The wealthy city of Syracuse, situated in south-eastern Italy, played a major role in southern Italian politics equaled only by the city of Tarentum, situated on Italy’s heel.
After fighting off an Athenian invasion fleet (414-413) during the Peloponnesian War, the Syracusans had to deal with the renewed ambitions of Carthage, who had always maintained a few colonies in Sicily. A long war was fought from -409 to -301 and even included a Syracusan invasion of North Africa, the “Expedition of Agathocles”.
Although Pyrrhus weakened Carthage during his invasion of Southern Italy (280-275), Syracuse soon had to face Roman expansion.
During the 1st Punic War they were a Roman ally, but during the 2nd Punic War chose the Carthaginian camp. The Romans laid siege to Syracuse in 215 for three years, sacking it and reducing it to the role of a client state.
The Syracusan army, up until c.450, was identical to that of other Greek states. The arrival of the tyrants (beginning with Gelon in -485, but in particular under Denys the Elder, -405 to -367) saw the introduction of large numbers of mercenaries, Greeks, Italians and Celts.