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Eloro, also known nowadays as Helorus, is situated in south-east Sicily. It is closely related to the historic town of Noto and is found in the territory of that town.
It is for the archaeologic site and history that visitors come here - so bear with us if the Eloro guide is rather more historically detailed than most, but it will make your visit more interesting!
Helorus, the “Villa Romana del Tellaro,” the “Colonna Pizzuta” and the Natural Reserve of “Vindicari” ...
We know that the foundation of the city at Helorus dates back to the late 8th century BC and that it was linked to Syracuse by the so-called "Via Elorina" (see Helorus history). The god of the river was worshiped in the city, in honour of whom, according to Hesychius at the end of the 5th century AD, an agon [athletic, literary, and musical competitions for prizes] was dedicated.
Ovidius [43 BC-18 AD] also wrote that in the lush river valley a cult was practiced dedicated to Demeter-Kore (F. Copani).
According to contemporary studies, Helorus occupied an area of 10 hectares and was surrounded by walls 1.4 km long, of which there are the remains to the north, dating from the sixth century BC. Of this earliest phase a vast tract of two curtain walls 2.80 m wide is preserved, and a gate located on the western side, closed following the restoration of the fourth century BC.
From the latter phase come the square towers, projecting from the walls and preserved along this stretch of the fortification. Two Gates have been recognized, one to the north and the other to the south, the first in the direction of Syracuse, the second towards the mouth of the river Tellaro. The two gates are crossed by the ‘Via Elorina’, on which we can still see the ruts left by chariot wheels.
In recent years it has been possible to document the presence of the outer walls of the fortifications also on the southern side of the city, practically up to the so-called “Stampaci Tower”. The walls of Old Herolus were built with blocks of limestone, implementedwith pseudo-isodomic [=equal courses] masonry and forming a double curtain with an inner bag filled with stones. The total thickness is 2.80 m. The walls were rebuilt in the fourth century BC, reusing the archaic walls” (6).
Mosaics in the Villa del Tellaro
On the right bank of the Tellaro river, the remains of a villa were found, adorned with rich polychrome mosaic floors presumably dating from the mid-fourth century BC. G.Voza has focused a number of studies on the artistic and historical aspects of Helorus, with studies initiated in the late '60s (7). His descriptions of the “Villa del Tellaro,” famous for its mosaics, are very interesting:
"All these rooms with the porch, were equipped with polychrome mosaics. The mosaics are a very valuable work because of the the materials used, for their technical performance and the exceptional variety of colours (8). The mosaics show cynegetic [=hunting] and mythological scenes, executed according to the “mosaic-style carpet”, even if we observe signs of individuality of expression ... The walls of the house are little preserved because of a large fire that already occurred in antiquity, following the which the villa was completely destroyed and forgotten” (G. Voza, “Nel Segno dell'Antico”, p. 121 and 125).
Most impressive are the hunting scenes, in which "the vividness of the representations and the sensitivity of the colour have a great impact on visitors".
The ancient Greek artists have portrayed scenes from the Homeric poems such as “The ransom of Hector's body”. The Greek inscription gives the names of Ulysses, Achilles, Diomedes, and Priam. The representation was framed by a decorative band full of plants and animals, such as a tiger:
“Starting from the east before we look at the floor of the angle of a room with a magnificent animated decoration, in one case, perhaps, by a deer and by the body of an aggressive tiger” (9).
At the centre stands a large balance having two equal arms, at the extremities of which two equal plats are suspended: one on the left with the gold for the ransom, the right one with the lifeless body of Hector. According to G. Voza, the representation of “The ransom of Hector's body” offers a re-interpretation of the Homeric myth in accordance with the "Phrygians" of Aeschylus [525-456 BC] (G. Voza, “Nel Segno dell'Antico”, p. 125).
Finally, from a historical and cultural point of view, the historical problem linked to the so-called “Colonna Pizzuta” is very interesting. F. Copani stresses that the ‘Colonna Pizzuta,’ a majestic monument that still stands a few hundred meters from the remains of the polis, is a tower 10.50 m high and 3.79 m wide at the base consisting of large blocks of stone, and evidently damaged and mutilated at the top.
Fazello defined it as "Pyramis orbicularis, et in acutum surgens," [=circular mausoleum pointed at the top] which suggests that at the time when he visited it, the column, still intact, ended with a narrowing at the top, just had to be derived from this form the name of "Pizzuta," which in the local dialect means "sharp stone".
The historical problem of the 'Colonna Pizzuta' is essentially linked to its function, which was the subject of long discussion by scholars, and which ended with the hypothesis of P. Orsi, according to whom it was a large Hellenistic hypogeum:
“The enigma of the ‘Colonna Pizzuta’ would seem, therefore, resolved, and in fact P. Orsi, in the posthumous report of his excavations, had no doubts about the interpretation of the monument as a large Hellenistic hypogeum. Except that it was the same Paolo Orsi to reopen the issue when, in the brief news that he gave in 1899 about Helorus, he introduced the theory according to which the original destination of the ‘Colonna Pizzuta’ was a solemn burial of the Syracusan soldiers after the battle of 413."
However, according to F. Copani, the ‘Colonna Pizzuta’ would be a monument built by the Helorus’ worthies:
“It seems evident, therefore, that the builders of the Colonna Pizzuta were the rich inhabitants of Helorus competing with other patricians of their city in building magnificent tombs."
F. Copani concludes that:
“As regards the interpretation of a historical monument as solemn, one must be aware of the social changes and their reflections on funeral architecture, which can be observed in Sicily between the fourth and third centuries BC, […] with an accentuation of the monumental character of certain burials, with the appearance of the so-called “âπιτύμβια”[apitymbia], small stepped pyramids topped by a column...
...This trend, a symptom of great differences in social status among citizens in Helorus, becomes even more significant in the third century, and we can assume that the ‘Colonna Pizzuta’ constitutes one of the major points of arrival of this trend. It was during the third century that those funerary monuments were spread over the country (10).
Modern town of Eloro
Today, modern Eloro is also known for its beach, particularly suitable for those seeking peace and rest, as well as a landscape of exceptional beauty.
For all those who love Italy and its antiquity Eloro offers the possibility of an exceptional encounter with the ancient city and its monuments.
Finally, for nature lovers, we observe that the Archaeological Park of Eloro is located in the Natural Reserve of “Vindicari” one of the last places in the dunes covered by the typical Mediterranean scrub. Vindicari is justly famous as a resting place for migratory waterfowl, with hundreds of species of birds, such as herons, spoonbills, egrets, flamingos, ducks, gulls and cormorants.
In the ancient world, Vindicari was also famous for its fishery sector (fishing and processing) and the fishes were sacred among the Greeks and the Romans ) and today is equally famous for the production of fine wines … such as the "Eloro."
See also Eloro history and etymology (also for citations mentioned on this page).
You can find more local travel ideas in the Sicily guide.