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PETE´LIA or PETI´LIA (Πετηλία: Eth. Πετηλῖνος, Eth. Petelinus: Strongoli), an ancient city of Bruttium, situated about 12 miles N. of Crotona, and 3 miles from the E. coast of the peninsula. According to the Greek traditions it was a very ancient city, founded by Philoctetes after the Trojan War. (Strab. vi. p.254; Verg. A. 3.401; Serv. ad loc.) This legend probably indicates that it was really a town of the Chones, an Oenotrian tribe; as the foundation of Chone, in the same neighbourhood, was also ascribed to Philoctetes. It was only a small place (Virg. l.c.), but in a strong situation. We have no account of its receiving a Greek colony, nor is its name ever mentioned among the Greek cities of this part of Italy; but, like so many of the Oenotrian towns, became to a great extent Hellenised or imbued with Greek culture and manners. It was undoubtedly for a long time subject to Crotona, and comprised within the territory of that city; and probably for this reason, its name is never mentioned during the early history of Magna Graecia. But after the irruption of the Lucanians, it fell into the hands of that people, by whom it was strongly fortified, and became one of their most important strongholds. (Strab. l.c.) It is apparently on this account, that Strabo calls it “the metropolis of the Lucanians,” though it certainly was not included in Lucania as the term was understood in his day. Petelia first became conspicuous in history during the Second Punic War, when its citizens remained faithful to the Roman alliance, notwithstanding the general defection of the Bruttians around them, B.C. 216. They were in consequence besieged by the Bruttians as well as by a Carthaginian force under Himilco: but though abandoned to their fate by the Roman senate, to whom they had in vain sued for assistance, they made a desperate resistance; and it was not till after a siege of several months, in which they had suffered the utmost extremities of famine, that they were at length compelled to surrender. (Liv. 23.20, 30; Plb. 7.1; Appian, Annib. 29; Frontin. Strat. 4.5.18; V. Max. 6.6, ext. § 2; Sil. Ital. 12.431.) The few inhabitants who escaped, were after the close of the war restored by the Romans to their native town (Appian, l.c.), and were doubtless treated with especial favour; so that Petelia rose again to a prosperous condition, and in the days of Strabo was one of the few cities of Bruttium that was still tolerably flourishing and populous. (Strab. vi. p.254.) We learn from inscriptions that it still continued to be a flourishing municipal town under the Roman Empire (Orell. Inscr. 137, 3678, 3939; Mommsen, Inscr. R. N. pp. 5, 6): it is mentioned by all the geographers and its name is still found in the Tabula, which places it on the road from Thurii to Crotona. (Mel. 2.4.8; Plin. Nat. 3.10. s. 15; Ptol. 3.1. F § 75 ; Tab. Peut.) But we are unable to trace its history further: its identification with Strongoli is, however, satisfactorily made out by the inscriptions which have been found in the latter city. Strongoli is an episcopal see, with about 7000 inhabitants: its situation on a lofty and rugged hill, commanding the plain of the Nieto (Neaethus), corresponds with the accounts of Petelia, which is represented as occupying a position of great natural strength. There are no ruins of the ancient city, but numerous minor objects of antiquity have been found on the spot, besides the inscriptions above referred to.

The existence of a second town of the name of Petelia in Lucania, which has been admitted by several writers, rests mainly on the passage of Strabo where he calls Petelia the metropolis of Lucania; but he is certainly there speaking of the well-known city of the name, which was undoubtedly in Bruttium. The inscriptions published by Antonini, to prove that there was a town of this name in the mountains near Velia, are in all probability spurious (Mommsen, I. R. N. App. p. 2), though they have been adopted, and his authority followed by Romanelli and Cramer. (Romanelli, vol. i. p. 348; Cramer's Italy, vol. ii. p. 367.)

The PETELINI MONTES (τὰ Πετηλῖνα ὄρη), mentioned by Plutarch (Plut. Crass. 11), to which Spartacus retired after his defeat by Crassus, are evidently the rugged group of the Apennines S. of the Crathis, between Petelia and Consentia.


hide References (8 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (8):
    • Polybius, Histories, 7.1
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 3.401
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.10
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 23, 30
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 23, 20
    • Plutarch, Crassus, 11
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.1
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 6.6
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