previous next


CROTON or CROTONA (Κρότων: Eth. Κροτωνιάτης, Eth. Crotoniensis and Crotonensis, but Cicero uses Crotoniatae for the people: Cotrone), one of the most celebrated of the Greek colonies in Southern Italy, situated on the E. coast of the Bruttian peninsula, at the mouth of the little river Aesarus, and about 6 miles N. of the Lacinian Promontory. It was founded by a colony of Achaeans, led by Myscellus, a native of Rhypae in Achaia, in obedience to the express injunction of the oracle at Delphi. (Strab. vi. p.262; Diod. viii. Exc. Vat. pp. 8, 9; Dionys. A. R. 2.59; Ovid. Met. 15.9--59; Scymn. Ch. 325.) The date of its foundation is fixed by Dionysius at B.C. 710, and his authority may probably be relied on, though Eusebius and Hieronymus would place it some years later. (Clinton, F. H. vol. i. p. 174; Grote's Greece, vol. iii. p. 401.) A tradition recorded by Strabo (l.c.), which would connect its foundation with that of Syracuse by Archias, would therefore seem to be chronologically inadmissible. Its name was derived, according to the current legend, from a person of the name of Croton, who afforded a hospitable reception to Hercules during the wanderings of that hero; but having been accidentally killed by him, was buried on the spot, which Hercules foretold would eventually become the site of a mighty city. (Diod. 4.24; Iambl. Vit. Pyth. 50; Ovid, Ov. Met. 15.12-18, 55; Etym. M. v. Κρότων.) Hence we find Croton sometimes called the founder of the city, while the Crotoniats themselves paid peculiar honours to Hercules as their tutelary divinity and Oekist. (Heraclid. Pont. 36; Iambl. Vit. Pyth. 40; Eckhel, vol. i. p. 172.)

Crotona, as well as its neighbour Sybaris, seems to have rapidly risen to great prosperity; but the general fact of its size, wealth, and power, is almost all that we know concerning it; its history during the first two centuries from its foundation being almost a blank to us. But the fact that the walls of the city enclosed a space of not less than 12 miles in circuit (Liv. 24.3), sufficiently proves the great power to which it had attained; and it is during this early period also that we find the Crotoniats extending their dominion across the Bruttian peninsula, and founding the colony of Terina on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, as well as that of Caulonia between the parent city and Locri. Lametium also, or Lametini, on the Hipponian Gulf, as well as Scyllacium on the opposite side of the isthmus, must at this period have been subject to its rule. The great wealth and prosperity enjoyed by the two neighbouring cities of Crotona and Sybaris, seems to prove that they continued for a long time on terms of friendship, in accordance with their common Achaean [p. 1.710]origin; and the Oenotrian tribes of the interior were not powerful enough to offer any obstacle to their growth. They thus became during the sixth century B.C. two of the most populous, wealthy, and powerful cities of the Hellenic name. Crotona, however, was far less luxurious than its rival; its inhabitants devoted themselves particularly to athletic exercises, and became celebrated for the number of the prizes which they carried off at the Olympic games. (Strab. vi. p.262.) The government of Crotona appears to have been of an oligarchic character; the supreme power being in the hands of a council of one thousand persons, who were, or claimed to be, descendants from the original settlers. (Iambl. V. P. 45; V. Max. 8.15. Ext. § 1.) This state of things continued without interruption, till the arrival of Pythagoras, an event that led to great changes both at Crotona and in the neighbouring cities. It was, apparently, about the middle of the sixth century (between B.C. 540 and 530) that that philosopher first established himself at Crotona, where he quickly attained to great power and influence, which he appears to have employed not only for philosophical, but for political purposes. But the nature of the political changes which he introduced, as well as the revolutions that followed, is involved in great obscurity. We learn, however, that besides the general influence which Pythagoras exerted over the citizens, and even over the Great Council, he formed a peculiar society of 300 young men among the most zealous of his disciples, who, without any legal authority, exercised the greatest influence over the deliberations of the supreme assembly. This state of things continued for some time, until the growing unpopularity of the Pythagoreans led to a democratic revolution, which ended in their expulsion from Crotona and the overthrow of the Great Council, a democratic form of government being substituted for the oligarchy. This revolution was not confined to Crotona, but extended to several other cities of Magna Graecia, where the Pythagoreans had obtained a similar footing; their expulsion led to a period of confusion and disorder throughout the south of Italy. (Just. 20.4; V. Max. 8.15. Ext. § 1; D. L. 8.1.3; Iambl. Vit. Pyth. 248--251, 255--262; Porphyr. Vit. Pyth. 54, 55; Grote's Greece, vol. iv. pp. 525--550.)

It was during the period of the Pythagorean influence (so far as we can trust the very confused and uncertain chronology of these events), that the war occurred between Crotona and Sybaris which ended in the destruction of the latter city. The celebrated athlete Milo, himself a leading disciple of Pythagoras, was the commander of the Crotoniat army, which is said to have amounted to 100,000 men, while that of the Sybarites was three times as numerous; notwithstanding which the former obtained a complete victory on the banks of the Traeis, and following up their advantage took the city of Sybaris, and utterly destroyed it. The received date of this event is B.C. 510. (Diod. 12.9; Strab. vi. p.263; Hdt. 5.44, 6.21; Iambl. Vit. Pyth. 260; Scymn. Ch. 357-360.) Polybius, however, represents the Crotoniats as concluding a league with Sybaris and Caulonia, after the expulsion of the Pythagoreans, a statement wholly irreconcilable with the history transmitted by other authors. (Pol. 2.39. See on this point Grote's Greece, vol. iv. p. 559.)

The next event of importance in the history of Crotona, would appear to be the great defeat which the Crotoniats in their turn sustained at the river Sagras, where it is said that their army, though consisting of 130,000 men, was routed by 10,000 Locrians and Rhegians with such slaughter, as to inflict an indelible blow upon the prosperity of their city. (Strab. vi. pp. 261, 263; Cic. de N. D. 2.2; Suid. s. v. ἀληθέστερα.) Justin, on the contrary (20.2, 3), represents this event as having taken place before the arrival of Pythagoras; but the authority of Strabo seems decidedly preferable on this point, and is more consistent with the general history of Crotona. Heyne, however, follows Justin, and places the battle of the Sagras as early as 360 B.C., and Mr. Grote inclines to the same view. As no notice is found in the extant books of Diodorus of so important an event, it seems certain that it must have occurred before B.C. 480. (Heyne, Prolus. Acad. x. p. 184; Grote's Greece, vol. iv. p. 552.) Strabo has, however, certainly exaggerated the importance of this disaster in its effects on Crotona; for nearly a century later that city is still spoken of as the most populous and powerful of the Greek colonies in this part of Italy. (Diod. 14.103.)

Very few notices of it are found in the interval. We learn only that the Crotoniats viewed with favour the establishment of the new colony of Thurium, and concluded a treaty of alliance with it (Diod. 12.11); and that during the Athenian expedition to Sicily they endeavoured to preserve a strict neutrality, furnishing the Athenian fleet with provisions, but refusing to allow the passage of the land forces through their territory. (Diod. 13.3; Thuc. 7.35.) In B.C. 389, when the elder Dionysius carried his arms across the Sicilian Strait, and proceeded to attack Caulonia, the Crotoniats put themselves at the head of the Greek cities which opposed the Sicilian despot, but the confederate forces were totally defeated by Dionysius at the river Helleporus; and the latter, following up his advantage, made himself master of Caulonia, Hipponium, and Scylletium. the last of which he wrested from the dominion of Crotona. (Diod. 14.103-107; Strab. vi. p.261.) No mention is found in Diodorus of his having made any attack on Crotona itself, but Livy tells us that he surprised the citadel, and by this means made himself master of the city (Liv. 24.3); of which, according to Dionysius, he retained possession for not less than 12 years. (Dionys. Exc. xix.) After the fall of the tyrant, Crotona appears to have recovered its independence; but it suffered severely from the growing power of the Lucanians and Bruttians, who pressed upon it from without, as well as from domestic dissensions. It was at one time actually besieged by the Bruttians, and compelled to apply for aid to the Syracusans, who sent an armament to its succour under Heracleides and Sosistratus; but those generals seem to have carried on intrigues with the different parties in Crotona, which gave rise to revolutions in the city; and after the Crotoniats had rid themselves of their Bruttian foes by a treaty, they were engaged in a war with their own exiles. (Diod. 19.3, 10.) The. conduct of this was entrusted to a general named Menedemus, who defeated the exiles, but appears to have soon after established himself in the possession of despotic power. (Id. 19.10, 21.4.) In B.C. 299, Agathocles made himself master of Crotona, in which he established a garrison. (Id. 21.4. Exc. H. p. 490.) How long he retained possession of it we know not; but it is clear that all these successive revolutions must have greatly impaired the prosperity of Crotona, [p. 1.711]to which, according to Livy (24.3), the final blow was given during the war of Pyrrhus. The circumstances of this are very imperfectly known to us; but it appears that the Rhegians made themselves masters of the city by treachery, put the Roman garrison to the sword, and destroyed great part of the city. (Zonar. 8.6. p. 127.) It subsequently passed into the power of Pyrrhus, but was surprised and taken by the Roman consul Cornelius Rufinus during the absence of that monarch in Sicily, B.C. 277. (Id. p. 123; Frontin. Strat. 3.6.4.) So reduced was the city after all these disasters, that little more than half the extent comprised within the walls continued to be inhabited. (Liv. 24.3.)

In the Second Punic War the Brattians, with the assistance of the Carthaginian general Hanno, succeeded in making themselves masters of Crotona, with the exception of the citadel, which held out until the defenders were induced by Hanno to surrender upon terms; the aristocratic party, who had occupied it, being persuaded to migrate to Locri, and a body of Bruttians introduced into the city to fill up the vacancy of its inhabitants. (Liv. 24.2, 3.) The fortifications of Crotona, its port, and the strength of its citadel, still rendered it a place of some importance in a military point of view, and during the last years of the war it was the principal stronghold which remained in the hands of Hannibal, who established his chief magazines there, and fixed his head-quarters for three successive winters in its immediate neighbourhood. (Liv. 29.36, 30.19; Appian. Annib. 57.) The ravages of this war appear to have completed the decay of Crotona; so that a few years afterwards, in B.C. 194, a colony of Roman citizens was sent thither to recruit its exhausted population. (Liv. 34.45.) From. this period Crotona sank into the condition of an obscure provincial town, and is not again mentioned in history until after the fall of the Roman Empire. Its port, however, appears to have been always in some degree frequented as a place of passage to Greece (Cic. Att. 9.1. 9); and an inscription still gives it the title of a colony in Imperial times (Mommsen, Inscr. R. Neap. 73), though neither Pliny nor Ptolemy acknowledges it as such. The name of Crotona again appears in the wars of Belisarius and Narses against the Goths (Procop. B. G. 3.28, 4.26); it was one of the few cities which at that time still retained some consideration in this part of Italy, and continued under the sovereignty of the Byzantine Emperors till it passed with the rest of the modern Calabria into the hands of the Normans. The modern city of Cotrone is but a poor place, though possessing about 5000 inhabitants, and a well-fortified citadel. This fortress undoubtedly occupies the same situation as the ancient arx, on a rock projecting into the sea (Liv. 24.3), and affording in consequence some degree of shelter to the port. But the importance of the latter, though frequently mentioned as one of the sources of the prosperity of Crotona, must not be overrated. Polybius expressly tells us that it was no good harbour, but only a Θερινὸς ὅρμος, or station where ships could ride in summer (Pol. 10.1), and that its value arose from the absence of all harbours along this part of the Italian coast. The ancient city spread itself out in the plain to the W. and N. of the citadel; in the days of its prosperity it extended far across the river Aesarus, which in consequence flowed through the middle of the city; but as early as the Second Punic War, the town had shrunk so much that the Aesarus formed its northern limit, and flowed on the outside of its walls. (Liv. 24.3.) It is now about a mile to the N. of the modern town.

We have scarcely any topographical information concerning the ancient city, and there are no ruins of it remaining. Many fragments of masonry and ancient edifices are said to have been still in existence till about the middle of last century, when they were employed in the construction of a mole for the protection of the port. Livy tells us that the walls of Crotona in the days of its greatness enclosed an extent of 12 miles in circumference; and though its population was not equal to that of Sybaris, it was still able to send into the field an army of 100,000 men. Even in the time of Dionysius of Syracuse, when it had already declined much from its former prosperity, Crotona was still able to furnish a fleet of 60 ships of war. (Diod. 14.100.) But in the Second Punic War the whole number of citizens of all ages had dwindled to less than 20,000, so that they were no longer able to defend the whole extent of their walls. (Liv. 23.30.)

Crotona was celebrated in ancient times for the healthiness of its situation. An old legend represented Archias, the founder of Syracuse, as having chosen wealth for his city, while Myscellus preferred health (Strab. vi. p.269; Steph. B. sub voce v. Συράκουσαν): according to another tale, Myscellus, when he first visited Italy, preferred the situation of Sybaris, but was commanded by the oracle to adhere to the spot first indicated to him. (Strab. vi. p.262.) To the favourable position of the city in this respect was ascribed the superiority of its citizens in athletic exercises, which was so remarkable that on one occasion they bore away the seven first prizes in the footrace at the Olympic games. (Strab. l.c.; Cic. de Inv. 2.1) Among their athletes Milo was the most celebrated for his gigantic strength and power of body. (Biogr. Dict. art. Milo.) To the same cause was attributed the remarkable personal beauty for which their youths and maidens were distinguished. (Cic. l.c.) The system of training which produced these results was probably closely connected with the medical school for which Crotona was preeminent in the days of Herodotus, the physicians of Crotona being regarded at that time as unquestionably the first in Greece (Hdt. 3.131), and at a later period the school of Crotona still maintained its reputation by the side of those of Cos and Cnidus (Grote's Greece, vol. iv. p. 539). Among the most eminent of the physicians of Crotona we may notice Alcmaeon, to whom the first introduction of anatomy was ascribed, and Democedes, who was for some time physician at the court of Darius, king of Persia. (Hdt. 3.129-138.) The great influence exercised by Pythagoras during his residence at Crotona naturally raised up a numerous school of his disciples, many of whom perished in the political revolution that put an end to their power in that city, while the rest were dispersed and driven into exile: a long list of Pythagorean philosophers, natives of Crotona, is preserved to us by Iamblichus (Vit. Pyth. 167); but the only two names of real eminence among them are those of Alcmaeon, already mentioned, and Philolaus, whom however Iamblichus represents as belonging to Tarentum. (D. L. 8.5, 7.)

The territory of Crotona in the days of its prosperity was extensive, stretching from sea to sea: on the N. it was bounded by the river Hylias (Thuc. 7.35), while to the S. it probably extended to the [p. 1.712]confines of the Locrians, the intermediate towns of Scylletium and Caulonia being its colonies and dependencies. The immediate neighbourhood of the city, though less fertile than that of Sybaris and Thurii, was well adapted for the growth of corn, and the luxuriant pastures of the valley of the Neaethus are celebrated by Theocritus, and retain their richness to the present day. [NEAETHUS] The same poet, who has laid the scene of one of his Idylls in the neighbourhood of Crotona, speaks with praise of the banks of the Aesarus, which are now dreary and barren: as well as of the pastures and shady woods of two mountains called Physcus and Latymnum. These last must have been situated in the neighbourhood of Crotona, but cannot be identified with any certainty. (Theocr. 4.17--19, 23--25; and Schol. ad loc.; Swinburne's Travels, vol. i. p. 313.)

Six miles distant from the city of Crotona was the celebrated temple of the Lacinian Juno, on the promontory of the same name. (Liv. 24.3; Strab. vi. p.261; Scyl. p. 5.13; Dionys. Per. 371; and Eustath. ad loc.) Livy calls it “nobile templum, ipsa urbe nobilius:” indeed, there was no other temple of equal fame or sanctity in the whole of Magna Graecia. The period of its foundation is wholly unknown. Virgil alludes to it as already in existence at the time of the voyage of Aeneas, and Dionysius tells us that a bronze cup was still preserved there, which had been dedicated by that hero. (Verg. A. 3.552; Dionys. A. R. 1.52.) Some legends ascribed its foundation to Hercules, others to Lacinius or Lacinus, who was said to have been dwelling there when it was visited by Hercules, and from whom the promontory derived its name: others, again, spoke of the headland and sacred grove as having been presented by Thetis to Hera herself. (Diod. 4.24; Tzetz. ad Lycophr. 857, 1006; Serv. ad Aen. 3.552.) These legends may be considered as indicating that the temple did not owe its foundation to the Greek colonists of Crotona, but that there previously existed a sacred edifice, or at least a consecrated locality (τέμενος), on the spot, probably of Pelasgic origin. The temple of Hera became the scene of a great annual assembly of all the Italian Greeks, at which a procession took place in honour of the goddess, to whom splendid offerings were made; and this festival became a favourite occasion for the Greeks of the neighbouring cities to display their magnificence. (Pseud. Arist. de Mirab. 96; Athen. 12.541.) The interior of the temple was adorned with paintings, executed by order of the Crotoniats at the public cost, among which the most celebrated was that of Helen by Zeuxis, for the execution of which that artist was allowed to select five of the most beautiful virgins of the city as his models. (Cic. de Inv. 2.1; Plin. Nat. 35.9. s. 36.) Besides abundance of occasional offerings of the most costly description, the temple derived great wealth from its permanent revenues, especially its cattle, out of the produce of which a column of solid gold was formed, and set up in the sanctuary. (Liv. 24.3.) Immediately adjoining the temple itself was an extensive grove, or rather forest, of tall pinetrees, enclosing within it rich pastures, on which the cattle belonging to the temple were allowed to feed, unprotected and uninjured. (Ibid.)

The immense mass of treasures that had thus accumulated in the temple is said to have excited the cupidity of Hannibal, during the time that he was established in its neighbourhood, but he was warned by the goddess herself in a dream to refrain from touching them. (Cic. de Div. 1.2. 4) It was at the same period that he dedicated there a bronze tablet, containing a detailed account of his wars in Spain and Italy, the number of his forces, &c., which was consulted, and is frequently referred to, by the historian Polybius. (Pol. 3.33, 56.) But though this celebrated sanctuary had been spared both by Pyrrhus and Hannibal, it was profaned by the Roman censor Q. Fulvius Flaccus, who, in B.C. 173, stripped it of half its roof, which was composed of marble slabs instead of tiles, for the purpose of adorning a temple of Fortuna Equestris, which he was erecting at Rome. The outrage was, indeed, severely censured by the senate, who caused the slabs to be carried back to Lacinium, but in the decayed condition of the province, it was found impossible to replace them. (Liv. 42.3; V. Max. 1.1.20.) The decay of the temple may probably be dated as commencing from this period, and must have resulted from the general decline of the neighbouring cities and country. But Appian tells us that it was still wealthy, and replete with offerings, as late as B.C. 36, when it was plundered by Sex. Pompeius. (App. BC 5.133.) Hence Strabo speaks of it as having in his time lost its wealth, though the temple itself was still in existence. Pliny mentions the Lacinian Promontory, but without noticing the temple. It appears, however, from extant remains, as well as from an inscription, “Herae Laciniae,” found in the ruins, that it still continued to subsist as a sacred edifice down to a late period. (Dionys. A. R. 1.52; Strab. vi. p.261; Mommsen, I. R. N. 72.)

The ruins of this celebrated temple are but inconsiderable; one column alone is standing, of the Doric order, closely resembling those of Metapontum: it is. based on a foundation of large stones cut into facets: but some admixture of brickwork shows that the building must have been repaired in Roman times. A second column was standing till near the middle of the last century; and considerable remains of the pavement, and the wall which formed the peribolus of the temple, were carried off to be used in the construction of the mole and the bishop's palace at Cotrone. Riedesel, who visited these ruins in 1767, and upon whose authority many modern writers have described the building as of enormous extent, appears to have been misled by some masses of masonry (of reticulated work, and therefore certainly of Roman construction), more than 100 yards distant from the column, and which could never have formed any part of the temple. These fragments are generally known by the absurd appellation of the School of Pythagoras. The position of the temple on a bold projecting rock (as described by Lucan 2.434), must have been very striking, commanding a noble view in all directions, and forming a landmark to voyagers, who were in the habit of striking across the bay direct from the Iapygian Promontory to that of Lacinium (Verg. A. 3.552). The single column that forms its solitary remnant, still serves the same purpose. (Swinburne's Travels, vol. i. pp. 321--323; Craven, Southern Tour, p. 238.)

The coins of Crotona are very numerous: the more ancient ones are of the class called incuse, having the one side convex, the other concave: a mode of coinage peculiar to the cities of Magna Graecia. The type of all these earlier coins is a tripod, as on the one annexed, in allusion to the oracle of Delphi, in pursuance of which the city was [p. 1.713]founded; later coins have the head of the Lacinian Juno, and on the reverse the figure of Hercules. (See the second of those figured below.)



hide References (38 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (38):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 13.3
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.107
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 12.11
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 12.9
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.100
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.103
    • Herodotus, Histories, 3.129
    • Herodotus, Histories, 3.131
    • Herodotus, Histories, 3.138
    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.44
    • Herodotus, Histories, 6.21
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 5.14.133
    • Thucydides, Histories, 7.35
    • Diogenes Laertius, Vitae philosophorum, 8.5
    • Diogenes Laertius, Vitae philosophorum, 8.1
    • Diogenes Laertius, Vitae philosophorum, 8.7
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 15.12
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 15.18
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 15.55
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 3.552
    • Lucan, Civil War, 2.434
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 35.9
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 24, 3
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 24, 2
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 42, 3
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 29, 36
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 34, 45
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 23, 30
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 30, 19
    • Cicero, de Natura Deorum, 2.2
    • Cicero, De Divinatione, 1.2
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 4.24
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 19.10
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 19.3
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 1.1.20
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 8.15
    • Cicero, De Inventione, 2.1
    • Athenaeus, of Naucratis, Deipnosophistae, 12
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: