Syracuse was founded in approximately 734 B.C. by Corinthians. The principal occupations of its inhabitants were farming and sea trade. In the seventh and sixth centuries B.C., Syracu-sans founded a number of colonies in Sicily, including Acrae, Camarina, and probably Enna. In the fifth and fourth centuries B.C., Syracuse was one of the important states of the Mediterranean. In the early fifth century B.C., the urban demos, supported by the Cyllyrii (the rural population, analogous to the Spartan Helots), drove the Gamori (large-scale landowners) from Syracuse after a fierce struggle. The Gamori requested aid from Gel-on, tyrant (absolute ruler) of the city of Gela, and, as a result, Gelon established a tyranny in Syracuse in 485 B.C. Supported by mercenaries, he defeated the Carthaginians at Himera in 480 B.C. and his brother, Hieron I, defeated the Etruscans near the city of Cumae in 474 B.C. This brought an end to Carthaginian expansion in Sicily, and Syracuse was able to extend its rule over a considerable part of the island and part of southern Italy, including Rhegium and other cities.

After the death of Hieron I, the government of Syracuse was overturned and a slaveholding democracy was established. Taking advantage of internal strife, the Athenians dispatched an expedition against Syracuse (415–413 B.C.) during the Pelo-ponnesian War, which ended in defeat. In 406 B.C., the tyrant Dionysius I seized power. Under Dionysius, Syracuse repulsed an attack by the Carthaginians and subdued almost all of Sicily. After his death, the regime weakened and Carthage renewed its onslaught, leading Syracuse to request aid from Corinth. A Corinthian army, led by Timoleon, repulsed the Carthaginian offensive and restored the democracy lost under Dionysius I. During a period of intense intestine strife and a military clash with the city of Acragas, power in Syracuse passed in 317 or 316 B.C. to the military commander Agathocles, who opposed the oligarchs.

Under Agathocles, who ruled until 289 B.C., the Carthaginians were driven from Sicily and the domain established by Dionysius I was won back and expanded further. With the death of Agathocles, however, the state once again declined. Syracuse became an ally of Rome during the First and Second Punic Wars. After 215 B.C., during the rule of Hieronymus, it allied itself with Carthage. In 211 B.C., after a two-year siege, the city finally fell after a Roman assault and was sacked. (In their defense the Syracusans had used war machines invented by Archimedes, a native Syracusan.) Under Roman rule, Syracuse was the residence of the governors of the province of Sicily. The modern city of Syracuse was built on the site of the ancient city.


Fabricius, K. Das antike Syrakus: Eine historisch-archäologische Untersuchung. Leipzig, 1932.
Mansuelli, G. A. La politica estera di Siracusa. Bologna, 1958.
Diesner, H.-J. Griechische Tyrannis und griechische Tyrannen. Berlin [1960].




(Siracusa), a city and port in southern Italy; located in the southeastern part of the island of Sicily and partly on the island of Ortygia in the Ionian Sea. Capital of the province of Siracusa. Population, 109,000(1971).

Syracuse has textile, metalworking (including the production of cables), cement, and food-processing industries. It is located near Priolo, an oil-refining and petrochemical center. The city arose on the site of the ancient city of Syracuse. It is the birthplace of Archimedes. Remains of several ancient Greek structures have been preserved, including two Doric temples, one dedicated to Apollo or Artemis (early sixth century B.C.) and another to Athena (after 480 B.C.). Both temples are on the island of Ortygia. There are also remains of a theater (fifth century B.C.). Syracuse has an archaeological museum specializing in the ancient Greek period.



a city in the northeastern USA, in the state of New York. Population, 188,000 (1974; 646,000, including suburbs). Syracuse is a port on the Erie Canal. The manufacturing industry employs 62,000 people (1973) and is represented by the machine-building, chemical, electrical-engineering, and radioelectronics industries. There are metalworking enterprises and enterprises for the production of scientific equipment, sodium carbonate, alkalies, drugs and ceramics. Salt and limestone are mined. There is a university in the city. Syracuse was founded in 1786 near salt springs.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. a port in SW Italy, in SE Sicily on the Ionian Sea: founded in 734 bc by Greeks from Corinth and taken by the Romans in 212 bc, after a siege of three years. Pop.: 123 657 (2001)
2. a city in central New York State, on Lake Onondaga: site of the capital of the Iroquois Indian federation. Pop.: 144 001 (2003 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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