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The Hannibalian War — The Recovery of Tarentum

THE distance from the strait and town of Rhegium to
B.C. 209, Coss. Q. Fabius Maximus V. Q. Fulvius Flaccus IV.
Tarentum is more than two thousand stades; and that portion of the shore of Italy is entirely destitute of harbours, except those of Tarentum: I mean the coast facing the Sicilian sea, and verging towards Greece, which contains the most populous barbarian tribes as well as the most famous of the Greek cities. For the Bruttii, Lucani, some portions of the Daunii, the Cabalii, and several others, occupy this quarter of Italy. So again this coast is lined by the Greek cities of Rhegium, Caulon, Locri, Croton, Metapontum, and Thurii: so that voyagers from Sicily or from Greece to any one of these cities are compelled to drop anchor in the harbours of Tarentum; and the exchange and commerce with all who occupy this coast of Italy take place in this city. One may judge of the excellence of its situation from the prosperity attained by the people of Croton; who, though only possessing roadsteads suitable for the summer, and enjoying therefore but a short season of mercantile activity, still have acquired great wealth, entirely owing, it seems, to the favourable situation of their town and harbour, which yet cannot be compared with those of Tarentum. For, even at this day, Tarentum is in a most convenient position in respect to the harbours of the Adriatic, and was formerly still more so. Since, from the Iapygian promontory as far as Sipontum, every one coming from the other side and dropping anchor at Italy always crossed to Tarentum, and used that city for his mercantile transactions as an emporium; for the town of Brundisium had not yet been founded in these times.1 Therefore Fabius regarded the recovery of it as of great importance, and, omitting everything else, turned his whole thoughts to this. . . .

1 The port of Brundisium was known long before. See Herod. 4. 99. The Romans colonised the town in B. C. 244. See Livy, epit. 19.

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    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.99
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