This catastrophe, however, belongs in point of time to the succeeding period.

Iono-Dorian Towns

The settlements of the other Greeks were of a different character, and exercised a very different effect upon Italy. They by no means despised agriculture and the acquisition of territory; it was not the wont of the Hellenes, at least when they had reached their full vigour, to rest content after the manner of the Phoenicians with a fortified factory in the midst of a barbarian land. But all their cities were founded primarily and especially for the sake of trade, and accordingly, altogether differing from those of the Achaeans, they were uniformly established beside the best harbours and lading-places. These cities were very various in their origin and in the occasion and period of their respective foundations; but there subsisted between them a certain fellowship, as in the common use by all of these towns of certain modern forms of the alphabet,(2) and in the very Dorism of their language, which made its way at an early date even into those towns that, like Cumae for example,(3) originally spoke the soft Ionic dialect. These settlements were of very various degrees of importance in their bearing on the development of Italy: it is sufficient at present to mention those which exercised a decided influence over the destinies of the Italian races, the Doric Tarentum and the Ionic Cumae.


Of all the Hellenic settlements in Italy, Tarentum was destined to play the most brilliant part. The excellent harbour, the only good one on the whole southern coast, rendered the city the natural emporium for the traffic of the south of Italy, and for some portion even of the commerce of the Adriatic. The rich fisheries of its gulf, the production and manufacture of its excellent wool, and the dyeing of it with the purple juice of the Tarentine -murex-, which rivalled that of Tyre--both branches of industry introduced there from Miletus in Asia Minor--employed thousands of hands, and added to the carrying trade a traffic of export. The coins struck at Tarentum in greater quantity than anywhere else in Grecian Italy, and struck pretty numerously even in gold, furnish to us a significant attestation of the lively and widely extended commerce of the Tarentines. At this epoch, when Tarentum was still contending with Sybaris for the first place among the Greek cities of Lower Italy, its extensive commercial connections must have been already forming; but the Tarentines seem never to have steadily and successfully directed their efforts to a substantial extension of their territory after the manner of the Achaean cities.

Greek Cities Near Vesuvius

While the most easterly of the Greek settlements in Italy thus rapidly rose into splendour, those which lay furthest to the north, in the neighbourhood of Vesuvius, attained a more moderate prosperity. There the Cumaeans had crossed from the fertile island of Aenaria (Ischia) to the mainland, and had built a second home on a hill close by the sea, from whence they founded the seaport of Dicaearchia (afterwards Puteoli) and, moreover, the "new city" Neapolis. They lived, like the Chalcidian cities generally in Italy and Sicily, in conformity with the laws which Charondas of Catana (about 100) had established, under a constitution democratic but modified by a high census, which placed the power in the hands of a council of members selected from the wealthiest men--a constitution which proved lasting and kept these cities free, upon the whole, from the tyranny alike of usurpers and of the mob. We know little as to the external relations of these Campanian Greeks. They remained, whether from necessity or from choice, confined to a district of even narrower limits than the Tarentines; and issuing from it not for purposes of conquest and oppression, but for the holding of peaceful commercial intercourse with the natives, they created the means of a prosperous existence for themselves, and at the same time took the foremost place among the missionaries of Greek civilization in Italy.

Relations Of The Adriatic Regions To The Greeks

While on the one side of the straits of Rhegium the whole southern coast of the mainland and its western coast as far as Vesuvius, and on the other the larger eastern half of the island of Sicily, were Greek territory, the west coast of Italy northward of Vesuvius and the whole of the east coast were in a position essentially different. No Greek settlements arose on the Italian seaboard of the Adriatic; and with this we may evidently connect the comparatively small number and subordinate importance of the Greek colonies planted on the opposite Illyrian shore and on the numerous adjacent islands. Two considerable mercantile towns, Epidamnus or Dyrrachium (now Durazzo, 127), and Apollonia (near Avlona, about 167), were founded upon the portion of this coast nearest to Greece during the regal period of Rome; but no old Greek colony can be pointed out further to the north, with the exception perhaps of the insignificant settlement at Black Corcyra (Curzola, about 174?). No adequate explanation has yet been given why the Greek colonization developed itself in this direction to so meagre an extent. Nature herself appeared to direct the Hellenes thither, and in fact from the earliest times there existed a regular traffic to that region from Corinth and still more from the settlement at Corcyra (Corfu) founded not long after Rome (about 44); a traffic, which had as its emporia on the Italian coast the towns of Spina and Atria, situated at the mouth of the Po. The storms of the Adriatic, the inhospitable character at least of the Illyrian coasts, and the barbarism of the natives are manifestly not in themselves sufficient to explain this fact. But it was a circumstance fraught with the most momentous consequences for Italy, that the elements of civilization which came from the east did not exert their influence on its eastern provinces directly, but reached them only through the medium of those that lay to the west.

The Period Anterior to the Abolition of the Monarchy Page 59

Italian Authors

Italian Books

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book