Syracuse was settled in mid-eighth century BC by Greeks from Corinth, who settled on the island of Ortigia. The charm of Syracuse and its history and its ancient prestige date to the fifth century BC , when the city was the most flourishing and powerful State of Magna Graecia in open rivalry with Athens. The city was conquered in 212 BC following the Roman invasion of Sicily. During the Roman Empire it remained a very important centre in the Mediterranean basin.
 
The legacy of its classical past is everywhere. The remains are numerous and have defied the millennia, earthquakes and the ravages of man. In addition to the Greek Theater and the great stone quarries (the ancient "Latomie"), the Altar of Hieron II, of astonishing grandeur, the Roman Amphitheater and the large temples (Apollo Athena and Zeus) are of interest.


The archaeological site of the Neapolis, is reached in twenty minutes from Ortigia, and includes, as mentioned, the Greek Theater, built in the fifth century BC and still used for performances; the Roman Amphitheater, built in the forth BC; and the Latomia (where the Athenians were massacred by locals in the fifth century BC) with the open the cave called Dionisio Ear because of its shape. The Neapolis is located east of the catacombs of San Giovanni.