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TARAS later Tarentum (Taranto) Apulia, Italy.

On the N coast of the Gulf of Taranto, the city lies some 366 km SE of Naples on a peninsula to the W of which is the main outer harbor (Marina Grande), protected from the sea by the small islands of St. Peter and St. Paul (the ancient Choerades), and to the E of which lies an inland lagoon (Mare Piccolo), serving as an inner harbor. The acropolis of the city (the modern Città Vecchia) lay at the tip of the peninsula between the two harbors. During the Middle Ages it was made into an island by the construction of a canal to the SE connecting the two harbors.

The presence of stone-lined graves at Scoglio del Tonno on the mainland to the NW of the acropolis indicates that the area was inhabited as early as Neolithic times. Nearby, in 1899, were discovered Neolithic hut foundations with stone hearths; above this a Bronze Age settlement of the Apennine type, consisting of a wooden platform supported by piles, on which five huts had been built; and, above the Apennine settlement, Late Mycenaean pottery. The earliest Iron Age inhabitants of the site may have been Iapygians who imported Greek pottery for their own use. There is an Early Iron Age settlement in the Città Nuova, that portion of the city on the mainland to the SE of the acropolis. In a well on the Via Cavour some 350 vases of native manufacture were found. These vases, both in decoration and in shape, appear to be the ancestors of Apulian Geometric and may have been produced by those Iapygians who occupied the site before the Greek colonists arrived.

Eusebius (Chron. 91b Helm) gives 706 B.C. for the founding of the colony by the Spartans. The first settlement may have been a few kilometers to the S at Satyrion (Leporano), which had been named in an oracle to Phalanthos, the founder of the colony (Diod. Sic. 8.21). According to the legend, the city was founded by the Parthenians, the illegitimate children of Spartan women, who lived with Helots while their husbands were fighting in Messenia. Denied the full rights of citizenship, these children founded a colony at Taras (Strab. 6.3.2; Paus. 10.10.6-8).

At the end of the 6th c. B.C., Taras was ruled by Aristophilides (Hdt. 3.136), who appears to have been king according to the Spartan system. At the beginning of the 5th c. B.C. the city won a series of victories over the neighboring populations and dedicated at Delphi two victory monuments. But in ca. 473 B.C. Taras suffered a severe defeat at the hands of the Iapygians, who headed a native confederation (Hdt. 7.170; Diod. Sic. 11.52). After this defeat, a democracy was established in the city. By the middle of the 5th c., after the decline of Kroton, it became an extremely wealthy and powerful city. In 433-32 B.C., it founded a colony at Heraklea (modern Policoro). During the Peloponnesian War, Taras allied itself with the Syracusans and contributed ships to the fleet (Thuc. 8.91.2). In the first half of the 4th c. B.C., under the administration of the philosopher-mathematician Archytas, the city enjoyed especial fame and prestige; but later it had difficulty in maintaining itself against pressure from the surrounding native populations and turned first to its mother city for aid and then to foreign mercenary kings.

The city first came into contact with the Romans in 282 B.C. when ten Roman ships sailed into the Gulf of Tarentum. The Tarentines called in Pyrrhos of Epeiros to aid them. Pyrrhos, after two initial victories, was finally defeated in 275 B.C., and Taras surrendered to the Romans. During the second Punic war, the city was captured by Hannibal in 213 B.C., but was retaken three years later by Q. Fabius Maximus and thoroughly looted (Liv. 27.16.7). In 122 B.C., C. Gracchus attempted to revive the city by establishing a Roman colony there, but he only transformed it into a provincial Italian town, which Horace mentions (Carm. 3.5.53-6) as a quiet retreat suitable for a tired businessman. After the reign of Justinian the town, together with the rest of S Italy, belonged to the Byzantine Empire. In A.D. 927 it was completely destroyed by the Saracens, but in A.D. 967 it was rebuilt by the emperor Nikephoros Phokas, who once again established Greek as the common language of the city.

Little remains of either the Greek or the Roman city, since the modern town has been built on top. Remnants of an archaic Doric temple, dating to ca. 575 B.C. and perhaps dedicated to Poseidon, survive on the acropolis (Via Maggiore). The two surviving columns of the peristyle together with their stylobate have now been freed from the surrounding modern buildings; the drum of a third column and the SE corner of the temple have also been found. The columns are rather heavy in proportion, and the intercolumniation is narrow. Nearby, at the crossroads of the Via di Mezzo and the Vico della Pace, were found fragments of a sculptured frieze belonging to a temple of the Corinthian order. The subject matter represents a combat in which Tarentine warriors take part. The frieze has been dated to the second half of the 4th c. B.C., but the style of the sculptures seems to be that of the 1st c. B.C. The temple may have been dedicated to Pax. Also in the old city, an Altar of Aphrodite, perhaps belonging to a temple, was found near the church of S. Agostino.

Deposits of terracottas indicate the presence of sanctuaries going back to the 7th and 6th c. B.C. In the region of Pizzone in the SE part of the new city, the deposits go back to the 7th c. and identify the place as a Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone. At Fondo Giovinazzi, also in the new city between the churches of S. Antonio and Santa Lucia, some 30,000 terracottas were found, the earliest group going back to the 6th c. B.C., the latest dating to the first half of the 3d c. B.C. The character of the terracottas seems to identify the sanctuary as having belonged to Kore and the chthonic Dionysos. A third sanctuary, also located in the new city, to the S near the Castello Saraceno, overlooking the Marina Grande, was dedicated to Apollo and the Muses. The terracottas of Apollo holding a lyre and those of the Muses date from the end of the 5th c. B.C. to the beginning of the 3d c. B.C. A series of reliefs dedicated to the Dioskouroi and dating from the 4th and 3d c. B.C. were found near the Chiesa del Carmine in the SW part of the new city and may indicate the presence of a sanctuary to the Dioskouroi in this spot.

Before the late 6th c. B.C. the city probably lay within the walls of the acropolis, which, according to Strabo (6.3.1) was completely fortified although no traces of the wall remain. After this date the city began to expand towards the SE into the region now called the Città Nuova. This new area also received a fortification wall, only a few traces of which are now visible. On the side of the Marina Grande, the walls have been destroyed, but become visible in places where they leave the outer sea and turn E through the area now called Montegranaro. About half way along, they turn N through Marmarini and Collepazzo. On the side of the Mare Piccolo they can be found in two places under water. The large blocks probably date to ca. 400 B.C., the greatest period of Tarentine expansion. Nothing now remains of the cross-wall built by Hannibal in 213 B.C. in the extreme NW end of the new city between the outer and inner harbors as a protection against the attacks of the Romans from the acropolis. Hannibal thus completed the entire fortification of the lower city, which comprised an area of over 3 square km.

Strabo tells us that the agora was located just outside the acropolis and therefore may be placed in the NW end of the new city. In this area was the main crossroad of the town, leading from the outer to the inner harbor. This can be identified as the Broad Street mentioned by Livy (25.11.17) and Polybios (8.29.1). No traces of this street remain, but it probably ran along the same course as the modern Corso Due Mari. It seems likely that the street plan of the modern city follows in many respects that of the ancient one. The Broad Street was crossed at the N by a major E-W street called Batheia which led to the Temenid gate through which Hannibal entered the city. A second major street, called Soteira, may have crossed the SW part of the city, taking much the same course as the modern Lungomare Vitt. Emanuele III. A portion of pavement 2.5 m wide discovered N of the Castello Saraceno may well have belonged to the Sotera street. Other portions of the ancient street system have been found to the SW of the Villa Peripato on the Via Pitagora (here a segment 5 m wide was uncovered) and in the region of Solito.

In the new city scattered house remains have been found, but imperfectly recorded. A rectangular foundation at Scoglio del Tonno near the pre-Greek settlement indicates the presence of a suburb in this area. In 1880 in the grounds of the Villa Peripato were found the remains of a Greek building, identified as a peripatos (public lounge). Tarentum had two theaters, neither of which has been uncovered. It has been suggested that the Roman amphitheater, situated to the SW of the Chiesa del Carmine, was built on the site of the larger of the two Greek theaters. On the other hand, it may have stood either on the site of the Castello Saraceno or in the region to the E of the Villa Peripato overlooking the Mare Piccolo. The smaller theater may have been near the agora.

Like the Spartans, the Tarentines buried within the walls of their city. Several thousand graves have been found within the new city, spanning the entire life of the Greek city from the 7th to the 2d c. B.C. Tombs are especially concentrated in the areas of Santa Lucia, the Arsenal, Fondo Tesoro, and Vaccarella. The majority of the burials consists of rectangular trenches either cut into the native rock or constructed of blocks and covered with stone slabs. Because of the large number of Protocorinthian vases which have come from the Via d'Aquino in the W part of the new city, it is likely that the oldest cemetery was here. Other Protocorinthian and Corinthian vases have been found at the Arsenal and at Vaccarella. An especially fine archaic tomb on the Via Capotagliata has yielded twelve Attic B-F vases, dated to the second quarter of the 6th c. B.C. A second type of burial consists of chamber tombs with painted walls, inside of which are funeral couches, with their fronts decorated in relief, and ornate sarcophagi some of which have painted lids in the form of temple pediments. The walls themselves served as the foundation for a naiskos which surmounted the tomb.

A good tomb of this type belonging to athletes was found on the Via Crispi. It had two Doric columns supporting a gabled roof and yielded Attic B-F pottery, including a panathenaic amphora, from the end of the 6th c. B.C. During the 4th and 3d c. B.C., a shallow gabled naiskos became popular, such as on the tomba a Camera no. 1 in the Via Umbnia (a second tomb was found 20 m away). This naiskos, made from local limestone, is in the form of a small temple containing both metope (combat scenes) and pedimental sculpture. The chamber tomb itself is built out of stuccoed sandstone; it yielded a large quantity of Gnathia ware. Numerous wells have been found throughout the city. These have yielded statuettes and terracotta reliefs of the 5th and 4th c. B.C.

Remains belonging to the Roman city are few. Baths have been discovered in two places in the new city, by the Castello Saraceno and by the church of S. Francesco. Over the bridge connecting the acropolis with the Scoglio del Tonno runs an aqueduct known as Il Triglio. A second aqueduct, Il Saturo, is to be found in the SE part of the city. By the Masseria del Carmine runs a wall built in the opus reticulatum technique. In 1960 the remains of a villa were uncovered in the Via Nitti. A fine museum houses not only the finds from the city itself but also objects from the neighboring provinces.


L. Viola, NSc (1881) 487-547; H. Klumbach, Tarentiner Grabkunst (1937)I; P. Wuilleumien, Tarente des Origins a la Conquête Romaine (1939)MPI; T. J. Dunbabin, The Western Greeks (1948); L. Bernabò Brea, “I Rilievi Tarantini in Pietra Tenera,” RivIstArch NS 1 (1952) 5-241; F. G. Lo Porto, “Ceramica Arcaica dalla Necropoli di Taranto,” AsAtene 37-38 (1959-60) 7-230I; id., “Tombe di Atleti Tarantini,” AttiMGrecia 8 (1967) 3 1-98PI; J. C. Carter, “Relief Sculptures from the Necropolis of Taranto,” AJA 74 (1970) 125-37.


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