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.