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Magna Grecia, un invito al viaggio

An invitation to voyage - Siris colonisation

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An invitation to voyage
Early colony
Colonial Model
Metapontum foundation
Siris colonisation
Sanctuaries and buildings
Rome presence
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It’s a different story concerning the colonisation of Siris about 650 B.C. It was situated near the mouth of the river Sinni and was taken by Ionic settlers. According to literary tradition this place, that had previously been inhabited by Ionic people, experienced a huge influx of citizens fleeing from Ioni di Colofone. This episode was to characterise the colonial experience in Siris. And in all probability a consistent number of the new settlers arrived with their own social structures along with a defined political organisation. This episode in literary tradition is characterized by its cruelty: the murder of the previous inhabitants by the new settlers. Moreover archaeological findings testify to the extinction in this same period of the indigenous settlement in Anglona; a settlement that at this time represented a strategic point for the control of the valleys along the Sinni and Agri rivers.

The appropriation by a group of Ionic settlers determined a break in an area that had been under Achaean control and there was the Metapontum colony on the one hand and the Sybaris colony on the other. This situation was resolved by force by the Achaean settlers who destroyed Siris and occupied its territory around 570-560 B.C.

In the wake of this destruction the Sybarites in turn contested the territory that lies between the Agri and Sinni rivers with the other Italiot Greek cities in 510 B.C. Finally in 433 B.C. a new colony Herakleia was founded to the right of the river Agri near the coast.

At first the colony was common to the Tarantines and the Thurians, the two major contenders, and was established where Siris had been located. But then Taranto resolved to transfer the settlers to Herakleia and the previous site on the river Sinni was used as a port for the new colony. Results emerging from archaeological excavations have led experts to believe that this territory was occupied with a certain continuity in the period from the Achaean conquest of Siris to the foundation of the new colony.

Herakleia’s real organic urban growth only began from 370B.C. onwards when it became the seat of the Italiota League. From this moment on the colony became ever more active on a cultural and economic level and this is shown in the developments in urban and religious buildings from that period.

It’s possible to identify three sectors that present urban and functional solutions that seem to exploit the morphological characteristics of each site: La collina del Castello, or hill of the Castle, has been identified as an acropolis even if it doesn’t present the typical features of a political and religious centre being characterised by housing nuclei of the isolated furnace- house type. ( this is an element that reveals the contrast between Herakleia and Metapontum where these activities were concentrated in specific districts and not inside the habitations themselves) and a small number of public buildings.

The vallata mediana or median valley on the other hand is rich in water and vegetation therefore unsuitable for housing settlements. It was the area dedicated to public functions and worship and excavations have brought buildings for this purpose to light identifying different places of worship. The third is made up of the terrazza meridionale or the southern terrace; this is the only part of ancient Herakleia occupied by the modern city. It’s a zone that however has the least archaeological documentation. There are however some clues that indicate it may have been where the potter’s quarter was once located.

The two rivers Sinni and Cavone were obvious natural limits to the extension of Herakleia’s chora. An important epigraphic document that provides a vast amount of information about the management and organisation of the cultivation space is to be found in the two tablets known as the Tavole di Eraclea;

The so called Tavole di Heracleia or Heraclea Tablets had a long raised bronze inscription by the citizens reunited in an assembly and is an epigraphic document of extraordinary importance as it’s a minefield of information about aspects of ancient agrarian landscapes.,

The rectangular lots of earth (kleros) were attributed to the settler-citizen so he could become an autonomous head of the family. The addition of new settlers to the polis is reflected in the agrarian landscape that underwent modifications to accommodate new terrains for cultivation (eschatiai), using land that had previously been used for gathering wood or for pasture.


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