My mum found her Great-Grandmas travel diaries a while ago and I have been typing them up for her to read and thought I would put them on here as well- If you want a little bit more background read part one here 🙂
Founded 733 B.C. colonists from Corinth, the town owes its wealth to oil deposits; it was the first point where Christianity reached Europe; St Paul passed through here on his way to Rome. It has two ports, the old houses the fishing fleet, the new, the larger – to Turkey and Mareta; the town has 2 parts too, old and new, the old is the Island of Ortygia, linked to the mainland by a bridge. The Fortress of Dionysius or Eurycles castle was a lookout post built by Dionysius, it has a view of 3 seas, the Mediterranean, Ionian and Tyrrhenian; originally there were 2 castles, surrounded by walls, with underground tunnels stretching for 7 miles, 3 large caves for storing food, wine and oil, a fresh water well, a draw bridge and a aquaduct to channel rain water, thus allowing self-efficiency in times of siege. An earthquake, 1696, partially destroyed the site; the fortress was built well below the top of the guarding walls; with sloping floors and roof; arches allowed the shooting of arrows. The enemy of Carthaginians, on the high wall, could not shoot arrows became of the awkward angle, but the greeks could shoot upwards and the stout pillars supporting the archers gave cover for the defenders. The tunnels had a one way system, so if the enemy gained access, the Greek horsemen and archers could come round and attack from the rear. The tethering rings for the houses still remain; the tunnel floor was sloped to allow rain and marsh water to drain away. Inside the walls was a decoy tunnel; when the enemy rushed it, they found themselves in complete blackness owing to the slope and twist of the tunnel, and coming from brilliant sunlight, they were temporarily blinded, set upon and slain. A secret exit from the tunnel allowed troops to come round to the rear of the attackers, who were then cut off front and rear. The Carthaginians never captured Syracuse, but when the romans attacked the city, they joined forces with the Greeks and became allies. The romans captured the city 220 A.D. by a trick. A spy reported that the Swedains were making merry with wine and women, so the romans attacked at once and the city fell; Dionysius died of malaria, as at that time the city was a swamp. Archimedes helped Dionysius in the construction of the fortress, so the swedians were told not to slay him; he was so intent on a problem that he did not hear the twice repeated question ‘are you Archimedes?’ and he was slain on the Island of Ortygia. The Cave of Dionysius or Eau of Dionysius is an artificial cave, with unusual acoustic properties; it is cut from living rock, is very high and ends in a pointed roof. Dionysius used to eavesdrop on prisoners in the cave, their talk coming up through a slight crack in the roof which let in a slight slit of light. The cave and the Grotto of the Popemakers are both in an old quarry; rope is made today in the grotto, where it is painted with flax. The Quarry, Latonia del Paradiso, has its walls stained with mineral deposits, green, pink and yellow; unusual points of rock hang down, producing an unusual and effective picture which lead to the suggestion that the quarry would make a perfect setting for Wagnenien operas. The Roman amphitheatre, 180 A.D. is local and funnel shaped, in the centre is a large ditch or pool, where a gladiator, in a flimsy boat, would fight crocodile or hippopotami, near to it is the huge altar of Hieron II, two yards long, built to sacrifice 600 bulls at a time, to Zeus, thus showing the wealth of Syracuse. During the time of Archimedes, the bulls were sacrificed to Jupiter, to offer thanksgiving and to propitiate for the former wiched emporer. The Greek theatre was cut from limestone rock, 500 B.C., the Romans turned it into an arena, removing the stage: the Greeks performed plays with actors and chorus, dancing and singiing, and an orchestra, before 16,000 people; at festival times, Greek plays are still performed here. The Temple of Apollo, 600 B.C. is the oldest temple in Sicily; the Fountain of Diana, beautifully carved and large, is in the centre of the town. The fountain of Arethus, producing 250 gallons of clear water per second, is close to the sea and full of fish, it is enclosed by a balustrade, inside it are flowers and greenery and in the centre of the pool is a cluster of papyrus round which swim grey mullet. The legend of arethus was attached to the pool, by Shelley; it is said that Nelson came to take water from the pool for his sailors before the Battle of Aloukik, which he won, and even since, there has always been a naval ship called Arethus. The Cathedral square is elliptical in shape and has some fine buildings in it, the town hall, the archbishops palace and the Cathedral of St Lucia, built on the temple of Athena, 500 B.C. the pillars of the pagan temple still stand intact and it became a Christian church 700 A.d., when windows and walls were added to fill in-between the pagan arches. At the entrance door are 2 massive pillars, 140ft high, 40 tonnes in weight and in 3 sections each; the interior is austere and sombre, as 50 years all the statues, paintings and frescoes were removed; the severity and silence is emphasised by an inscription running round the walls reminding people that this was the first church in the Western hemisphere and Western Christianity. The Church of the Weeping Madonna is in the centre of the new town; it has a big, circular opening in the ceiling which lets in a shaft of light; the pews are in a semi circle round the altar; a balcony looks down on the pews and altar, as well as the side chapels; concrete struts have been built against the sides as protection against earthquakes, while excavating the site, Byzantine ruins were found, it was not known what they were, but they were left intact and stand among the pews. Legend has it that a woman in labour prayed to the statue of the Madonna which wept for her for 5 days; when analysed the tears were found to be authentic, so the church was dedicated to the weeping Madonna.
Let me know in the comments if you have ever been to Sicily 🙂