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Magna Grecia, un invito al viaggio

An invitation to voyage - Rome presence

Article Index
An invitation to voyage
Early colony
Colonial Model
Metapontum foundation
Siris colonisation
Sanctuaries and buildings
Rome presence
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Rome began to make its presence felt at the beginning of the 3rd century B.C. In 280 B.C., in Herakleia’s territory, a battle was waged between the Roman troops and Pyrrhus. The latter triumphed even at the cost of losing many men. In the end the war swung in the Roman’s favour and Pyrrhus and his men were finally defeated. In the second century B.C. following the outcome of the Hannibalic War, the economic and demographic situation was undergoing big transformations. Metapontum ceased to exist as an autonomous community and probably became governed as part of a Roman praefectura. The settlement continued to be frequented exclusively inside the fortified area known as the Castrum, while the rest of the city showed signs of complete abandonment. A significant part of the agricultural territory was confiscated and turned into a publicus romanus or property of the Roman State. Large agricultural complexes appeared in Termitito, Montalbano and in Pizzica-Pantanello. The way of living and working the land changed substantially as previously the land had been populated in a more diffuse way. The old system of land division developed in the colonial period that required the presence of numerous peasants residing on plots of land which they owned and managed in a family style was abandoned. Small and medium sized Greek farms were replaced by rustic villas sometimes of considerable size, with a pars domestica, or owners residence and a pars rustica, destined for different productive activities connected to agriculture and breeding.

Even Metapontum was to lose its name and in its place was given the toponym Turris Ostium (that corresponds to the medieval denomination of Sea Tower) and thus the port feature of the town was identifiable.

Herakleia however passed over to the Roman’s side and in this way had the possibility of stipulating an alliance with Rome that was favourable to it; an alliance that it would maintain in the future preferring it to Roman citizenship; and so even if it lost its role as centre of the Italiota League it continued to expand and manage its own territory and economy. The Social War between 91 and 89 B.C. marked the beginning of a widespread crisis that affected the entire territory for a long period. In the period between the 1st century B.C. and the 1st century A.D. in the Augustan period, the territory around Metapontum appeared to show signs of a partial revival with the construction of villas and large farms along with certain interventions of public buildings inside the Castro area.

Different from other urban contexts like Grumentum and Venosa, Metapontum, and Heraclea never played a significant political or economic role in Imperial Roman times. The crisis that had begun with the Social War was in many aspects slow and irreversible.

Furnaces and workshops were to be found near the farms that took care of the production of crafts and agricultural activity.

The impoverishment of productive resources along with the spread of malaria provoked the reduction in the number and size of the settlements and sometimes , their complete disappearance. The habitation nuclei moved to more elevated positions reinventing their settlement model “on top of the rocks”. The defensive function of this location had already been exploited in this area in the Bronze age and in the early Iron age namely before the first Greek colonization in the 8th century. B.C. The economy remained weak and the only real source of survival was from agricultural and pastoral activity.

With the arrival of the Lombardi and the Byzantines the economic and settlement fractionation didn’t slow down but rather was reinforced by the defensive and administrative requirements of the territory that determined a “closely meshed” topographical organisation with the creation of a fortified town, castra, castles and towers.With the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 46 A.D. the Basilicata region went through serious social and economic crisis. Sacked and looted by the Barbaric hordes it only showed signs of a gradual revival from the 6th century onwards with the diffusion of monasticism in the Greek Byzantine mould.

The geomorphologic and water characteristics of the coastal plain together with the neglect of the territory and construction of large estates caused progressive deterioration of the environment over the centuries. The climate changed as well as the vegetation. The cultivation of cereal was often replaced by pasture and malaria became widespread. This situation rendered the plain uninhabitable until the land was reclaimed by modern man. It became vitally important to drain the terrain and especially to eliminate the causes that had provoked the swamps and the desertion.

In the Metapontum region in 1951 a policy of expropriation and land assignment was established where farms with the first farmhouses became a widespread and significant phenomenon of the new landscape that was being created. .


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