Magna Graecia: Greek Colonies in Italy

Beginning in the Eighth Century B. C., people from some of the Greek city - states established colonies in Italy and Sicily. By the Fifth Century, these had grown to include the entire island of Sicily and narrow strips running from the heel of Italy part way up the Adriatic coast and the toe up through the district of Campania. The two major powers in the region, the Carthagenians and Etruscans, were both undergoing a period of expansion which limited Greek colonization to the regions outlined above. Two major cities of the Campanian Plain were Cumae and Neapolis (modern Naples).

By far, the most powerful of these colonies was Syracuse. The situation of Sicily as a major crossroads or choke point vital to the establishment of any kind of mercantile empire in the Mediterranean caused it to be a prize much coveted by Carthage. In 480 B. C., the matter was decided in a clash of arms between Gelon, king of Syracuse and the Carthagenians at Himera in which Syracuse emerged the victor. For the next seventy years, a powerful Sicily remained safe from the relentless covetousness of Carthagenian aggression. In 474, Gelon's brother Hieron defeated the Etruscans at Cumae.

Unfortunately, the power of Syracuse began to wane less than a century after its high point at the battle of Cumae. Also, the independent city - stages of Magna Graecia began to lose their independence to the surrounding Samnites, Bruttians, Lucanians, and Latins. Like the Greeks of their mother cities, the Greek city - states refused to put aside their jealousy and suspicion to enable them to work together except in a few periods of extreme peril. This made them easy pickings for any other more organized enemy that came along. The Greek city - states in Italy slowly declined in strength and importance. By 339 B. C., Carthage had taken and occupied the western half od the island of Sicily, and only a few Greek colonies remained. On the Italian peninsula, Rhegium, Tarentum, and Thurii were the only important ones left. During the Second Punic War, Syracuse allied herself with the Carthagenians after the death of Hieron II, who had been friendly to Rome. In 211 B. C., The once powerful Syracuse succumbed to a Roman siege and lost her independence despite the ingenious war machines designed by the famous mathematician and scientist Archimedes, who was killed in the fighting. Before the close of the Third Century B. C., all of the former cities of Magna Graecia had become either Roman allies or tribute - paying client cities.

Sinngien and Boak pp. 28 - 29, 111
Grant Magna Graecia, pp. 56 - 57, Pyrrhus, pp. 87 - 90.
Atlas of the Roman World pp. 21. Naples, p. 37. Pyrrhus, p. 39 p. image of Pyrrhys, p. 41. Pyrrhus, adoption of coinage from Greeks, p. 43 also see map of regions, p. 19
Time - Life Imperial Rome Page 37


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