Syracuse

   Center of Byzantine administration in Sicily (q.v.), captured in 491 by the Ostrogoths (q.v.). In 535 Besilarios (q.v.) recaptured the city from the harbor side by hoisting boats full of soldiers to the top of the masts of his ships, from which they cleared the city walls of defenders. Totila's (q.v.) attempt to regain the city in 550 was turned back. Constans II (q.v.) made it his imperial residence for five years (663-668), consolidating Byzantine control over the island in the face of increasing Arab attacks. Leo III's (q.v.) transfer of its bishopric from Rome (q.v.) to the patriarch of Constantinople (qq.v.) consolidated ecclesiastical control over the city. Nevertheless, Arab attacks were relentless, and in 878 after a ninth-month siege, described in an eyewitness account by Theodosios the Monk, the Arabs (q.v.) took the city. The Arabs held it, despite a brief occupation by George Maniakes (q.v.) in 1040, until 1085, when the Normans (q.v.) seized it.

Historical Dictionary of Byzantium . .

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