(Eth. Ταραντῖνος κόλπος
: Golfo di Taranto
) was the name given in ancient as well as in modern times to the extensive gulf comprised between the two great promontories or peninsulas of Southern Italy.
It was bounded by the Iapygian promontory (Capo della Leuca
) on the N., and by the Lacinian promontory (Capo delle Colonne
) on the S.; and these natural limits being clearly marked, appear to have been generally recognised by ancient geographers. (Strab. vi. pp. 261, 262; Mel. 2.4.8; Plin. Nat. 3.11. s. 16
; Ptol. 3.1.12
.) Strabo tells us it was 240 miles in extent, following the circuit of the shores, and 700 stadia (87 1/2 miles) across from headland to headland. Pliny reckons it 250 miles in circuit, and 100 miles across the opening.
The latter statement considerably exceeds the truth, while Strabo's estimate is a very fair approximation.
This extensive gulf derived its name from the celebrated city of Tarentum, situated at its N E. extremity, and which enjoyed the advantage of a good port, almost the only one throughout the whole extent of the gulf. (Strab. vi. p.278
But notwithstanding this disadvantage, its western shores were lined by a succession of Greek colonies, which rose into flourishing cities. Crotona, Sybaris, Metapontum, and, at a later period, Heraclea and Thurii, all adorned this line of coast; the great fertility of the territory compensating for the want of natural harbours. On the northern or Iapygian shore, on the contrary, the only city was Callipolis, which never rose above a subordinate condition.