Magna Graecia (/ , /, US: / /; Latin: [ˈmaŋna ˈgrae̯ki.a], lit. 'Greater Greece', Ancient Greek: Μεγάλη Ἑλλάς, Megálē Hellás, Italian: Magna Grecia) was the name given by the Romans to the coastal areas of Southern Italy in the present-day Italian regions of Calabria, Apulia, Basilicata, Campania and Sicily; these regions were extensively populated by Greek settlers. These settlers, who began arriving in the 8th century BC, brought with them their Hellenic civilization, which left a lasting imprint on Italy (such as in the culture of ancient Rome). They also influenced the native peoples, such as the Sicels and the Oenotrians, who became hellenized after they adopted the Greek culture as their own.
The Greek expression Megálē Hellás, later translated into Latin as Magna Graecia, first appears in Polybius' Histories, where he ascribed the term to Pythagoras and his philosophical school. Strabo also used the term to refer to the size of the territory that had been conquered by the Greeks, and the Roman poet Ovid used the term in his poem Fasti.
Main article: Colonies in antiquity § Greek colonies
Further information: Greeks in pre-Roman Gaul
According to Strabo's Geographica, the colonization of Magna Graecia had already begun by the time of the Trojan War and lasted for several centuries.
In the 8th and 7th century BC, due to demographic crises (famine, overcrowding, etc.), stasis, a developing need for new commercial outlets and ports, and expulsion from their homeland after wars, Greeks began to settle in southern Italy. Colonies began to be established all over the Mediterranean and Black Seas (with the exception of Northwestern Africa, in the sphere of influence of Carthage), including in Sicily and the southern part of the Italian Peninsula. The Romans called this area Magna Graecia (Latin for "Greater Greece") since it was so densely inhabited by the Greeks. Ancient geographers differed on whether the term included Sicily or merely Apulia, Campania and Calabria, Strabo and Livy being the most prominent advocates of the wider definitions.
With colonization, Greek culture was exported to Italy in its dialects of the Ancient Greek language, its religious rites and its traditions of the independent polis. An original Hellenic civilization soon developed and later interacted with the native Italic civilisations. The most important cultural transplant was the Chalcidean/Cumaean variety of the Greek alphabet, which was adopted by the Etruscans; the Old Italic alphabet subsequently evolved into the Latin alphabet, which became the most widely used alphabet in the world.
Some of these Hellenic colonies still stand today such as Neapolis ("New City", now Naples), Syracuse, Akragas (Agrigento), Taras (Taranto), Rhegion (Reggio Calabria), or Kroton (Crotone).
The first Greek city to be absorbed into the Roman Republic was Neapolis in 327 BC. The other Greek cities in Italy followed during the Samnite Wars and the Pyrrhic War; Taras was the last to fall in 272. Sicily was conquered by Rome during the First Punic War. Only Syracuse remained independent until 212 because its king Hiero II was a devoted ally of the Romans. His grandson Hieronymus however made an alliance with Hannibal, which prompted the Romans to besiege the city, which fell in 212 despite the machines of Archimedes, described by Proclus in his commentary on Euclid's Elements. Archimedes constructed weapons powered by compressed air, weights and counterweights, according to Ctesibius and Hero.
This is a list of the 22 poleis (city states) in Italy, according to Mogens Herman Hansen. It does not list all the Hellenic settlements, only those organised around a polis structure.
|Ancient name(s)||Location||Modern name(s)||Foundation date||Mother city||Founder(s)|
|Herakleia (Lucania)||Basilicata||(abandoned)||433–432 BC||Taras (and Thourioi)||Unknown|
|Hipponion||Calabria||Vibo Valentia||late 7th century BC||Lokroi Epizephiroi||Unknown|
|Hyele, or Elea, Velia (Roman name)||Campania||(abandoned)||c.540–535 BC||Phokaia, Massalia||Refugees from Alalie|
|Kaulonia||Calabria||(abandoned)||7th century BC||Kroton||Typhon of Aigion|
|Kroton||Calabria||Crotone||709–708 BC||Rhypes, Achaia||Myscellus|
|Kyme, Cumae (Roman name)||Campania||(abandoned)||c.750–725 BC||Chalkis and Eretria||Hippokles of Euboian Kyme and Megasthenes of Chalkis|
|Laos||Calabria||(abandoned)||before 510 BC||Sybaris||Refugees from Sybaris|
|Lokroi (Epizephiroi)||Calabria||Locri||early 7th century BC||Lokris||Unknown|
|Medma||Calabria||(abandoned)||7th century BC||Lokroi Epizephiroi||Unknown|
|Metapontion||Basilicata||Metaponto||c. 630 BC||Achaia||Leukippos of Achaia|
|Metauros||Calabria||Gioia Tauro||7th century BC||Zankle (or possibly Lokroi Epizephiroi)||Unknown|
|Neapolis||Campania||Naples||6–5h century BC (previously a 8th century harbour of Kyme known as Parthenope)||Kyme||Unknown|
|Pithekoussai||Campania||Ischia||8th century BC||Chalkis and Eretria||Unknown|
|Poseidonia, Paestum (Roman name)||Campania||(abandoned)||c. 600 BC||Sybaris (and perhaps Troizen)||Unknown|
|Pyxous||Campania||Policastro Bussentino||471–470 BC||Rhegion and Messena||Mikythos, tyrant of Rhegion and Messena|
|Rhegion||Calabria||Reggio Calabria||8th century BC||Chalkis (with Zankle and Messenian refugees)||Antimnestos of Zankle (or perhaps Artimedes of Chalkis)|
|Siris||Basilicata||(abandoned)||c. 660 BC (or c. 700 BC)||Kolophon||Refugees from Kolophon|
|Sybaris||Calabria||Sibari||721–720 (or 709–708) BC||Achaia and Troizen||Is of Helike|
|Taras||Apulia||Taranto||c. 706 BC||Sparta||Phalanthos and the Partheniai|
|Temesa||unknown, but in Calabria||(abandoned)||no Greek founder (Ausones who became Hellenised)|
|Terina||Calabria||(abandoned)||before 460 BC, perhaps c. 510 BC||Kroton||Unknown|
|Thourioi||Calabria||(abandoned)||446 and 444–443 BC||Athens and many other cities||Lampon and Xenokrates of Athens|
This is a list of the 46 poleis (city states) in Sicily, according to Mogens Herman Hansen. It does not list all the Hellenic settlements, only those organised around a polis structure.
|Ancient name(s)||Location||Modern name(s)||Foundation date||Mother city||Founder(s)|
|Abakainon||Metropolitan City of Messina||(abandoned)||no Greek founder (Sicels who became Hellenised)|
|Adranon||Metropolitan City of Catania||Adrano||c.400 BC||Syrakousai||Dionysios I|
|Agyrion||Province of Enna||Agira||no Greek founder (Sicels who became Hellenised)|
|Aitna||Metropolitan City of Catania||on the site of Katane||476 BC||Syrakousai||Hieron|
|Akragas||Province of Agrigento||Agrigento||c.580 BC||Gela||Aristonoos and Pystilos|
|Akrai||Province of Syracuse||near Palazzolo Acreide||664 BC||Syrakousai||Unknown|
|Alaisa||Metropolitan City of Messina||Tusa||403–402 BC||Herbita||Archonides of Herbita|
|Alontion, Haluntium (Roman name)||Metropolitan City of Messina||San Marco d’Alunzio||no Greek founder (Sicels who became Hellenised)|
|Apollonia||Metropolitan City of Messina||Monte Vecchio near San Fratello||405–367 BC||Syrakousai||Possibly Dionysios I|
|Engyon||Province of Enna||Troina?||no Greek founder (Sicels who became Hellenised)|
|Euboia||Metropolitan City of Catania||Licodia Eubea||7th century BC, perhaps late 8th century BC||Leontinoi||Unknown|
|Galeria||Unknown||(abandoned)||no Greek founder (Sicels who became Hellenised)|
|Gela||Province of Caltanissetta||Gela||689–688 BC||Rhodes (Lindos), Cretans||Antiphemos of Rhodes and Entimos the Cretan|
|Heloron||Province of Syracuse||(abandoned)||Unknown||Syrakousai||Unknown|
|Henna||Province of Enna||Enna||no Greek founder (Sicels who became Hellenised)|
|Herakleia Minoa||Province of Agrigento||Cattolica Eraclea||after 628 BC||Selinous, Sparta||refounded by Euryleon after c.510 BC|
|Herakleia||unlocated in Western Sicily||(abandoned)||c.510 BC||Sparta||Dorieus|
|Herbessos||Province of Enna||Montagna di Marzo||no Greek founder (Sicels who became Hellenised)|
|Herbita||Unknown||(abandoned)||no Greek founder (Sicels who became Hellenised)|
|Himera||Province of Palermo||Termini Imerese||648 BC||Zankle, exiles from Syrakousai||Eukleides, Simos and Sakon|
|Hippana||Province of Palermo||Monte dei Cavalli||no Greek founder (indigenous settlement that became Hellenised)|
|Imachara||Metropolitan City of Catania||Mendolito||no Greek founder (Sicels who became Hellenised)|
|Kallipolis||Unknown||(abandoned)||late 8th century BC||Naxos (Sicily)||Unknown|
|Kamarina||Province of Ragusa||Santa Croce Camerina||c.598 BC||Syrakousai, Korinth||Daskon of Syracuse and Menekolos of Corinth|
|Kasmenai||Province of Syracuse||(abandoned)||644–643 BC||Syrakousai||Unknown|
|Katane||Metropolitan City of Catania||Catania||729 BC||Naxos (Sicily)||Euarchos|
|Kentoripa||Province of Enna||Centuripe||no Greek founder (Sicels who became Hellenised)|
|Kephaloidion||Province of Palermo||Cefalù||no Greek founder (Sicels who became Hellenised)|
|Leontinoi||Province of Syracuse||Lentini||729 BC||Naxos (Sicily)||Theokles?|
|Lipara||Metropolitan City of Messina||Lipari||580–576 BC||Knidos, Rhodes||Pentathlos, Gorgos, Thestor and Epithersides|
|Longane||Metropolitan City of Messina||near Rodì Milici||no Greek founder (Sicels who became Hellenised)|
|Megara Hyblaea||Province of Syracuse||Augusta||728 BC||Megara Nisaia||Theokles?|
|Morgantina||Province of Enna||near Aidone||no Greek founder (Sicels who became Hellenised)|
|Mylai||Metropolitan City of Messina||Milazzo||700 BC?||Zankle||Unknown|
|Nakone||Unknown||(abandoned)||no Greek founder (Sicels who became Hellenised)|
|Naxos||Metropolitan City of Messina||Giardini Naxos||735–734 BC||Chalkis, Naxos (Cyclades)||Theokles|
|Petra||Unknown||(abandoned)||no Greek founder (indigenous settlement that became Hellenised)|
|Piakos||Metropolitan City of Catania||Mendolito?||no Greek founder (Sicels who became Hellenised)|
|Selinous||Province of Trapani||Marinella di Selinunte||628–627 BC||Megara Hyblaea||Pammilos|
|Sileraioi||Unknown||(abandoned)||no Greek founder (indigenous settlement that became Hellenised)|
|Stielanaioi||Metropolitan City of Catania?||(abandoned)||no Greek founder (indigenous settlement that became Hellenised)|
|Syrakousai||Province of Syracuse||Syracuse||733 BC||Korinth||Archias of Korinth|
|Tauromenion||Metropolitan City of Catania||Taormina||392 BC||Syrakousai||perhaps Dionysios I|
|Tyndaris||Metropolitan City of Messina||Tindari||396 BC||Syrakousai||Dionysios I|
|Tyrrhenoi||Province of Palermo?||Alimena?||no Greek founder (indigenous settlement that became Hellenised)|
|Zankle/Messana||Metropolitan City of Messina||Messina||c.730||Chalkis, Kyme||Perieres of Kyme and Krataimenes of Chalkis|
|History of Greece|
During the Early Middle Ages, following the disastrous Gothic War, new waves of Byzantine Christian Greeks may have come to Southern Italy from Greece and Asia Minor, as Southern Italy remained loosely governed by the Eastern Roman Empire. Although possible, the archaeological evidence shows no trace of new arrivals of Greek peoples, only a division between barbarian newcomers, and Greco-Roman locals. The iconoclast emperor Leo III appropriated lands that had been granted to the Papacy in southern Italy and the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire continued to govern the area in the form of the Catapanate of Italy (965 -1071) through the Middle Ages, well after northern Italy fell to the Lombards.
At the time of the Normans' late medieval conquest of southern Italy and Sicily (in the late 12th century), the Salento peninsula (the "heel" of Italy), up to one-third of Sicily (concentrated in the Val Demone), and much of Calabria and Lucania were still largely Greek-speaking. Some regions of southern Italy experienced demographic shifts as Greeks began to migrate northwards in significant numbers from regions further south; one such region was Cilento, which came to have a Greek-speaking majority. At this time the language had evolved into medieval Greek, also known as Byzantine Greek, and its speakers were known as Byzantine Greeks. The resultant fusion of local Byzantine Greek culture with Norman and Arab culture (from the Arab occupation of Sicily) gave rise to Norman-Arab-Byzantine culture on Sicily.
A remnant of this influence can be found in the survival of the Greek language in some villages of the above mentioned Salento peninsula (the "heel" of Italy). This living dialect of Greek, known locally as Griko, is found in the Italian regions of Calabria and Apulia. Griko is considered by linguists to be a descendant of Byzantine Greek, which had been the majority language of Salento through the Middle Ages, combining also some ancient Doric and local romance elements. There is a rich oral tradition and Griko folklore, limited now but once numerous, to around 30,000 people, most of them having abandoned their language in favour of Italian. Some scholars, such as Gerhard Rohlfs, argue that the origins of Griko may ultimately be traced to the colonies of Magna Graecia.
Although many of the Greek inhabitants of Southern Italy were entirely Latinized during the Middle Ages, pockets of Greek culture and language remained and survived into modernity partly because of continuous immigration to southern Italy from the Greek mainland. One example is the Griko people in Calabria and Salento, some of whom still maintain their Greek language and customs. Their working practices have been passed down through generations through storytelling and allowing the observation of work. The Italian parliament recognizes the Griko people as an ethnolinguistic minority under the official name of Minoranze linguistiche Grike dell'Etnia Griko-Calabrese e Salentina.
Greek nobles started taking refuge in Italy following the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. Greeks immigrated once again to the region in the 16th and 17th centuries in reaction to the conquest of the Peloponnese by the Ottoman Empire. Especially after the end of the Siege of Coron (1534), large numbers of Greeks took refuge in the areas of Calabria, Salento and Sicily. Greeks from Coroni, the so-called Coronians, were nobles, who brought with them substantial movable property.
Other Greeks who moved to Italy came from the Mani Peninsula of the Peloponnese. The Maniots (their name originating from the Greek word mania) were known for their proud military traditions and for their bloody vendettas, many of which still continue today. Another group of Maniot Greeks moved to Corsica in the 17th century under the protection of the Republic of Genoa.
Roman Republic Neapolis in 327 BC.
At the end of the twelfth century ... While in Apulia Greeks were in a majority – and indeed present in any numbers at all – only in the Salento peninsula in the extreme south, at the time of the conquest they had an overwhelming preponderance in Lucania and central and southern Calabria, as well as comprising anything up to a third of the population of Sicily, concentrated especially in the north-east of the island, the Val Demone.
“However, the Byzantine revival of the tenth century generated a concomitant process Hellenization, while Muslim raids in southern Calabria, and instability in Sicily, may also have displaced Greek Christians further north on the mainland. Consequently, zones in northern Calabria, Lucania and central Apulia which were reintegrated into Byzantine control also experienced demographic shifts and the increasing establishment of immigrant Greek communities. These zones also acted as springboards for Greek migration further north, into regions such as the Cilento and areas around Salerno, which had never been under Byzantine control.
ISBN 0-415-93930-5" "In Lucania (northern Calabria, Basilicata, and southernmost portion of today's Campania) ... From the late ninth century into the eleventh, Greek-speaking populations and Byzantine temporal power advanced, in stages but by no means always in tandem, out of southern Calabria and the lower Salentine peninsula across Lucania and through much of Apulia as well. By the early eleventh century, Greek settlement had radiated northward and had reached the interior of the Cilento, deep in Salernitan territory. Parts of the central and north-western Salento recovered early, came to have a Greek majority through immigration, as did parts of Lucania.