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CALA´BRIA (Καλαβρία) was the name given by the Romans to the peninsula which forms the SE. promontory, or, as it has been frequently called, the heel of Italy, the same which was termed by the Greeks MESSAPIA or IAPYGIA The use of these appellations seems indeed to have been sufficiently vague and fluctuating. But, on the whole, it may be remarked that the name of Iapygia,--which appears to have been the one first known among the Greeks, and probably in early times the only one,--was applied by them not only to the peninsula itself, but to the whole SE. portion of Italy, from the frontiers of Lucania to the promontory of Garganus, thus including the greater part of Apulia, as well as Calabria. (Scyl. § 14, p. 170; Pol. 3.88.) Herodotus appears to have certainly considered Apulia as part of lapygia (4.99), but has no distinguishing name for the peninsula itself. Neither he nor Thucydides ever use Messapia for the name of the country, but they both mention the Messapians, as a tribe or nation of the native inhabitants, to whom they apply the general name of lapygians (Ἰήπυγες Μεσσάπιοι, Her. 7.170; Thuc. 7.33). Polybius and Strabo, on the contrary, use Messapia for the peninsula only, as distinguished from the adjoining countries; but the former reckons it a part of lapygia, while the latter, who employs the Roman name of Apulia for the land of the Peucetians and Daunians, considers Iapygia and Messapia as synonymous. (Pol. 3.88; Strab. vi. pp. 277, 282.) Antiochus of Syracuse also, as cited by Strabo (p. 279), as well as the pretended oracle introduced by him in his narrative, speaks of Iapygians as dwelling in the neighbourhood of Tarentum. At a later period we find the inhabitants of this district divided into two tribes; the SALLNTINI, who occupied the country near the Iapygianr Promontory, and from thence along the southern coast of the peninsula towards Tarentum; and the CALABRI, who appear to have been certainly identical with the Messapians of the Greeks, and are mentioned by that name on the first occasion in which they appear in Roman history. (Fast. Capit. ap. Gruter. p. 297.) They inhabited the northern half and interior of the peninsula, extending to the confines of the Peucetians, and were evidently the most powerful of the two tribes, on which account the name of Calabria came to be gradually adopted by the Romans as the appellation of the whole district, in the same manner as that of Messapia was by the Greeks. This usage was firmly established before the days of Augustus. (Liv. 23.34, 42.48: Mela, 2.4; Strab. vi. p.282; Hor. Carm. 1.31. 5.)

Calabria as thus defined was limited on the west by a line drawn from sea to sea, beginning on the Gulf of Tarentum a little to the W. of that city, and stretching across the peninsula to the coast of the Adriatic between Egnatia and Brundusium. (Strab. vi. p.277.) It thus comprised nearly the same extent with the modern province called Terra di Otranto. But the boundary, not being defined by any natural features, cannot be fixed with precision, and probably for administrative purposes varied at different times. Thus we find Frontinus including. in the “Provincia Calabriae” several cities of the Peucetians which would, according to the above line of demarcation, belong to Apulia, and appear, in fact, to have been commonly so reckoned. (Lib. Colon. p. 261; and see APULIA p. 164.) The same remark applies to Pliny's list of the “Calabrorum mediterranei” (3.11. s. 16), and it is indeed probable that the Calabri or Messapians originally extended further to the W. than the arbitrary limit thus fixed by geographers. Strabo appears to have considered the isthmus (as he calls it) between Brundusium and Tarentum as much more strongly marked by nature than it really is; he states its breadth at 310 stadia, which is less than the true distance between the two cities, but considerably more than the actual breadth, if measured in a direct line from sea to sea; which does not exceed 25 G. miles or 250 stadia. This is, however, but little inferior to the average breadth of the province, which would indeed be more properly termed a great promontory than a peninsula strictly so called. The whole space comprised between this boundary line on the W. and the Iapygian promontory is very uniform in its physical characters. It contains no mountains, and scarcely any hills of considerable elevation; the range of rugged and hilly country which traverses the southern part of Apulia only occupying a small tract in the extreme NW. of Calabria, about the modern towns of Ostuni and Ceglie. From hence to the Iapygian Promontory (the Capo di Leuca) there is not a single eminence of any consequence, the whole space being occupied by broad and gently undulating hills of very small elevation, so that the town of Oria, which stands on a hill of moderate height near the centre of the peninsula, commands an uninterrupted view to the sea on both sides. (Swinburne, Travels, vol. i. pp. 210, 211; Craven, Travels, p. 164.) Hence Virgil has justly described the approach to Italy from this side as presenting “a low coast of dusky hills.” (Obscuros colles humilemque Italiam, Aen. 3.522.) The soil is almost entirely calcareous, consisting of a soft tertiary limestone, which readily absorbs all the moisture that falls, so that not a single river and scarcely even a rivulet is to be found in the whole province. Yet, notwitstanding its aridity, and the, burning heat of the climate in summer, the country. is one of great fertility, and is described by Strabo as having been once very populous and flourishing; though much decayed in his day from its former prosperity. Its soil is especially adapted for the growth of olives, for which it was celebrated in ancient as well as modern times: but it produced also excellent wines, as well as fruit of various kinds in great abundance, and honey and wool of the finest [p. 1.473]quality. But the excessive heats of summer rendered it necessary at that season to drive the flocks into the mountains and upland vallies of Lucania. (Strab. vi. p.281; Varr. R. R. 2.2.18,3.11; Colum.7.2.3, 11.3.15, 12.51.3; Hor. Carm. 1.31.5, 3.16, 33, Epod. 1.27, Epist. 1.7. 14.) Virgil also notices that it was infested by serpents of a more formidable character than were found in other parts of Italy. (Georg. 3.425.)

Another source of wealth to the Calabrians was their excellent breed of horses, from whence the Tarentines supplied the cavalry for which they were long celebrated. Even as late as the third century B.C. Polybius tells us that the Apulians and Messapians together could bring into the field not less than 16,000 cavalry, of which probably the greater part was furnished by the latter nation. (Pol. 2.24.) At the present day the Terra di Otranto is still one of the most fertile and thickly-peopled provinces of the kingdom of Naples.

The population of the Calabrian peninsula consisted, as already mentioned, of two different tribes or nations; the Messapians or Calabrians proper, and the Sallentines. But there seems no reason to suppose that these races were originally or essentially distinct. We have indeed two different accounts of the origin of the Messapians: the one representing them as a cognate people with the Daunians and Peucetians, and conducted to Italy together with them by the sons of Lycaon, Iapyx, Daunius, and Peucetius. (Antonin. Liberal. 31.) The other made Iapyx a son of Daedalus, and the leader of a Cretan colony (Antioch. ap. Strab. vi. p.279): which is evidently only another version of the legend preserved by Herodotus, according to which the Cretans who had formed the army of Minos, on their return from Sicily, were cast upon the coast of Iapygia, and established themselves in the interior of the peninsula, where they founded the city of Hyria, and assumed the name of Messapians. (Her. 7.170.) The Sallentines are also represented as Cretans, associated with Locrians and Illyrians; but their emigration is placed as late as the time of Idomeneus,.after the Trojan War. (Strab. p. 281; Verg. A. 3.400; Varro ap. Prob. ad Virg. Eel. 6.31; Festus s. v. Salentini, p. 329.) Without attaching any historical value to these testimonies, they may be considered as representing the fact that the population of this peninsula was closely connected with that of the opposite shores of the Ionian Sea, and belonged to the same family with those pre-Hellenic races, who are commonly comprised under the name of Pelasgic. The legend recorded by Antiochus (l.c.) which connected them with the Bottiaeans of Macedonia, appears to point to the same origin. This conclusion derives a great confirmation from the recent researches of Mommsen into the remnants of the language spoken by the native tribes in this part of Italy, which have completely established the fact that the dialect of the Messapians or Iapygians bore but a very distant analogy to those of the Oscan or Ausonian races, and was much more nearly akin to Greek, to which, indeed, it appears to have borne much the same relation with the. native dialects of Macedonia or Crete. The Alexandrian grammarian Seleucus (who flourished about 100 B.C.) appears to have preserved some words of this language, and Strabo (p. 282) refers to the Messapian tongue as one still spoken in his time: the numerous sepulchral inscriptions still existing may be referred for the most part to the latter ages of the Roman Republic. (Mommsen, Die Unter-Italischen Dialecte, pp. 43--98.) This near relationship with the Hellenlic races will explain the facility with which the Messapians appear to have adopted the manners and arts of the Greek settlers, while their national diversity was still such as to lead the Greek colonists to regard them as barbarians. (See Thuc. 7.33; Paus. Phoc. 10.10.6.) A question has, however, been raised whether the CALABRI were originally of the. same stock with the other inhabitants of the peninsula, and Niebullr inclines to regard them as intruders of an Oscan race (vol. i. p. 149; Vorträge über Länder u. Völker, p. 499). But the researches above alluded to seem to negative this conjecture, and establish the fact that the Calabrians and Messapiaris were the same tribe. The name of the Calabri (Καλαβροί) is found for the first time in Polybius (10.1); but it is remarkable that the Roman Fasti, in recording their subjection, employ the Greek name, and record the triumph of the consuls of the year 487 “de Sallentinis Messapiisque.” (Fast. Triumph. ap. Gruter. p. 297.)

All the information we possess concerning the early history of these tribes is naturally connected with that of the Greek colonies established in this part of Italy, especially Tarentum. The accounts transmitted to us concur in representing the Messapians or Iapygians as having already attained to a certain degree of culture, and possessing the cities of Hyria and Brundusium at the period when the colony of Tarentum was founded, about 708 B.C. The new settlers were soon engaged in hostilities with the natives, which are said to have commenced even during the lifetime of Phalanthus. It is probable that the Tarentines were generally successful, and various offerings at Delphi and elsewhere attested their repeated victories over the Iapygians, Messapians, and Peucetians. It was during one of these wars that they captured and destroyed the city of Carbina with circumstances of the most revolting cruelty. But at a later period the Messapians had their revenge, for in B.C. 473 they defeated the Tarentines in a great battle, with such slaughter as no Greek army had suffered down to that day. (Paus. 10.10.6, 13.10; Clearch. ap. Athen. 12.522; Her. 7.170; Diod. 11.52; Strab. vi. p.282.) Notwithstanding this defeat the Tarentines gradually regained the ascendancy, and the Peucetians and Daunians are mentioned as joining their alliance against the Messapians: but the latter found powerful auxiliaries in the Lucanians, and it was to oppose their combined arms that the Tarentines successively invoked the assistance of the Spartan Archidamus and Alexander king of Epeirus, the former of whom fell in battle against the Messapians near the town of Manduria, B.C. 338. (Strab. vi. p.281.) But while the inhabitants of the inland districts and the frontiers of Lucania thus retained their warlike habits, those on the coast appear to have adopted the refinements of their Greek neighbours, and had become almost as luxurious and effeminate in their habits as the Tarentines themselves. (Athen. 12.523.) Hence we find them offering but little resistance to the Roman arms; and though the common danger from that power united the Messapians and Lucanians with their former enemies the Tarentines, under the command of Pyrrhus, after the defeat of that monarch and the submission of Tarentum, a single campaign sufficed to complete the subjection of the Iapygian peninsula. [p. 1.474]Flor. 1.20; Zonar. 8.7, p. 128; Fast. Capit. l.c.) It is remarkable that throughout this period the Sallentini alone are mentioned by Roman historians; the name of the Calabri, which was afterwards extended to the whole province, not being found in history until after the Roman conquest. The Sallentini are mentioned as revolting to Hannibal during the Second Panic War, B.C. 213, but were again reduced to subjection. (Liv. 25.1, 27.36.)

Calabria was included by Augustus in the Second Region of Italy; and under tile Roman empire appears to have been generally united for administrative purposes with the neighbouring province of Apulia, in the same manner as Lucania was with Bruttium, though we sometimes find them separated, and it is clear that Calabria was never included under the name of Apulia. (Plin. Nat. 3.11. s. 16; Lib. Colon. pp. 260, 261; Notit. Dign. ii. pp. 64, 125; Orell. Inscr. 1126, 1178, 2570, 3764.) After the fall of the Western Empire its possession was long and fiercely disputed between the Greek emperors and the Goths, the Lombards and the Saracens: but from its proximity to the shores of Greece it was one of the last portions of the Italian peninsula in which the Byzantine emperors maintained a footing; nor were they finally expelled till the establishment of the Norman monarchy in the 11th century. It is to this period that we must refer the singular change by which the name of Calabria was transferred from the province so designated by the Romans to the region now known by that name, which coincides nearly with the limits of the ancient Bruttium. The cause, as well as the exact period of this transfer, is uncertain; but it seems probable that the Byzantines extended the name of Calabria to all their possessions in the S. of Italy, and that when these were reduced to a small part of the SE. peninsula about Hydruntum and the Iapygian promontory, they still comprised the greater part of the Bruttian peninsula, to which, as the more important possession, the name of Calabria thus caine to be more particularly attached. Paulus Diaconas in the 8th century still employs the name of Calabria in the Roman sense; but the usage of Italian writers of the 10th and 11th centuries was very fluctuating, and we find Constantine Porphyrogenitus, as well as Liutprand of Cremona in the 10th century, applying the name of Calabria, sometimes vaguely to the whole of Southern Italy, sometimes to the Bruttian peninsula in particular. After the Norman conquest the name of Calabria seems to have been definitively established in its modern sense as applied only to the southern extremity of Italy, the ancient Bruttium. (P. Diac. Hist. Lang. 2.22; Conist. Porphyr. de Provinc. 2.10, 11; Liutpr. Cremon. 4.12; Lupus Protospat. ad ann. 901, 981; and other chroniclers in Muratori, Scriptores Rer. Ital. vol. v.)

The whole province of Calabria does not contain a single stream of sufficient magnitude to be termed a river. Pliny mentions on the N. coast a river of the name of lapyx, the situation of which is wholly unknown; another, which he calls Pactius, was situated (as we learn from the Tabula, where the name is written I astium) between Brundusium and Baletium, and probably answers to the modern Canale del Cefalo, which is a mere watercourse. On the S. coast the two little rivers in the neighbourlhood of Tarenutn, called the Galaesus and the Taras, though much more celebrated, are scarcely more considerable.

Strabo tells us (p. 281 ) that the Iapygian peninsula in the days of its prosperity contained thirteen cities, but that these were in his time all decayed and reduced to small towns, except Brundusium and Tarentum. Besides these two important cities, we find the following towns mentioned by Pliny, Ptolemy, and others, of which the sites can be fixed with certainty. Beginning from BRUNDUSIUM, and proceeding southwards to the Iapygian Promontory, were BALETIUM, LUPIAE, RUDIAE, HYDRUNTUM, CASTRUM MINERVAE, BASTA, and VERIETUM. Close to the promontory there stood a small town called LEUCA from which the headland itself is now called Capo di Leuca [IAPYGIUM PROM.]; from thence towards Tarentum we find either on or near the coast, UXENTUIM, ALETIUM, CALLIPOLIS, NERETUM, and MANDURIA In the interior, on the confines of Apulia, was CAELIA and on the road from Tarentumi to Brundusium stood HYRIA or URIA the ancient capital of the Messapians. South of this, and still in the interior, were SOLETUM, STURNIUM, and FRATUERTIUM Bauota or Baubota (Baeuora), a town mentioned only by Ptolemy as an inland city of the Sallentini, has been placed conjecturally at Pasabita. CARBINA (Athen. l.c.) is supposed by Romanelli to be the modern Carovigno. Sallentia, mentioned only by Stephanus Byzantinus (s. v.), is quite unknown, and it may be doubted whether there ever was a town of the name. [SALLENTINI] Messapia (Plin.) is supposed by Italian topographers to be Mesagne, between Tarentum and Brundusium, but there is great doubt as to the correctness of the name. The two towns of Mesochoron and Scamnnum, placed by the Tabula upon the same line of road, would appear from the distances given to correspond with the villages now called Grottaglie and Latiano. (Romanelli, vol. ii. pp. 115, 129.) The Portus Sasina, mentioned by Pliny as the point where the peninsula was the narrowest, has been supposed to be the Porto Cesareo, about half way between Taranto and Gallipoli (Romanelli, vol. ii. p. 51) ; while the Portus Tarentinus, placed by the same author between Brundusium and Hydruntum, has been identified with a large saltwater lake N. of Otranto, now called Limene; the Statio Miltopae (Plin. l.c.) appears to have been in the same neighbourhood, but the site assigned it at Torre di S. Cataldo is purely conjectural. (Id. pp. 81, 106.)

The names of Senum and Sarmadium, found in many MSS. and editions of Pliny, rest on very doubtful authority.

The only islands off the coast of Calabria are some mere rocks immediately at the entrance of the port of Brundusium, one of which is said to have been called Barra (Plin. Nat. 3.26. s. 30; Fest. v. Barium); and two rocky islets, scarcely more considerable, off the port of Tarentum, known as the CHOERADES (Thuc. 7.33.)

The only ancient lines of roads in Calabria were: one that led from Brundusiumn to the Sallentine or Iapygian Promontory, another from Tarentum to the same point: and a cross line from Brundusium direct to Tarenttum. The first appears to have been a continuation of the Via Trajana, and was probably constructed by that emperor. It proceeded from Brundusium through Lupiae to Hydruntum, and thence along the coast by Castra Minervae to the Promontory, thence the southern line led by Veretum, Uxentum, Aletia, Neretumn and Manduria to Tarentum. The distance from Brundusium to Tarentum [p. 1.475]by the cross road is given in the Itin. Ant. (p. 119) at 44 M. P.; the Tabula gives three intermediate stations: Mesochoro, Urbius and Scamnum: all three of which are otherwise wholly unknown.

For the modern geography of this part of Italy, as well as for local details concerning the ancient remains still visible, see the work of Antonio dei Ferrari (commonly called, from the name of his birthplace, Galateo), De Situ Japygiae (first published at Basle in 1558, and reprinted by Burmann in the Thesaurus Antiquitatum Italiae, vol. ix. part v.), one of the most accurate and valuable of its class; also Romanelli, Topografia del Regno di Napoli, vol. ii.; Swinburne, Travels in the Two Sicilies, vol. i. p. 205, foll.; Keppel Craven, Tour through the Southern Provinces of Naples, pp. 120--190.


hide References (13 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (13):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 11.52
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.10.6
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.13.10
    • Thucydides, Histories, 7.33
    • Polybius, Histories, 10.1
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 3.400
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.11
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.26
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 1
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 23, 34
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 36
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 42, 48
    • Athenaeus, of Naucratis, Deipnosophistae, 12
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