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MAGNA GRAE´CIA ( μεγάλη Ἑλλάς), was the name given in ancient times by the Greeks themselves to the assemblage of Greek colonies which encircled the shores of Southern Italy. The name is not found in any extant author earlier than Polybius: but the latter, in speaking of the cities of Magna Graecia in the time of Pythagoras, uses the expression, “the country that was then called Magna Graecia” (Pol. 2.39); and it appears certain that the name must have arisen at an early period, while the Greek colonies in Italy were at the height of their power and prosperity, and before the states of Greece proper had attained to their fullest greatness. But the omission of the name in Herodotus and Thucydides, even in passages where it would have been convenient as a geographical designation, seems to show that it was not in their time generally recognised as a distinctive appellation, and was probably first adopted as such by the historians and geographers of later times, though its origin must have been derived from a much earlier age. It is perhaps still more significant, that the name is not found in Scylax, though that author attaches particular importance to the enumeration of the Greek cities in Italy as distinguished from those of the barbarians.

Nor is the use of the term, even at a later period, very fixed or definite. Strabo seems to imply that the Greek cities of Sicily were included under the appellation; but this is certainly opposed to the more general usage, which confined the term to the colo<*>nies [p. 2.247]in Italy Even of these, it is not clear whether Cumae and its colonies in Campania were regarded as belonging to it: it is certain at least that the name is more generally used with reference only to the Greek cities in the south of Italy, including those on the shores of the Tarentine gulf and the Bruttian peninsula, together with Velia, Posidonia, and Laüs, on the W. coast of Lucania. Sometimes, indeed, the name is confined within still narrower limits, as applying only to the cities on the Tarentine gulf, from Locri to Tarentum (Plin. Nat. 3.10. s. 15; Ptol. 3.1.10); but it is probable that this distinction was introduced only by the later geographers, and did not correspond to the original meaning of the term. Indeed, the name itself sufficiently implies (what is expressly stated by many ancient writers) that it was derived from the number and importance of the Greek colonies in Southern Italy, and must, therefore, naturally have been extended to them all. (Strab. vi. p.253; Scymn. Ch. 303; Pol. 2.39, 3.118; Athen. 12.523; Justin, 20.2; Cic. Tusc. 4.1, 5.4, de Or. 3.34.) It must be added that the name was never understood (except perhaps by late geographers) as a territorial one, including the whole of Southern Italy, but applied merely to the Greek cities on the coasts, so as to correspond with the expression “Graecorum omnis ora,” employed by Livy (22.61). The same author in one passage (31.7) uses the phrase “Graecia Major,” which is found also in Festus (p. 134, ed. Mull.), and employed by Justin and Ovid (Justin, l.c.; Ov. Fast. 4.64); but the common form of expression was certainly Graecia Magna (Cic. ll. cc.

There could obviously be no ethnic appellation which corresponded to such a term; but it is important to observe that the name of Ἰταλιῶται is universally used by the best writers to designate the Greeks in Italy, or as equivalent to the phrase οἱ κατὰ τὴν Ἰταλίαν Ἕλληνες, and is never confounded with that of Ἴταλοι, or the Italians in general. (Thuc. 6.44; Hdt. 4.15, &c.) Polybius, however, as well as later writers, sometimes loses sight of this distinction. (Pol. 6.52.)

The geographical description of the country known as Magna Graecia is given under the article ITALIA and in more detail in those of BRUTTII, LUCANIA, and CALABRIA; but as the history of these Greek colonies is to a great extent separate from that of the mother country, while it is equally distinct from that of the Italian nations which came early in contact with Rome, it will be convenient here to give a brief summary of the history of Magna Graecia, bringing together under one head the leading facts which are given in the articles of the several cities.

The general testimony of antiquity points to Cumae as the most ancient of all the Greek settlements in Italy; and though we may reasonably refuse to admit the precise date assigned for its foundation (B.C. 1050), there seems no sufficient reason to doubt the fact that it really preceded all other Greek colonies in Italy or Sicily. [CUMAE] But, from its remote position, it appears to have been in great measure isolated from the later Greek settlements, and, together with its own colonies and dependencies, Dicaearchia and Neapolis, formed a little group of Greek cities, that had but little connection with those further south, which here form the immediate subject of consideration.

With the single exception of Cumae, it seems certain that none of the Greek colonies in Italy were more ancient than those in Sicily; while there seems good reason to suppose that the greater part of them were founded within the half century which followed the first commencement of Greek colonisation in that quarter. (B.C. 735--685.) The causes which just at that period gave so sudden an impulse to emigration in this direction, are unknown to us; but, though the precise dates of the foundation of these colonies are often uncertain, and we have no record of their establishment equal either in completeness or authority to that preserved by Thucy-dides concerning the Greek cities in Sicily, we may still trace with tolerable certainty the course and progress of the Greek colonisation of Italy.

The Achaeans led the way; and it is remarkable that a people who never played more than a subordinate part in the affairs of Greece itself should have been the founders of the two most powerful cities of Magna Graecia. Of these, SYBARIS was the earliest of the Achaean colonies, and the most ancient of the Greek settlements in Italy of which the date is known with any approach to certainty. Its foundation is ascribed to the year 720 B.C. (Scymn. Ch. 360; Clinton, F. H. vol. i. p. 174); and that of CROTONA, according to the best authorities, may be placed about ten years later, B.C. 710. [CROTONA.] Within a very few years of the same period, took place the settlement of TARENTUM a Spartan colony founded after the close of the First Messenian War, about 708 B.C. A spirit of rivalry between this city and the Achaean colonies seems to have early sprung up; and it was with a view of checking the encroachments of the Tarentines that the Achaeans, at the invitation of the Sybarites, founded the colony of METAPONTUM on the immediate frontier of the Tarentine territory. The date of this is very uncertain (though it may probably be placed between 700 and 680 B.C.); but it is clear that Metapontum rose rapidly to prosperity, and became the third in importance among the Achaean colonies. While the latter were thus extending themselves along the shores of the Tarentine gulf, we find subsisting in the midst of them the Ionian colony of SIRIS the history of which is extremely obscure, but which for a brief period rivalled even the neighbouring Sybaris in opulence and luxury. [SIRIS].

Further towards the S., the Locrians from Greece founded near the Cape Zephyrium the city which was thence known by the name of LOCRI EPIZEPHYRII. This settlement is described by Strabo as nearly contemporary with that of Crotona (B.C. 710), though some authorities would bring it down to a period thirty or forty years later. [LOCRI] The next important colony was that of RHEGIUM on the Sicilian straits, which was, according to the general statement, a C<*>alcidic colony, founded subsequently to Zancle in Sicily, but which, from the traditions connected with its foundation, would seem to have been more ancient even than Sybaris. [RHEGIUM The Greek cities on the Tyrrhenian sea along the shores of Bruttium and Lucania were, with the single exception of VELLA, which was not founded till about 540 B.C., all of them colonies from the earlier settlements already noticed and not sent out directly from the mother country. Thus POSIDONIA, LAÜS and SCIDRUS on the Tyrrhenian sea, were all colonies of Sybaris, which in the days of its greatness undoubtedly extended its dominion from sea to sea. In like manner, Crotona had founded TERINA on the W. coast of the Bruttian peninsula, as well [p. 2.248]as CAULONIA on the E. coast, but considerably more to the S. Locri, also, had established two colonies on the W. coast, HIPPONIUM and MEDMA; neither of which, however, attained to any great importance. Several other places which at a later period assumed more or less of a Greek character, were probably only Oenotrian towns, which had become gradually Hellenised, but without ever receiving Greek colonies. Such were PANDOSIA, PETELIA, TEMESA, and probably SCYLLETIUM also, though this is frequently called an Athenian colony.

We have very little information as to the early history of these Greek cities in Italy. All accounts agree in representing them as rising rapidly to a high state of prosperity, and attaining to an amount of wealth and power which far exceeded that enjoyed at so early a period by any of the cities of the mother country. The Achaean colonies, Sybaris, Crotona, and Metapontum, seem to have been the first to attain to this flourishing condition; and Sybaris especially became proverbial for its wealth and the luxurious habits of its citizens. [SYBARIS] There can be no doubt that the extraordinary fertility of the district in which these colonies were founded was the primary cause of their prosperity; but they appear, also, to have carried on an extensive foreign commerce; and as they increased in power they sought to extend their territorial possessions, so that we are told that Sybaris, in the days of its greatness, ruled over twenty-five dependent cities, and four nations or tribes of the neighbouring Oenotrians. (Strab. vi. p.263.) It is remarkable how little we hear of any wars with the barbarians of the interior, or of any check to the progress of the Greek cities arising from this cause; and it seems probable, not only that the Pelasgic origin of these tribes [OENOTRIA] caused them to assimilate with comparative facility with the Hellenic settlers, but that many of them were admitted to the full rights of citizens, and amalgamated into one body with the foreign colonists. This we know to have been the case with Locri in particular (Pol. 12.5); and there can be little doubt that the same thing took place more or less extensively in all the other cities. (Diod. 12.9.) It is, indeed, impossible, on any other supposition, to explain the rapidity with which these rose to an amount of wealth and population at that time unexampled in the Hellenic world.

It seems certain that the period of about two centuries, which elapsed from the first settlement of the Greek colonies till after the fall of Sybaris (B.C. 710--510), was that during which these cities rose to the height of their power; and probably the half century preceding the latter event (B.C. 560--510) may be taken as the culminating point in the prosperity of the Achaean cities (Grote, vol. iii. p. 522.) Unfortunately, it is precisely for this period that we are the most absolutely deficient in historical information. The loss of the early books of Diodorus is especially to be regretted, as they would undoubtedly have preserved to us many interesting notices concerning the early fortunes of the Greek cities, and at the same time have afforded us a clue to the chronological arrangement of the few scattered facts that have been preserved to us. The want of this renders it impossible to connect the extant notices into anything like a historical narrative.

Among the earliest of these may probably be placed the league of the three great Achaean cities, Crotona, Sybaris, and Metapontum, for the expulsion of the Ionians from their colony of Siris,--an union which appears to have led to the capture, and perhaps the destruction, of that city. (Justin, 20.2.) But the date of this event is almost wholly uncertain [SIRIS], and scarcely less so is that of the much more celebrated battle of the Sagras, which Justin connects with the fall of Siris; while other authors would bring it down to a much later period. [SAGRAS] According to all accounts, that famous battle, in which it is said that 120,000 Crotoniats were defeated by 10,000, or at most 15,000, of the Locrians and Rhegians, inflicted for a time a severe blow upon the prosperity of Crotona: but Strabo is certainly in error in representing that city as never recovering from its effects. [CROTONA.] Justin, on the contrary, describes the period of depression consequent on this disaster as continuing only till the time of Pythagoras (20.4); and it is certain that in the days of that philosopher, Crotona, as well as the neighbouring Achaean cities, appears in a state of great prosperity.

It was about the year B.C. 530 that the arrival of Pythagoras at Crotona gave rise to a marked change in the cities of Magna Graecia. The extraordinary influence which he speedily acquired, was not confined to that city, but extended to Sybaris and Metapontum also, as well as to Rhegium and Tarentum. And it was so far from being limited to the proper sphere of philosophy, that it led to the introduction of great political changes, and for a time threw the chief ascendency in the state into the hands of the Pythagoreans. [CROTONA.] Their power was ultimately overthrown by a violent revolution, which led to the expulsion of Pythagoras himself and his followers from Crotona; and this seems to have been followed by similar disturbances in the other cities. We are very imperfectly informed as to the circumstances of these revolutions, but it seems certain that they gave rise to a period of disorder and confusion throughout the cities of Magna Graecia from which the latter did not fully recover for a considerable period. (Pol. 2.39; Justin, 20.4; Iambl. Vit. Pyth. 258--264; Porphyr. V. P. 54--58.)

It was apparently before the expulsion of the Pythagoreans, and while their influence was still paramount at Crotona, that the final contest arose between that city and Sybaris, which ended in the total destruction of the latter, B.C. 510. On that occasion we are told that the Crotoniats brought into the field 100,000 men, and the Sybarites not less than 300,000; and though these numbers cannot be received as historically accurate, they sufficiently prove the opinion entertained of the opulence and power of the rival cities. The decisive victory of the Crotoniats on the banks of the river Traeis was followed by the capture and total destruction of Sybaris,--an event which seems to have produced a profound sensation in the Hellenic world (Hdt. 6.21), and must have caused a great change in the political relations of Magna Graecia. Unfortunately, we have no means of tracing these; we know only that a part of the surviving Sybarites took refuge in the colonial cities of Laüs aud Scidrus, while another portion settled themselves on the banks of the Traeis, where they maintained themselves for a considerable period. (Herod. l.c.; Strab. vi. pp. 263, 264.)

The civil dissensions arising from the expulsion of the Pythagoreans may perhaps have been the cause of the remarkable circumstance (which we are otherwise at a loss to account for), that none of the states of Magna Graecia sent assistance to the Greeks at the [p. 2.249]time of the Persian invasion. It is still more remarkable, that even when the Athenians and Lacedaemonians sent an embassy to Sicily to invoke the assistance of Gelon, we do not hear of any similar application to the Greek cities in Southern Italy.

While the Achaean cities were thus declining from their former prosperity, Rhegium, the name of which is scarcely mentioned in history at an earlier period, was raised to a position of considerable power and importance under the rule of the despot Anaxilas (B.C. 496--476), who united under his authority the city of Messana also, on the opposite side of the straits, and thus became involved in connection with the politics of Sicily, which had been hitherto very distinct from those of Magna Graecia. Micythus, the successor of Anaxilas in the government of Rhegium, was remarkable as the founder of the colony of Pyxus (afterwards called Buxentum), on the Tyrrhenian sea, in B.C. 471. (Diod. 11.59.) This was the latest of the Greek settlements in that quarter.

About the same time (B.C. 473) we find mention of a disastrous defeat, which must, for a time, have given a severe check to the rising power of the Tarentines. That people appear to have taken little part in the disputes or contests of their Achaean neighbours; but after their ineffectual attempt to oppose the founding of Metapontum [METAPONTUM], would seem to have been principally engaged in extending their commerce, and in wars with the neighbouring barbarians. Here they found, among the Iapygians or Messapians, a more formidable opposition than was encountered by the other Greek cities. After repeated contests, in many of which they had come off victorious and reduced many of the Iapygian towns, the Tarentines were defeated in a great battle by the Iapygians, with such heavy loss that Herodotus tells us it was the greatest slaughter of Greek citizens that had happened within his knowledge. Three thousand Rhegian auxiliaries, who had been sent to the support of the Tarentines, perished on the same occasion. (Hdt. 7.170; Diod. 11.52.)

The period between the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars witnessed the establishment of the two latest of the Greek colonies in Southern Italy--THURII and HERACLEA. Both of these were, however, but a kind of renewal of previously existing settlements. Thurii was founded in B.C. 443, by a body of colonists, of whom the Athenians seem to have taken the lead, but which was composed, in great part, of settlers from other states of Greece [THURII]; with whom were united the remaining citizens of Sybaris, and the new colony was established within two miles of the site of that city. The new settlement rose rapidly to prosperity, but was soon engaged in war with the Tarentines for the possession of the vacant district of Siris; until these hostilities were at length terminated by a compromise, according to which the two rival cities joined in establishing a new colony, three miles from the site of the ancient Siris, to which they gave the name of Heraclea, B.C. 432. (Strab. vi. p.264; Diod. 12.23, 36.) But though thus founded by common consent, the Tarentines seem to have had much the largest share in its establishment, and Heraclea was always considered as a colony of Tarentum.

During the Peloponnesian War the cities of Magna Graecia seem to have studiously kept aloof from the contest. Even when the Athenian expedition to Sicily (B.C. 415) involved the whole of the Greek cities in that island in the war, those on the coasts of Italy still endeavoured to preserve their neutrality, and refused to admit the Athenian forces within their walls, though they did not offer any obstruction to their progress. (Thuc. 6.44; Diod. 13.3.) At a later period, however, the Thurians (among whom there was naturally an Athenian party) and the Metapontines were induced to enter into a regular alliance with Athens, and supplied a small force to their assistance. (Thuc. 7.33, 35; Diod. 13.11.)

At this period the cities of Magna Graecia seem to have been still in a prosperous and flourishing condition; but it was not long after that they began to feel the combined operation of two causes which mainly contributed to their decline. The first danger which threatened them was from the south, where Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse, after having established his power over the greater part of Sicily, began to seek to extend it in Italy also. Hitherto the cities of Italy had kept aloof in great measure from the revolutions and wars of the neighbouring island: Rhegium and Locri alone seem to have maintained closer relations with the Sicilian Greeks. The former, from its Chalcidic origin, was naturally friendly to the colonies of the same race in Sicily; and when Dionysius turned his arms against the Chalcidic cities, Naxos, Catana, and Leontini, he at once brought on himself the enmity of the Rhegians. Hence, when he soon after applied to conclude a matrimonial alliance with them, the proposal was indignantly rejected. The Locrians, on the other hand, readily accepted his offer, and thus secured the powerful assistance of the despot in his subsequent wars. (Diod. 14.44, 107.) From this time his efforts were mainly directed to the humiliation of Rhegium and the aggrandisement of the Locrians. His designs in this quarter soon excited so much alarm, that, in B.C. 393, the Italian Greeks were induced to conclude a general league for their mutual protection against the arms of Dionysius on the one side, as well as those of the Lucanians on the other. (Id. 91.) But the result was far from successful. The combined forces of the confederates were defeated by Dionysius in a great battle at the river Helleporus or Helorus, near Caulonia, B.C. 389; and this blow was followed by the capture of Caulonia itself, as well as Hipponium, both of which places were reduced to a state of dependence on Locri. Not long after, the powerful city of Rhegium was compelled to surrender, after a siege of nearly eleven months, B.C. 387. (Diod. 14.103-108, 111.)

While the more southerly cities of Magna Graecia were suffering thus severely from the attacks of Dionysius, those on the northern frontier were menaced by a still more formidable danger. The Lucanians, a Sabellian race or branch of the Samnite stock, who had pressed forward into the territory of the Oenotrians, and had gradually expelled or reduced to subjection the tribes of that people who inhabited the mountain districts of the interior, next turned their arms against the Greek cities on the coast. Posidonia, the most northerly of these settlements, was the first which fell under their yoke (Strab. vi. p.254); and though we cannot fix with accuracy the date of its conquest, it is probable that this took place some time before we find them engaged in wars with the cities on the Tarentine gulf. If, indeed, we can trust to the uncertain chronology of some of these events, they would seem to have been already engaged in hostilities with the [p. 2.250]rising colony of Thurii at an early period of its existence (Polyaen. 2.10); but it was not till after 400 B.C. that their power assumed a formidable aspect towards the Greeks in general. The territory of Thurii was the first object of their hostilities, but the other cities were not insensible to their danger; and hence the general league of the Italian Greeks in B.C. 393, as already mentioned, was directed as much against the Lucanians as against Dionysius. Unfortunately, their arms met with equal ill success in both quarters ; and in B.C. 390 the confederate forces were defeated by the Lucanians with great slaughter near Laüs. (Diod. 14.101, 102; Strab. vi. p.253.) That city had already fallen into the hands of the invaders, who now pressed on towards the south, and seem to have spread themselves with great rapidity throughout the whole of the Bruttian peninsula. Here they became so formidable that the younger Dionysius was compelled to abandon the policy of his father (who had courted the alliance of the Lucanians, and even rendered them active assistance), and turn his arms against them, though with little effect. A period of great confusion and disorder appears to have ensued, and the rise of the Bruttian people, which took place at this period (B.C. 356), though it in some measure broke the power of the Lucanians, was so far from giving any relief to the Greek cities that they soon found the Bruttians still more formidable neighbours. The flourishing cities of Terina and Hipponium were conquered by the barbarians (Diod. 16.15; Strab. vi. p.256). Rhegium and Locri, though they maintained their nationality, suffered almost as severely from the oppressions and exactions of the younger Dionysius; while Crotona, long the most powerful city in this part of Italy, seems never to have recovered from the blow inflicted on it by the elder despot of that name [CROTONA], and was with difficulty able to defend itself from the repeated attacks of the Bruttians. (Diod. 19.3, 10.)

Meanwhile, the Lucanians had turned their arms against the more northerly cities on the Tarentine gulf. Here the Thurians seem, as before, to have borne the brunt of the attack; but at length Tarentum itself, which had hitherto stood aloof, and had apparently not even joined in the league of B.C. 393, was compelled to take up arms in its own defence. The Tarentines could have suffered comparatively but little from the causes which had so severely impaired the prosperity of the other cities of Magna Graecia; and Tarentum was undoubtedly at this time the most opulent and powerful of the Greek cities in Italy. But its citizens were already enervated by indolence and luxury; and when they found themselves threatened by the forces of the Lucanians, combined with their old enemies the Messapians, they mistrusted their own resources, and applied to their parent city of Sparta for assistance. Archidamus, king of Sparta, accepted the invitation, and proceeded to Italy with a considerable force, where he appears to have carried on the war for some years, but was finally defeated and slain in a battle near Manduria, B.C. 338. (Diod. 16.63, 88.) Only a few years afterwards, B.C. 332, Alexander king of Epirus was invited over to Italy for the same purpose. The history of his expedition is, unfortunately, very imperfectly known to us; though it is clear that his military operations were attended with much success, and must have exercised considerable influence upon the fortunes of the Greek cities. Though invited, in the first instance, by the Tarentines, he subsequently quarrelled with that people, and even turned his arms against them, and took Heraclea, their colony and dependency. At the same time he defeated the combined forces of the Lucanians and Bruttians in several successive battles, retook Terina, Consentia, and several other towns, and penetrated into the heart of Bruttium, where he was slain by a Lucanian exile, who was serving in his own army, B.C. 326. (Liv. 8.17, 24; Justin, 12.2.)

After his death, the wars between the Tarentines and Lucanians appear to have continued with little intermission; though we have no further account of them till the year 303 B.C., when the former people again sued to Sparta for assistance, and Cleonymus, the uncle of the Spartan king, repaired to Tarentum with a large mercenary force. So formidable did this armament appear that both the Messapians and Lucanians were speedily induced to sue for peace; while Metapontum, which, for some reason or other, had opposed the views of Cleonymus, was reduced by force of arms. (Diod. 20.104.) The Spartan prince, however, soon alienated all his allies by his luxury and rapacity, and quitted Italy the object of universal contempt.

We have very little information as to the wars of Agathocles in Bruttium; though we learn that he made himself master of Hipponium and Crotona, and occupied the latter city with a garrison. It is evident, therefore, that his designs were directed as much against the Greek cities as their barbarian neighbours; and the alliance which he concluded at the same time with the Iapygians and Peucetians could only have been with a view to the humiliation of Tarentum. (Diod. 21.2, 8.) His ambitious designs in this quarter were interrupted by his death, B.C. 289.

Only a few years later than this took place the celebrated expedition of Pyrrhus to Italy (B.C. 281--274), which marks a conspicuous era in the history of Magna Graecia. Shortly before that event, the Thurians, finding themselves hard pressed and their city itself besieged by the Lucanians, had concluded an alliance with the Romans, who raised the siege and defeated the assailants, B.C. 282. (Appian, Samn. 7; V. Max. 1.8.6.) This was the first occasion that brought the Roman power down to the shores of the Tarentine gulf; and here they almost immediately after came into collision with the Tarentines themselves. [TARENTUM] That people, conscious of their inability to resist the power of these new enemies, now invoked the assistance of Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, at the same time that they concluded a league with the Lucanians and Samnites, so long the inveterate enemies of Rome. Hence, when Pyrrhus landed in Italy, he found himself supported at the same time by all the remaining Greek cities in that country, as well as by the barbarian nations with whom they had been so long at war. It is unnecessary to enter into a detailed account of his campaigns: notwithstanding his first successes, his alliance proved of no real advantage to the Greeks, while his visit to Sicily in B.C. 278, and his final departure in B.C. 274, left them at the mercy of the victorious Romans. Tarentum itself was taken by the consuls in B.C. 272. Crotona and Locri had previously fallen into the hands of the Romans; while Rhegium, which was held by a revolted body of Campanian troops, originally placed there as a garrison, was finally reduced to subjection in B.C. [p. 2.251]

There can be no doubt that the cities of Magna Graecia had suffered severely during these wars: the foreign troops placed within their walls, whether Roman or Greek, appear to have given way to similar excesses; and the garrisons of Pyrrhus at Locri and Tarentum were guilty of exactions and cruelties which almost rivalled those of the Campanians at Rhegium. In addition to the loss of their independence, therefore, it is certain that the war of Pyrrhus inflicted a mortal blow on the prosperity of the few Greek cities in Southern Italy which had survived their long-continued struggles with the Lucanians and Bruttians. The decayed and enfeebled condition of the once powerful Crotona (Liv. 23.30) was undoubtedly common to many of her neighbours and former rivals. There were, however, some exceptions; Heraclea especially, which had earned the favour of Rome by a timely submission, obtained a treaty of alliance on unusually favourable terms (Cic. pro Balb. 22), and seems to have continued in a flourishing condition.

But the final blow to the prosperity of Magna Graecia was inflicted by the Second Punic War, It is probable that the Greek cities were viewed with unfavourable eyes by the Roman government, and were naturally desirous to recover their lost independence. Hence they eagerly seized the opportunity afforded by the victories of Hannibal, and after the battle of Cannae we are told that almost all the Greek cities on the S. coast of Italy (Graecorum omnis ferme ora, Liv. 22.61) declared in favour of the Carthaginian cause. Some of these were, however, overawed by Roman garrisons, which restrained them from open defection. Tarentum itself (still apparently the most powerful city in this part of Italy) was among the number; and though the city itself was betrayed into the hands of the Carthaginian commander, the citadel was still retained by a Roman garrison, which maintained its footing until the city was recovered by Fabius, B.C. 209. (Liv. 25.8-11, 27.15, 16.) Tarentum was on this occasion treated like a captured city, and plundered without mercy, while the citizens were either put to the sword or sold as slaves. Metapontum was only saved from a similar fate by the removal of its inhabitants and their property, when Hannibal was compelled to abandon the town; and at a later period of the war Terina was utterly destroyed by the Carthaginian general. (Liv. 27.51; Strab. 6.256.) Locri and Crotona were taken and retaken: Rhegium alone, which maintained its fidelity to Rome inviolate, though several times attempted by a Carthaginian force, seems to have in great measure escaped the ravages of the war.

It is certain that the cities of Magna Graecia never recovered from this long series of calamities. We have very little information as to their condition under the government of the Roman Republic, or the particular regulations to which they were subjected. But it is probable that, until after the complete subjugation of Greece and Macedonia, they were looked upon with a jealous eye as the natural allies of their kinsmen beyond the seas (Liv. 31.7); and even the colonies, whether of Roman or Latin citizens, which were settled on the coasts of Southern Italy, were probably designed rather to keep down the previous inhabitants than to recruit the exhausted population. One of these colonies, that to Posidonia, now known as Paestum, had been established at a period as early as B.C. 273 (Liv. Epit. xiv.; Vell. 1.14); and Brundusium, which subsequently rose to be so important a city, was also settled before the Second Punic War, B.C. 244. (Vell. Pat. l.c.; Liv. Epit. xix.) But, with these exceptions, all the Roman colonies to the coasts of Lucania, Bruttium, and Calabria, date from the period subsequent to that war. Of these, Buxentum in Lucania and Tempsa in Bruttium were settled as early as B.C. 194; and in the same year a body of Roman colonists was established in the once mighty Crotona. (Liv. 34.47.) Shortly afterwards two other colonies were settled, one at Thurii in Lucania, in B.C. 193, and the other at Hipponium or Vibo, in Bruttium, B.C. 192. (Liv. 34.53, 35.9, 40.) The last of these, which under the name of Vibo Valentia became a flourishing and important town, was the only one of these colonies which appears to have risen to any considerable prosperity. At a much later period (B.C. 123), the two colonies sent to Scylacium and Tarentum, under the names of Colonia Minervia and Neptunia (Vell. 1.15), were probably designed as an attempt to recruit the sinking population of those places.

But all attempts to check the rapid decline of this part of Italy were obviously unsuccessful. It is probable, or indeed almost certain, that malaria began to make itself severely felt as soon as the population diminished. This is noticed by Strabo in the case of Posidonia (v. p. 251); and the same thing must have occurred along the shores of the Tarentine gulf. Indeed, Strabo himself tells us, that, of the cities of Magna Graecia which had been so famous in ancient times, the only ones that retained any traces of their Greek civilisation in his day were Rhegium, Tarentum, and Neapolis (vi. p. 253); while the great Achaean cities on the Tarentine gulf had almost entirely disappeared. (Ib. p. 262.) The expressions of Cicero are not less forcible, that Magna Graecia, which had been so flourishing in the days of Pythagoras, and abounded in great and opulent cities, was in his time sunk into utter ruin (nunc quidem delete est, Cic. de Amic. 4, Tusc. 4.1). Several of the towns which still existed in the days of Cicero, as. Metapontum, Heraclea, and Locri, gradually fell into utter insignificance, and totally disappeared, while Tarentum, Crotona, and a few others maintained a sickly and feeble existence through the middle ages down to the present time.

It has been already observed, that the name of Magna Graecia was never a territorial designation; nor did the cities which composed it ever constitute a political unity. In the earliest times, indeed, the difference of their origin and race must have effectually prevented the formation of any such union among them as a whole. But even the Achaean cities appear to have formed no political league or union among themselves, until after the troubles growing out of the expulsion of the Pythagoreans, on which occasion they are said to have applied to the Achaeans in Greece for their arbitration, and to have founded by their advice a temple of Zeus Homorius, where they were to hold councils to deliberate upon their common affairs and interests. (Pol. 2.39.)

A more comprehensive league was formed in B.C. 393, for mutual protection against the attacks of Dionysius on one side, and the Lucanians on the other (Diod. 14.91); and the cities which composed it must have had some kind of general council or place of meeting. It is probable that it was on this occasion that the general meetings of the Italian Greeks, alluded to by Strabo (vi. p.280), were first instituted: though it is highly improbable [p. 2.252]that the Tarentine colony of Heraclea was selected in the first instance for the place of assembly, as the Tarentines seem at first to have kept aloof from the contest, and it is very doubtful whether they were included in the league at all. But it was natural that, when the Tarentines assumed the leading position among the allied cities, the councils should be transferred to their colony of Heraclea, just as Alexander of Epirus afterwards sought to transfer them from thence to the river Acalandrus in the Thurian territory, as a mark of enmity towards the Tarentines. (Strab. l.c.)


hide References (49 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (49):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 11.52
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 12.23
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 12.9
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 13.11
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.101
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.102
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.103
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.107
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.108
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.15
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.88
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 11.59
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 12.36
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 13.3
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.111
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.44
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.91
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.63
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.15
    • Herodotus, Histories, 6.21
    • Herodotus, Histories, 7.170
    • Thucydides, Histories, 6.44
    • Thucydides, Histories, 7.35
    • Thucydides, Histories, 7.33
    • Cicero, For Cornelius Balbus, 22
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.10
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 11
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 8
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 35, 9
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 8, 17
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 8, 24
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 15
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 51
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 34, 47
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 35, 40
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 22, 61
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 31, 7
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 23, 30
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 16
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 34, 53
    • Cicero, De Amicitia, 4
    • Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 4.1
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 19.10
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 19.3
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 20.104
    • Ovid, Fasti, 4
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.1
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 1.8.6
    • Athenaeus, of Naucratis, Deipnosophistae, 12
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