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In Siracusa, the Teatro Greco (Greek Theatre) is a major historical and cultural landmark. It overlooks Siracusa and commands a view of the bay and Ortigia. The theatre was first built in the 5th century BC, rebuilt in the 3rd century BC and renovated again in the Roman period.

This aerial view of the theatre (we did not have a drone) was borrowed from Wikipedia, as do most of what we say about the history below.

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As much as the theatre is a major touristic site, its entrance from the street was not easy to find after purchasing a ticket. This is the second Greek theatre we saw in Sicily, the other was at Taormina.

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Given Siracusa’s statue as a major city of wealth and culture in ancient times, it was befitting that the city has one of the most impressive theatre.

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The cavea (seating section) is one of the largest in the Greek world, and originally had 67 rows of seating, mostly cut into rocks and divided into nine sectors (cunei) by access stairs. A pathway (diazoma) runs around the theatre halfway up the cavea, dividing it in two.

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Having been abandoned for centuries, the theatre underwent progressive destruction as blocks of stones were taken to construct new fortifications on Ortigia (around 1500’s during Spanish occupation).

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This process led to the destruction of the scene building and the upper part of the seating.

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At the back of cavea is a terrace as well as several grottos.

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Around 1750’s, the ancient aqueduct was re-established which brought water to the top of the theatre, allowing the creation of several water mills in the cavea.

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In 1914, the Istituto Nazionale del Dramma Antico (INDA) began the annual performance of Greek drama in the theatre. The ancient Greek tragedies are performed at sunset. Each theatre season begins in May and ends in July. As we were there during Easter, the stage and seating for the 2015 season was just being constructed.

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Sophocles’ Electra, Alcestis of Euripides and Seneca’s Phaedra are the three works that will be part of the fifty-second cycle of classical plays at the theatre in 2016.

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The Teatro Greco forms part of the Parco archeologico della Neapolis which includes several ancient limestone quarries (“latomie”). We briefly explored the Latomia del Paradiso which is now planted with orange and lemon trees.

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Many sections of the quarries are roped off, either because the caves are too delicate or unsave, or we were too early in the touristic season and the park may be understaffed at the time.

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La Grotta dei Cordari – entrance blocked

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In one corner of Latomie del Paradiso, a narrow cavern 23 meters high and up to 65 meters deep is carved into the limestone walls.

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It was referred to by Caravaggio in 1608 as the Orecchio di Dionisio (“Ear of Dionysius”) – presumably due to its shape (a bit too Martian we thought, like Spock’s), or its remarkable acoustics, allowing a person to stand at one end and hear whatever that is spoken at the other. We tested it, and indeed it lived up to its reputation.

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A local legend speaks of Dionysius using this cave to hold his enemies and its acoustics to spy on his prisoners.

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As it was getting late, we did not manage to look into the alleged tomb of Archimedes (the naked genius who shouted Eureka, see earlier post here) but here is a picture of it from outside the fence.

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