Altar of Hieron

Syracuse, Italy

The Altar of Hieron is a monumental grand altar in the ancient quarter of Neapolis in Syracuse. It was built in the Hellenistic period by King Hiero II and is the largest altar known from antiquity.

The structure is aligned roughly north-north-west to south-east-east, and is located in the Neapolis. Almost nothing except the foundations of the structure survive today. The structure was partly built from masonry blocks and partially carved from the living bedrock. The altar itself is 20.85 metres wide and 196 metres long (exactly one Doric stade). This makes it the largest altar known from the ancient world.

The altar is mentioned by Diodorus Siculus, who attributes its construction to Hiero II. Stylistic analysis of the sculptural fragments from the altar confirms this, showing that they were made at the same time as the third phase of the nearby Greek theatre, which belongs after 235 BC. The votive deposit in the natural grotto under the eastern side of the altar shows that the area was already a sacred site in the Archaic period, not long after the city of Syracuse was established.



Your name


Founded: 3rd century BCE
Category: Prehistoric and archaeological sites in Italy

More Information


4.2/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Richard Reaveley (2 years ago)
Didn’t get to see the park as we were harassed by some guy pretending to be a parking attendant and demanding money. When I asked for ID he refused and pointed to his t-shirt. When I tried looking up this name he became aggressive and came into my personal space. He walked away and I took a picture of him. He came back demanding I delete the photo and tried to take my phone off me. He then became more aggressive and threatening. As soon as I started saying let’s call the police he said free parking and walked away. Needless to say this wasn’t a pleasant experience and put us off going to the park incase our car was damaged on our return. The city should do something about these scams as it doesn’t give a good lasting impression of Siracusa.
Phillip Spencer (2 years ago)
An impressive monument, the largest altar of it's time. Although it is not in so good a state now one can still get a good impression of what it must have been like in ancient times.
Elwin Lee (2 years ago)
Nothing much here, but the remains of what's once there is a pretty nice sight. Too bad you couldn't go down there. Not sure if it's normally open to visitors. I was there in February and the gate was closed, but you can still see it from afar.
Oleg Naumov (4 years ago)
I was impressed. It's huge.
Spiros Theocharis (4 years ago)
I wish this altar had been better preserved . It would really look so majestic. This huge altar dedicated by the Greek Tyrrant Hiero to Zeus , once hosted a sacrifice of 400 bulls.
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week


Kirkjubøargarður ('Yard of Kirkjubøur', also known as King"s Farm) is one of the oldest still inhabited wooden houses of the world. The farm itself has always been the largest in the Faroe Islands. The old farmhouse dates back to the 11th century. It was the episcopal residence and seminary of the Diocese of the Faroe Islands, from about 1100. Sverre I of Norway (1151–1202), grew up here and went to the priest school. The legend says, that the wood for the block houses came as driftwood from Norway and was accurately bundled and numbered, just for being set up. Note, that there is no forest in the Faroes and wood is a very valuable material. Many such wood legends are thus to be found in Faroese history.

The oldest part is a so-called roykstova (reek parlour, or smoke room). Perhaps it was moved one day, because it does not fit to its foundation. Another ancient room is the loftstovan (loft room). It is supposed that Bishop Erlendur wrote the 'Sheep Letter' here in 1298. This is the earliest document of the Faroes we know today. It is the statute concerning sheep breeding on the Faroes. Today the room is the farm"s library. The stórastovan (large room) is from a much later date, being built in 1772.

Though the farmhouse is a museum, the 17th generation of the Patursson Family, which has occupied it since 1550, is still living here. Shortly after the Reformation in the Faroe Islands in 1538, all the real estate of the Catholic Church was seized by the King of Denmark. This was about half of the land in the Faroes, and since then called King"s Land (kongsjørð). The largest piece of King"s Land was the farm in Kirkjubøur due to the above-mentioned Episcopal residence. This land is today owned by the Faroese government, and the Paturssons are tenants from generation to generation. It is always the oldest son, who becomes King"s Farmer, and in contrast to the privately owned land, the King"s Land is never divided between the sons.

The farm holds sheep, cattle and some horses. It is possible to get a coffee here and buy fresh mutton and beef directly from the farmer. In the winter season there is also hare hunting for the locals. Groups can rent the roykstovan for festivities and will be served original Faroese cuisine.

Other famous buildings directly by the farmhouse are the Magnus Cathedral and the Saint Olav"s Church, which also date back to the mediaeval period. All three together represent the Faroe Island"s most interesting historical site.