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Syracuse: Euryalos


A detail of Fort Euryaleus. Photo Marco Prins.
Syracuse: the ancient capital of Sicily.
 
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After Athens' Sicilian Expedition and the Siege of Syracuse (414-413 BCE), it was clear to anyone that the city was vulnerable from the north, where the Athenians and Syracusans had fought a strange war of walling and counterwalling on the Epipolae Platform. The new tyrant, Dionysius I, therefore decided to build a wall that surrounded the entire platform, and make Syracuse impossible to take. The next photo shows part of the northern wall; the sea can be seen in the distance.He did succeed: neither the Carthaginians, nor other attackers were able to capture Syracuse, and when the city was in 212 eventually taken by the Roman commander Marcellus, treason was involved.

Northern wall at Euryaleus. Photo Marco Prins.
In the far west of the platform, a fortress was built, called Euryalos ("broad based"; satellite photo). It is the largest and most complete Greek fortress we know. Dionysius was not the only builder, though. He was responsible for the first building phase, which lasted from 402 to 397, but Agathocles changed part of it in 317, and during the Second Punic War, Hieronymus asked Archimedes to improve the fortifications even more. The Archimedian wall, however, remained unfinished because the Romans took the city in 212.

Battery at Euryaleus. Photo Marco Prins.
The fortress was built on a hill that was about 170 m high, which was necessary to expand the reach of the machines that were put on the walls. Dionysius' engineers had invented a primitive version of thecatapult, a new weapon that was to change siege warfare. High positions were more useful; and to prevent the Euryaleus to become a battery directed against Syracuse, Dionysius occupied it. This photo shows part of the battery.

Battery at Euryaleus. Photo Marco Prins.
This photo shows the battery as well, shown from within. The next photos show (FLTR) the large ditch in front of the battery, which had to be crossed by passing a drawbridge; several rooms of the fort itself, which is a real labyrinth of rooms and (underground) corridors; a piece of the wall; and the southern wall, which leads to the city itself (visible in the background).

The moat at Euryaleus. Photo Marco Prins. Barracks at Euryaleus. Photo Marco Prins. One of the walls at Euryaleus. Photo Marco Prins. Southern wall at Euryaleus. Photo Marco Prins.
A gate at Euryaleus. Photo Nico Kaas. Finally, a photo of one of the gates. This one was not far from the battery. An attacker that came too close to the ditch and the battery, risked being attacked through one of these gates. Photo Nico Kaas

History Texts Photos
Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2008
Revision: 31 January 2008
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