Greek and Etruscan Colonization in Italy

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Greek and Etruscan Colonization in Italy      (Back to the main menu of History of Italy)

During the 8C BC the Greeks arrived in Italy. They came from Euboea, Argolis, Locris, Crete and the Aegean islands, settling on the southern coasts (from Campania to Apulia) and eastern and southern Sicily. They founded many prosperous colonies whose economy was generally based on agriculture and commerce. Often they allied together against common enemies but they were also divided by disagreement and rivalry. The term `Magna Grecia' describes a population and civilization rather than a political reality. Among the first to settle on the Italian coasts were the Achaeans (of Dorian origins) who founded towns like Taranto, Metaponto, Posidonia (Paestum), and Sibari. They were followed by Locrians and then Chalcidians from Euboea who founded Naxos (Taormina), Zancle (Messina) and, after the occupation of Pitecusa (Ischia), Cuma in Campania. The Corinthians founded Siracusa, still in the 8C BC, and the Megarians Megara Hyblaea on the Gulf of Augusta. Finally, the Phocaeans founded Elea (Velia) in Campania.

While in Northern Italy, during the first half of the first millennium BC, there began the increasing penetration of the Gauls (of Celtic origins) from beyond the Alps, who would gradually occupy the entire Po Valley, on the Tyrrhenian slopes of Central Italy the Etruscans began to take form (circa 8C BC). The latter had an advanced civilization whose origins are still not clear. Whether they migrated from the East (as many aspects of their civilization suggest) by land or sea, or developed on the peninsula itself as direct heirs of the Villanovans, it is clear that the Etruscans formed the most important Italic cultural and political ethnic group before the advent of Roman power.

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