Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica
Syracuse And The Rocky Necropolis Of Pantalica
Cultural Italy Europe And North America City And Province Of Syracuse, Sicily

The Syracuse/Pantalica ensemble, through its remarkable cultural diversity, offers exceptional testimony to the development of civilization over some three millennia.

Situated on the Mediterranean coast in south-eastern Sicily, and having always enjoyed a favourable climate while being relatively free of marked relief, the zone of monuments and archeological sites proposed for inscription on the World Heritage list has been inhabited since protohistoric times.

The Necropolis of Pantalica extends over some 1,200 m from north to south and 500 m from east to west in the region of Sortino. In the hilly terrain (caverns and precipices) and a natural environment of great beauty, about 5,000 tombs are visible, most of which have been hewn out of the rock face. Archaeological research has brought to light, in this zone, vestigial remains of dwellings from the period of Greek colonization. Materials of Mycenean origin and monumental structures were recognised, enabling the identification of the Anaktoron (Prince's Palace). Similarly, it has been possible to identify a period of reoccupation of the site in the 9th-10th centuries: the zone was in fact used for the defence against invasions of Sicily by the Arab armies.

On the side which has been inhabited from around the Neolithic period, and certainly from the start of the 13th century, Syracuse symbolizes by its foundation the development of the Greek presence in the Western Mediterranean. This city, founded in the 8th century was, according to the Ancients, very large and extremely beautiful. Its central nucleus, today the island of Ortygia, controlled two natural ports which had already become famous in ancient times. Ortygia consisted of five parts, giving rise to its alternative name of Pentapolis. The two ports are still identifiable today: Porto Piccolo to the east and Porto Grande to the west. Ortygia has a central main street and a network of other streets reminiscent of the orthogonal plan of the ancient Greek city, constructed in the 7th century BC. The following Greek remains are visible (from north to south):

Temple of Apollo (Apollonion);

Ionic Temple;

Temple of Athena (Athenaeion);

The Catacombs, the largest except for those in Rome, date from the palaeo-Christian period. Subsequently, many items bearing witness to the troubled history of Sicily remain, from the Byzantines to the Bourbons, with in between the Arabo-Muslims, the Normans, the government of Frederick II (1197-1250), the domination of the Aragons and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies: Church of St John the Baptist (4th-16th centuries), Church of St Martin (6th-14th centuries), Bellomo Palace (13th-18th centuries), Migliaccio Palace, Abeba Dunieli Palace and Francica-Nova Palace (15th century), Church of San Francesco all'Immacolata (13th-18th centuries), Church of the Collegio (built by Jesuits in the 17th century).

The most celebrated monument, with its great square, is the cathedral, which incorporates the remains of a Greek temple dating back to the 6th century BC. The excavations carried out in 1996-98 under the square have advanced knowledge of the history of Syracuse and its ancient monuments.

Constituted in 1952-55, the Archaeological Park of Neapolis includes the most spectacular Greek and Roman monuments bearing testimony to the past of Sicily: the magnificent Greek theatre;the Nymphaeum zone (with the cave);the sanctuary to Apollo;the imposing altar of Hieron II (king of Syracuse in 265-215 BC);the Roman amphitheatre;the great stone quarries, also known as the lautumiae;the Grotticelle necropolis, which contains the so-called tomb of Archimedes.