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HIPPONION later VIBO VALENTIA (until 1928 called Monteleone di Calabria) Italy.

A city of the toe of Italy dominating from the S the modern Tyrrhenian Golfo di S. Eufemio. As a colony of Lokroi Epizephyroi it had the name Hipponion, which may contain an element of an older name; at all events a connection with horses is hard to find. Its foundation date is uncertain; no very early material has been found, and it has even been suggested that it was founded as a consequence of the destruction of Sybaris in 510 B.C. But Medma, its sister colony, existed before the middle of the 6th c., and a late 7th c. date for both seems the most probable.

Hipponion revolted from its mother city in 422 (Thuc. 5.5); prior to this time owing to protection by the tyrants of Syracuse, it seems to have flourished (Ath. 12.542a). Being well developed and fortified, it now made a successful but short-lived bid for independence. A little later (388 B.C.) it took part with other cities of Italy in the battle of the Helleporus against Dionysios of Syracuse because Lokri had allied itself with him (Polyb. 1.6.2; Diod. 14.103-7). Following Dionysios' victory, Hipponion was destroyed and its citizenry moved to Syracuse, while its lands were given to Lokri (Diod. 14.107). In 379 the Carthaginians, being at war with Syracuse, helped the Hipponiates rebuild their city (Diod. 15.24). But the destruction of Dionysios' empire in 356 opened the way to the Bruttii, who moved down from the mountains to attack the Greek cities. Hipponion was one of the first to fall, sometime between 356 and 345 (Diod. 16.15). Thereafter the Bruttii held the place and seem, from the evidence of coins and inscriptions, to have thrived until the Romans sent a Latin colony there in 192 B.C. (Livy 34.53.1; 35.40.5-6). This was composed of 3700 infantry and 300 cavalry under the tresviri Q. Naevius, M. Minucius, and M. Furius Crassipes; each infantryman received 15 iugera of land, each cavalryman 30. The colony took the name Valentia, later Vibo Valentia, the first element possibly the Bruttian corruption of the name of Hipponion.

In its Romanized form the city was governed by quattuorviri, responsible to a senate. It coined its own money and prospered. After the social war it was inscribed in the tribus Aemilia. We hear of it from time to time in the civil wars, especially in connection with Octavian war against Sextus Pompey when it was one of his most important bases of operations. Owing to the proximity of the great Sila forests, Vibo seems to have been a center of ship-building during the Empire as well as an important exporter of timber.

During excavations in 1916-17 and 1921, a stretch of the N front of the fortifications was laid bare for 225 m, and the foundations of two temples and a sanctuary were brought to light. The walls are of large squared blocks of calcareous sandstone laid in alternating courses of headers and stretchers, built solid in the curtains, an average of 2.8 m thick. They are interrupted at regular intervals of ca. 40 m by semicircular towers mounted on square bases, ca. 10 m on a side. One tower, at a point where the wall turns, is two-thirds of a circle, and one guarding a sally port virtually a full circle. In front of the walls was found a fossa 4.5 m wide, 3.25 m deep. Four periods of construction have been construed in what is preserved. The earliest, not earlier than the 4th c., is perhaps best ascribed to the time when Agathokles of Syracuse briefly seized the city back from the Bruttii in 294 B.C. (Diod. 21.8). The second wall, of rubblework imbedded in clay mortar with facings of rough stonework, has been ascribed to the Bruttii. The third, that with the semicircular towers and isodomic curtains, must then be the wall of the Latin colony of 192; its high sophistication will permit no earlier date. And the fourth, a repair or remodeling of the third, must then belong to the 1st c. B.C., the troubled times of the Roman revolution.

Substantial remains of two temples were found. The one on the height of the Belvedere (or Telegrafo), dominating the sea, was reduced to only a portion of its foundations, but the plan could be recovered. It was peripteral (37.45 x 20.5 m in over-all dimensions) with a shallow pronaos and a squarish adyton or opisthodomus. It seems to have been Doric with terracotta revetment of the roof, notably a lateral sima with lion's-head spouts. Votive material was scarce but ran from the archaic period to the Hellenistic.

The second temple, also peripteral (27.5 x 18.1 m in over-all dimensions) was found on the height known as Cofino. The cella was relatively short and can have been preceded by only a token pronaos. Fragments of the columns and their bases showed that it was Ionic, and this was confirmed by the style of the lateral sima in fine limestone. A 5th c. date for this has been proposed.

A third sacred building was discovered at Coltura del Castello on the presumed acropolis of the city, the substructions of a small temple together with a mass of figured terracottas; the presence of a large temple nearby was indicated by fragments of a colossal terracotta gorgoneion, 1.10 m in diameter.

Vibo was some distance from the sea and must have had its port at the site now known as Porto S. Venere, but little is known about it. At the site of Torre Galli, ca. 16 km W of Vibo, a necropolis has come to light that shows a native population in contact with the Greeks from the late 7th c. (Late Protocorinthian vases) and a gradually increasing hellenization down into the second half of the 6th c., when the graves stop. This makes an illuminating example of the influence Hipponion exerted and an interesting study in itself.

The Collezione Capialbi in Vibo was formed locally, and the majority of the material belongs to the site and its dependencies; the Collezione Cordopatri, also made chiefly at Vibo, is now in the Museo Nazionale at Reggio Calabria.


P. Orsi, NSc (1921) 473-85; id., MonAnt 31 (1926) 5-212; G. Saeflund, OpusArch 1 (1935) 87-107; T. J. Dunbabin, The Western Greeks (1948) 163-70.


hide References (6 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (6):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.103
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.107
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 15.24
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.15
    • Thucydides, Histories, 5.5
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 34, 53.1
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