Dionysius I, or Dionysius the Elder, was an eclectic and controversial character known for his artistic and philosophical streak and his cruel and bloody temperament. He was tyrant of Syracuse, ruling from 405 to 367 BC and was an emblematic figure of ancient Sicily thanks to his fierce expansionist politics. In this period Syracuse stood out for its rich cultural turmoil: since Dionysius was in fact a man of great culture and a patron, his court hosted personalities such as
, Philoxenus and Aristippus of Cyrene and welcomed many artisans and intellectuals.
Ortygia became his stronghold and for this reason had to be protected: mindful of previous war experiences, Dionysius surrounded the area with defensive fortifications and had the famous Euryalus Fortress built. The land of Syracuse had to become impregnable at all costs.
At the same time, the tyrant is remembered today as an undisputed example of cruelty, as shown by many anecdotes about his personality in the works of Cicero and Plutarch.