This boat-shaped structure is one of the most formidable Greek fortresses to have survived from ancient times, set 9km (5 1/2 miles) northwest of Syracuse along Via Epipoli, in the Belvedere district. The castle was adapted and fortified by Archimedes, the famous mathematician who was born in Syracuse in 287 B.C.

The castle was believed impregnable, but such was not the case. The Romans conquered it without a struggle. The approach road crosses the Mura Dionigiane (Wall of Dionysius), which once stretched for 27km (17 miles) across the Epipolae high plateau, enclosing the northern tier of Syracuse. Two parallel walls were built of limestone blocks, the center filled with rubble. The walls, started by Dionysius the Elder in 401 B.C. after the Athenian siege, were finished in 385 B.C.

As you survey the ruins, know that they are the most complete of any Greek military work extant. Three ditches precede the west front of the fortress. The main castle consisted of a keep, barracks, and cisterns. A warren of underground passages was cut through the fortress. From the castle precincts, you can enjoy a panoramic view back to Syracuse.