An archaic Greek colony
founded by Achaians and Troezenians about 720 B.C.
on a fertile plain drained by the Crati and Sybaris rivers
in a region lying between Metaponto and Kroton. Sybaris and the two successive cities of Thurii and Copia
built on the same site are mentioned by at least 70
Greek and Roman writers, notably Herodotos (5.45
. 5.2.10), Diodorus Siculus (11.90.3-4;
12), Strabo (6.1.13
), and Athenaeus (Deip
There is general agreement that the original city was
destroyed by the Greeks of Kroton about 510 B.C.
Ancient authorities agree in placing the archaic colony
somewhere on the plain of the Crati (125 sq. km). Systematic search for the site, begun in 1879, was finally
rewarded in 1968. The precise location was defined and
it was concluded that archaic Greek Sybaris was succeeded by Thurii and Copia on the same site (see Thurii).
Archaic Greek pottery was found in several hundred
drill borings at a depth of 4.5-6 m; later Greek and
Roman pottery in upper levels was still below 3 m in
depth. The archaic deposits are now some 3 m below sea
level and 4-5 m below the water table. Soundings exposed
stone foundations of 6th c. B.C. structures, masses of roof
tiles, and archaic pottery in a single level of occupation
in the N sector of the site, i.e., not covered over by later
Greek and Roman structures. But in the S sector only
later Greek and Roman structures were found overlying
a level of archaic Greek pottery at ca. 6 m in depth. A
stone retaining wall was traced by the magnetometers,
drills, and soundings for 800 m roughly parallel and to
the N of the Crati river. The lower part of the wall was
built in the Hellenistic period (Thurii) and the upper
part during the period of Roman settlement.
Since 1968 there have been three seasons of excavation at the site. Utilizing a well point system, large
sectors have been pumped constantly so that the water
table has been reduced to a depth below the archaic
level allowing dry excavation to at least 6 m. Four
separate excavations have been made, the largest extending over 2 ha in the Parco del Cavallo area where
a Roman structure protruding above ground was found
in 1928, and where there were excavations in 1961-62.
The principle structure now unearthed there is a theater
of the 1st and 2d c. A.D., surrounded by a residential
area of the period of Roman Copia. There is also a
major road of the same period passing the theater in an
E-W direction. Below the Roman theater, soundings
have exposed Greek structures and pottery extending
over the period from the 8th to the 5th c. B.C., indicating no significant period when the site was not occupied after the original settlement by the archaic Greeks. This excavation indicates that the site was abandoned
in the 4th c. A.D.
The second major excavation was made in the N sector
(Stombi—now called the Parco dei Tori) where the
earlier research disclosed only an archaic level. Here the
foundations of the three buildings have been uncovered;
also a pottery kiln. Although unidentified, the structures appear to be part of an organized town settlement of the 6th c. B.C.
A third excavation in the locality of Casa Bianca,
at the E end of the long retaining wall, exposed more
of the Roman habitation area and part of a road which
probably connects with another passing the Parco del
Cavallo section in an E-W direction. The fourth excavation in the San Mauro area to the S and outside the limits of the Sybaris zone, exposed a small Roman
structure in the upper level.
The almost total destruction of the archaic city, indicated by the six soundings excavated in the years
1962-67, is borne out by the large excavations in the
Stombi area. The recent excavations also clarify the
problem of the physical deposition of the ruins. It is now
clear that the plain of the Crati settled below the present
sea level after the period of Roman occupation rather
than before, as assumed in the 1968 report. The problem of preserving the site is still to be solved. At present,
constant and expensive pumping is required to expose
Roman buildings which lie below the water table.
F. G. Rainey & C. M. Lerici, The
Search for Sybaris
(1967). [In introductory chapters
all the pertinent material from the ancient authors is
translated and the early excavations are summarized.];
Rainey, “The Location of Archaic Greek Sybaris,” AJA
73 (1969) 261-73; Autori vari, Sibari, NSc
I. Report on the Italian excavations at Parco del Cavallo. F. RAINEY