The Ear of Dionysius (Italian: Orecchio di Dionisio) is a limestone cave carved out of the Temenites hill in the city of Syracuse, on the island of Sicily in Italy. Its name, given by the painter Michelangelo da Caravaggio, comes from its similarity in shape to the human ear. The name is also linked to echoes in the cave.

The name of the cave was coined in 1608 by the painter Caravaggio,[1] who was shown the grotto by the mathematician, antiquarian and archaeologist Vincenzo Mirabella. It refers to the tyrant Dionysius I of Syracuse. According to legend, Dionysius used the cave as a prison for political dissidents, and by means of the perfect acoustics eavesdropped on the plans and secrets of his captives. Another legend claims that Dionysius carved the cave in its shape so that it would amplify the screams of prisoners being tortured in it.[citation needed] The sound-focusing effect can no longer be heard because access to the focal point is no longer possible. The visitors of the cave can however still hear the echo while they are in the Ear of Dionysius.[citation needed]

Because of its reputation for acoustic flawlessness, the Ear of Dionysius has also come to refer to a type of ear trumpet that has a flexible tube. The term 'Ear of Dionysius' can also refer to surveillance, specifically for political gain.[citation needed]

^ "Turismo a Siracusa - Algila". Retrieved 28 May 2018.
Photographies by:
trolvag - CC BY-SA 3.0
Jerzy Strzelecki - CC BY-SA 3.0
Michael Wilson from York, United Kingdom - CC BY 2.0
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