(Συρακοῦσαι; Lat. Syracusce), a celebrated city on the eastern coast of Sicily, whither Paul arrived in an Alexandrian ship from Melita, on his voyage to Rome (Ac 28:12). It had a fine prospect from every entrance both by sea and land. Its port, which had the 'sea on both sides of it, was almost all of it environed with beautiful buildings, and all that part of it which was without the city was on both sides banked up and sustained with very fair walls of marble. The city itself, while in its splendor, was the largest and richest that the Greeks possessed in any part of the world. For (according to Strabo) it was twenty-two miles in circumference, and both Plutarch and Livy inform us that the spoil of it was equal to that of Carthage. It was the oldest of the Greek colonies, being founded by Corinthians, and in a manner consisted of our cities united into one; or, as others express it, it was called quadruplex, as being divided into four parts, Acradina, Tyche, Neapolis, and the island of Ortygia. The first of these contained the famous Temple of Jupiter, the second the Temple of Fortune, the third a large amphitheatre, and a wonderful statue of Apollo in the midst of a spacious square, and the fourth the two temples of Diana and Minerva, and the renowned fountain of Arethusa. For about two hundred and fifty years the city made little noise in the world; but in the next two hundred and eighty it became conspicuous in war, in sea trade, and in wealth, under its kings Gelon, Dionysius, elder and younger, Dion, Agathocles, and Hiero.
About B.C. 210 this city was taken and sacked by Marcellus, the Roman general, and, in storming the place, Archimedes, the great mathematician, who is esteemed the first inventor of the sphere (and who, during the siege, had sorely galled the Romans with astonishing military engines of his own invention), was slain by a common soldier while intent upon his studies. After it was thus destroyed by Marcellus, Augustus rebuilt that part of it which stood upon the island, and in time it so far recovered as to have three walls, three castles, and a marble gate, and to be able to send out twelve thousand horse soldiers and four hundred. ships. In A.D. 675 the Saracens seized on it, but in 1090 it was taken from them by Roger, duke of Apulia. It yet exists under its original name (Ital. Siracasa),. and is still much frequented on account of its commodious harbor. Paul stayed here three days as he went prisoner to Rome (Ac 27:12); here also Christianity was early planted, and still, at least in name, continues; but the city has lost its ancient splendor, though it is a bishop's see.
The magnificence which Cicero describes as still remaining in his time was no doubt greatly impaired when Paul visited it. The whole of the resources of Sicily had been exhausted in the civil wars of Caesar and Pompey, and the piratical warfare which Sextus Pomleius, the youngest son of the latter, subsequently carried on against the triumvir Octavius. Augustus restored Syracuse, as also Catana and Centoripa, which last had contributed much to the successful issue of his struggle with Sextus Pompeius. Yet the island Ortygia and a very small portion of the mainland adjoining sufficed for the new colonists and the remnant of the former population. But the site of Syracuse rendered it a convenient place for the African corn ships to touch at, for the harbor was an excellent one, and the fountain Arethusa in the island furnished an unfailing supply of excellent water. The prevalent wind in this part of the Mediterranean is the W.N.W. This would carry the vessels from the corn region lying eastward of Cape Bon, round the southern point of Sicily, Cape Pachynus, to the eastern shore of the island. Creeping up under the shelter of this, they would lie either in the harbor of Messana or at Rhegium, until the wind changed to a southern point and enabled them to fetch the Campanian harbor Puteoli or Gaeta, or to proceed as far as Ostia. In crossing from Africa to Sicily, if the wind was excessive, or varied two or three points to the northward, they would naturally bear up for Malta; and this had probably been the case with the "Twins," the ship in which Paul found a passage after his shipwreck on the coast of that island. Arrived in. Malta, they watched for the opportunity of a wind to take them westward, and with such a one they readily made Syracuse. To proceed farther while it continued blowing would have exposed them to the dangers of a lee-shore, and accordingly they remained "three days." They then, the wind having probably shifted into a westerly quarter so as to give them smooth water, coasted the shore and made (περιελθόντες κατηντήσαμεν εἰς) Rhegium. After one day there, the wind got round still more and blew from the south; they therefore weighed, and arrived at Puteoli in the course of the second day of the run (Ac 28:12-14).
In the time of Paul's voyage, Sicily did not supply the Romans with corn to the extent it had done in the time of king Hiero, and in a less degree as late as the time of Cicero. It is an error, however, to suppose that the soil was exhausted; for Strabo expressly says that for corn and some other productions, Sicily even surpassed Italy. But the country had become depopulated by the long series of wars, and when it passed into the hands of Rome, her great nobles turned vast tracts into pasture. In the time of Augustus the whole of the center of the island was occupied in this manner, and among its exports (except from the neighborhood of the volcanic region, where excellent wine was produced), fat stock, hides, and wool appear to have been the prominent articles. These grazing and horse- breeding farms were kept up by slave labor; and this was the reason that the whole island was in a chronic state of disturbance, owing to the slaves continually running away and forming bands of brigands. Sometimes these became so formidable as to require the aid of regular military operations to put them down; a circumstance of which Tiberius Gracchus made use as an argument in favor of his measure of an Agrarian law (Appian, B. C. 1, 9), which would have reconverted the spacious grasslands into small arable farms cultivated by Roman freemen. In the time of Paul there were only five Roman colonies in Sicily, of which Syracuse was one. The others were Catana, Tauromenium, Thermae, and Tyndaris. Messana too, although not a colony, was a town filled with a Roman population. Probably its inhabitants were merchants connected with the wine-trade of the neighborhood, of which Messana was the shipping port. Syracuse and Panormus were important as strategical points, and a Roman force was kept up at each. Sicilians, Sicanians, Morgetians, and Iberians (aboriginal inhabitants of the island, or very early settlers), still existed in the interior, in what exact political condition it is impossible to say; but most likely in that of villains. Some few towns are mentioned by Pliny as having the Latins franchise, and some as paying a fixed tribute; but, with the exception of the five colonies, the owners of the soil of the island were mainly great absentee proprietors, and almost all its produce came to Rome (Strabo, 6:2; Appian, B. C. 4:84 sq.; 5, 15-118; Cicero, Verr. 4:53; Pliny, H. rN. 3, 8). For a full account of ancient Syracuse, see Smith's Dict. of Geog. s.v., and the, literature there cited; also Goller, De Situ et Or. qine Syracusarum (Lips. 1818); for the modern city, Badeker, Southern Italy, p. 308 sq. SEE SICILY.