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Syracuse was an ancient colony of Corinth founded around 733 BCE. From about 485 BCE Syracuse was ruled by tyrants (Gelon, Hieron I) seeking to unite the Sicilian Greeks and expel the Carthaginians from the island (victory at Himera 480 BCE). After briefly overthrowing tyranny (467-466 BCE), there were internal riots and the weakening of the position of Syracuse. Carthage repeated its attempts to conquer the island (409-405 BCE), which made it easier for Dionysius I, the creator of the power of Syracuse, to rise to power. Subsequent power struggles (Dionysius II and Dion) brought the restoration of democracy.

In the Second Punic War, Syracuse, allied with Carthage, was captured and plundered by the Romans (212 BCE, death of Archimedes). They became one of the Roman provincial cities.

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