Nearly 2800 years ago, a group of Greek settlers landed on the coast of Italy. That event marked the start the process which created Magna Graecia, named after the motherland. Join us as we walk through the streets of Cumae, Pasteum, Puteoli, and Neapolis, reconstructed using the most advanced computer graphics.
Magna Graecia (Latin meaning "Great Greece", Greek: Μεγάλη Ἑλλάς, Megáli Hellás) is the name of the coastal areas of Southern Italy on the Tarentine Gulf that were extensively colonized by Greek settlers; particularly the Achaean colonies of Tarentum, Croton, and Sybaris, but also, more loosely, the cities of Cumae and Neapolis to the north. The colonists, who began arriving in the 8th century BC, brought with them their Hellenic civilization, which was to leave a lasting imprint in Italy, particularly on the culture of ancient Rome.
In the 8th and 7th centuries BC, for various reasons, including demographic crisis (famine, overcrowding, etc.), the search for new commercial outlets and ports, and expulsion from their homeland, Greeks began to settle in southern Italy (Cerchiai, pp. 14--18). Also during this period, Greek colonies were established in places as widely separated as the eastern coast of the Black Sea, Eastern Libya and Massalia (Marseille). They included settlements in Sicily and the southern part of the Italian Peninsula. The Romans called the area of Sicily and the foot of Italy Magna Graecia (Latin, "Great Greece"), since it was so densely inhabited by the Greeks. The ancient geographers differed on whether the term included Sicily or merely Apulia and Calabria — Strabo being the most prominent advocate of the wider definitions.
With this colonization, Greek culture was exported to Italy, in its dialects of the Ancient Greek language, its religious rites and its traditions of the independent polis. An original Hellenic civilization soon developed, later interacting with the native Italic civilisations. The most important cultural transplant was the Chalcidean/Cumaean variety of the Greek alphabet, which was adopted by the Etruscans; the Old Italic alphabet subsequently evolved into the Latin alphabet, which became the most widely used alphabet in the world.
Many of the new Hellenic cities became very rich and powerful, like Neapolis (Νεάπολις, Naples, "New City"), Syracuse, Acragas, and Sybaris (Σύβαρις). Other cities in Magna Graecia included Tarentum (Τάρας), Epizephyrian Locri (Λοκροί Ἐπιζεφύριοι), Rhegium (Ῥήγιον), Croton (Κρότων), Thurii (Θούριοι), Elea (Ἐλέα), Nola (Νῶλα), Ancona (Ἀγκών), Syessa (Σύεσσα), Bari (Βάριον), and others.
Following the Pyrrhic War in the 3rd century BC, Magna Graecia was absorbed into the Roman Republic.