Magna Graecia (/ˌmæɡnə ˈɡriːsiə, ˈɡriːʃə/, US: /ˌmæɡnə ˈɡreɪʃə/; Latin meaning "Great Greece", Greek: Μεγάλη Ἑλλάς, Megálē Hellás, Italian: Magna Grecia) was the name given by the Romans to the coastal areas of Southern Italy in the present-day regions of Campania, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria and Sicily; these regions were extensively populated by Greek settlers, particularly the Achaean settlements of Croton, and Sybaris, and to the north, the settlements of Cumae and Neapolis. The settlers who began arriving in the 8th century BC brought with them their Hellenic civilization, which was to leave a lasting imprint on Italy, such as in the culture of ancient Rome. Most notably the Roman poet Ovid referred to the south of Italy as Magna Graecia in his poem Fasti.
In the 8th and 7th centuries BC, because of demographic crises (famine, overcrowding, etc.), stasis (political crisis), the search for new commercial outlets and ports, and expulsion from their homeland after wars, Greeks began to settle in southern Italy. Colonies were established all over the Mediterranean and Black Seas (with the exception of Northwestern Africa, in the sphere of influence of Carthage), including in Sicily and the southern part of the Italian Peninsula. The Romans called the area of Sicily and the foot of Italy Magna Graecia (Latin for "Great Greece") since it was so densely inhabited by the Greeks. The ancient geographers differed on whether the term included Sicily or merely Apulia and Calabria, Strabo being the most prominent advocate of the wider definitions.
With colonization, Greek culture was exported to Italy, in its dialects of the Ancient Greek language, its religious rites and its traditions of the independent polis. An original Hellenic civilization soon developed, later interacting with the native Italic civilisations. The most important cultural transplant was the Chalcidean/Cumaean variety of the Greek alphabet, which was adopted by the Etruscans; the Old Italic alphabet subsequently evolved into the Latin alphabet, which became the most widely used alphabet in the world.
These Hellenic colonies became very rich and powerful, and some still stand today, like Neapolis ("New City", now Naples), Syracuse, Akragas (Agrigento), Taras (Taranto), Rhegion (Reggio Calabria), or Kroton (Crotone).
The first Greek city to be absorbed into the Roman Republic was Neapolis in 327 BC. The other Greek cities in Italy followed during the Samnite Wars and the Pyrrhic War; Taras was the last to fall in 272. Sicily was conquered by Rome during the First Punic War. Only Syracuse remained independent until 212, because its king Hiero II was a devoted ally of the Romans. His grandson Hieronymous however made an alliance with Hannibal, which prompted the Romans to besiege the city, which fell in 212, despite the machines of Archimedes.
|Ancient name(s)||Location||Modern name(s)||Foundation date||Mother city||Founder(s)|
|Herakleia (Lucania)||Basilicata||abandoned||433–432 BC||Taras (and Thourioi)||?|
|Hipponion||Calabria||Vibo Valentia||late 7th century BC||Lokroi Epizephiroi||?|
|Hyele, or Elea, Velia (Roman name)||Campania||abandoned||c.540–535 BC||Phokaia, Massalia||Refugees from Alalie|
|Kaulonia||Calabria||abandoned||7th century BC||Kroton||Typhon of Aigion|
|Kroton||Calabria||Crotone||709–708 BC||Rhypes, Achaia||Myscellus|
|Kyme, Cumae (Roman name)||Campania||abandoned||c.750–725 BC||Chalkis and Eretria||Hippokles of Euboian Kyme and Megasthenes of Chalkis|
|Laos||Calabria||abandoned||before 510 BC||Sybaris||Refugees from Sybaris|
|Lokroi (Epizephiroi)||Calabria||Locri||early 7th century BC||Lokris||?|
|Medma||Calabria||abandoned||7th century BC||Lokroi Epizephiroi||?|
|Metapontion||Basilicata||abandoned||c. 630 BC||Achaia||Leukippos of Achaia|
|Metauros||Calabria||Gioia Tauro||7th century BC||Zankle (or possibly Lokroi Epizephiroi)||?|
|Neapolis||Campania||Naples||c. 470 BC||Kyme||?|
|Pithekoussai||Campania||Ischia||8th century BC||Chalkis and Eretria||?|
|Poseidonia, Paestum (Roman name)||Campania||abandoned||c. 600 BC||Sybaris (and perhaps Troizen)||?|
|Pyxous||Campania||Policastro Bussentino||471–470 BC||Rhegion and Messena||Mikythos, tyrant of Rhegion and Messena|
|Rhegion||Calabria||Reggio Calabria||8th century BC||Chalkis (with Zankle and Messenian refugees)||Antimnestos of Zankle (or perhaps Artimedes of Chalkis)|
|Siris||Basilicata||abandoned||c. 660 BC (or c. 700 BC)||Kolophon||Refugees from Kolophon|
|Sybaris||Calabria||Sibari||721–720 (or 709–708) BC||Achaia and Troizen||Is of Helike|
|Taras||Apulia||Taranto||c. 706 BC||Sparta||Phalanthos and the Partheniai|
|Temesa||unknown, but in Calabria||abandoned||no Greek founder (Ausones who became Hellenised)|
|Terina||Calabria||abandoned||before 460 BC, perhaps c. 510 BC||Kroton||?|
|Thourioi||Calabria||abandoned||446 and 444–443 BC||Athens and many other cities||Lampon and Xenokrates of Athens|
During the Early Middle Ages, following the disastrous Gothic War, new waves of Byzantine Christian Greeks may have come to Southern Italy from Greece and Asia Minor, as Southern Italy remained loosely governed by the Eastern Roman Empire. Although possible, the archaeological evidence shows no trace of new arrivals of Greek peoples, only a division between barbarian newcomers, and Greco-Roman locals. The iconoclast emperor Leo III appropriated lands that had been granted to the Papacy in southern Italy and the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire continued to govern the area in the form of the Catapanate of Italy through the Middle Ages, well after northern Italy fell to the Lombards.
At the time of the Normans' late medieval conquest of southern Italy and Sicily (in the late 12th century), the Salento peninsula (the "heel" of Italy) and up to one third of Sicily was still Greek speaking (concentrated in the Val Demone). At this time the language had evolved into medieval Greek, also known as Byzantine Greek, and its speakers were known as Byzantine Greeks. The resultant fusion of local Byzantine Greek culture with Norman and Arab culture (from the Arab occupation of Sicily) gave rise to Norman-Arab-Byzantine culture on Sicily.
A remnant of this influence can be found in the survival of the Greek language in some villages of the above mentioned Salento peninsula (the "heel" of Italy). This living dialact of Greek, known locally as Griko, is found in the Italian regions of Calabria and Apulia. Griko is considered by linguistics to be a descendant of Byzantine Greek, which had been the majority language of Salento through the Middle Ages, combining also some ancient Doric and modern Italian elements. There is a rich oral tradition and Griko folklore, limited now but once numerous, to around 30,000 people, most of them having become absorbed into the surrounding Italian element. Some scholars, such as Gerhard Rohlfs, argue that the origins of Griko may ultimately be traced to the colonies of Magna Graecia.
Although many of the Greek inhabitants of Southern Italy were entirely Latinized during the Middle Ages (for example, Paestum was by the 4th century BC), pockets of Greek culture and language remained and survived into modernity partly because of continuous migration between southern Italy and the Greek mainland. One example is the Griko people, some of whom still maintain their Greek language and customs.
Greeks re-entered the region in the 16th and 17th century in reaction to the conquest of the Peloponnese by the Ottoman Empire. Especially after the end of the Siege of Coron (1534), large numbers of Greeks took refuge in the areas of Calabria, Salento and Sicily. Greeks from Coroni, the so-called Coronians, were nobles, who brought with them substantial movable property. They were granted special privileges and tax exemptions.
Other Greeks who moved to Italy came from the Mani Peninsula of the Peloponnese. The Maniots were known for their proud military traditions and for their bloody vendettas, many of which still continue today. Another group of Maniot Greeks moved to Corsica.
At the end of the twelfth century ... While in Apulia Greeks were in a majority – and indeed present in any numbers at all – only in the Salento peninsula in the extreme south, at the time of the conquest they had an overwhelming preponderance in Lucaina and central and southern Calabria, as well as comprising anything up to a third of the population of Sicily, concentrated especially in the north-east of the island, the Val Demone.
Agrigento (Italian: [aɡriˈdʒɛnto] (listen); Sicilian: Girgenti [dʒɪɾˈdʒɛndɪ] or Giurgenti [dʒʊɾˈdʒɛndɪ]; Ancient Greek: Ἀκράγας, romanized: Akragas;
Latin: Agrigentum or Acragas; Arabic: Kirkent or Jirjent) is a city on the southern coast of Sicily, Italy and capital of the province of Agrigento. It was one of the leading cities of Magna Graecia during the golden age of Ancient Greece with population estimates in the range of 200,000 to 800,000 before 406 BC.Akrillai
Akrillai (Ἄκριλλαι in Greek and Acrillae in Latin) was an ancient Greek colony located in the modern province of Ragusa, Sicily, Italy, where the town of Chiaramonte Gulfi stands today. The ruins of the old colony can be found in the contrada (quarter) Piano del Conte-Morana and Piano Grillo. A necropolis dating from the 6th-5th century BC has been identified in the contrada Paraspola-Pirruna.
The name appears in different forms among different authors: Akrilla, Akrille; in ancient sources: Akrillaiu; the name is variously written by Latin writers Acrilla and Acrille.Asteas
Asteas (active between 350 and 320 BC in Paestum, Southern Italy) was one of the more active ancient Greek vase painters in Magna Graecia, practicing the red-figure style. He managed a large workshop, in which above all hydriai and kraters were painted. He painted mostly mythological and theatrical scenes. He is one of the few vase painters of the Greek colonies whose name comes down to us.Casabona
Casabona (Calabrian: Casivonu) is a comune and town with a population of about 4,000 people in the province of Crotone, in Calabria, southern Italy.Greek coinage of Italy and Sicily
Greek coinage of Italy and Sicily originated from local Italiotes and Siceliotes who formed numerous city states. These Hellenistic communities descended from Greek migrants. Southern Italy was so thoroughly hellenized that it was known as the Magna Graecia. Each of the polities struck their own coinage.
Taras (or Tarentum) was among the most prominent city states.
By the second century BC some of these Greek coinages evolved under Roman rule, and can be classified as the first Roman provincial currencies.Heraclea Lucania
Heraclea, also Heracleia or Herakleia (Ancient Greek: Ἡράκλεια), was an ancient city of Magna Graecia. It was situated on the Gulf of Taranto between the rivers Aciris (modern Agri) and Siris (modern Sinni). The ruins of the city are located in the modern comune of Policoro in the Province of Matera, Basilicata, Italy.Laüs
Laüs or Laus (Ancient Greek: Λᾶος; Italian: Laos) was an ancient city of Magna Graecia on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. It was a colony of Sybaris at the mouth of the Lao River, which formed the boundary between Lucania and Bruttium in ancient times. The river and the city have the same name in Ancient Greek. Today the archaeological site of the city can be found at a short distance to the east of Marcellina, a frazione of the comune of Santa Maria del Cedro in Calabria.List of ancient Greek theatres
This is a list of ancient Greek theatres by location.Magna Græcia University
The Magna Græcia University of Catanzaro (Italian: Università degli studi Magna Græcia di Catanzaro) is a university located in Catanzaro, Italy. It was founded in 1998 and is organized in three faculties.Medma
Medma or Mesma (Greek: Μέδμη, Steph. B.; Μέδμα, Strabo, Scymn. Ch.; but Μέσμα on coins, and so Apollodorus of Damascus, cited by Steph. B.; Scylax has Μέσα, evidently a corruption for Μέσμα), was an ancient Greek city of Southern Italy (Magna Graecia), on the west coast of the Bruttian (now Calabrian) peninsula, between Hipponium and the mouth of the Metaurus (probably today's River Petrace). The site is located at Rosarno, Province of Reggio Calabria, Calabria.
It was a colony founded by the Epizephyrian Locrians, and is said to have derived its name from an adjoining fountain. But though it is repeatedly noticed among the Greek cities in this part of Italy, it does not appear ever to have attained to any great power or importance. It is probable, however, that the Medimnaeans (Μεδιμναῖοι), who are noticed by Diodorus as contributing a body of colonists to the repeopling of Messana (modern Messina) by Dionysius in 396 BCE, are no other than the Medmaeans, and that we should read Μεδμαῖοι in the passage in question. Though never a very conspicuous place, Medma seems to have survived the fall of many other more important cities of Magna Graecia, and it is noticed as a still existing town both by Strabo and Pliny the Elder. But the name is not found in Ptolemy, and all subsequent trace of it disappears. It appears from Strabo that the town itself was situated a little inland, and that it had a port or emporium on the seashore.
The name of Mesima is still borne by a river which flows into the sea a little below Nicotera, in the neighbourhood. Nicotera, the name of which is already found in the Antonine Itinerary, probably arose after the decline of Mesma.Metapontum
Metapontum or Metapontium (Ancient Greek: Μεταπόντιον, romanized: Metapontion) was an important city of Magna Graecia, situated on the gulf of Tarentum, between the river Bradanus and the Casuentus (modern Basento). It was distant about 20 km from Heraclea and 40 from Tarentum. The ruins of Metapontum are located in the frazione of Metaponto, in the comune of Bernalda, in the Province of Matera, Basilicata region, Italy.Milazzo
Milazzo (Sicilian: Milazzu, Latin: Mylae) is a town (comune) in the Metropolitan City of Messina, Sicily, southern Italy; it is the largest commune in the Metropolitan City after Messina and Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto. The town has a population of around 31,500 inhabitants.Paestum
Paestum was a major ancient Greek city on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea in Magna Graecia (southern Italy). The ruins of Paestum are famous for their three ancient Greek temples in the Doric order, dating from about 600 to 450 BC, which are in a very good state of preservation. The city walls and amphitheatre are largely intact, and the bottom of the walls of many other structures remain, as well as paved roads. The site is open to the public, and there is a modern national museum within it, which also contains the finds from the associated Greek site of Foce del Sele.
After its foundation by Greek colonists under the name of Poseidonia (Ancient Greek: Ποσειδωνία) it was eventually conquered by the local Lucanians and later the Romans. The Lucanians renamed it to Paistos and the Romans gave the city its current name. As Pesto or Paestum, the town became a bishopric (now only titular), but it was abandoned in the Early Middle Ages, and left undisturbed and largely forgotten until the eighteenth century.
Today the remains of the city are found in the modern frazione of Paestum, which is part of the comune of Capaccio in the Province of Salerno, Campania, Italy. The modern settlement, directly to the south of the archaeological site, is a popular seaside resort, with long sandy beaches.Policastro Bussentino
Policastro Bussentino (or simply Policastro) is an Italian town and hamlet (frazione) of the municipality of Santa Marina (of which it is the its seat) in the province of Salerno, Campania region. It is a former bishopric, now titular see, and has a population of 1,625.Siris, Magna Graecia
Siris (Greek: Σῖρις) was an ancient city of Magna Graecia (in modern southern Italy), situated at the mouth of the river of the same name flowing into the Tarentine gulf, and now called the Sinni.South Italian ancient Greek pottery
South Italian is a designation for ancient Greek pottery fabricated in Magna Graecia largely during the 4th century BC. The fact that Greek Southern Italy produced its own red-figure pottery as early as the end of the 5th century B.C. was first established by Adolf Furtwaengler in 1893 (A.D. Trendall). Prior to that this pottery had been first designated as "Etruscan" and then as "Attic." Archaeological proof that this pottery was actually being produced in South Italy first came in 1973 when a workshop and kilns with misfirings and broken wares was first excavated at Metaponto, proving that the Amykos Painter was located there rather than in Athens (A.D. Trendall, p. 17).Sybaris on the Traeis
Sybaris on the Traeis was an ancient city of Magna Grecia situated on the Traeis river, now known as the Trionto. It shares its name with the original city of Sybaris (Ancient Greek: Σύβαρις) which was destroyed in 510 BC. Its former inhabitants built a new city, Thurii, not far from the site of Sybaris. This new colony was founded together with other Greek settlers in 446/445 BC. Soon a conflict arose between the two groups and most of the Sybarites were killed by the other Greek colonists of Thurii. The Sybarites who managed to flee then founded Sybaris on the Traeis a short time after 444 BC. The city was destroyed by the Bruttii not long after their emergence as an ethnic group in 356/355 BC.
In the present day the Trionto river flows through the Province of Cosenza in Calabria, Italy. The mouth of the river lies approximately 25 kilometers southeast of the site of Thurii. The exact location of Sybaris on the Traeis has not been found along the course of the Trionto yet.Terina (ancient city)
Terina (Ancient Greek: Τερίνα) was an ancient city of Magna Graecia on the north shore of the Gulf of Saint Euphemia, about 20 km (12 mi) from Lamezia Terme in Calabria. The site of the city was allegedly found in 1922 by the archaeologist Paolo Orsi near the modern village of Sant'Eufemia Vetere, but a systematic archaeological investigation was only started in 1997 and it is only based on coins found there. Coins, inscriptions and other artefacts retrieved from the site can be seen in the Museo Archeologico Lametino in Lamezia Terme. However, the actual collocation of the ancient city is in Nocera Terinese where the original location is situated on top of a hill called Piano di Tirena. This hill is surrounded by two rivers merging, Savuto and Grande, and it perfectly matches the description provided by the Greek historian Strabo in his major work Geographica, which was first published around 20 AD.Velia
Velia was the Roman name of an ancient city of Magna Graecia on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. It was founded by Greeks from Phocaea as Hyele (Ancient Greek: Ὑέλη) around 538–535 BC. The name later changed to Ele and then Elea (; Ancient Greek: Ἐλέα) before it became known by its current Latin and Italian name during the Roman era. Its ruins are located in the Cilento region near the modern village Velia, which was named after the ancient city. The village is a frazione of the comune Ascea in the Province of Salerno, Campania, Italy.
The city was known for being the home of the philosophers Parmenides and Zeno of Elea, as well as the Eleatic school of which they were a part. The site of the acropolis of ancient Elea was once a promontory called Castello a Mare, meaning "castle on the sea" in Italian. It now lies inland and was renamed to Castellammare della Bruca in the Middle Ages.