Battle of Alalia

The naval Battle of Alalia took place between 540 BC and 535 BC off the coast of Corsica between Greeks and the allied Etruscans and Carthaginians. A Punic-Etruscan fleet of 120 ships defeated a Greek force of Phocaean ships while emigrating to the western Mediterranean and the nearby colony of Alalia (now Aléria).

Battle of Alalia
Battle of Alalia map

Map of the Tyrrhenian Sea surrounded by etruscans, greeks and phoenicians
DateSome time between 540 BC and 535 BC
Off the coast of Corsica
Result Greek Cadmean victory, Carthaginian-Etruscan strategic victory
The Greeks evacuated Corsica, which was captured by the Etruscans, while Carthage maintained its hold on Sardinia
The Greek Phocaean Colonies of Alalia Carthage
60 Pentekonters Around 120 Ships
Casualties and losses
Almost 40 Pentekonters Unknown


The Phoenicians had planted trading posts in Africa, Sicily, Sardinia and Iberia during the 9th and 8th centuries BC while creating their trading monopoly. The Phoenicians were among the first peoples, if not the first, to begin trading around the Mediterranean on a wide scale after the period of economic decline that had accompanied the end of the Mediterranean Bronze Age. The Etruscans emerged as a local power in the 8th century BC, spreading their trade to Corsica, Sardinia and Iberia and creating a powerful navy to guard their interests. The Phoenicians and Etruscans became trading partners and rivals, exchanging goods with and engaging in opportunistic raids against each other. The situation changed with the beginning and growth of Greek activity in the western Mediterranean from around 750 BC onward.

Greater Greece outside Greece

The second (quite possibly the third) wave of Greek colonization efforts in this area started with the planting of Cumae in Italy by 750 BC and Naxos in Sicily by 735 BC. Within the next 100 years, several Greek cities had planted colonies along the coast of southern Italy and most of Sicily, creating a position to control trade routes around these areas and dominating the Strait of Messina. Etruscans clashed with the Greeks, but were unable to stop the process. Although the colonization process was not done according to any master plan, with several Greek cities acting simultaneously, it probably seemed to the Phoenicians and Etruscans that a flood of Greeks were drowning the Tyrrhenian seacoast.

The Greek-colonized zone encompassing Sicily and Southern Italy came to be known as Magna Graecia. The Greeks living in this area behaved pretty much like the mainland Greeks, expanding their political and commercial domain at the expense of their neighbors while keeping the Ionian–Dorian feud alive. The colonization offered greater opportunities for increased trade, piracy and other conflicts among the Etruscans, Phoenicians and Greeks competing for control of seaborne trade of the area.

Carthaginian hegemony

Carthage created her hegemony in part to resist Greek encroachments in the Phoenician sphere of influence. Phoenicians initially (750–650 BC) did not resist the Greeks, but after the Greeks had returned to Iberia sometime after 638 BC, being virtually absent for at least two centuries, Carthage emerged as the leader of the Phoenician resistance. During the 6th century BC, mostly under the leadership of the Magonid dynasty, Carthage established an empire which would commercially dominate the Western Mediterranean.[1] The Phoenician cities of Motya, Panormus and Solus in Sicily and the Elymians had teamed up to defeat the Greeks of Selinus and Rhodes near Lilybaeum in 580 BC, the first such recorded incident in Sicily. These cities remained independent until becoming part of the Carthaginian hegemony after 540 BC.[2]

Prelude: Phocaeans

The Phocaean Greeks from Asia Minor (modern Turkey) had founded the colony of Massalia around 600 BC, which the Carthaginians had tried and failed to prevent.[3] Massalia became a thriving trading center and a major rival of Carthage for the Spanish markets and the tin trade through Gaul. The Phocaeans also planted a colony in Alalia in Corsica around 562 BC. When the city of Phocaea itself fell to Cyrus the Great of Persia in 546 BC, most Phoceans moved to Alalia, partly because they were on good terms with the Greek colonies along the Strait of Messina and had even been granted toll-free passage. Later, after the battle, in 540 BC, they founded Elea in southern Italy (Magna Grecia).

The Phocaeans had managed to establish their base at a time when Carthage was engaged in defending Punic colonies in Sicily (Greeks had started to encroach on Punic cities in 580 BC) and conquering territory in Sardinia,[4] Tyre was facing Persian domination and the Etruscans were engaged in expansion across Italy, starting with the formation of the Etruscan League. The Greeks started to prey on Carthaginian and Etruscan trade from Corsica, which continued unchecked for five years. However, fearing that the Greeks would threaten their colonies in North Italy and Sardinia next, the Etruscans and Carthaginians joined forces to oppose the Greeks around 540 BC. It is not known if the Carthaginians had allied with the Etruscan League or with individual Etruscan cities.

The battle

It is assumed that the Phocaean Greeks had 60 pentekonters (ships with 48 oars and two rudders for steering),[5] not the trireme that would become famous at the Battle of Salamis, and the allied fleet was twice as large, also composed of pentekonters. Details of the battle are sketchy, but it is known that although the Greeks had driven the allied fleet off, they had lost almost two-thirds of their own fleet in doing so: a Cadmean victory, according to Herodotus.[6] The rams of the surviving ships had been severely damaged. Realizing that they could not withstand another attack, the Greeks evacuated Corsica, and initially sought refuge in Rhegion in Italy. Carthaginian and Etruscan battle losses are not known. A legend describes how Greek prisoners were stoned to death at Caere by the Etruscans, while the Carthaginians sold their prisoners into slavery. This battle is also known as "The Battle of Sardinia Sea".


Location Battle-of-Alalia
Battle of Alalia and aftermath

Corsica passed into Etruscan hands, while Carthage retained Sardinia. Carthage would fight two more major naval battles with Massalia, losing both,[7] but still managing to close the Strait of Gibraltar to Greek shipping and thus containing the Greek expansion in Spain by 480 BC. Attempts by Etruscans to conquer Greek areas in Southern Italy would be opposed by the Greek city of Cumae. They would defeat an Etruscan invasion in 524 BC. Carthage would defeat the attempt of Spartan prince Dorieus to colonize North Africa (c. 513 BC) and Western Sicily (c. 510 BC).[8] While Carthage was busy in Sardinia after 509 BC dealing with a native uprising, the Greek city of Syracuse under Gelon, allied with the Greek city of Agrigentum under Theron to challenge the Carthaginians in Sicily.

That set the stage for the Sicilian Wars (480–307 BC) between Carthage and the Greeks. According to Herodotus, it was only after the battle that Phocaeans moved to Italy where they founded Elea.[9]

Some authors consider that the Greek defeat and consequent lack of Greek traders in the Gibraltar Strait led to the collapse of the Tartessian civilization in Southern Spain, while the Punic presence remained undisturbed. The uncontested, and more lucrative, river trade with the interior of Gaul became the focal point of the Greek cities of modern southern France, such as Massalia (modern Marseille).


  1. ^ Markoe, Glenn E., "Phoenicians", p54-55 ISBN 0-520-22614-3
  2. ^ Freeman, Edward A., History of Sicily, Volume 1, p283-297 – public domain book
  3. ^ Thucidydes, I.13.60
  4. ^ Casson, Lionel, The Ancient Mariners, p 74 ISBN 0-691-01477-9
  5. ^ Casson, Lionel, The Ancient Mariners, p 79 ISBN 0-691-01477-9
  6. ^ Herodotus, Histories, I, 166.
  7. ^ Casson, Lionel, The ancient Mariners, p 75 ISBN 0-691-01477-9
  8. ^ Baker, G.P Hannibal, p 15 ISBN 0-8154-1005-0
  9. ^ Herodotus 1.166.1, 1.167.2


530s BC

This article concerns the period 539 BC – 530 BC.

535 BC

The year 535 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. In the Roman Empire, it was known as year 219 Ab urbe condita. The denomination 535 BC for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.

Acquarossa, Italy

Acquarossa or Fosso Acqua Rossa is the modern name of the location of an ancient Etruscan settlement abandoned or destroyed in the second half of the sixth century BC. Located near Viterbo, in Etruria, was excavated by the Swedish Institute at Rome in the 1960s and 1970s. An elite complex similar to the Regia in Rome was excavated at the site.


Alalia may refer to :

PlacesLatin name of port city and former bishopric Aléria, on Corsica

Battle of Alalia (530-535 BC)

Al-Alia, MoroccootherAlalia (speech)


Aléria (Ancient Greek: Ἀλαλίη, Alaliē; Latin and Italian: Aleria, Corsican: U Cateraghju) is a commune in the Haute-Corse department of France on the island of Corsica, former bishopric and present Latin Catholic titular see. It includes the easternmost point in Metropolitan France.

Battle of Populonia

The Battle of Populonia was fought in 282 BC between Rome and the Etruscans. The Romans were victorious, and the Etruscan threat to Rome sharply diminished after this battle.

Corpus Inscriptionum Etruscarum

The Corpus Inscriptionum Etruscarum (Body of Etruscan inscriptions) is a corpus of Etruscan texts, collected by Karl Pauli and his followers since 1885. After the death of Olof August Danielsson in 1933, this collection was passed on to the Uppsala University Library.

The CIE serves as a valuable reference index for many Etruscan texts, using a simple number system. For example, CIE 6 refers to the inscription mi avileś apianaś (I [am] of Avile Apiana.). There are other indices in existence as well.

Cuniculus (water channel)

A cuniculus, plural cuniculi, is a diversionary water channel, used by ancient civilizations on the Italian Peninsula. As the general ancient Italian use derives from the Etruscan use, the term has a special significance of Etruscan cuniculi. The city of Veii was noted for them. The Italian community of Formello to the north of Veii was named after the numerous cuniculi there.Cuniculi could take any form from trenches to a complex system of tunnels. The uses were multiple: irrigation, drainage, diversion, supply, and so on. The Romans used the cuniculi of Veii to mine into the citadel.


Etruria (; usually referred to in Greek and Latin source texts as Tyrrhenia Greek: Τυρρηνία) was a region of Central Italy, located in an area that covered part of what are now Tuscany, Lazio, and Umbria.

Etruscan Sibyl

The Etruscan Sibyl was the priestess presiding over the Apollonian oracle. The word Sibyl comes (via Latin) from the ancient Greek word sibylla, meaning prophetess. There were many Sibyls in the ancient world, but the Etruscan Sibyl predicted the Trojan War.

Whether the sibyl in question was the Tiburtine Sibyl of Tibur or the Greek Sibyl of Cumae is not always clear.

Etruscan history

Etruscan history is the written record of Etruscan civilization compiled mainly by Greek and Roman authors. Apart from their inscriptions, from which information mainly of a sociological character can be extracted, the Etruscans left no surviving history of their own, nor is there any mention in the Roman authors that any was ever written. Remnants of Etruscan writings are almost exclusively concerned with religion.

Etruscan terracotta warriors

The Etruscan terracotta warriors are three statues that resemble the work of the ancient Etruscans, but are in fact art forgeries. The statues, created by Italian brothers Pio and Alfonso Riccardi and three of their six sons, and were bought by The Metropolitan Museum of Art between 1915 and 1921.

Impasto (pottery)

Impasto is a type of coarse Etruscan pottery. The defining characteristic is that the clay contains chips of mica or stone.In G.A. Mansuelli's, The Art of Etruria and Early Rome (1964), the term "impasto pottery" is described in the following way: "Ceramic technique characteristic of hand-worked vases. By 'impasto pottery' is generally meant that of pre-historic times, of the Iron Age or later, made of impure clay with silica content." (p. 236)


Lausus was the son of the ousted Etruscan king Mezentius, and fought with him against Aeneas and the Trojans in Italy. He appears in Virgil's Aeneid in Books VII and X. When his father is wounded by Aeneas, Lausus steps in between them, and Aeneas strikes them down. In doing so, Lausus embodies the idea of pietas that Virgil praises throughout, exemplified in the relationships of Anchises and Aeneas and of Pallas and Evander. Aeneas immediately feels remorse for having killed the boy, and reproaches Lausus' men for keeping a distance rather than caring for the body: "Then to the stripling's tardy followers / he sternly called, and lifted from the earth / with his own hand the fallen foe: dark blood / defiled those princely tresses braided fair."Lausus is considered a foil to Pallas, the son of King Evander: both are young, come down from royal blood, are handsome, strong, full of filial piety, and both die at the hands of greater heroes.

List of Spanish words of Etruscan origin

This is a list of Spanish words of Etruscan origin. All of these words existed in Latin and most of them have alternative etymologies.

Mainake (Greek settlement)

Mainake or Menace (Greek Μαινάκη Mainákē) is an ancient Greek settlement lying in the southeast of Spain according to Strabo (3,4,2). Maria Eugenia Aubet locates it at the site of modern Málaga. The first colonial settlement in the area, dating from the late 8th century BC, was made by seafaring Phoenicians from Tyre, Lebanon, on an islet in the estuary of the Guadalhorce River at Cerro del Villar (the coastline of Málaga has changed considerably since that time, as river silting and changes in river levels have filled the ancient estuary and moved the site inland).The Phoenician settlements were more densely concentrated on the coastline east of Gibraltar than they were further up the coast. Market rivalry had attracted the Greeks to Iberia, who established their own trading colonies along the northeastern coast before venturing into the Phoenician corridor. They were encouraged by the Tartessians, who may have desired to end the Phoenician economic monopoly. Herodotus mentions that around 630 BC, the Phocaeans established relations with King Arganthonios (670–550 BC) of Tartessos, who gave them money to build walls around their city. Later they founded Mainake on the Málaga coast (Strabo. 3.4.2).Recent archaeological investigations have reopened the debate about the location of the Greek Mainake. The Massaliote Periplus places the city under Tartessian dominion on an island with a good harbour; its author emphasises that the city was on an island close to the river of the same name, and surrounded by saltwater lagoons. Geomorphological and paleo-environmental studies have shown that the Phoenician colony of Cerro del Villar, at the mouth of the Guadalhorce, was situated on an ancient island, now a rise in an alluvial flood plain west of Málaga.The Periplus, a merchants' guidebook which described the sea routes used by traders from Phoenicia and Tartessos, possibly dating to as early as the 6th century BC, contains the most ancient identification of Malaca as Mainake. It gives an account of a sea voyage circa 525 BC from Massalia (Marseille) along the western Mediterranean coast. The part referring to the Iberian Peninsula is preserved in the Ora Maritima (The Maritime Shores) of the Latin writer Rufus Festus Avienus, who wrote down excerpts much later, during the 4th century. Lines 425–431, which come after a description of the Pillars of Herakles (The Straits of Gibraltar), say that Mainake is close to the island of Noctiluca:

hos propter autem mox iugum Barbetium est

Malachaeque flumen urbe cum cognomine

Menace priore quae vocata est saeculo.

Tartessiorum iuris illic insula

antistat urbem, Noctilucae ab incolis

sacrata pridem. in insula stagnum quoque

tutusque portus. oppidum Menace super.

In English:

Near them [the Tartessians] is Cape Barbetium and the river Malacha with the town of the same name, formerly called Menace, under Tartessian dominion. In front of the town lies an island formerly dedicated by the inhabitants to Noctiluca. On the island is a marsh and a safe harbour; the town of Menace is above.

The mythical Greek colony of Mainake existed for at least two centuries. The name appears to be derived from the Greek: μαίνη (maínē). There are several ancient documents that mention its existence and discuss its intensive commercial activity. Strabo and other ancient historians placed it east of Malaka, but recent archaeological investigations suggest that the site of the 8th century BC Phoenician settlement at Cerro del Villar, less than 5 kilometres (3 miles) west of the original site of Malaka, corresponds to the location of the Greek colony. According to the ancient sources it was gradually abandoned after the battle of Alalia and the consequent collapse of the Phocaean Greek trade, which led the native inhabitants to shift their residence to the Phoenician-Punic Malaka.The Greek historian and geographer Strabo (64 BC–24 AD) says in his Geographica that in his time some thought this colony was the city of Malaca, a supposition he contradicted by pointing out that the ruins of Mainake could still be seen near Malaca and showed the regular urban plan of the Greeks, versus the haphazard Semitic layout of Malaka:

The first city on this coastline is Malaca, which is as far distant from Calpe as Gades is. It is a market for the nomad tribes from the opposite coast, and it also has great establishments for salting fish. Some suppose it to be the same as Maenaca, which tradition reports to be the farthest west of the Phocaean cities; but this is not true. On the contrary, the city of Maenaca is farther away from Calpe, and is now in ruins, though it still preserves traces of having been a Grecian city, whereas Malaca is nearer, and Phoenician in its configuration. [Calpe is an ancient name for Gibraltar].

The layout of ancient Malaka is unknown, but its location on a hill at the foot of Mount Gibralfaro suggests it was a more dense and irregular urban cluster than neighbouring Cerro del Villar, that is, Mainake. Traces of ancient landings there, as of a port, correspond with the description in the Periplous. The ruins mentioned by Strabo were still visible in the 1st century BC, and could only belong to a place that was already vacated in the Roman period, as occurred in Cerro del Villar but not in Malaka. The Phoenician city at Cerro del Villar lay in ruins at the beginning of the 6th century BC, when it was apparently resettled by the Phocaean Greeks.According to the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World, its probable location is the hill of Cerro del Peñón, near the mouth of river Vélez, at the south of Vélez Malaga.

Tumulus of Montefortini

The Tumulus of Montefortini is an Etruscan tomb near Comeana, Tuscany, central Italy, which is believed to date from the 7th century BC.The tumulus is an oval burial mound 80 metres long and 11 metres high, which houses two tombs. Excavations began in 1966 and the finds are displayed in the museum of Artimino.

Vicus Tuscus

Vicus Tuscus ("Etruscan Street" or "Tuscan Street") was an ancient street in the city of Rome, running southwest out of the Roman Forum between the Basilica Julia and the Temple of Castor and Pollux towards the Forum Boarium and Circus Maximus via the west side of the Palatine Hill and Velabrum.


Vulca was an Etruscan artist from the town of Veii. The only Etruscan artist mentioned by ancient writers, he worked for the last of the Roman kings, Tarquinius Superbus. He is responsible for creating a terracotta statue of Jupiter that was inside the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitoline Hill, and possibly the Apollo of Veii. His statue of Jupiter, which being made of terracotta had a red face, was so famous that victorious Roman generals would paint their faces red during their triumphal marches through Rome. Pliny the Elder wrote that his works were "the finest images of deities of that era...more admired than gold."

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