Magna Graecia

Map of the Greek colonies in Southern Italy (Magna Graecia).
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Magna Graecia (ə/, US: ə/; Latin meaning "Great Greece", 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 regions of Campania, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria and Sicily; these regions were extensively populated by Greek settlers, particularly the Achaean settlements of Croton, and Sybaris, and to the north, the settlements of Cumae and Neapolis.[1] The settlers who began arriving in the 8th century BC brought with them their Hellenic civilization, which was to leave a lasting imprint on Italy, such as in the culture of ancient Rome. Most notably the Roman poet Ovid referred to the south of Italy as Magna Graecia in his poem Fasti.


According to Strabo, Magna Graecia's colonization had already begun by the time of the Trojan War and lasted for several centuries.[2]

In the 8th and 7th centuries BC, because of demographic crises (famine, overcrowding, etc.), stasis (political crisis), the search for new commercial outlets and ports, and expulsion from their homeland after wars, Greeks began to settle in southern Italy.[3] Colonies were 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 the area of Sicily and the foot of Italy Magna Graecia (Latin for "Great Greece") since it was so densely inhabited by the Greeks. The ancient geographers differed on whether the term included Sicily or merely Apulia and Calabria, Strabo being the most prominent advocate of the wider definitions.[citation needed]

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, later interacting 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.[citation needed]

These Hellenic colonies became very rich and powerful, and some still stand today, like Neapolis ("New City", now Naples), Syracuse, Akragas (Agrigento), Taras (Taranto), Rhegion (Reggio Calabria), or Kroton (Crotone).[citation needed]

The first Greek city to be absorbed into the Roman Republic was Neapolis in 327 BC.[4] 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 Hieronymous however made an alliance with Hannibal, which prompted the Romans to besiege the city, which fell in 212, despite the machines of Archimedes.[citation needed]

List of Hellenic Poleis in Italy

This is a list of the 22 poleis (city states) in Italy, according to Mogens Herman Hansen.[5] 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)[6] Basilicata abandoned 433–432 BC Taras (and Thourioi) ?
Hipponion[7] Calabria Vibo Valentia late 7th century BC Lokroi Epizephiroi ?
Hyele, or Elea, Velia (Roman name)[8] Campania abandoned c.540–535 BC Phokaia, Massalia Refugees from Alalie
Kaulonia[9] Calabria abandoned 7th century BC Kroton Typhon of Aigion
Kroton[10] Calabria Crotone 709–708 BC Rhypes, Achaia Myscellus
Kyme, Cumae (Roman name)[11] Campania abandoned c.750–725 BC Chalkis and Eretria Hippokles of Euboian Kyme and Megasthenes of Chalkis
Laos[12] Calabria abandoned before 510 BC Sybaris Refugees from Sybaris
Lokroi (Epizephiroi)[13] Calabria Locri early 7th century BC Lokris ?
Medma[14] Calabria abandoned 7th century BC Lokroi Epizephiroi ?
Metapontion[15] Basilicata abandoned c. 630 BC Achaia Leukippos of Achaia
Metauros[16] Calabria Gioia Tauro 7th century BC Zankle (or possibly Lokroi Epizephiroi) ?
Neapolis[17] Campania Naples c. 470 BC Kyme ?
Pithekoussai[18] Campania Ischia 8th century BC Chalkis and Eretria ?
Poseidonia, Paestum (Roman name)[19] Campania abandoned c. 600 BC Sybaris (and perhaps Troizen) ?
Pyxous[20] Campania Policastro Bussentino 471–470 BC Rhegion and Messena Mikythos, tyrant of Rhegion and Messena
Rhegion[21] Calabria Reggio Calabria 8th century BC Chalkis (with Zankle and Messenian refugees) Antimnestos of Zankle (or perhaps Artimedes of Chalkis)
Siris[22] Basilicata abandoned c. 660 BC (or c. 700 BC) Kolophon Refugees from Kolophon
Sybaris[23] Calabria Sibari 721–720 (or 709–708) BC Achaia and Troizen Is of Helike
Taras[24] Apulia Taranto c. 706 BC Sparta Phalanthos and the Partheniai
Temesa[25] unknown, but in Calabria abandoned no Greek founder (Ausones who became Hellenised)
Terina[26] Calabria abandoned before 460 BC, perhaps c. 510 BC Kroton ?
Thourioi[27] Calabria abandoned 446 and 444–443 BC Athens and many other cities Lampon and Xenokrates of Athens
Other Languages
Afrikaans: Magna Graecia
العربية: ماجنا غراسيا
asturianu: Magna Grecia
български: Магна Греция
brezhoneg: Magna Graecia
català: Magna Grècia
Чӑвашла: Аслă Греци
čeština: Velké Řecko
Deutsch: Magna Graecia
Ελληνικά: Μεγάλη Ελλάδα
español: Magna Grecia
Esperanto: Granda Grekio
euskara: Magna Graecia
français: Grande-Grèce
galego: Magna Grecia
hrvatski: Magna Graecia
Bahasa Indonesia: Yunani Besar
íslenska: Magna Graecia
italiano: Magna Grecia
latviešu: Lielā Grieķija
македонски: Голема Грција
Nederlands: Magna Graecia
Napulitano: Magna Grecia
português: Magna Grécia
română: Magna Graecia
sicilianu: Magna Grecia
Simple English: Magna Graecia
slovenščina: Magna Graecia
српски / srpski: Велика Грчка
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Magna Graecia
svenska: Magna Graecia
tarandíne: Magna Grecie
Türkçe: Magna Graecia
українська: Велика Греція
Tiếng Việt: Magna Graecia
中文: 大希腊