previous next


RHE´GIUM, (Ῥήγιον: Eth. Ῥηγῖνος, Eth. Rheginus: Reggio), an important city of Magna Graecia, situated near the southern end of the Bruttian peninsula, on the E. side of the Sicilian straits, and almost directly opposite to Messana in Sicily. The distance between the two cities, in a direct line, is only about 6 geog. miles, and the distance from Rhegium to the nearest point of the island is somewhat less. There is no doubt that it was a Greek colony, and we have no account of any settlement previously existing on the site; but the spot is said to have been marked by the tomb of Jocastus, one of the sons of Aeolus. (Heraclid. Polit. 25.) The foundation of Rhegium is universally ascribed to the Chalcidians, who had, in a year of famine, consecrated a tenth part of their citizens to Apollo; and these, under the direction of the oracle at Delphi, proceeded to Rhegium, whither they were also invited by their Chalcidic brethren, who were already established at Zancle on the opposite side of the strait. (Strab. vi. p.257; Heraclid. l.c.; Diod. 14.40; Thuc. 6.4; Scymn. Ch. 311.) With these Chalcidians were also united a body of Messenian exiles, who had been driven from their country at the beginning of the First Messenian War, and had established themselves for a time at Macistus. They were apparently not numerous, as Rhegium always continued to be considered a Chalcidic city; but they comprised many of the chief families in the new colony; so that, according to Strabo, the presiding magistrates of the city were always taken from among these Messenian citizens, down to the time of Anaxilas, who himself belonged to this dominant caste. (Strab. vi. p.257; Paus. 4.23.6; Thuc. 6.4; Heraclid. l.c. 1.) The date of the foundation of Rhegium is uncertain; the statements just mentioned, which connect it with the First Messenian War would carry it back as far as the 8th century B.C.; but they leave the precise period uncertain. Pausanias considers it as founded after the end of the war, while Antiochus, who is cited by Strabo, seems to refer it to the beginning; but his expressions are not decisive, as we do not know how long the exiles may have remained at Macistus; and it is probable, on the whole, that we may consider it as taking place shortly after the close of the war, and therefore before 720 B.C. (Paus. l.c.; Antioch. ap. Strab. l.c.). In this case it was probably the most ancient of all the Greek colonies in this part of Italy. Various etymologies of the name of Rhegium are given by ancient authors; the one generally received, and adopted by Aeschylus (ap. Strab. l.c.), was that which derived it from the bursting asunder of the coasts of Sicily and Italy, which was generally ascribed to an earthquake. (Diod. 4.85; Just. 4.1, &c.) Others absurdly connected it with the Latin regium. (Strab. l.c.), while Heraclides gives a totally different story, which derived the name from that of an indigenous hero. (Heraclid. Polit. 25.)

There seems no doubt that Rhegium rose rapidly to be a flourishing and prosperous city; but we know almost nothing of its history previous to the time of Anaxilas. The constitution, as we learn from Heraclides, was aristocratic, the management of affairs resting wholly with a council or body of 1000 of the principal and wealthiest citizens. After the legislation of Charondas at Catana, his laws were adopted by the Rhegians as well as by the other Chalcidic cities of Sicily, (Heraclid. l.c.; Arist. Pol. 2.12, 5.12.) The Rhegians are mentioned as affording shelter to the fugitive Phocaeans, who had been driven from Corsica, previous to the foundation of Velia. (Hdt. 1.166, 167.) According to Strabo they extended their dominion over many of the adjoining towns, but these could only have been small places, as we do not hear of any colonies of importance founded by the Rhegians; and their territory extended only as far as the Halex on the E., [p. 2.704]where they adjoined the Locrian territory, while the Locrian colonies of Medma and Hipponinm prevented their extension on the N. Indeed, from the position of Rhegium it seems to have always maintained closer relations with Sicily, and taken more part in the politics of that island than in those of the other Greek cities in Italy. Between the Rhegians and Locrians, however, there appears to have been a constant spirit of enmity, which might be readily expected between two rival cities, such near neighbours, and belonging to different races. (Thuc. 4.1, 24.)

Rhegium appears to have participated largely in the political changes introduced by the Pythagoreans, and even became, for a short time after the death of Pythagoras, the head-quarters of his sect (Iambl. Vit. Pyth. 33, 130, 251); but the changes then introduced do not seem to have been permanent.

It was under the reign of Anaxilas that Rhegium first rose to a degree of power far greater than it had previously attained. We have no account of the circumstances attending the elevation of that despot to power, an event which took place, according to Diodorus, in B.C. 494 (Diod. 11.48); but we know that he belonged to one of the ancient Messenian families, and to the oligarchy which had previously ruled the state. (Strab. vi. p.257; Paus. 4.23.6; Arist. Pol. 5.12; Thuc. 6.4.) Hence, when he made himself master of Zancle on the opposite side of the straits, he gave to that city the name of Messana, by which it was ever afterwards known. [MESSANA] Anaxilas continued for some years ruler of both these cities, and thus was undisputed master of the Sicilian straits: still further to strengthen himself in this sovereignty, he fortified the rocky promontory of Scyllaeum, and established a naval station there to guard the straits against the Tyrrhenian pirates. (Strab. vi. p.257.) He meditated also the destruction of the neighbouring city of Locri, the perpetual rival and enemy of Rhegium, but was prevented from carrying out his purpose by the intervention of Hieron of Syracuse, who espoused the cause of the Locrians, and whose enmity Anaxilas did not choose to provoke. (Schol. ad Pind. Pyth. 2.34.) One of his daughters was, indeed, married to the Syracusan despot, whose friendship he seems to have sought assiduously to cultivate.

Anaxilas enjoyed the reputation of one of the mildest and most equitable of the Sicilian rulers (Just. 4.2), and it is probable that Rhegium enjoyed great prosperity under his government. At his death, in B.C. 476, it passed without opposition under the rule of his two sons; but the government was administered during their minority by their guardian Micythus, who reigned over both Rhegium and Messana for nine years with exemplary justice and moderation, and at the end of that time gave up the sovereignty into the hands of the two sons of Anaxilas. (Diod. 11.48, 66; Hdt. 7.170; Just. 4.2; Macr. 1.11.) These, however, did not hold it long: they were expelled in B.C. 461, the revolutions which at that time agitated the cities of Sicily having apparently extended to Rhegium also. (Diod. 11.76.)

The government of Micythus was marked by one great disaster: in B.C. 473, the Rhegians, having sent an auxiliary force of 3000 men to assist the Tarentines against the Iapygians, shared in the great defeat which they sustained on that occasion [TARENTUM]; but the statement of Diodorus that the barbarians not only pursued the fugitives to the gates of Rhegium, but actually made themselves masters of the city, may be safely rejected as incredible. (Diod. 11.52; Hdt. 7.170; Grote's Hist. of Greece, vol. v. p. 319.) A story told by Justin, that the Rhegians being agitated by domestic dissensions, a body of mercenaries, who were called in by one of the parties, drove out their opponents, and then made themselves masters of the city by a general massacre of the remaining citizens (Justin, 4.3), must be placed (if at all) shortly after the expulsion of the sons of Anaxilas; but the whole story has a very apocryphal air; it is not noticed by any other writer, and it is certain that the old Chalcidic citizens continued in possession of Rhegium down to a much later period.

We have very little information as to the history of Rhegium during the period which followed the expulsion of the despots; but it seems to have retained its liberty, in common with the neighbouring cities of Sicily, till it fell under the yoke of Dionysius. In B.C. 427, when the Athenians sent a fleet under Laches and Charoeades to support the Leontines against Syracuse, the Rhegians espoused the cause of the Chalcidic cities of Sicily, and not only allowed their city to be made the head-quarters of the Athenian fleet, but themselves furnished a considerable auxiliary force. They were in consequence engaged in continual hostilities with the Locrians. (Diod. 12.54; Thuc. 3.86, 4.1, 24, 25.) But they pursued a different course on occasion of the great Athenian expedition to Sicily in B.C. 415, when they refused to take any part in the contest; and they appear to have persevered in this neutrality to the end. (Diod. 13.3: Thuc. 6.44, 7.1, 58.)

It was not long after this that the increasing power of Dionysius of Syracuse, who had destroyed in succession the chief Chalcidic cities of Sicily, became a subject of alarm to the Rhegians; and in B.C. 399 they fitted out a fleet of 50 triremes, and an army of 6000 foot and 600 horse, to make war upon the despot. But the Messenians, who at first made common cause with them, having quickly abandoned the alliance, they were compelled to desist from the enterprise, and made peace with Dionysius. (Diod. 14.40.) The latter, who was meditating a great war with Carthage, was desirous to secure the friendship of the Rhegians; but his proposals of a matrimonial alliance were rejected with scorn; he in consequence concluded such an alliance with the Locrians, and became from this time the implacable enemy of the Rhegians. (lb. 44, 107.) It was from hostility to the latter that he a few years later (B.C. 394), after the destruction of Messana by the Carthagilians, restored and fortified that city, as a post to command the straits, and from which to carry on his enterprises in Southern Italy. The Rhegians in vain sought to forestal him; they made an unsuccessful attack upon Messana, and were foiled in their attempt to establish a colony of Naxians at Mylae, as a post of offence against the Messenians. (Ib. 87.) The next year Dionysius, in his turn, made a sudden attack on Rhegium itself, but did not succeed in surprising the city; and after ravaging its territory, was compelled to draw off his forces. (Ib. 90.) But in B.C. 390 he resumed the design on a larger scale, and laid regular siege to the city with a force of 20,000 foot, 1000 horse, and a fleet of 120 triremes. The Rhegians, however, opposed a vigorous resistance: the fleet of Dionysius suffered severely from a storm, and the approach of winter at length compelled him [p. 2.705]to abandon the siege. (Ib. 100.) The next year (B.C. 389) his great victory over the confederate forces of the Italiot Greeks at the river Helorus left him at liberty to prosecute his designs against Rhegium without opposition: the Rhegians in vain endeavoured to avert the danger by submitting to a tribute of 300 talents, and by surrendering all their ships, 70 in number. By these concessions they obtained only a precarious truce, which Dionysius found a pretext for breaking the very next year, and laid siege to the city with all his forces. The Rhegians, under the command of a general named Phyton, made a desperate resistance, and were enabled to prolong their defence for eleven months, but were at length compelled to surrender, after having suffered the utmost extremities of famine (B.C. 387). The surviving inhabitants were sold as slaves, their general Phyton put to an ignominious death, and the city itself totally destroyed. (Diod.14.106--108, 111, 112; Strab. vi. p.258; Pseud.-Arist. Oecon. 2.21.)

There is no doubt that Rhegium never fully recovered this great calamity; but so important a site could not long remain unoccupied. The younger Dionysius partially restored the city, to which he gave the name of Phoebias, but the old name soon again prevailed. (Strab. l.c.) It was occupied with a garrison by the despot, but in B.C. 351 it was besieged and taken by the Syracusan commanders Leptines and Callippus, the garrison driven out, and the citizens restored to independence. (Diod. 16.45.) Hence they were, a few years later (B.C. 345), among the foremost to promise their assistance to Timoleon, who halted at Rhegium on his way to Sicily, and from thence, eluding the vigilance of the Carthaginians by a stratagem, crossed over to Tauromenium. (Diod. 16.66, 68; Plut. Tim. 9,10.) From this time we hear no more of Rhegium, till the arrival of Pyrrhus in Italy (B.C. 280), when it again became the scene of a memorable catastrophe. The Rhegians on that occasion, viewing with apprehension the progress of the king of Epirus, and distrusting the Carthaginians, had recourse to the Roman alliance, and received into their city as a garrison, a body of Campanian troops, 4000 in number, under the command of an officer named Decius. But these troops had not been long in possession of the city when they were tempted to follow the example of their countrymen, the Mamertines, on the other side of the strait; and they took advantage of an alleged attempt at defection on the part of the Rhegians, to make a promiscuous massacre of the male citizens, while they reduced the women and children to slavery, and established themselves in the sole occupation of the town. (Pol. 1.7; Oros. 4.3; Appian, Samnit. 3.9; Diod. xxii. Exc. H. p. 494, Exc. Vales, p. 562; Dio Cass. Fr. 40. 7; Strab. v. p.258.) The Romans were unable to punish them for this act of treachery so long as they were occupied with the war against Pyrrhus; and the Campanians for some years continued to reap the benefit of their crime. But as soon as Pyrrhus had finally withdrawn from Italy, the Romans turned their arms against their rebellious soldiers; and in B.C. 270, being actively supported by Hieron of Syracuse, the consul Genucius succeeded in reducing Rhegium by force, though not till after a long siege. Great part of the Campanians perished in the defence ; the rest were executed by order of the Roman people. (Poi. 1.6, 7; Oros. 4.3; Dionys. Fr. Mai. 19.1, 20.7.)

Rhegium was now restored to the survivors of its former inhabitants (Pol. 1.7; Liv. 31.31; Appian, l.c.); but it must have suffered severely, and does not seem to have again recovered its former prosperity. Its name is hardly mentioned during the First Punic War, but in the second, the citizens distinguished themselves by their fidelity to the Roman cause, and repeated attempts of Hannibal to make himself master of the city were uniformly repulsed. (Liv. 23.30, 24.1, 26.12, 29.6.) From this time the name of Rhegium is rarely mentioned in history under the Roman Republic ; but we learn from several incidental notices that it continued to enjoy its own laws and nominal liberty as a “foederata civitas,” though bound, in common with other cities in the same condition, to furnish an auxiliary naval contingent as often as required. (Liv. 31.31, 35.16, 36.42.) It was not till after the Social War that the Rhegians, like the other Greek cities of Italy, passed into the condition of Roman citizens, and Rhegium itself became a Roman Municipium. (Cic. Ver. 4.60, Phil. 1.3, pro Arch. 3.) Shortly before this (B.C. 91) the city had suffered severely from an earthquake, which had destroyed a large part of it (Strab. vi. p.258; Jul. Obseq. 114); but it seems to have, in great measure, recovered from this calamity, and is mentioned by Appian towards the close of the Republic as one of the eighteen flourishing cities of Italy, which were promised by the Triumvirs to their veterans as a reward for their services. (Appian, App. BC 4.3.) Rhegium, however, had the good fortune to escape on this occasion by the personal favour of Octavian (Ib. 86); and during the war which followed between him and Sextus Pompeius, B.C. 38--36, it became one of the most important posts, which was often made by Octavian the headquarters both of his fleet and army. (Strab. vi. p.258; Appian, App. BC 5.81, 84; D. C. 48.18, 47.) To reward the Rhegians for their services on this occasion, Augustus increased the population, which was in a declining state, by the addition of a body of new colonists; but the old inhabitants were not expelled, nor did the city assume the title of a Colonia, though it adopted, in gratitude to Augustus, the name of Rhegium Julium. (Strab. l.c.; Ptol. 3.1.9; Orell. Inser. 3838.) In the time of Strabo it was a populous and flourishing place, and was one of the few cities which, like Neapolis and Tarentum, still preserved some remains of its Greek civilisation. (Strab. vi. pp. 253, 259.) Traces of this may be observed also in inscriptions, some of which, of the period of the Roman Empire, present a curious mixture of Greek and Latin, while others have the names of Roman magistrates, though the inscriptions themselves are in Greek. (Morisani, Inscr. Reginae, 4to. Neap. 1770, pp. 83, 126, &c.; Boeckh, C. L 5760--5768.)

Its favourable situation and its importance, as commanding the passage of the Sicilian straits, preserved Rhegium from falling into the same state of decay as many other cities in the south of Italy. It continued to exist as a considerable city throughout the period of the Roman Empire (Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 10; Ptol. l.c.; Itin. Ant. pp. 112, 115, 490), and was the termination of the great highway which led through the southern peninsula of Italy, and formed the customary mode of communication with Sicily. In A.D. 410 Rhegium became the limit of the progress of Alaric, who after the capture of Rome advanced through Campania, Lucania, [p. 2.706]and Bruttium, laying waste those provinces on his march, and made himself master of Rhegium, from whence he tried to cross over into Sicily, but, being frustrated in this attempt, retraced his steps as far as Consentia, where he died. (Hist. Miscell. xiii. p. 535.) Somewhat later it is described by Cassiodorus as still a flourishing place (Var. 12.14), and was still one of the chief cities of Bruttium in the days of Paulus Diaconus. (Hist. Lang. 2.17.) During the Gothic wars after the fall of the Western Empire, Rhegiuln bears a considerable part, and was a strong fortress, but it was taken by Totila in A.D. 549, previous to his expedition to Sicily. (Procop. B. G. 1.8, 3.18, 37, 38.) It subsequently fell again into the hands of the Greek emperors, and continued subject to them, with the exception of a short period when it was occupied by the Saracens, until it passed under the dominion of Robert Guiscard in A.D. 1060. The modern city of Reggio is still a considerable place, with a population of about 10,000 souls, and is the capital of the province of Calabria Ultra; but it has suffered severely in modern times from earthquakes, having been almost entirely destroyed in 1783, and again in great part overthrown in 1841. It has no remains of antiquity, except a few inscriptions, but numerous coins, urns, mosaics, and other ancient relics have been brought to light by excavations.

Rhegium was celebrated in antiquity as the birthplace of the lyric poet Ibycus, as well as that of Lycus the historian, the father of Lycophron. (Suid. s. v. Ἴβυκος; Id. s. v. Λύκος.) It gave birth also to the celebrated sculptor Pythagoras (D. L. 8.1.47; Paus. 6.4.4); and to several of the minor Pythagorean philosophers, whose names are enumerated by lamblichus (Vit. Pyth. 267), but none of these are of much note. Its territory was fertile, and noted for the excellence of its wines, which were especially esteemed for their salubrity. (Athen. 1.26.) Cassiodorus describes it as well adapted for vines and olives, but not suited to corn. (Var. 12.14.) Another production in which it excelled was its breed of mules, so that Anaxilas the despot was repeatedly victor at the Olympic games with the chariot drawn by mules (ἀπήνη), and his son Leophron obtained the same distinction. One of these victories was celebrated by Simonides. (Heraclid. Polit. 25; Athen. 1.3 ; Pollux, Onomast. 5.75.)

Rhegium itself was, as already mentioned, the termination of the line of high-road which traversed the whole length of Southern Italy from Capua to the Sicilian strait, and was first constructed by the praetor Popilius in B.C. 134. (Orell. Inscr. 3308; Mommsen, Inscr. R. N. 6276; Ritschel, Mon. Epigr. pp. 11, 12.) But the most frequented place of passage for crossing the, strait to Messana was, in ancient as well as in modern times, not at Rhegium itself, but at a spot about 9 miles further N., which was marked by a column, and thence known by the name of COLUMNA RHEGINA. (Itin. Ant. pp. 98, 106, 111; Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 10; Ῥηγίνων στυλίς, Strab. v. p.257.) The distance of this from Rhegium is given both by Pliny and Strabo at 12 1/2 miles or 100 stadia, and the latter places it only 6 stadia from the promontory of Caenys or Punta del Pezzo. It must therefore have been situated in the neighbourhood of the modern village of Villa San Giovanni, which is still the most usual place of passage. But the distance from Rhegium is overstated by both geographers, the Punta del Pezzo itself being less than 10 miles from Reggio. On the other hand the inscription of La Polla (Forum Popilii) gives the distance from the place of passage, which it designates as “Ad Statuam,” at only 6 miles. (Mommsen, Inscr. R. N. 6276.) Yet it is probable that the spot meant is really the same in both cases, as from the strong current in the straits the place of embarkation must always have been nearly the same.



hide References (40 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (40):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.45
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.66
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.68
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 11.48
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 11.52
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 11.66
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 11.76
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 12.54
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 13.3
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.40
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.166
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.167
    • Herodotus, Histories, 7.170
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 4.23.6
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 6.4.4
    • Thucydides, Histories, 3.86
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.1
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.24
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.25
    • Thucydides, Histories, 6.4
    • Thucydides, Histories, 6.44
    • Thucydides, Histories, 7.58
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 4.1.3
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 5.9.81
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 5.9.84
    • Diogenes Laertius, Vitae philosophorum, 8.1
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.5
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 23, 30
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 24, 1
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 29, 6
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 35, 16
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 36, 42
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 31, 31
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 26, 12
    • Thucydides, Histories, 7.1
    • Plutarch, Timoleon, 9
    • Athenaeus, of Naucratis, Deipnosophistae, 1.26
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 4.85
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.1
    • Athenaeus, of Naucratis, Deipnosophistae, 1.3
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: