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HIPPO´NIUM (Ἱππώνιον; Eth. Ἱππωνιάτης, Steph. B. sub voce but on coins, Ἱππωνιεύς, Hipponiates), or HIPPO (Mel., Plin.), called by the Romans VIBO, or VIBO VALENTIA (Οὐιβῶν Οὐαλεντία, Ptol.: Eth. Vibonensis: Bivona), an important Greek city on the west coast of Bruttium, on the shores of the bay to which it gave the name of Sinus Hipponiates, now the Gulf of St. Euxemia. It was undoubtedly of Greek origin, and we are told by Strabo that it was a colony from the Italian Locri, on the opposite side of the Bruttian peninsula. (Strab. vi. p.256; Scymn. Ch. 308; Scyl. p. 4.12.) No mention of it is found in history, though it seems to have been a considerable town, till B.C. 389, when it was taken by Dionysius of Syracuse, who destroyed the city, removed the inhabitants to Syracuse, and gave up [p. 1.1071]its territory to the Locrians. (Diod. 14.1071; Dionys. xix. Fr. p. 2359, Reiske.) But 10 years afterwards (B.C. 379) the city was restored by the Carthaginians, and the exiled inhabitants re-established there. (Id. 15.24.) It did not long, however, continue to enjoy its independence, having fallen into the hands of the Bruttians, apparently soon after B.C. 356, the date given for the first rise of the Bruttian people. (Diod. 16.15; Strab. vi. p.256.) It was wrested from the latter nation for a time by Agathocles, in B.C. 294, who appears to have regarded the place as a stronghold of importance, and constructed a port or naval station (ἐπίνειον) there: but after the departure of Agathocles himself the garrison he had left at Hipponium was put to the sword, and the city recovered by the Bruttians. (Diod. 21.8. Exc. H. p. 491; Strab. l.c.) It now continued in their hands until it fell with the rest of the Bruttian peninsula under the yoke of Rome; but no mention of it is again found, except that the “Vibonensis ager” , was in B.C. 218 ravaged by a Carthaginian fleet (Liv. 21.51), until after the close of the Second Punic War: and it is remarkable that the name is not even once mentioned during the long-protracted operations of Hannibal in the Bruttian territory. But shortly after the close of the war (in B.C. 192) a Roman colony was established there, consisting of not less than 4000 settlers, including 300 knights (Liv. 35.40; Vell. 1.14), which was thenceforth known by the name of Vibo Valentia. Strabo tells us that the name of Hipponium was at this time changed into Vibo Valentia, or,as he writes it,Vibona Valentia (Οὐιβῶνα Οὐαλεντία, Strab. vi. p.256); but this is not quite correct: the new colony, as we learn from its coins, having assumed the name of Valentia only; while that of Vibo (which is evidently only the Bruttian or Oscan form of Hippo, and was very probably the original name of the city before it became a Greek colony at all) was retained with it in common usage, or was still employed without the addition of Valentia. Thus, Cicero twice uses the name of Vibo alone to designate the town, but in another passage calls the inhabitants “Valentini.” (Cic. in Verr. 2.4. 0, 5.16, ad Att. 16.6.)

The Roman colony seems to have rapidly risen into importance, and became one of the most considerable towns in this part of Italy. Its port, constructed by Agathocles, served to export the timber from the forests of Sila; and, for the same reason, extensive dockyards for ship-building were established there. Cicero terms it a noble and illustrious municipal town (in Verr. 5.16), and Appian enumerates it among “the most flourishing cities of Italy” of which the possession was promised by the Triumvirs to their soldiers. (B.C. 4.3). During the Civil Wars, indeed, it plays no inconsiderable part in history. In the war between Caesar and Pompey, the former made Vibo the station of a part of his fleet, which was attacked there by Cassius (Caes. B.C. 3.101); and in the war of Octavian against Sextus Pompey, it became the head quarters and chief naval station of the Triumvir (Appian, App. BC 5.91, 99, 103, &c.). In order to secure its attachment at that period, Octavian had been compelled to exempt Vibo from the threatened distribution of its lands among the soldiery. (Id. B.C. 4.86.) It is not clear whether it subsequently received a colony, for the “ager Vivonensis” is mentioned in the Liber Coloniarum (p. 209), but in a manner which leaves it doubtful whether it was colonised or not. But it is certain, from inscriptions, that it continued under the Roman empire to be a flourishing municipal town: its name is mentioned by all the geographers, and is still found in the Itineraries of the fourth century. (Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 10; Ptol. 3.1.74; Mel. 2.4; Itin. Ant. p. 111; Tab. Pent.; Orell. Inscr. 3703; Mommsen, Inscr. R. N. 16, 26, &c.) It was situated on the principal high road, leading down through Bruttium to the Sicilian Strait, and is already noticed, under the name of Valentia only, in the inscription of the Via Popillia: according to that document, it was distant 57 M. P. from Consentia, and 51 from the column on the Straits. (Mommsen, l.c. 6276.) Its position also rendered it a convenient place to touch at for persons proceeding by sea to or from Sicily: thus, we find Cicero, in B.C. 44, proceeding from Velia to Vibo by sea, and thence to Rhegium. (Cic. in Verr. 2.4. 0, ad Att. 16.6.)

The plains near Vibo were celebrated for the variety and beauty of the flowers with which they were covered: hence the Greek colonists of Hipponium maintained it to be the place from whence Proserpine was carried off (Strab. vi. p.256); and it would seem that that goddess had a celebrated temple here, as well as at the parent city of Locri. The ruins of this temple are said to have existed till the 11th century, when the, columns were carried off by Roger, Count of Sicily, to adorn the cathedral of Mileto. The historian Duris also mentioned that near the city was a grove, watered with fountains, and of surpassing beauty, in which was a place called “the horn of Amalthea,” which had been adorned and arranged by Gelon of Syracuse. (Duris, ap. Athen. 12.542.)

Considerable remains of the ancient port of Hipponium are visible at a place still called Bivona, on the shore about 3 miles from Monte Leone: they are of a very massive style of construction, which has been erroneously termed Cyclopean, but are probably of Greek rather than Roman date. The city of Hipponium itself, as well as the Roman colony of Vibo Valentia, probably occupied the same site with the modern city of Monte Leone, on an elevation of moderate height, commanding an extensive view over the sea and adjacent plain. No ruins, however, remain on this spot, and the modern town dates only from the 13th century; but it is said that the remains of the ancient walls were formerly visible, and could be traced through an extent of several miles, communicating with those at Bivona. (Romanelli, vol. i. pp. 51--56; Barrius, de Sit. Calabr. 2.12; Giustiniani, Diz. Geogr. vol. vi. pp. 88--90; K. Craven, Travels, p. 321.)

The poet Archestratus, cited by Athenaeus (vii. p. 302), praises the tunny-fish of Hipponium as surpassing all others in excellence; an eulogium which they are said by native writers still to merit.



hide References (10 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (10):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.15
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 5.10.91
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 5.11.103
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 5.11.99
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.4
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.5
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 21, 51
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 35, 40
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.1
    • Athenaeus, of Naucratis, Deipnosophistae, 12
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