: Eth. Ταραντῖνος
, Eth. Tarentinus
, Adj. Tarentinus
), one of the most powerful and celebrated cities of Southern Italy, situated on the N. shore of the extensive bay, which derived from it, both in ancient and modern times, the name of the gulf of Tarentum. (TARENTINUS SINUS: ὁ Ταραντῖνος κόλπος
: Golfo di Taranto
It was included within the limits of the province of Calabria, as that term was used by the Romans; but the Greeks [p. 2.1095]
would generally have reckoned it a city of Magna Graecia, and not have regarded it as included in lapygia. Its situation is peculiar, occupying a promontory or peninsula at the entrance of an extensive but shallow bay, now called the Mare Piccolo,
but in ancient times known as the Port of Tarentum, an inlet of above 6 miles in length, and from 2 to 3 in breadth, but which was so nearly closed at its mouth by the peninsula occupied by the city, that the latter is now connected by a bridge with the opposite side of the harbour.
There can be no doubt that the ancient city originally occupied only the same space to which the modern one is now confined, that of the low but rocky islet which lies directly across the mouth of the harbour, and is now separated from the mainland at its E. extremity by an artificial fosse or ditch, but was previously joined to it by a narrow neck of sand.
This may probably have been itself a later accumulation; and it is not unlikely that the city was originally founded on an island, somewhat resembling that of Ortygia at Syracuse, which afterwards became joined to the mainland, and has again been artificially separated from it.
As in the case of Syracuse, this island or peninsula afterwards became the Acropolis of the enlarged city, which extended itself widely over the adjoining plain.
Tarentum was a Greek city, a colony of Sparta, founded within a few years after the two Achaean colonies of Sybaris and Crotona.
The circumstances that led to its foundation are related with some variation by Antiochus and Ephorus (both cited by Strabo), but both authors agree in the main fact that the colonists were a body of young men, born during the First Messenian War under circumstances which threw over their birth a taint of illegitimacy, on which account they were treated with contempt by the other citizens; and after an abortive attempt at creating a revolution at Sparta, they determined to emigrate in a body under a leader named Phalanthus. They were distinguished by the epithet of Partheniae, in allusion to their origin. Phalanthus, who was apparently himself one of the disparaged class, and had been the chief of the conspirators at Sparta, after consulting the oracle at Delphi, became the leader and founder of the new colony. (Antiochus, ap. Strab. vi. p.278
; Ephorus, Ib.
p. 279; Serv. ad Aen. 3.551
; Diod. 15.66
; Justin, 3.4
; Scymn. Ch. 332
.) Both Antiochus and Ephorus represent them as establishing themselves without difficulty on the spot, and received in a friendly manner by the natives; and this is far more probable than the statement of Pausanias, according to which they found themselves in constant warfare; and it was not till after a long struggle that they were able to make themselves masters of Tarentum. (Paus. 10.10.6
The same author represents that city as previously occupied by the indigenous tribes, and already a great and powerful city, but this is highly improbable.
The name, however, is probably of native origin, and seems to have been derived front that of the small river or stream which always continued to be known as the Taras; though, as usual, the Greeks derived it from an eponymous hero named Taras, who was represented as a son of Neptune and a nymph of the country. (Paus. Ib.
It is certain that the hero Taras continued to be an object of special worship at Tarentum, while Phalanthus, who was revered as their Oekist, was frequently associated with him, and gradually became the subject of many legends of a very mythical character, in some of which he appears to have been confounded with Taras himself. (Paus. 10.10
. § § 6--8, 13.10; Serv. ad Aen. l.c.
) Nevertheless, there is no reason to doubt the historical character of Phalanthus, or the Lacedaemonian origin of Tarentum, which was confirmed by numerous local names and religious observances still retained there down to a very late period. (Pol. 8.30, 35.) The Roman poets also abound in allusions to this origin of the Tarentines. (Hor. Carm. 3.5.56
, 2.6. 11; Ovid. Met.
The date of the foundation of Tarentum is given by Hieronymus as B.C. 708, and this, which is in accordance with the circumstances related in connection with it, is probably correct, though no other author has mentioned the precise date. (Hieron. Chron.
ad Ol. xviii.)
The history of Tarentum, for the first two centuries of its existence, is, like that of most other cities of Magna Graecia, almost wholly unknown.
But the main fact is well attested that it attained to great power and prosperity, though apparently at first overshadowed by the superior power of the Achaean cities, so that it was not till a later period that it assumed the predominant position among the cities of Magna Graecia, which it ultimately attained.
There can be no doubt that it owed this prosperity mainly to the natural advantages of its situation. (Scymn. Ch. 332
; Strab. vi. p.278
.) Though its territory was not so fertile, or so well adapted for the growth of grain as those of Metapontum and Siris, it was admirably suited for the growth of olives, and its pastures produced wool of the finest quality, while its port, or inner sea as it was called, abounded in shell-fish of all descriptions, among which the Murex, which produced the celebrated purple dye, was the most important and valuable.
But it was especially the excellence of its port to which Tarentum owed its rapid rise to opulence and power.
This was not only landlocked and secure, but was the only safe harbour of any extent on the whole shores of the Tarentine gulf; and as neither Brundusium nor Hydruntum, on the opposite side of the Messapian peninsula, had as yet attained to any eminence, or fallen into the hands of a seafaring people, the port of Tarentum became the chief emporium for the commerce of all this part of Italy. (Pol. 10.1; Flor. 1.18.3
The story of Arion, as related by Herodotus (1.24
) indicates the existence of extensive commercial relations with Corinth and other cities of Greece as early as the reign of Periander, B.C. 625--585.
As the Tarentines gradually extended their power over the adjoining territories, they naturally came into frequent collision with the native tribes of the interior,--the Messapians and Peucetians; and the first events of their history recorded to us relate to their wars with these nations. Their offerings at Delphi noticed by Pausanias (10.10.6
), recorded victories over both these nations, in one of which it appears that Opis, making of the Iapygians, who had come to the assistance of the Peucetians, was slain; but we have no knowledge of the dates or circumstances of these battles.
It would appear, however, that the Tarentines were continually gaining ground, and making themselves masters of the Messapian towns one after the other, until their progress was checked by a great disaster, their own forces, together with those of the Rhegians, who had been sent to their assistance, being totally defeated by the barbarians with great slaughter. (Hdt. 7.170
; Diod. 11.52
.). So heavy was their [p. 2.1096]
loss that Herodotus, without stating the numbers, says it was the greatest slaughter of Greeks that had occurred up to his time.
The loss seems to have fallen especially upon the nobles and wealthier citizens, so that it became the occasion of a political revolution, and the government, which had previously been an aristocracy, became thenceforth a pure democracy. (Arist. Pol.
5.3.) Of the internal condition and constitution of Tarentum previously to this time, we know scarcely anything, but it seems probable that its institutions were at first copied from those of the parent city of Sparta. Aristotle speaks of its government as a πολίτεια,
in the sense of a mixed government or commonwealth; while Herodotus incidentally notices a king of Tarentum (3.156), not long before the Persian War, who was doubtless a king after the Spartan model.
The institutions of a democratic tendency noticed with commendation by Aristotle (Aristot. Pol. 6.5
) probably belong to the later and democratic period of the constitution. We hear but little also of Tarentum in connection with the revolutions arising out of the influence exercised by the Pythagoreans: that sect had apparently not established itself so strongly there as in the Achaean cities; though many Tarentines are enumerated among the disciples of Pythagoras, and it is clear that the city had not altogether escaped their influence. (Iambl. Vit. Pyth.
262, 266; Porphyr. Vit. Pyth.
The defeat of the Tarentines by the Messapians, which is referred by Diodorus to B.C. 473 (Diod. 11.52
), is the first event in the history of Tarentum to which we can assign a definite date. Great as that blow may have been, it did not produce any permanent effect in checking the progress of the city, which still appears as one of the most flourishing in Magna Graecia. We next hear of the Tarentines as interfering to prevent the Thurians, who had been recently established in Italy, from making themselves masters of the district of the Siritis. On what grounds the Tarentines could lay claim to this district, which was separated from them by the intervening territory of Metapontum, we are not informed; but they carried on war for some time against the Thurians, who were supported by the Spartan exile Cleandridas; until at length the dispute was terminated by a compromise, and a new colony named Heracleia was founded in the contested territory (B.C. 432), in which the citizens of both states participated, but it was agreed that it should be considered as a colony of Tarentum. (Antioch. ap. Strab. vi. p.264
; Diod. 12.23
At the time of the Athenian expedition to Sicily, the Tarentines kept aloof from the contest, and contented themselves with refusing all supplies and assistance to the Athenian fleet (Thuc. 6.44
), while they afforded shelter to the Corinthian and Laconian ships under Gylippus (Ib.
104), but they did not even prevent the second fleet under Demosthenes and Eurymedon from touching at the islands of the Choerades, immediately opposite to the entrance of their harbour, and taking on board some auxiliaries furnished by the Messapians. (Id. 7.33.)
Another long interval now elapses, during which the history of Tarentum is to us almost a blank; yet the few notices we hear of the city represent it as in a state of great prosperity. We are told that at one time (apparently about 380--360 B.C.) Archytas, the Pythagorean philosopher, exercised a paramount influence over the government, and filled the office of Strategus or general no less than seven times, though it was prohibited by law to hold it more than once; and was successful in every campaign. (D. L. 8.4
. § § 79--82.)
It is evident, therefore, that the Tarentines were far from enjoying unbroken peace.
The hostilities alluded to were probably but a renewal of their old warfare with the Messapians; but the security of the Greek cities in Italy was now menaced by two more formidable foes, Dionysius of Syracuse in the south, and the Lucanians on the north and west. The Tarentines, indeed; seem to have at first looked upon both dangers with comparative indifference: their remote position secured them from the immediate brunt of the attack, and it is even doubtful whether they at first joined in the general league of the Greek cities to resist the danger which threatened them. Meanwhile, the calamities which befel the more southern cities, the destruction of some by Dionysius, and the humiliation of others, tended only to raise Tarentum in comparison, while that city itself enjoyed an immunity from all hostile attacks; and it seems certain that it was at this period that Tarentum first rose to the preponderating position among the Greek cities in Italy, which it thenceforth enjoyed without a rival.
It was apparently as an acknowledgment of that superiority, that when Tarentum had joined the confederacy of the Greek cities, the place of meeting of their congress was fixed at the Tarentine colony of Heracleia. (Strab. vi. p.280
It was impossible for the Tarentines any longer to keep aloof from the contest with the Lucanians, whose formidable power was now beginning to threaten all the cities in Magna Graecia; and they now appear as taking a leading part in opposing the progress of those barbarians.
But they were not content with their own resources, and called in successively to their assistance several foreign leaders and generals of renown.
The first of these was the Spartan king Archidamus, who crossed over into Italy with a considerable force. Of his operations there we have no account, but he appears to have carried on the war for some years, as Diodorus places his first landing in Italy in B.C. 346, while the battle in which he was defeated and slain was not fought till the same time as that of Chaeroneia, B.C. 338. (Diod. 16.63
This action, in which Archidamus himself, and almost all the troops which he had brought with him from Greece perished, was fought (as we are told), not with the Lucanians, but with the Messapians, in the neighbourlhood of Manduria, only 24 miles from Tarentum (Plut. Agis.
3; Paus. 3.10.5
; Diod. l.c.
); but there can be no doubt, however, that both nations were united, and that the Lucanians lent their support to the Messapians, as the old enemies of Tarentum. Henceforth, indeed, we find both names continually united.
A few years after the death of Archidamus, Alexander, king of Epirus, was invited by the Tarentines, and landed in Italy, B.C. 332.
The operations of his successive campaigns, which were continued till B.C. 326, are very imperfectly known to us, but he appears to have first turned his arms against the Messapians, and compelled them to conclude a peace with the Tarentines, before he proceeded to make war upon the Lucanians and Bruttians.
But his arms were attended with considerable success in this quarter also: he defeated the Samnites and Lucanians in a great battle near Paestum, and penetrated into the heart of the Bruttian [p. 2.1097]
territory. Meanwhile, however, he had quarrelled with his allies the Tarentines, so that he turned against them, took their colony of Heracleia, and endeavoured to transfer the congress of the Greek cities from thence to a place on the river Acalandrus, in the territory of Thurii. (Strab. vi. p.280
; Liv. 8.24
; Just. 12.2
.) Hence his death, in B.C. 226, only liberated the Tarentines from an enemy instead of depriving them of an ally. They appear from this time to have either remained tranquil or carried on the contest single-handed, till B.C. 303, when we find them again invoking foreign assistance, and, as on a former occasion, sending to Sparta for aid.
This was again furnished them, and a large army of mercenaries landed at Tarentum under Cleonymus, the uncle of the Spartan king.
But though he compelled the Messapians and Lucanians to sue for peace, Cleonymus soon alienated the minds of his Greek allies by his arrogance and luxurious habits, and became the object of general hatred before he quitted Italy. (Diod. 20.104
According to Strabo, the Tarentines subsequently called in the assistance of Agathocles (Strab. vi. p.280
); but we find no mention of this elsewhere, and Diodorus tells us that he concluded an alliance with the Iapygians and Peucetians, which could hardly have been done with favourable intentions towards Tarentum. (Diod. xxi. p. 490.)
Not long after this the Tarentines first came into collision with a more formidable foe than their neighbours, the Messapians and Lucanians.
The wars of the Romans with the Samnites, in which the descendants of the latter people, the Apulians and Lucanians, were from time to time involved, had rendered the name and power of Rome familiar to the Greek cities on the Tarentine gulf and coast of the Adriatic, though their arms were not carried into that part of Italy till about B.C. 283, when they rendered assistance to the Thurians against the Lucanians [THURII
But long before this, as early as the commencement of the Second Samnite War (B.C. 326), the Tarentines are mentioned in Roman history as supporting the Neapolitans with promises of succour, which, however, they never sent; and afterwards exciting the Lucanians to war against the Romans. (Liv. 8.27
.) Again, in B.C. 321 we are told that they sent a haughty embassy to command the Samnites and Romans to desist from hostilities, and threatened to declare war on whichever party refused to obey. (Id. 9.14.)
But on this occasion also they did not put their threat in execution.
At a subsequent period, probably about B.C. 303 (Arnold's Rome,
vol. ii. p. 315), the Tarentines concluded a treaty with Rome, by which it was stipulated that no Roman ships of war should pass the Lacinian cape. (Appian, Samnit.
It was therefore a direct breach of this treaty when, in B.C. 302, a Roman squadron of ten ships under L. Cornelius, which had been sent to the assistance of the Thurians, entered the Tarentine gulf, and even approached within sight of the city. The Tarentines, whose hostile disposition was already only half concealed, and who are said to have been the prime movers in organising the confederacy against Rome which led to the Fourth Samnite War (Zonar. 8.2
.), immediately attacked the Roman ships, sunk four of them, and took one.
After this they proceeded to attack the Thurians on account of their having called in the Romans, expelled the Roman garrison, and made themselves masters of the city. (Appian, Samn.
7.1; Zonar. 8.2
.) The Romans sent an embassy to Tarentum to complain of these outrages; but their demands being refused, and their ambassador treated with contunmely, they had now no choice but to declare war upon the Tarentines, B.C. 281. (Appian, l.c.
§ 2; Zonar. l.c.;
Dio Cass. Fr.
145.) Nevertheless, the war was at first carried on with little energy; but meanwhile the Tarentines, following their usual policy, had invited Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, to their assistance.
That monarch readily accepted the overture, and sent over his general Milo to occupy the citadel of Tarentum with 3000 men, while he himself followed in the winter. (Zonar. 8.2
; Plut. Pyrrh. 15
It is usual to represent the Tarentines as at this period sunk in luxury and effeminacy, so that they were unable to defend themselves, and hence compelled to have recourse to the assistance of Pyrrhus.
But there is certainly much exaggeration in this view. They were no doubt accustomed to rely much upon the arms of mercenaries, but so were all the more wealthy cities of Greece; and it is certain that the Tarentines themselves (apart from their allies and mercenaries), furnished not only a considerable body of cavalry, but a large force or phalanx of heavy-armed infantry, called the Leucaspids, from their white shields, who are especially mentioned as serving under Pyrrhus at the battle of Asculum. (Dionys. xx. Fr. Didot. 1, 5.)
It is unnecessary here to repeat the history of the campaigns of that, monarch. His first successes for a time saved Tarentum itself from the brunt of the war: but when he at length, after his final defeat by Curius, withdrew from Italy (B.C. 274), it was evident that the full weight of the Roman arms would fall upon Tarentum. Pyrrhus, indeed, left Milo with a garrison to defend the city, but the Tarentines themselves were divided into two parties, the one of which was disposed to submit to Rome, while the other applied for assistance to Carthage. A Carthaginian fleet was actually sent to Tarentum, but it arrived too late, for Milo had already capitulated and surrendered the citadel into the hands of the Roman consul Papirius, B.C. 272. (Zonar. 8.6
; Oros. 4.3
From this time Tarentum continued subject to Rome.
The inhabitants were indeed left in possession of their own laws and nominal independence, but the city was jealously watched; and a Roman legion seems to have been commonly stationed there. (Pol. 2.24.) During the First Punic War the Tarentines are mentioned as furnishing ships to the Romans (Pol. 1.20): but with this exception we hear no more of it till the Second Punic War, when it became a military post of great importance. Hannibal was from an early period desirous to make himself master of the city, which, with its excellent port, would at once have secured his communications with Africa.
It is evident also that there was a strong Carthaginian party in the city, who shortly after the battle of Cannae, opened negotiations with Hannibal, and renewed them upon a subsequent occasion (Liv. 22.61
); but they were kept down by the presence of the Roman garrison, and it was not till B.C. 212 that Nico and Philemenus, two of the leaders of this party, found an opportunity to betray the city into his hands. (Liv. 25.8
; Pol. 8.26--33.) Even then the Roman garrison still held the citadel; and Hannibal having failed in his attempts to carry this fortress by assault, was compelled to resort to a blockade.
He cut it off on [p. 2.1098]
the land side by drawing a double line of fortifications across the isthmus, and made himself master of the sea by dragging a part of the fleet which was shut up within the inner port (or Mare Piccolo
), across the narrowest part of the isthmus, and launching it again in the outer bay. (Pol. 8.34--36; Liv. 25.11
This state of things continued for more than two years, during the whole of which time the Carthaginians continued masters of the city, while the Roman garrison still maintained possession of the citadel, and the besiegers were unable altogether to prevent them from receiving supplies from without, though on one occasion the Romans, having sent a considerable fleet under D. Quintius to attempt the relief of the place, this was met by the Tarentines, and after an obstinate conflict the Roman fleet was defeated and destroyed. (Liv. 25.15
At length in B.C. 209 Fabius determined if possible to wrest from Hannibal the possession of this important post; and laid siege to Tarentum while the Carthaginian general was opposed to Marcellus.
He himself encamped on the N. of the port, close to the entrance, so that he readily put himself in communication with M. Livius, the commander of the citadel.
But while he was preparing his ships and engines for the assault, an accident threw in his way the opportunity of surprising the city, of which he made himself master with little difficulty. The Carthaginian garrison was put to the sword, as well as a large part of the inhabitants, and the whole city was given up to plunder. (Id. 27.12, 15, 16; Plut. Fab. 21
.) Livy praises the magnanimity of Fabius in not carrying off the statues and other works of art in which Tarentum abounded (Liv. 27.16
; Plut. Fab. 23
); but it is certain that he transferred from thence to Rome a celebrated statue of Hercules by Lysippus, which long continued to adorn the Capitol. (Strab. vi. p.278
; Plin. Nat. 34.7. s. 18
The vast quantity of gold and silver which fell into the hands of the victors sufficiently bears out the accounts of the great wealth of the Tarentines. (Liv. l.c.
Tarentum had already suffered severely on its capture by Hannibal, and there can be no doubt that it sustained a still severer blow when it was retaken by Fabius. (Strab. vi. p.278
It was at first proposed to degrade it to a condition similar to that of Capua, but this was opposed by Fabius, and the decision was postponed till after the war. (Liv. 27.25
.) What the final resolution of the senate was, we know not; but Tarentum is alluded to at a subsequent period, as still retaining its position of an allied city, “urbs foederata.” (Liv. 35.16
It is certain that it still remained the chief place in this part of Italy, and was the customary residence of the praetor or other magistrate who was sent to the S. of Italy. Thus we find in B.C. 185, L. Postumius sent thither to carry on investigations into the conspiracies that had arisen out of the Bacchanalian rites, as well as among the slave population. (Liv. 39.29
But it is nevertheless clear that it was (in common with the other Greek cities of this part of Italy) fallen into a state of great decay; and hence, in B.C. 123, among the colonies sent out by C. Gracchus, was one to Tarentum, which appears to have assumed the title of Colonia Neptunia. (Vell. 1.15
; Plin. Nat. 3.11. s. 16
; see Mommsen, in Berichte der Sächsischen Gesellschaft
for 1849, pp. 49--51.)
According to Strabo this colony became a flourishing one, and the city enjoyed considerable prosperity in his day.
But it was greatly fallen from its former splendour, and only occupied the site of the ancient citadel, with a small part of the adjoining isthmus. (Strab. vi. p.278
It was, however, one of the few cities which still retained the Greek language and manners, in common with Neapolis and Rhegium. (Ib.
The salubrity of its climate, as well as the fertility of its territory, and, above all, the importance of its port, preserved it from the complete decay into which so many of the cities of Magna Graecia fell under the Roman government.
It is repeatedly mentioned during the civil wars between Octavian, Antony, and Sex. Pompeius as a naval station of importance; and it was there that in B.C. 36 a fresh arrangement was come to between Octavian and Antony, which we find alluded to by Tacitus as the “Tarentinum foedus.” (Appian, App. BC 2.40
--99; Tac. Ann. 1.10.
Even under the Empire Tarentum continued to be one of the chief seaports of Italy, though in some measure eclipsed by the growing importance of Brundusium. (Tac. Ann. 14.12
An additional colony of veterans was sent there under Nero, but with little effect, most of them having soon again dispersed. (Tac. Ann. 14.27.
) No subsequent mention of Tarentum is found in history until after the fall of the Western Empire, but it then appears as a considerable town, and bears an important part in the Gothic Wars on account of its strength as a fortress, and the excellence of its port. (Procop. B. G.
3.23, 27, 37, 4.26, 34.)
It was taken by Belisarius, but retaken by Totila in A.D. 549, and continued in the hands of the Goths till it was finally wrested from them by Narses. From that time it continued subject to the Byzantine Empire till A.D. 661, when it was taken by the Lombard Romoaldus, duke of Beneventum (P. Diac. 6.1); and afterwards fell successively into the hands of the Saracens and the Greek emperors.
The latter did not finally lose their hold of it till it was taken by Robert Guiscard in 1063.
It has ever since formed part of the kingdom of Naples.
The modern city of Tarentum has a population of about 20,000 souls; it is the see of an archbishop, and still ranks as the most important city in this part of Italy.
But it is confined to the space occupied by the ancient citadel, the extremity of the peninsula or promontory between the two ports: this is now an island, the low isthmus which connected it with the mainland having been cut through by king Ferdinand I., for the purpose of strengthening its fortifications.
Scarcely any remains are now extant of the celebrated and opulent city of Tarentum. “Never (says Swinburne) was a place more completely swept off the face of the earth.” Some slight remains of an amphitheatre (of course of Roman date) are visible outside the walls of the modern city; while within it the convent of the Celestines is built on the foundations of an ancient temple. Even the extent of the ancient city can be very imperfectly determined.
A few slight vestiges of the ancient walls are, however, visible near an old church which bears the name of Sta Maria di Murveta,
about 2 miles from the gates of the modern city; and there is no doubt that the walls extended from thence, on the one side to the Mare Piccolo,
on the other side to the outer sea.
The general form of the city was thus triangular, having the citadel at the apex, which is now joined to the opposite shore by a [p. 2.1099]
bridge of seven arches.
This was already the case in Strabo's time, though no mention of it is found at the time of the siege by Hannibal.
The general form and arrangement of the city cannot be better described than they are by Strabo.
He says: “While the whole of the rest of the Tarentine gulf is destitute of ports, there is here a very large and fair port, closed at the entrance by a large bridge, and not less than 100 stadia in circumference. [This is beneath the truth: the Mare Piccolo
is more than 16 miles (128 stadia) in circuit.] On the side towards the inner recess of the port it forms an isthmus with the exterior sea, so that the city lies upon a peninsula; and the neck of the isthmus is so low that ships can easily be drawn over the land from one side to the other.
The whole city also lies low, but rises a little towards the citadel.
The ancient wall comprises a circuit of great extent; but now the greater part of the space adjoining the isthmus is deserted, and only that part still subsists which adjoins the mouth of the port, where also the Acropolis is situated.
The portion still remaining is such as to make up a considerable city.
It has a splendid Gymnasium, and a good-sized Agora, in which stands the bronze colossal statue of Jupiter, the largest in existence next to that at Rhodes.
In the interval between the Agora and the mouth of the port is the Acropolis, which retains only a few remnants of the splendid monuments with which it was adorned in ancient times. For the greater part were either destroyed by the Carthaginians when they took the city, or carried off as booty by the Romans, when they made themselves masters of it by assault. Among these is the colossal bronze statue of Hercules in the Capitol, a work of Lysippus, which was dedicated there as an offering by Fabius Maximus, who took the city.” (Strab. vi. p.278
In the absence of all extant remains there is very little to be added to the above description. But Polybius, in his detailed narrative of the capture of the city by Hannibal, supplies us with some local names and details.
The principal gate on the E. side of the city, in the outer line of walls, seems to have been that called the Temenid Gate (αἱ πύλαι Τημένιδαι,
Pol. 8.30); outside of which was a mound or tumulus called the tomb of Hyacinthus, whose worship had obviously been brought from Sparta.
A broad street called the Batheia, or Low Street, led apparently from this gate towards the interior of the city.
This from its name may be conjectured to have lain close to the port and the water's edge, while another broad street led from thence to the Agora. (Ib.
31.) Another street called the Soteira (Σωτεῖρα
) was apparently on the opposite side of the city from the Batheia, and must therefore have adjoined the outer sea. (Ib.
36.) Immediately adjoining the Agora was the Museum (Μουσεῖον
), a public building which seems to have served for festivals and public banquets, rather than for any purposes connected with its name. (Ib.
There is nothing to indicate the site of the theatre, alluded to by Polybius on the same occasion, except that it was decidedly within
the city, which was not always the case. Strabo does not notice it, but it must have been a building of large size, so as to be adapted for the general assemblies of the people, which were generally held in it, as was the case also at Syracuse and in other Greek cities.
This is particularly mentioned on several occasions; it was there that the Roman ambassadors received the insult which finally led to the ruin of the city. (Flor. 1.18.3
; V. Max. 2.2.5
; Appian, Samnit.
Livy inaccurately describes the citadel as standing on lofty cliffs ( “praealtis rupibus,” 25.11): the, peninsula on which it stood rises indeed (as observed by Strabo) a little above the rest of the city, and it. is composed of a rocky soil; but the whole site is low, and no part of it rises to any considerable elevation.
The hills also that surround the Mare Piccolo
are of trifling height, and slope very gradually to its banks, as well as to the shore of the outer sea.
There can be no doubt that the, port of Tarentum, properly so called, was the inlet now called the Mare Piccolo
or “Little Sea,” but outside this the sea on the S. side of the city forms a bay or roadstead, which affords good shelter to shipping, being partially sheltered from the SW. by the two small islands of S. Pietro
and S. Paolo,
apparently the same which were known in ancient times as the CHOERADES
Tarentum was celebrated in ancient times for the salubrity of its climate and the fertility of its territory. Its advantages in both respects are extolled by Horace in a well-known ode (Carm.
2.6), who says that its honey was equal to that of Hymettus, and its olives to those of Venafrum. Varro also praised its honey as the best in Italy (ap. Macrob. Sat. 2.12). Its oil and wines enjoyed a nearly equal reputation; the choicest quality of the latter seems to have been that produced at Aulon (Hor. l.c.;
; Plin. Nat. 14.6. s. 8
), a valley in the neighbourhood, on the slope of a hill still called Monte Melone
But the choicest production of the neighbourhood of Tarentum was its wool, which appears to have enjoyed an acknowledged supremacy over that of all parts of Italy. (Plin. Nat. 29.2. s. 9
; Martial, l.c.;
Varr. R. R.
2.2.18; Strab. vi. p.284
; Col. 7.2.3
.) Nor was this owing solely to natural advantages, as we learn that the Tarentines bestowed the greatest care upon the preservation and improvement of the breed of sheep. (Col. 7.4
.) Tarentum was noted likewise for its breed of horses, which supplied the famous Tarentine cavalry, which was long noted among the Greeks. Their territory abounded also in various kinds of fruits of the choicest quality, especially pears, figs, and chestnuts, and though not as fertile in corn as the western shores of the Tarentine gulf, was nevertheless well adapted to its cultivation.
At the same time its shores produced abundance of shell-fish of all descriptions, which formed in ancient times a favourite article of diet. Even at the present day the inhabitants of Taranto
subsist to a great extent upon the shell-fish produced in the Mare Piccolo
in a profusion almost incredible. Its Pectens or scallops enjoyed a special reputation with the Roman epicures. (Hor. Sat.
But by far the most valuable production of this class was the Murex, which furnished the celebrated purple dye. The Tarentine purple was considered second only to the Tyrian, and for a long time was the most valuable known to the Romans. (Corn. Nep. ap. Plin. 9.39. s. 63.) Even in the time of Augustus it continued to enjoy a high reputation. (Hor. Ep. 2.1
.) So extensive were the manufactories of this dye at Tarentum that considerable mounds are still visible on the shore of the Mare Piccolo,
composed wholly of broken shells of this species. (Swinburne's Travels,
vol. i. p. 239.) [p. 2.1100]
The climate of Tarentum, though justly praised by Horace for its mildness, was generally reckoned soft and enervating, and was considered as in some degree the cause of the luxurious and effeminate habits ascribed to the inhabitants ( “molle Tarentum,” Hor. Sat.
2.4. 34; “imbelle Tarentum,” Id. Ep.
It is probable that this charge, as in many other cases, was greatly exaggerated; but there is no reason to doubt that the Tarentines, like almost all the other Greeks who became a manufacturing and commercial people, indulged in a degree of luxury far exceeding that of the ruder nations of Central Italy.
The wealth and opulence to which they attained in the 4th century B.C. naturally tended to aggravate these evils, and the Tarentines are represented as at the time of the arrival of Pyrrhus enfeebled and degraded by luxurious indulgences, and devoted almost exclusively to the pursuit of pleasure. To such an excess was this carried that we are told the number of their annual festivals exceeded that of the days of the year. (Theopomp. ap. Athen. 4.166
; Clearch. ap. Athen. 12.522
; Strab. vi. p.280
; Aelian, Ael. VH 12.30
.) Juvenal alludes to their love of feasting and pleasure when he calls it “coronatum ac petulans madidumque Tarentum” (6.297).
But it is certain, as already observed, that they were not incapable of war: they furnished a considerable body of troops to the army of Pyrrhus; and in the sea-fight with the Roman fleet off the entrance of the harbour, during the Second Punic War, they displayed both courage and skill in naval combat. (Liv. 26.39
In the time of their greatest power, according to Strabo, they could send into the field an army of 30,000 foot and 3000 horse, besides a body of 1000 select cavalry called Hipparchs. (Strab. vi. p.280
.) The Tarentine light cavalry was indeed celebrated throughout Greece, so that they gave name to a particular description of cavalry, which are mentioned under the name of Tarentines (Ταραντῖνοι
), in the armies of Alexander the Great and his successors; and the appellation continued in use down to the period of the Roman Empire. (Arrian, Anab.;
4; Pol. 4.77, 11.12; Liv. 35.28
; Aelian, Tact.
2. p. 14; Suidas, s. v. Ταραντῖνοι.
) It is probable, however, that these may have been always recruited in great part among the neighbouring Messapians and Sallentines, who also excelled as light horsemen.
With their habits of luxury the Tarentines undoubtedly combined the refinements of the arts usually associated with it, and were diligent cultivators of the fine arts.
The great variety and beauty of their coins is, even at the present day, a sufficient proof of this, while the extraordinary numbers of them which are still found in the S. of Italy attest the wealth of the city. Ancient writers also speak of the numbers of pictures, statues, and other works of art with which the city was adorned, and of which. a considerable number were transported to Rome. (Flor. 1.18
; Strab. vi. p.278
; Liv. 27.16
.) Among these the most remarkable were the colossal statue of Jupiter, mentioned by Strabo (l.c.
), and which was apparently still standing in the Agora in his time the bronze statue of Hercules by Lysippus already noticed; and a statue of Victory, which was also carried to Rome, where it became one of the chief ornaments of the Curia Julia. (D. C. 51.22
.) Nor were the Tarentines deficient in the cultivation of literature.
In addition to Archytas, the Pythagorean philosopher, celebrated for his mathematical attainments and discoveries, who long held at Tarentum a place somewhat similar to that of Pericles at Athens (D. L. 8.4
; Suid. s. v. Ἀρχύτας; Athen. 12.545
), Aristoxenus, the celebrated musician and disciple of Aristotle, was a native of Tarentum; as well as Rhinthon, the dramatic poet, who became the founder of a new species of burlesque drama which was subsequently cultivated by Sopater and other authors. (Suid. s. v. Ρίνθων.
) It was from Tarentum also that the Romans received the first rudiments of the regular drama, Livius Andronicus, their earliest dramatic poet, having been a Greek of Tarentum, who was taken prisoner when the city fell into their hands. (Cic. Brut. 18
Polybius tells us that Tarentum retained many traces of its Lacedaemonian origin in local names and customs, which still subsisted in his day. Such was the tomb of Hyacinthus already mentioned (Pol. 8.30): the river Galaesus also was called by them the Eurotas (Ib.
35), though the native name ultimately prevailed. Another custom which he notices as peculiar was that of burying their dead within the walls of the city, so that a considerable space within the walls was occupied by a necropolis. (Ib.
This custom he ascribes to an oracle, but it may have arisen (as was the case at Agrigentum and Syracuse) from the increase of the city having led to the original necropolis being inclosed within the walls.
The name of Tarentum (Taras) was supposed to be derived from a river of the name of TARAS
), which is noticed by several ancient writers. (Steph. B. sub voce Τάρας; Paus. 10.10.8
This is commonly identified with a deep, but sluggish, stream, which flows into the sea about 4 miles W. of the entrance of the harbour of Tarentum, and is still called Tara,
though corrupted by the peasantry into Fiume di Terra.
(Romanelli, vol. i. p. 281; Swinburne, vol. i. p. 271.)
The more celebrated stream of the GALAESUS
flowed into the Mare Piccola
or harbour of Tarentum on its N. shore: it is commonly identified with the small stream called Le Citrezze,
an old church near which still retains the name of Sta Maria di Galeso.
] Another locality in the immediate neighbourhood of Tarentum, the name of which is associated with that of the city by Horace, is AULON
a hill or ridge celebrated for the excellence of its wines.
This is identified by local topographers, though on very slight grounds, with a sloping ridge on the seashore about 8 miles SE. of Tarentum, a part of which bears the name of Monte Melone,
supposed to be a corruption of Aulone
A more obscure name, which is repeatedly mentioned in connection with Tarentum, is that of SATURIUM
). From the introduction of this name in the oracle alleged to have been given to Phalanthus (Strab. vi. p.279
), it seems probable that it was an old native name, but it is not clear that there ever was a town or even village of the name.
It is more probable that it was that of a tract or district in the neighbourhood of Tarentum. Stephanus of Byzantium distinctly calls it χώρα πλήσιον Τάραντος
(s. v. Σατύριον
); and the authority of Servius, who calls it a city
(civitas) near Tarentum, is not worth much in comparison.
There was certainly no city
of the name in historical times. Virgil applies the epithet “Saturium” (as an adjective) to Tarentum itself (Geory.
2.197; Serv. ad loc.:
many commentators, however, consider “saturi” from “satur” [p. 2.1101]
to be the true reading), and Hrace speaks of “Satureianus cabellus” as equivalent to Tarentine. (Sat. i.
The memory of the locality is preserved by a watch-tower on the coast, about seven miles SE. of Tarentum, which is still called Torre di Saturo
(Romanelli, vol. i. p. 294; Zannoni Carta del Regno di Napoli
(Concerning the history and ancient institutions of Tarentum, see Heyne, Opuscula,
vol. ii. pp. 217--232; and Lorentz, de Civitate Veterum Tarentinorum,
4to. Lips. 1833.
The present state and localities are described by Swinburne, vol. i. pp. 225--270; Keppel Craven, Southern Tour,
pp. 174--190; and Romandelli, vol. i. pp. 282--289; but from the absence of existing remains, the antiquities of Tarentum have scarcely received as much attention as they deserve.)
|COINS OF TARENTUM.|