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Syracuse (Siracusa in Italian) is a city on the eastern coast of Sicily, Italy. It is the capital of the province of Syracuse.
Syracuse was founded in 734 BC by Greek settlers from Corinth, who called it Sirako ("swamp"). The settlers found the land to be fertile and the native tribes to be reasonably well-disposed to their presence. The city grew and prospered, and for some time stood as the most powerful Greek city anywhere in the Mediterranean.
In the 5th century BC Syracuse came to be ruled by tyrants, who ruled until 211 BC, with some interruptions. In the late 5th century, Syracuse found itself at war with Athens, which sought more resources to fight the Peloponnesian War. The Syracusans enlisted the aid of a general from Sparta, Athens' foe in the war, to defeat the Athenians, destroy their ships, and leave them to starve on the island (see Sicilian Expedition). In 401 BC, Syracuse contributed a force of 3000 hoplites and a general to Cyrus the Younger's Army of the Ten Thousand.
Not long after, in the early 4th century BC, the tyrant Dionysius managed to fight a war against Carthage and keep that power from capturing the whole of Sicily.
Perhaps the most famous Syracusan was the natural philosopher Archimedes. Among his many inventions were various military engines including the claw of Archimedes, used to resist a Roman siege. The city held out for three years, but fell in 212 BC.
Another siege in AD 878 inaugurated two centuries of Muslim rule. In 1085 the Normans followed and in 1194 Henry VI of Swabia occupied Syracuse. Under Frederick II the city and the whole of Sicily flourished again. In the struggle between the Anjou and Aragonese monarchies, Syracuse sided with the Aragonese and defeated the Anjou in 1298, receiving from the Spanish sovereigns great privileges in reward.
The city in the following centuries was struck by two ruinous earthquakes in 1542 and 1693, and in 1729 by a plague. More destruction was caused by the Allied and the German bombings in 1943.
Syracuse today has about 125,000 inhabitants and numerous attractions for the visitor interested in historical sites (such as the Ear of Dionysius). Nearby places of note include Catania, Noto, Modica and Ragusa.