Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica

In July 2005, during the 29th annual session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, held in Durban, South Africa (10-18 July 2005), the 40th Italian property (the 5th Sicilian) “Siracusa and the rocky Necropolis of Pantalica” was added to the list. On the basis of the categories of cultural property in Article 1 of the 1971 Convention on World Heritage, this is a “group of buildings” and “a property”. According to paragraph 27 of the Operational Guidelines for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention, the property consists partly of a group of urban buildings belonging to the category “cities that are no longer inhabited, but which provide unchanged archaeological evidence of the past.”

The property includes two different parts containing finds from the Greek and Roman periods: the Necropolis of Pantalica, located near open-air quarries, which contains more than 5,000 tombs, many of which date from the 13th and 7th centuries BC. In the Necropolis, there are vestiges of the Byzantine era, as well as the finds from the Anaktoron (Palazzo del Principe).

The second part is instead the Ancient Syracuse, which includes Ortigia, the first nucleus of the city was founded by the Greek colonists that arrived from Corinth in the eighth century BC. On the ground of the city, there are the remains of the Temple of Athena (5th century BC), later converted into a cathedral. Furthermore, the remains of a Greek theater, a Roman amphitheater and many other buildings remains. These testimonies attest the turbulent history of Sicily from the Byzantine to the Bourbon domination, through the Arab, Norman domination of Frederick II (Hohenstaufen, 1197-1250) and that of the Aragonese. Ancient Syracuse is a unique example of the development of a Mediterranean civilization over more than three millennia.

Necropolis of Pantalica

Geographic coordinates: N37 08 30 E15 01 42
Inscribed property area: 205.86 Ha
Area of the buffer zone: 3,699.7 Ha

The Ancient Syracuse: Eurialo Castle, the Dionysian Fortifications, the Neapolis and the Greek Scala Area

Geographical coordinates: N37 05 45 E15 13 30
Inscribed property area: 635.96 Ha
Area of the buffer zone: 874.45 Ha


Geographical coordinates: N37 03 34 E15 17 35
Inscribed property area: 56.64 Ha
Area of the buffer zone: 945.25 Ha

Criteria for the assessment of Outstanding Universal Value

The Committee has decided to enter the property called “Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica” on the World Heritage List on the basis of the criteria: (II) - (III) - (IV) - (VI).

Criterion II: to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design.

“The city of Syracuse and the Rock Necropolis of Pantalica represent in their territorial whole an exceptional and unique documented testimony of the continuous development, succession and integration of the systems of anthropization and civilization of the territory, starting from the Neolithic Age for almost four millennia until to the present day”.

Criterion III: to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared.

“The city of Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica in their territorial, landscape and urban set, represent an exceptional testimony of how the Greek-Hellenistic world and culture have been the basis and reference for the development of following cultures. The extraordinary cultural traditions that have developed there have deeply permeated the civilizations that succeeded each other in the area and influenced the entire Mediterranean area, representing the model on which the entire civilization of the Western world was based and evolved.”

Criterion IV: to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history.

“The group of monuments and archaeological properties located in Syracuse (between the centre of Ortigia and the vestiges throughout the urban area) are the greatest examples of the exceptional architectural creation that brings together different cultures (Greek, Roman, Baroque).”

Criterion VI: to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria).

“Ancient Syracuse was directly connected to events, ideas and literary works of outstanding universal importance for the foundation of Western civilization. The city has given birth and has inspired and attracted many of the most important philosophers, politicians, thinkers and artists of its time (Theocritus, Archimedes, Aeschylus, Plato); their work, their thought, their ideas, the political systems that they theorized and inspired, are still today the cornerstones of the whole history of Western culture.”

Declaration of Outstanding Universal Value and Justification for Inscription

“Substituting the previous prehistoric culture that was centered in Pantalica, the culture of Greek civilization, which arose and developed in Syracuse, has embodied the most important centre of the Mediterranean for a significant period in the history of mankind. Syracuse prevailed over the Carthage and Athens rivals and rose up to become the heart of thought, art and culture. History has left extraordinary signs of its passage in the urban and architectural overlaps of the following centuries that have been developed on the basis of the Greek city and extraordinary traces of the persistence and integration of the various cultures of the most significant eras of the Western world have been preserved.

This cultural stratification makes of Syracuse a unique property.”

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