Syracuse (2)

In preparation for visiting Syracuse, I read about its importance to the Greeks:  its original settlement as a colony in 733 BC;  its rule by the tyrant Hieron I who encouraged Aeschylus;  its war with Athens which resulted in defeat for the Athenians who were imprisoned or sold into slavery unless they were able to recite the poetry of Euripides;  the tyrant Dionysus who wrote plays and encouraged Plato;  his son Dionysus II who used to ‘loiter in the fish markets and squabble in the streets with common women’;  the tyrant Agothocles who had been a potter;  and finally, Hieron II who stupidly switched allegiance from Rome to Carthage which led to its downfall following a long siege and the death of Archimedes.   I remember none of this from my studies of Greek history.   Nor was I aware of the significance of Cicero’s Verrine Orations, lamenting the way that Sicily had been stripped of its wealth by the Roman governor Verres.   ‘Among the most sacred and revered Sicilian sanctuaries, there was not a single one he failed to plunder’ (see Tiffany Jenkins, Keeping their Marbles, p.124).

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