Syracuse was once the Mediterranean centre of Greek civilisation, rivalling Athens as the most important metropolis. Michael Sweet walks the streets of Ortygia to tell the story of what Cicero called ‘the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all’.
More than any other Sicilian city, Syracuse reflects the ancient Hellenic history of the Mediterranean’s largest island. Located on the east coast, Syracuse developed from a Greek colony founded by Corinthians in the 7th century BCE. In the two centuries that followed, the city-state enjoyed a period of expansion and prosperity under the tyrant Dionysius the Elder, who made Syracuse the most powerful of the western Greek colonies. Syracuse, like Sparta and its Peloponnesian allies, was a Dorian city and during the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BCE) it survived a two-year siege by Athenian forces.