Magna Graecia

Magna Graecia (Greek: Megalh Ellada) is a historical-geographical term, referring to the Greek colonies in the south of Italy and Sicily of the archaic and classical period. The first Great Greek colonies were founded around 750 BC in Calabria, Sicily and Apulia. They were constituted on the typical Greek form of the city-state, the so-called “poli” or in the plural form “poleis” (Greek: poli, poleis), having a close relationship to their hometowns and Greece, as they had also the right to participate in the Pan-Hellenic games. Doric towns were Τάρας (Taranto), Καλλίπολη (Gallipoli), Λόκροι (Locri), Συρακούσες (Siracusa) and Γέλα (Gela). Of Ionic origins were Ρήγιον (Reggio), Νάξος (Naxos), Ελέα and Κύμη (Cumae), as Μεταπόντιο (Metaponto), Σύβαρις (Sibari), Κρότων (Crotone) and Ποσειδωνία (Paestum) were of Acaic origin.
Peace and freedom was not frequent among them, like the destruction of Sybaris through the Krotonians under Pythagoras shows, or the several wars among Taras and the Messapians.

Neighbours and contemporaries of the Greeks were the several different Oscan-Italic people who lived in the rural and hilly part of the Apennine like the Bruttians from Calabria, the Lucanians, the Apulians and the Samnitians from the Lucanic-Campanic Apennine and the Campanians, people descending from the Samnitians and populating the Campanian plain. In middle and south Apulia lived the Peucetians, the Japypigians and the Messapians, who were not Italics but Illyrics, coming from the other side of the Adriatic Sea. The cultural contribution of Great Greece was of great importance, as was the Latin script adopted from the Romans, going back to the West-Greek of Cumae. The end of the Greek period did not occur because of the frequent wars between the Greeks, the Italics and the Messapians, but because of the expansionistic policy of Rome. In 272 BC, Taras and the majority of its inhabitants were destroyed because they had dared to rebel and to support Pyrrhos in the fight against Rome. Great Greece survived as an idealistic-cultural subject, remaining as a part of the culture, habits and language among the people of southern Italy until today.

31.03.2005 / Translated from italian by Giorgia Guarini

Paestum, Samnitian Warriors, 4th century BC (Napoli, Museo Archeologico Nazionale)
Temple of Poseidon in Poseidonia (Paestum), 5th century BC