By Irene Shaland, International Jewish Scholar
Siracusa is truly a summation of Sicilian splendor, and if there is one city in Sicily that personifies this magnificent island it is Siracusa. The city is 3,000 years in the making and combines Greek and Roman civilizations with ancient Jewish culture and baroque masterpieces. Great history of Western civilization: Founded in 734 BC by Greeks from Corinth, Siracusa grew to become a city larger than Corinth and Athens, turning into a capital of Magna Crecia. It became an intellectual magnet that attracted the best brain power of the ancient world: from Aeschylus and Pindar of theater and poetry to Archimedes in mathematics and physics.
The Romans invaded Siracusa in 211 BC, killing Archimedes and the city’s splendor along with him. Even though Siracusa remained the capital of Sicily under the Romans, its glory days were gone. When it was taken over by the Saracens Arabs, Siracusa was reduced to a fortified town. The 17th century earthquake served as a catalyst for the city’s renewal, and beautiful baroque buildings and squares came into being.
Today, a visitor comes to Siracusa enticed by its two main attractions: a tangled maze of historic alleyways and squares of the Ortygia peninsula, and the world-renowned Greek Archeological Park of Neapolis. For the Jewish history pilgrim, Siracusa has a recently-discovered Miqwe (Jewish ritual bath), the oldest in Europe. It is also the city where one can visit the first synagogue and the first Rabbi in modern Sicily, 522 years after the Edict of Expulsion.
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