Sybaris (Ancient Greek: Σύβαρις; Italian: Sibari) was an important city of Magna Graecia. It was situated on the Gulf of Taranto, in Southern Italy, between two rivers, the Crathis (Crati) and the Sybaris (Coscile).
The city was founded in 720 BC by Achaean and Troezenian settlers. Sybaris amassed great wealth thanks to its fertile land and busy port. Its inhabitants became famous among the Greeks for their hedonism, feasts, and excesses, to the extent that "sybarite" and "sybaritic" have become bywords for opulent luxury and outrageous pleasure-seeking.
In 510/09 BC[A] the city was subjugated by its neighbor Kroton and its population driven out. Sybaris became a dependent ally of Kroton, but Kroton again besieged the city in 476/5 BC, probably resulting in another victory for Kroton. Two attempts to reoccupy the city failed around 452/1 BC and 446/5 BC when the remaining Sybarites were again expelled by the Krotoniates. After a call for help the Sybarites reoccupied their city later in 446/5 BC with the assistance of new settlers from Athens and other cities in the Peloponnese. This coexistence did not last long: the Sybarites got into a conflict with the new colonists and were ousted for the last time in the summer of 445 BC. In sum, the city saw a total of five periods of occupation separated by expulsion. The new settlers then proceeded to found the city of Thurii in 444/3 BC, a new colony which was built partially on top of the site of Sybaris. The surviving Sybarites founded Sybaris on the Traeis.
The ruins of Sybaris and Thurii became forgotten as they were buried by sediment from the Crati river over time. The ruins were rediscovered and excavated in the 1960s by Donald Freeman Brown. Today they can be found southeast of Sibari, a frazione in the comune of Cassano allo Ionio in the Province of Cosenza, Calabria region, Italy.
Remains of the port facilities of Sybaris
Shown within Italy
|Location||Sibari, Province of Cosenza, Calabria, Italy|
|Area||Approximately 500 ha (1,200 acres)|
|Builder||Achaean and Troezenian colonists|
|Periods||Archaic Greece to Classical Greece|
|Management||Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Calabria|
|Website||ArcheoCalabriaVirtual ‹See Tfd›(in Italian)|
Strabo and Diodorus Siculus write that the city was situated close to the sea and lay between the Crathis and Sybaris rivers (from which the city derives its name). Most modern research places the city on a coastal ridge near a wetland lagoon. In the present the rivers are known as the Crati and Coscile. Today the Coscile feeds into the Crati about five kilometers from its mouth, which then passes just south of the archaeological site of the city. When Sybaris was still populated the Coscile pursued a direct course into the Gulf of Taranto, probably at a short distance to the north. The city lay on a plain that was renowned for its fertility.
Sybaris was founded in 720 BC according to Pseudo-Scymnus. Strabo mentions it was an Achaean colony and that its oekist (founder) was Is of Helice, a city in Achaea. Aristotle writes the Achaeans were accompanied by a number of Troezenian citizens, but they were eventually expelled by the more numerous Achaeans. According to legend the city was founded by Sagaris, the son of Oïlean Ajax.
The authenticity of the name of the oekist is uncertain. Strabo is the only source for the name of the oekist, which might be a corruption of [Sagar]is or [Sybar]is. Further complicating the issue is the appearance of the letters Wiis on coins of Poseidonia.[B] This has been interpreted as a confirmation of Strabo's account because Poseidonia is thought to be a colony of Sybaris.
Diodorus Siculus describes how Sybaris had amassed great wealth and a huge population as a result of its fertile farming land and its policy of admitting aliens to its citizenry. He calls it the largest city in Italy and states that it had 300,000 inhabitants. This number of inhabitants was certainly exaggerated but Sybaris was nonetheless a linchpin of Magna Graecia. Ephorus gives a figure of 100,000 inhabitants, which is perhaps closer to the truth. Strabo writes that its inhabitants on the Crathis occupied a circuit of fifty stadia (over 6 miles (9.7 km)). Furthermore, he explains that Sybaris was a dominant power in the region which ruled over four tribes and twenty-five subject cities. The inhabited area of the city occupied approximately 500 hectares (1,200 acres).
The Oenotrian city Pandosia was one of the settlements which seems to have been controlled by Sybaris. In the second half of the seventh century BC the Sybarites apparently took over the sanctuary of Athena on the Timpone della Motta from the Oenotrians. They celebrated large festivals regularly on this hill, which was located 15 kilometers to the northwest of their city. Sybaris extended its dominion across the peninsula to the Tyrrhenian Sea, where it is thought to have founded its colonies Poseidonia, Laüs and Scidrus. Poseidonia was founded in approximately 600 BC, but it is unknown when the latter two colonies were founded.
Descriptions of the wealth and luxury of Sybaris are plenty in the ancient literature. Smindyrides was a prominent citizen who is claimed by Herodotus to have surpassed all other men in refined luxury. Diodorus describes him as the wealthiest suitor for the daughter of Cleisthenes of Sicyon. He sailed from Sybaris to Sicyon in a ship of fifty oars manned by his own slaves and surpassed even Cleisthenes himself in luxury. Athenaeus makes the claim that his entourage consisted of thousand slaves, fisherman, bird-catchers and cooks. However, his information must be false because he claims to cite Herodotus, who does not mention such a number. Claudius Aelianus even alleges that Smyndirides could not sleep on a bed of rose petals because it gave him blisters. Another Sybarite who is known by name is Alcimenes. A Pseudo-Aristotle mentions that it was said he dedicated a very expensive cloak as a votive offering at the temple of Lacinian Hera. Here Athenaeus distorts the information too: he treats the story as genuine rather than hearsay and attributes it to the real Aristotle.
Justin mentions an alliance of Sybaris with the other Achaean colonies Metapontum and Kroton against the Ionian colony Siris. This resulted in the conquest of Siris in the middle of the sixth century BC. In the second half of the sixth century BC Sybaris started minting its first coins, of which the oldest have been dated to approximately 530 BC. These coins employed the Achaean weight standard which was shared with the other Achaean colonies Kroton, Caulonia and Metapontum.
Diodorus Siculus writes that the oligarchic government of the city was overthrown in 510/09 BC by a popular leader named Telys (Herodotus describes him as a tyrant). He persuaded the Sybarites to exile the 500 richest citizens and confiscate their wealth. The exiled citizens took refuge at the altars of Kroton. Telys demanded the Krotoniates return the exiles under threat of war. The Krotoniates were inclined to surrender the exiles to avoid war, but Pythagoras convinced them to protect the suppliants. As a consequence the Sybarites marched with 300,000 men upon the Krotoniates, whose army led by Milo numbered 100,000. The army sizes given by Diodorus (shared with Strabo) must have been even more exaggerated than the population size. Even though they were greatly outnumbered, the Krotoniates won the battle and took no prisoners, killing most of the Sybarites. After their victory they plundered and razed Sybaris. According to Strabo either two months or nine days elapsed between the battle and the sack. Most likely the Sybarites executed Telys and his supporters during this time.
Walter Burkert questions the veracity of the account given by Diodorus Siculus. It would have been illogical for Telys to banish his opponents first and then to demand their return. He argues that the elements of the story resemble fictional tragedies. The version of Herodotus is more brief and doesn't involve Pythagoras, but does claim that the Krotoniates received help from Dorieus. Strabo claims that the Krotoniates diverted the course of the river Crathis to submerge Sybaris.
The Crati transports coarse sand and pebbles in its channel. If Strabo's claim is true, that material would have been deposited as sediment above the city when the river submerged it. An analysis of core samples taken from the site did not find such river deposits directly above the former city. The burial of Sybaris more likely resulted from natural processes such as fluvial overbank alluviation.
After its destruction the surviving inhabitants took refuge at their colonies Laüs and Scidrus. It is assumed some also fled to Poseidonia, because in the early fifth century Poseidonia's coins adopted the Achaean weight standard and the bull seen on Sybarite coins. A. J. Graham thinks it was plausible that the number of refugees was large enough for some kind of synoecism to have occurred between the Poseidonians and the Sybarites, possibly in the form of a sympolity. Sybaris was not completely destroyed, as Diodorus and Strabo claimed, but became a dependent "ally" of Kroton. "Alliance" coins show the tripod symbol of Kroton on one side and the bull symbol of Sybaris on the other side. Literary evidence from Aristoxenus attests of Pythagoreans who apparently moved to Sybaris after its subjugation by Kroton.
Diodorus Siculus mentions that Kroton besieged Sybaris again in 476/5 BC. The Sybarites appealed to the tyrant Hiero I of Syracuse for help. Hiero put his brother Polyzelos in command of an army to relieve the Sybarites, expecting that he would be killed by the Krotoniates. Polyzelos suspected this, refused to lead the campaign and took refuge with the tyrant Theron of Acragas. Diodorus makes no further mention of Hiero's plan to relieve Sybaris, indicating that the Sybarites were defeated again. However, according to Timaeus and two scholia Polyzelos was successful in relieving the siege of Sybaris and fled to Acragas later when he was accused of plotting revolution.
Regardless of the results of the siege of 476 BC, it seems the Sybarites had to leave their city at some point between that year and 452/1 BC. Diodorus writes that the Sybarites refounded their city at its former site in 452/1 BC under the leadership of a Thessalian. It is thought that Poseidonia had a major share in this because the coins of the new city have a great resemblance to those of Poseidonia. Possibly a treaty of friendship between Sybaris, its allies and the Serdaioi (an unknown people) dates to this new foundation, because Poseidonia was the guarantor of this treaty. Ultimately the Sybarites were again driven off by the Krotoniates from their new city in 446/5 BC.
What happened next is again uncertain. According to Diodorus the Sybarites requested Sparta and Athens to help them reoccupy their city. With the help of Athens and some other cities in the Peloponnese they founded the city of Thurii not far from the site of Sybaris. Soon a conflict arose between the Sybarites and the other colonists of Thurii over the privileges the Sybarites enjoyed. Practically all of the Sybarites were killed by the other colonists, who were more numerous and powerful. Some of the Sybarites managed to flee and founded Sybaris on the Traeis shortly after 444 BC.
The request for help from the Sybarites must have been made after the conclusion of the Thirty Years' Peace in the early spring of 445 BC, for it would not have made sense to ask for help while Sparta and Athens were still at war with each other. While Diodorus identifies only one expedition for the foundation of Thurii, Strabo writes that the Athenian and other Greek colonists first lived in Sybaris and only founded Thurii after the expulsion of the Sybarites. Modern scholarship corroborates Strabo's account and identifies two expeditions. In 446/5 BC Athens sent its expedition to reinforce the existing population of Sybaris. In the summer of 445 BC the collision between the two groups led to the downfall of the Sybarites. In 444/3 BC the Athenians and other new colonists then turned the city into a new foundation called Thurii. The city received a new democratic constitution which made provisions for ten tribes, but which did not include the Sybarites.
Unlike Herodotus, Diodorus and earlier ancient Greek writers, later authors from the Roman period denounced the Sybarites. Aelianus, Strabo and especially Athenaeus saw the destruction of Sybaris as divine vengeance upon the Sybarites for their pride, arrogance, and excessive luxury. Athenaeus is the richest source for anecdotes about the Sybarites. According to him they invented the chamber pot and pioneered the concept of intellectual property to ensure that cooks could exclusively profit from their signature dishes for a whole year. They always traveled in chariots, but would still take three days for a journey of one day. The roads to villas in the countryside were roofed over and canals transported wine from vineyards to cellars near the sea.  A fragment of the comedian Metagenes he quotes has a Sybarite boasting about literal rivers of food flowing through the city
Not only does Athenaeus provide a great deal of examples to show the decadence of Sybarites, he also argues that their excessive luxury and sins led to their doom. According to Athenaeus ambassadors of the Sybarites (one of whom was named Amyris) consulted the oracle of Delphi, who prophesied that war and internal conflict awaited them if they would honor man more than the gods. Later he cites Phylarchus, who would have written that the Sybarites invoked the anger of Hera when they murdered thirty ambassadors from Kroton and left them unburied. He also cites Herakleides as attributing the divine wrath to the murder of supporters of Telys on the altars of the gods. Herakleides supposedly mentioned that the Sybarites attempted to supplant the Olympic Games by attracting the athletes to their own public games with greater prizes. The most direct link between luxury and corruption is evident in Atheneaus' anecdote about the defeat of the Sybarites: to amuse themselves the Sybarite cavalrymen trained their horses to dance to flute music. When the Krotoniate army had their flute players make music the horses of the Sybarites ran over to the Krotoniates along with their riders. Strabo gives the "luxury and insolence" of the Sybarites as the reason for their defeat. Claudius Aelianus attributes the fall of Sybaris to its luxury and the murder of a lutenist at the altar of Hera.
Vanessa Gorman gives no credence to these accounts because grave sins followed by divine retribution were stock elements of fictions at the time. Furthermore, she and Robert Gorman point to Athenaeus as the origin of the embellished accounts rather than the historians he cited. He altered details of the original accounts, disguised his own contributions as those of past historians and invented new information to fit his argument that luxury leads to catastrophe. This concept was called tryphé and was a popular belief in his time, at the turn of the 2nd century AD. Peter Green likewise argues that these accounts are most likely the inventions of moralists. He points out the vast natural wealth of the city was the more likely reason it was attacked by Kroton.
This association of Sybaris with excessive luxury transferred to the English language, in which the words "sybarite" and "sybaritic" have become bywords for opulent luxury and outrageous pleasure seeking. One story, mentioned in Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language, alludes to Aelianus' anecdote about Smindyrides. It mentions a Sybarite sleeping on a bed of rose petals, but unable to get to sleep because one of the petals was folded over.
The earliest archaeological exploration in the last quarter of the 19th century failed to find the location of Sybaris. Finding the location was difficult because the site had been buried over time by more than four meters of alluvial sediment from the Crati delta. The location of the city was found only after a massive core drilling project had been undertaken from the early to mid-1960s. The archaeological site is located about 2.5 kilometers west of the present Gulf of Taranto coastline. The excavations were difficult because the human structures lay below groundwater level. It was found that the later cities of Thurii and Copia were built partially above Sybaris. An archaeological museum was built near the site.
Axius (Greek: Ἀξιός) is a Paeonian river god, the son of Oceanus and Tethys. He was the father of Pelagon, by Periboea, daughter of Acessamenus. His domain is the river Axius, or Vardar, in Macedonia (region).
The river god is ancestor of Euphemus and his son, Eurybarus, the hero who slew the drakaina Sybaris.Cassano all'Ionio
Cassano all'Ionio, also named Cassano allo Ionio, is a town and comune in province of Cosenza of Calabria, southern Italy, known in Roman times as Cassanum. It lies in a fertile region in the concave recess of a steep mountain, 60 km northeast of the town of Cosenza, 10 km west of the archaeological site of Sybaris.Composia credula
Composia credula is a moth of the family Erebidae. It was described by Johan Christian Fabricius in 1775. It is found in the Antilles (Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands), as well as in South and possibly Central America.European route E844
European route E 844 is a European B class road in Italy, connecting the cities Spezzano Albanese – Sybaris.Gulf of Taranto
The Gulf of Taranto (Italian: Golfo di Taranto; Tarantino: Gurfe de Tarde; Latin: Sinus Tarentinus) is a gulf of the Ionian Sea, in Southern Italy.
The Gulf of Taranto is almost square, 140 km (87 mi) long and wide, and is delimited by the capes Santa Maria di Leuca (to the east, in Apulia) and Colonna (the ancient Lacinium, to the west, in Calabria), encompassed by the three regions of Apulia, Basilicata and Calabria. The most important rivers are the Basento, the Sinni, and the Agri.
The main cities on the gulf are Taranto and Gallipoli. Also the Greek colonies (Magna Graecia) of Kroton, Heraclea, Thurii, and Sybaris were founded on the Gulf of Taranto.
Italy claims the whole gulf as national waters, thus closed to international traffic. This position, which is similar to that of Libya on the Gulf of Sidra, is not recognized by some other countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom.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.Les sibarites
Les sibarites (The Sybarites) is an opera in the form of a one-act acte de ballet by Jean-Philippe Rameau, first performed on 13 November 1753 at Fontainebleau. The libretto is by Jean-François Marmontel. It tells the story of a war between Sybaris and Croton. The conflict ends when the king and queen of the two cities fall in love with each other. The work was later incorporated into a revival of Rameau's opéra-ballet Les surprises de l'Amour in 1757.List of ancient Greek tyrants
This is a list of tyrants from Ancient Greece.Magna Graecia
Magna Graecia (, US: ; 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.Milo of Croton
Milo of Croton (; Greek: Μίλων, Mílōn; gen.: Μίλωνος, Mílōnos) was a 6th-century BC wrestler from the Magna Graecian city of Croton, who enjoyed a brilliant wrestling career and won many victories in the most important athletic festivals of ancient Greece. In addition to his athletic victories, Milo is credited by the ancient commentator Diodorus Siculus with leading his fellow citizens to military triumph over neighboring Sybaris in 510 BC.
Milo was also said to have carried a bull on his shoulders, and to have burst a band about his brow by simply inflating the veins of his temples.
The date of Milo's death is unknown, but he reportedly was attempting to tear a tree apart when his hands became trapped in a crevice in its trunk, and a pack of wolves surprised and devoured him. Milo has been depicted in works of art by Pierre Puget, Étienne-Maurice Falconet and others. Literary allusions to this story appear in works such as Rabelais's Gargantua and Pantagruel, Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, and Alexandre Dumas's The Man in the Iron Mask.Philippus of Croton
Philippus, son of Butacides (fl. 6th century BC) was a citizen of Croton. Having married the daughter of Telys, king of the rival state of Sybaris, and being obliged in consequence to leave his country, he sailed away to Cyrene; and, when Dorieus, the Spartan prince, son of Anaxandridas II, set forth from the Libyan coast, on his Sicilian expedition, Philippus accompanied him with a galley, equipped and manned at his own expense, and was slain in Sicily in a battle between Carthaginians and Egestaeans. He was the finest man of his time, and a conqueror at Olympia; by virtue of which qualifications the Egestaeans worshipped him after his death as a hero.Roseto Capo Spulico
Roseto Capo Spulico is a town and comune of the province of Cosenza in the Calabria region of southern Italy.
Roseto was originally one of the satellite cities of Sybaris, at the time of Magna Grecia; it is the coastal areas of Southern Italy on the Tarentine Gulf that were extensively populated by Greek settlers.
Roseto Capo Spulico was named after the roses that were cultivated there.
The petals were used to fill the mattresses on which the sybaritic slept. The Rose Garden today was born in the tenth century AD and reached its peak in 1260 when the Castrum Petrae Roseti (castle of Roseto) was built.
It is also known for The Church of the Immaculate Conception, built in the 15th century, a rustic, masonry church that sits on the edge of a cliff.
As a tourist destination, Roseto is known for its beaches and seaside resorts.Sybaris (disambiguation)
Sybaris may refer to:
Sybaris, an ancient city of Magna Graecia, now in Italy
Sibari, a hamlet of Cassano all'Ionio, Calabria, Italy
Sybaris on the Traeis, a nearby ancient city founded by refugees from the above
Sybaris (beetle), a blister beetle genus
an alternate name for the Coscile, a river of Italy adjacent to Magna Græcia
Sybaris, a chain of Romantic Pool Suites in the Chicago, Milwaukee, and Indianapolis areas.
Sybaris (mythology), a man-eating beast of Greek mythology.Sybaris (mythology)
Sybaris or Lamia of Mount Cirphis, Greece, was a legendary cave-dwelling giant beast that devoured both livestock and humans. It was hurled from an overhanging rock and killed by the hero Eurybatus.
Though precise physical description is given in the primary source, it has been hypothesized by modern commentators that she must have been a dragon or an anguiped.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.Tarucus sybaris
Tarucus sybaris, the dotted blue, is a butterfly of the family Lycaenidae. It is found in southern Africa.
The wingspan is 22–26 mm for males and 20–27 mm for females. Adults are on wing year-round, with a peak from November to March.The larvae feed on Ziziphus species, including Z. zeyheriana and Z. mucronata.Terranova da Sibari
Terranova da Sibari (Calabrian: Terranova di Sibbari) is a town and comune in the province of Cosenza in the Calabria region of southern Italy. It is located on a hill between the river Crati and the last stretches of the Sila Mountains, at some 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the Ionian Sea. Refugees from the ancient city of Thurii founded Terranova after the destruction of their city in the war against Croton.
Once known as Terranova del Vallo and Terranova di Calabria Citra, it received the current name after the unification of Italy, referring to the ancient cities of Thurii and Sybaris.
The main attractions include the feudal castle, the Torre Acquanova fountain and six medieval-Baroque churches.Thurii
Thurii (; Greek: Θούριοι, translit. Thoúrioi), called also by some Latin writers Thurium (compare Greek: Θούριον in Ptolemy), for a time also Copia and Copiae, was a city of Magna Graecia, situated on the Tarentine gulf, within a short distance of the site of Sybaris, whose place it may be considered as having taken. The ruins of the city can be found in the Sybaris archaeological park near Sibari in the Province of Cosenza, Calabria, Italy.Timeline of ancient Greece
This is a timeline of Ancient Greece from its emergence around 800 BC to its subjection to the Roman Empire in 146 BC.
For earlier times, see Greek Dark Ages, Aegean civilizations and Mycenaean Greece. For later times see Roman Greece, Byzantine Empire and Ottoman Greece.
For modern Greece after 1820, see Timeline of modern Greek history.