Greek: Μεγαλη ‘Ελλας
What: The area in Southern Italy that was colonized by Greeks in ancient Greece.
Translates to: “Greater Greece” (Greeks in Italy)
Colonized: 8th and 7th Centuries BC
Major Cities: Syracuse, Naples, Sybaris, Croton and Bari
Magna Graecia or “Greater Greece” is the name given to the coastal areas of Southern Italy on the Tarentine Gulf that was colonized by ancient Greek settlers in the 8th and 7th centuries BC. The Romans called this area Magna Graecia because it was so densely inhabited by the Greeks. These areas included Sicily, Apulia and Calabria (see map to the right). Some of the major cities in Italy that we’re founded by Greeks include Naples (Neapolis), Syracuse, Acragas, Sybaris, Tarentum (Taras), Croton and Bari (Barion).
The Greeks brought with them their Hellenic civilization and would leave a lasting imprint in Italy influencing the culture of ancient Rome.The ancient Greeks migrated to the south of Italy because of a demographic crisis(famine, overcrowding, etc.), the search for new commercial outlets and ports, and expulsion from their homeland. Because the Greeks were great at sea they travelled to coastal lands and settled there. Greek colonies were established in places as far as Massalia (France), Spain and the Black Sea. With the colonization of southern Italy the Greeks brought with them their culture, their dialects of the Ancient Greek language, their religious rites and the traditions of the independent polis. Eventually, an original Hellenic civilization unlike that of mainland Greece was developed that would intertwine with that of the native Italic and Latin civilizations.
Many notable ancient Greeks have at some point travelled or lived in Magna Graecia as it still held very close ties to mainland Greece and was allied with some cities such as Athens and Corinth. Even one of the greatest scientists of antiquity, Archimedes, grew up in Syracuse, Sicily in the 3rd century BC. Eventually, in the 3rd century BC Magna Graecia was taken over by the Roman Republic. However, traces of the ancient Greek civilizations can still be heard and seen to this day. There are currently 30,000 speakers of the Griko language, a dialect of the ancient Greek language, living in the areas of Calabria and Apulia. Greek temples such as the Paestum Greek Temples in Paestum, Campania and the Agrigento Temples in Agrigento, Sicily are still standing.
The Greek Sicily by History Channel: