SYRACUSE (sĭr'a-kūs, Gr. Syrakousai). A town on the east coast of Sicily, Syracuse was the most important and prosperous Greek city on the island. It boasted two splendid harbors, which contributed substantially to its material prosperity. Corinthian and Dorian Greeks, led by Archias, founded the city in 734 b.c. The Athenians, at the height of their power (413), tried to take the city but were completely routed. In 212 Syracuse came under the control of Rome.

The Alexandrian ship in which Paul sailed from Malta to Puteoli put in at Syracuse for three days (Acts.28.12). Whether or not Paul went ashore during this time is not stated in the Acts account.

SYRACUSE sĭr’ ə kus (Συράκουσαι, G5352). A successful colony on the E coast of Sicily, founded by Corinth in 734 b.c., Syracuse emerges into the full light of history with the rule of Gelon (540-478 b.c.). Near the end of his reign, Gelon defeated the Carthaginians at Himera (in 480, the year of Salamis); and Syracuse, made thus the most important city of the western Mediterranean after Carthage, entered upon her cent. of imperial splendor and success. Hieron I succeeded Gelon, reigned for ten years, and extended Syracusan influence to adjacent Italy. The catastrophic defeat of Athens’ wanton attack on Syracuse (415-413 b.c.) left the Sicilian city at the height of her military power and glory.

The reign of Dionysius I (430-367) saw the passing of this prestige and the evolution of Syracuse into an undisguised tyranny. Dionysius fell short of his ambition to drive the Carthaginians out of the island, suffered some defeats at their hands, and postponed a direct Carthaginian assault by treaties which must have revealed to the great Phoen. power the developing weakness of Syracuse under an inevitably debilitating tyranny. In art and in other spheres of culture, as in political and international influence, Syracuse was living through a deceptive Indian Summer of greatness, seemingly powerful, but decayed internally by tyranny.

Decline was obvious and precipitous under Dionysius II, whom the great Plato had sought in vain to educate for authority. It was Timoleon (whose dates are uncertain) who restored a measure of constitutional rule, thrust the aggressive Carthaginians back, and introduced new citizens to strengthen the state. One Agathocles, a democratic leader, undid Timoleon’s work and had himself made king. He died in 289 b.c., and his passing marked the beginning of the city’s end. The Romans were becoming involved in Sicily after the middle of the 3rd cent. The island was too important a base for either side to neglect when Rome and Carthage became aware of their confrontation across the narrow waist of the Mediterranean. Struggle ensued between pro-Rom. and pro-Carthaginian parties in the city, and Syracuse together with the whole island became an inevitable battleground. Syracuse, closed by the Carthaginian faction, was captured by the Rom. general, Marcellus, after a fearful siege in which the Syracusan physicist, Archimedes, provided the defenders with sundry pieces of sophisticated artillery. Archimedes died in the grim aftermath of the capture of the city.

From 211 onward, therefore, Syracuse was Rom. It remained the most splendid city in the province, and the seat of the governor’s residence. Augustus sent settlers in 21 b.c. and made the city a colony. It was looted by the invading Franks in a.d. 280. No one knows how Christianity came to Syracuse, but extensive catacombs bear witness to the solidity of its presence. Paul spent three days in Syracuse when the ship of Alexandria, which carried his party, put in en route for Puteoli from Malta (Acts 28:12).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

sir’-a-kus, sir-a-kus’ (Surakousai; Latin Syracusae, Ital. Siracusa): Situated on the east coast of Sicily, about midway between Catania and the southeastern extremity of the island.

The design of the present work scarcely permits more than a passing allusion to Syracuse, the most brilliant Greek colony on the shores of the Western Mediterranean, where Paul halted three days, on his way from Melita to Rome (Ac 28:12). The original Corinthian colony rounded in 734 BC (Thucydides vi.3) was confined to the islet Ortygia, which separates the Great Harbor from the sea. Later the city spread over the promontory lying northward of Ortygia and the harbor.

Syracuse assumed a pre-eminent position in the affairs of Sicily under the rule of the tyrants Gelon (485-478 BC; compare Herodotus vii.154-55) and Hieron (478-467 BC). It nourisher greatly after the establishment of popular government in 466 BC (Diodorus xi.68-72). The Syracusans successfully withstood the famous siege by the Athenians in 414 BC, the narrative of which is the most thrilling part of the work of Thucydides (vi, vii).

Dionysius took advantage of the fear inspired by the Carthaginians to elevate himself to despotic power in 405 BC, and he was followed, after a reign of 38 years, by his son of the same name. Although democratic government was restored by Timoleon after a period of civil dissensions in 344 BC (Plutarch, Timoleon), popular rule was not of long duration.

The most famous of the later rulers was the wise Hieron (275-216 BC), who was the steady ally of the Romans. His grandson and successor Hieronymus deserted the alliance of Rome for that of Carthage, which led to the celebrated siege of the city by the Romans under Marcellus and its fall in 212 (Livy xxiv.21-33). Henceforth Syracuse was the capital of the Roman province of Sicily. Cicero calls it "the greatest of Greek cities and the most beautiful of all cities" (Cicero Verr. iv.52). George H. Allen