Syracuse: Castles

Syracuse Castle

Defense of the territory was an extremely important aspect of life in ancient times. Although in Sicily enemies frequently arrived by sea, for example, the Greeks for the Siculi, the Romans for the Greeks and the Arabs for the Byzantines, it often happened that the ancient city of Syracuse had to defend itself against land attacks.

The journey round the castles and fortifications remaining from the various dominations of this area begins with the oldest fort of all, the Eurialo Castle, which dates back to the IV century BC and was the largest fortification complex in the whole of the ancient world, making it a point of reference for the defense systems of all Sicily.

Siracusa Castle

It was used for defense for almost a thousand years. When, at the end of the VII century AD Justinian reorganised the Roman Empire, he made Sicily a thema or province, with Syracuse as its capital, in order to have more control of the political troubles occurring in North Africa and the frequent visits made to the island by the Arabs. Nevertheless, Syracuse became a victim of the expansion of Islam in 878 and remained so for 200 years, until the arrival of Georgio Maniace, who also freed Messina.

Hardly anything remains now of the Byzantine attempts at defense; even the fort built on the extreme tip of Ortigia was incorporated in the subsequent Swabian constructions. The castles of Augusta and Syracuse were among these, presenting a uniformity of style, and were not only intended as a palatium but also as a domus regia or royal residence. The castle of Brucoli is also rather similar to the Swabian constructions.

At the end of the sixteenth century there are reports of the presence of 24 “royal palaces” in the area, including those of Syracuse, Augusta, Lentini, Brucoli and Capo Passero, while the castle of Carlentini, surrounded as it was by bastions and walls, was defined as a “city of refuge”. At Augusta in the first half of the seventeenth century the port was defended by a series of forts, such as the castle built by Frederick II, the Avolos tower and the Garcia and Vittoria forts. After the earthquake in 1542, Syracuse began the reconstruction of its defense system, including the bastions for the protection of Ortigia, walls and gates, of which there still remains the so-called Spanish Gate.

Where to stay in Syracuse

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