Euryalos Castle and Dionysian Walls in Syracuse: Creation of a Multimedia Tour

Euryalos Castle and Dionysian Walls in Syracuse: Creation of a Multimedia Tour

Elisa Bonacini (University of Catania, Italy & IEMEST of Palermo, Italy) and Alessandra Castorina (Soprintendenza BB.CC.AA. Siracusa, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0675-1.ch013
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Euryalos Castle, in Syracuse, is the most important example of a Greek fortress in the Western world. It dates back to the late 5th century BC, connected with the Dionysian walls. Using European funding, the Superintendence of Syracuse has developed a museological project for the setting up of a little Antiquarium to be used for archaeological finds, according to traditional criteria, and a multimedia project for a modern enhancement of the site. This chapter presents the history of Euryalos Castle and its multimedia project concept. Thanks to the project, this monument lives through images, allowing visitors to grasp the real evolution of the archaeological landscape and its history. Primary objective of the project was to explain a monument such complex as Euryalos Castle according to modern digital storytelling.
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Founded in 734 BC on the island of Ortygia, Syracuse was the most important Corinthian colony in the Mediterranean sea, becoming soon a very powerful city-state (Ampolo, 2011).

The city grew larger, spreading well beyond Ortygia on the mainland and divided into four other districts: Akradina, Tyche, Neapolis (meaning “new city”) and Epipolis (“upper city”). These neighborhoods, favored by their orography, were such extensive that Syracuse was described as a Pentapolis, a city of five cities. Its geomorphology is formed by low hills: the greatest of these is given from the Epipolis plateau, geologically belonging to the Eastern foothills of the Iblei mountains.

During VI and V centuries BC, the most important public buildings were built, such as the Temples of Apollo, Artemis and Athena in Ortygia, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Theater in district Neapolis.

In the V century BC Syracuse became the center of political and military events in the Mediterranean, fighting even with Athens and with Carthage, allied with Sparta against Athens during the Peloponnesian wars. At the end of the century the tyrant Dionysius I the Elder built the Euryalos Castle connected to the new walls of Syracuse (originally 27 kilometers in length), to protect the city by the Northern side of Epipolis.

Finally, Syracuse was conquered by Romans in 212 BC.

The Euryalos Castle is the most important and the largest example of a Greek fortress in the Western world (with a surface of 15,000 mq, as in Figure 1), survived until the present day (Karlsson, 1992).

Figure 1.

Remains of Euryalos Castle in the district called Epipolis

Source: Superintendence of Syracuse archives

The Castel, the Dionysian walls and the Greek Arsenal in the Little Harbor named Lakkios represent the unique complex of Greek Syracuse’s military fortifications. Some remains of the walls and the Arsenal are still visible, as shown in Figure 2 and Figure 3.

Figure 2.

Remains of the Dyonisian walls

Source: Superintendence of Syracuse archives
Figure 3.

Remains of the Greek Arsenal on Ortygia Island

Source: Superintendence of Syracuse archives

The Castle is a monumental work of military architecture, built by Dionysius between 402 and 397 BC to protect Syracuse from the Carthaginians, the eternal enemies of Syracuse. The district Epipolis for its orographic characteristics is gradually narrow in width, forming an acute angle. The name Euryalos comes from the ancient Greek word meaning “shape like a nail head”. The city appeared to those coming from the hinterland, including enemies, with this sort of a angle: during the Athenian attack and siege in 415-413 BC the Epipolis had been proven to be a weak point in the defense system, because the Athenians were nearly successful in cutting Syracuse off from the mainland by building a wall from one side to the other of the peninsula where Syracuse stands. To strengthen the defenses of the city, Dionysius decided to fortify the terrace with a Castle named Euryalos, appearing like the tip of the fortifications, occupying a very strategic location.

As, described in Figure 4, the entrance is protected by three moats and was accessible by a drawbridge. On the opposite side a gate gave access to a large courtyard. Here the northern and southern city walls joined to the Castle.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Euryalus Castle: It is a monumental work of Greek military architecture, built by Dionysius in 401 BC to protect Syracuse from the terrace of Epipoli and directly connected with the northern and southern walls.

Second World War: The war from 1939 to 1945 between the Allied forces (United Kingdom, Soviet Union, the United States, France and China) against the Axis powers (Germany, Italy and Japan).

Archimedes: Born in Syracuse in 287 BC, was a Greek inventor, mathematician, physician, engineer, and astronomer; he died during the Roman Siege of Syracuse in 212 BC.

Catacombs: The Syracusan catacombs are a series of underground burials dated from the early third century to the fifth century AD, used as collective cemeteries, maintained till the Medieval age for religious uses.

Dionysius: Tyrant of Syracuse, known as Dionysius I or Dionysius the Elder (432-367 BC). Fighting with Carthage and other cities, made Syracuse the most powerful of the Western Greek colonies.

Poliorcetics: From a Greek word, it means the art of siege, namely, that of conducting or resisting a siege.

Epipolis: It meanings “over the city” and is one of the five districts of Syracuse; from the late fifth century BC Dionysius I built here the walls and the Euryalos Castle and here moved the residents of the Ortygia island, which turned in his stronghold.

Syracuse: A Greek colony, founded about 734 BC, it was an important city during Greek and Roman ages. For its cultural heritage the city is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site along with the Necropolis of Pantalica since 2005.

Ballistics: Both a discipline of mechanics, dealing with physical effects on launching projectiles, and a discipline of designing machines able to launch them.

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