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Eth. LOCRI (Λοκροί), sometimes called, for distinction's sake, LOCRI EPIZEPHY´RII (Λοκροί Ἐπιζεφύριοι, Thuc. 7.1; Pind. Ol.11.15; Strab.; Steph. B. sub voce: Eth. Λοκρός, Locrensis: Ruins near Gerace), a city on the SE. coast of the Bruttian peninsula, not far from its southern extremity, and one of the most celebrated of the Greek colonies in this part of Italy. It was a colony, as its name obviously implies, of the Locrians in Greece, but there is much discrepancy as to the tribe of that nation from which it derived its origin. Strabo affirms that it was founded by the Locri Ozolae, under a leader named Euanthes, and censures Ephorus for ascribing it to the Locri Opuntii; but this last opinion seems to have been the one generally prevalent. Scymnus Chius mentions both opinions, but seems to incline to the latter; and it is adopted without question by Pausanias, as well as by the poets and later Latin authors, whence we may probably infer that it was the tradition adopted by the Locrians themselves. (Strab. vi. p.259; Scymn. Ch. 313-317; Paus. 3.19.12; Verg. A. 3.399.) Unfortunately Polybius, who had informed himself particularly as to the history and institutions of the Locrians, does not give any statement upon this point. But we learn from him that the origin of the colony was ascribed by the tradition current among the Locrians themselves, and sanctioned by the authority of Aristotle, to a body of fugitive slaves, who had carried off their mistresses, with whom they had previously carried on an illicit intercourse. (Pol. 12.5, 6, 10--12.) The same story is alluded to by Dionysius Periegetes (365--367). Pausanias would seem to refer to a wholly different tale where he says that the Lacedaemonians sent a colony to the Epizephyrian Locri, at the same time with one to Crotona. (Paus, 3.3.1.) These were, however, in both cases, probably only additional bands of colonists, as Lacedaemon was never regarded as the founder of either city. The date of the foundation of Locri is equally uncertain. Strabo (l.c.) places it a little after that of Crotona and Syracuse, which he regarded as nearly contemporary, but he is probably mistaken in this last opinion. [CROTONA.] Eusebius, on the contrary, brings it down to so late a date as B.C. 673 (or, according to Hieronymus, 683); but there seems good reason to believe that this is much too late, and we may venture to adopt Strabo's statement that it was founded soon after Crotona, if the latter be placed about 710 B.C. (Euseb. Arm. p. 105; Clinton F. H. vol. i. p. 186, vol. ii. p. 410.) The traditions adopted by Aristotle and Polybius represented the first settlers as gaining possession of the soil from the native Oenotrians (whom they called Siculi), by a fraud not unlike those related in many similar legends. (Pol. 12.6.) The fact stated by Strabo that they first established themselves on Cape Zephyrium (Capo di Bruzzano), and subsequently removed from thence to the site which they ultimately occupied, about 15 miles further N., is supported by the evidence of their distinctive appellation, and may be depended on as accurate. (Strab. l.c.

As in the case of most of the other Greek colonies in Italy, we have very scanty and imperfect information concerning the early history of Locri. The first event in its annals that has been transmitted to us, and one of those to which it owes its chief celebrity, is the legislation of Zaleucus. This was said to be the most ancient written code of laws that had been given to any Greek state; and though the history of Zaleucus himself was involved in great obscurity, and mixed up with much of fable [ZALEUCUS, Biogr. Dict.], there is certainly no doubt that the Locrians possessed a written code, which passed under his name, and which continued down to a late period to be in force in their city. Even in the days of Pindar and of Demosthenes, Locri was regarded as a model of good government and order; and its inhabitants were distinguished for their adherence to established laws and their aversion to all innovation. (Pind. O. 10.17; Schol. ad loc.; Strab. vi. p.260; Demosth. adv. Timocrat. p. 743; Diod. 12.20, 21.)

The period of the legislation of Zaleucus cannot be determined with certainty: but the date given by Eusebius of Ol. 30, or B.C. 660, may be received as approximately correct. (Euseb. Arm. p. 105; Clinton, vol. i. p. 193.) Of its principles we know but little; and the quotations from his laws, even if we could depend upon their authenticity, have no reference to the political institutions of the state. It appears, however, that the government of Locri was an aristocracy, in which certain select families, called the Hundred Houses, enjoyed superior privileges: these were considered to be derived from the original settlers, and in accordance with the legend concerning their origin, were regarded as deriving their nobility from the female side. (Pol. 12.5.)

The next event in the history of Locri, of which we have any account, is the memorable battle of the Sagras, in which it was said that a force of 10,000 Locrians, with a small body of auxiliaries from Rhegium, totally defeated an army of 130,000 Crotoniats, with vast slaughter. (Strab. vi. p.261; Cic. de N. D. 2.2; Just. 20.2, 3.) The extraordinary character of this victory, and the exaggerated and fabulous accounts of it which appear to have been circulated, rendered it proverbial among the Greeks (ἀληθέστερα τῶν ἐπὶ Σάγρᾳ, Suid. s. v.) Yet we have no means of assigning its correct place in history, its date being extremely uncertain, some accounts placing it after the fall of Sybaris (B.C. 510), while others would carry it back nearly 50 years earlier. [CROTONA.]

The small number of troops which the Locrians are represented as bringing into the field upon this occasion, as compared with those of Crotona, would seem to prove that the city was not at this time a very powerful one; at least it is clear that it was not to compare with the great republics of Sybaris and Crotona. But it seems to have been in a flourishing condition; and it must in all probability be to this period that we must refer the establishment of its colonies of Hipponium and Medma, on the opposite side of the Bruttian peninsula. (Scymn. Ch. 308; Strab. vi. p.256.) Locri is mentioned by Herodotus in B.C. 493, when the Samian colonists, who were on their way to Sicily, touched there (Hdt. 6.23); and it appears to have been in a state of great prosperity when its praises were sung by Pindar, in B.C. 484. (Pind. Ol. x., xi.) The Locrians, from their position, were naturally led to maintain a close connection with the Greek cities of Sicily, especially with Syracuse, their friendship with which would seem: to have dated,. according to some accounts, [p. 2.200]from the period of their very foundation. (Strab. vi. p.259.) On the other hand, they were almost constantly on terms of hostility with their neighbours of Rhegium, and, during the rule of Anaxilas, in the latter city, were threatened with complete destruction by that despot, from which they were saved by the intervention of Hieron of Syracuse. (Pind. P. 2.35; and Schol. ad loc.) In like manner we find them, at the period of the Athenian expeditions to Sicily, in close alliance with Syracuse, and on terms of open enmity with Rhegium. Hence they at first engaged in actual hostilities with the Athenians under Laches; and though they subsequently concluded a treaty of peace with them, they still refused to admit the great Athenian armament, in B.C. 415, even to anchor on their coasts. (Thuc. 3.99, 115, 4.1, 24, 5.5, 6.44, 7.1; Diod. 12.54, 13.3.) At a later period of the Peloponnesian War they were among the few Italian cities that sent auxiliary ships to the Lacedaemonians. (Thue. 8.91.)

During the reign of the elder Dionysius at Syracuse, the bonds of amity between the two cities were strengthened by the personal alliance of that monarch, who married Doris, the daughter of Xenetus, one of the most eminent of the citizens of Locri. (Diod. 14.44.) He subsequently adhered steadfastly to this alliance, which secured him a footing in Italy, from which he derived great advantage in his wars against the Rhegians and other states of Magna Graecia. In return for this, as well as to secure the continuance of their support, he conferred great benefits upon the Locrians, to whom he gave the whole territory of Caulonia, after the destruction of that city in B.C. 389; to which he added that of Hipponium in the following year, and a part of that of Scylletium. (Diod. 14.100, 106, 107; Strab. p. 261.) Hipponium was, however, again wrested from them by the Carthaginians in B.C. 379. (Id. 15.24.) The same intimate relations with Syracuse continued under the younger Dionysius, when they became the source of great misfortunes to the city: for that despot, after his expulsion from Syracuse (B.C. 356), withdrew to Locri, where he seized on the citadel, and established himself in the possession of despotic power. His rule here is described as extremely arbitrary and oppressive, and stained at once by the most excessive avarice and unbridled licentiousness. At length, after a period of six years, the Locrians took advantage of the absence of Dionysius, and drove out his garrison; while they exercised a cruel vengeance upon his unfortunate wife and daughters, who had fallen into their hands. (Justin, 21.2, 3; Strab. vi. p.259; Arist. Pol. 5.7; Clearch. ap. Athen. 12.541.)

The Locrians are said to have suffered severely from the oppressions of this tyrant; but it is probable that they sustained still greater injury from the increasing power of the Bruttians, who were now become most formidable neighbours to all the Greek cities in this part of Italy. The Locrians never appear to have fallen under the yoke of the barbarians, but it is certain that their city declined greatly from its former prosperity. It is not again mentioned till the wars of Pyrrhus. At that period it appears that Locri, as well as Rhegium and other Greek cities, had placed itself under the protection of Rome, and even admitted a Roman garrison into its walls. On the approach of Pyrrhus they expelled this garrison, and declared themselves in favour of that monarch (Justin, 18.1); but they had soon cause to regret the change; for the garrison left there by the king, during his absence in Sicily, conducted itself so ill, that the Locrians rose against them and expelled them from their city. On this account they were severely punished by Pyrrhus on his return from Sicily; and, not content with exactions from the inhabitants, he carried off a great part of the sacred treasures from the temple of Proserpine, the most celebrated sanctuary at Locri. A violent storm is said to have punished his impiety, and compelled him to restore the treasures. (Appian, Samn. 3.12; Liv. 29.18; V. Max. 1.1, Ext. § 1.)

After the departure of Pyrrhus, the Locrians seem to have submitted again to Rome, and continued so till the Second Punic War, when they were among the states that threw off the Roman alliance and declared in favour of the Carthaginians, after the battle of Cannae, B.C. 216. (Liv. 22.61, 23.30.) They soon after received a Carthaginian force within their walls, though at the same time their liberties were guaranteed by a treaty of alliance on equal terms. (Liv. 24.1.) When the fortune of the war began to turn against Carthage, Locri was besieged by the Roman consul Crispinus, but without success; and the approach of Hannibal compelled him to raise the siege, B.C. 208. (Id. 27.25, 28.) It was not till B.C. 205, that Scipio, when on the point of sailing for Africa, was enabled, by the treachery of some of the citizens, to surprise one of the forts which commanded the town; an advantage that soon led to the surrender of the other citadel and the city itself. (Id. 29.6--8.) Scipio confided the charge of the city and the command of the garrison to his legate, Q. Pleminius; but that officer conducted himself with such cruelty and rapacity towards the unfortunate Locrians, that they rose in tumult against him, and a violent sedition took place, which was only appeased by the intervention of Scipio himself. That general, however, took the part of Pleminius, whom he continued in his command; and the Locrians were exposed anew to his exactions and cruelties, till they at length took courage to appeal to the Roman senate. Notwithstanding vehement opposition on the part of the friends of Scipio, the senate pronounced in favour of the Locrians, condemned Pleminius, and restored to the Locrians their liberty and the enjoyment of their own laws. (Liv. 29.8, 16--22; Diod. 27.4; Appian, Annib, 55.) Pleminius had, on this occasion, followed the example of Pyrrhus in plundering the temple of Proserpine; but the senate caused restitution to be made, and the impiety to be expiated at the public cost. (Diod. L. C.)

From this time we hear little of Locri. Notwithstanding the privileged condition conceded to it by the senate, it seems to have sunk into a very subordinate position. Polybius, however, speaks of it as in his day still a considerable town, which was bound by treaty to furnish a certain amount of naval auxiliaries to the Romans. (Pol. 12.5.) The Locrians were under particular obligations to that historian (lb.) ; and at a later period we find them enjoying the special patronage of Cicero (Cic. de Leg. 2.6), but we do not know the origin of their connection with the great orator. From Strabo's account it is obvious that Locri still subsisted as a town in his day, and it is noticed in like manner by Pliny and Ptolemy (Strab. vi. p.259; Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 10; Ptol. 3.1.10). Its name is not found in the Itineraries, though they describe this coast in considerable [p. 2.201]detail; but Procopius seems to attest its continued existence in the 6th century (B. G. 1.15), and it is probable that it owed its complete destruction to the Saracens. Its very name was forgotten in the middle ages, and its site became a matter of dispute. This has however been completely established by the researches of modern travellers, who have found the remains of the ancient city on the sea-coast, near the modern town of Gerace. (Cluver, Ital. p. 1301; Romanelli, vol. i. p. 152; Cramer, vol. ii. p. 411; Riedesel, Voyage dans la Grande Grèce, p. 148.)

The few ruins that still remain have been carefully examined and described by the Due de Luynes. (Ann. d. Inst. Arch. vol. ii. pp. 3-12.) The site of the ancient city, which may be distinctly traced by the vestiges of the walls, occupied a space of near two miles in length, by less than a mile in breadth, extending from the sea-coast at Torre di Gerace (on the left bank of a small stream called the Fiume di S. Ilario), to the first heights or ridges of the Apennines. It is evidently to these heights that Strabo gives the name of Mount Esopis (Ἐσῶπις), on which he places the first foundation of the city. (Strab. vi. p.259.) The same heights are separated by deep ravines, so as to constitute two separate summits, both of them retaining the traces of ancient fortifications, and evidently the “two citadels not far distant from each other” noticed by Livy in his account of the capture of the city by Scipio. (Liv. 29.6.) The city extended from hence down the slopes of the hills towards the sea, and had unquestionably its port at the mouth of the little river S. Ilario, though there could never have been a harbour there in the modern sense of the term. Numerous fragments of ancient masonry are scattered over the site, but the only distinct vestiges of any ancient edifice are those of a Doric temple, of which the basement alone now remains, but several columns were standing down to a recent period. It is occupied by a farm-house, called the Casino dell' Imperatore, about a mile from the sea, and appears to have stood without the ancient walls, so that it is not improbable the ruins may be the remains of the celebrated temple of Proserpine, which we know to have occupied a similar position. (Liv. 29.18.) The ruins of Locri are about five miles distant from the modern town of Gerace, which was previously supposed to occupy the site of the ancient city (Cluver, l.c.; Barr. de Sit. Calabr. 3.7), and 15 miles from the Capo di Bruzzano, the Zephyrian promontory.

The Locrians are celebrated by Pindar (Pind. O. 10.18, 11.19) for their devotion to the Muses as well as for their skill and courage in war. In accordance with this character we find mention of Xenocritus and Erasippus, both of them natives of Locri, as poets of some note; the lyric poetess Theano was probably also a native of the Epizephyrian Locri. (Schol. ad Pind. Ol. 11.17; Boeckh, ad Ol. x. p. 197.) The Pythagorean philosophy also was warmly taken up and cultivated there, though the authorities had refused to admit any of the political innovations of that philosopher. (Porphyr. Vit. Pyth. 56.) But among his followers and disciples several were natives of Locri (Iambl. Vit. Pyth. 267), the most eminent of whom were Timaeus, Echecrates, and Acrion, from whom Plato is said to have imbibed his knowledge of the Pythagorean tenets. (Cic. de Fin. 5.29.) Nor was the cultivation of other arts neglected. Eunomus, a Locrian citizen, was celebrated for his skill on the cithara; and the athlete Euthymus of Locri, who gained several prizes at Olympia, was scarcely less renowned than Milo of Crotona. (Strab. vi. pp. 255, 260; Paus. 6.6. § § 4-11.)

The territory of Locri, during the flourishing period of the city, was certainly of considerable extent. Its great augmentation by Dionysius of Syracuse has been already mentioned. But previous to that time, it was separated from that of Rhegium on the SW. by the river Halex or Alice, while its northern limit towards Caulonia was probably the Sagras, generally identified with the Alaro. The river Buthrotus of Livy (29.7), which appears to have been but a short distance from the town, was probably the Novito, about six miles to the N. Thucydides mentions two other colonies of Locri (besides Hipponium and Medma already noticed), to which he gives the names of Itone and Melae, but no other trace is found of either the one or the other. (Thuc. 5.5.)



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  • Cross-references from this page (32):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 12.54
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.100
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.44
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 12.20
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 12.21
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 13.3
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.106
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.107
    • Herodotus, Histories, 6.23
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 3.19.12
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 6.6
    • Thucydides, Histories, 3.115
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.1
    • Thucydides, Histories, 5.5
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.24
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 3.399
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.5
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 23, 30
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 29, 16
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 29, 18
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 29, 6
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 29, 8
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 24, 1
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 22, 61
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 29, 7
    • Thucydides, Histories, 3.99
    • Thucydides, Histories, 6.44
    • Thucydides, Histories, 7.1
    • Cicero, De Legibus, 2.6
    • Cicero, de Natura Deorum, 2.2
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.1
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 1.1
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