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Calabria, Ancient

CALABRIA, ANCIENT. Calabria is a territorial district of both modern and ancient Italy.

The ancient district consisted of the peninsula at its southeast extremity, between the Adriatic Sea and the Gulf of Tarentum, ending in the lapygian promontory (Lat. Promunturium Sallentinum; the village upon it was called Leuca - Gr. "Leuka", white, from its colour - and is still named S. Maria di Leuca) and corresponding in the main with the modern province of Lecce, Brundisium and Tarentum being its most north-westerly cities, though the boundary of the latter extends somewhat farther west. It is a low terrace of limestone, the highest parts of which seldom reach 1500 ft.; the cliffs, though not high, are steep, and it has no rivers of any importance, but despite lack of water it was (and is) remarkably fertile. Strabo mentions its pastures and trees, and its olives, vines and fruit trees (which are still the principal source of prosperity) are frequently spoken of by the ancients. The wool of Tarentum and Brundisium was also famous, and at the former place were considerable dye-works. These two towns acquired importance in very early times owing to the excellence of their harbours. Traces of a prehistoric population of the stone and early bronze age are to be found all over Calabria. Especially noticeable are the menhirs (pietre fitte) and the round tower-like specchie or truddhi, which are found near Lecce, Gallipolli and Muro Leccese (and only here in Italy); they correspond to similar monuments, the perdas fittas and the nuraghi, of Sardinia, and the inter-relation between the two populations which produced them requires careful study. In 272-266 B.C. we find six triumphs recorded in the Roman fasti over the Tarentini, Sallentini and Messapii, while the name Calabria does not occur; but after the foundation of a colony at Brundisium in 246-245 B.C. , and the final subjection of Tarentum in 209 B.C., Calabria became the general name for the peninsula. The population declined to some extent; Strabo (vi. 281) tells us that in earlier days Calabria had been extremely populous and had had thirteen cities, but that in his time all except Tarentum and Brundisium, which retained their commercial importance, had dwindled down to villages. The Via Appia, prolonged to Brundisium perhaps as early as 190 B.C., passed through Tarentum; the shorter route by Canusium, Barium and Gnathia was only made into a main artery of communication by Trajan (see Appia, Via). The only other roads were the two coast roads, the one from Brundisium by Lupiae, the other from Tarentum by Manduria, Neretum, Aletium (with a branch to Callipolis) and Veretum (hence a branch to Leuca), which met at Hydruntum. Augustus joined Calabria to Apulia and the territory of the Hirpini to form the second region of Italy. From the end of the second century we find Calabria for juridical purposes associated either with Apulia or with Lucania and the district of the Bruttii, while Diocletian placed it under one corrector with Apulia. The loss of the name Calabria came with the Lombard conquest of this district, when it was transferred to the land of the Bruttii, which the Byzantine empire still held.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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