|May 19, 2013
|Information about the place
| The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites
Sybaris. An archaic Greek colony founded by Achaians and Troezenians about
720 B.C. on a fertile plain drained by the Crati and Sybaris rivers in a region
lying between Metaponto and Kroton. Sybaris and the two successive cities of Thurii
and Copia built on the same site are mentioned by at least 70 Greek and Roman
writers, notably Herodotos (5.45), Aristotle (Pol. 5.2.10), Diodorus Siculus (11.90.3-4;
12), Strabo (6.1.13), and Athenaeus (Deip. 12.519). There is general agreement
that the original city was destroyed by the Greeks of Kroton about 510 B.C.
Ancient authorities agree in placing the archaic colony somewhere
on the plain of the Crati (125 sq. km). Systematic search for the site, begun
in 1879, was finally rewarded in 1968. The precise location was defined and it
was concluded that archaic Greek Sybaris was succeeded by Thurii and Copia on
the same site (see Thurii).
Archaic Greek pottery was found in several hundred drill borings at
a depth of 4.5-6 m; later Greek and Roman pottery in upper levels was still below
3 m in depth. The archaic deposits are now some 3 m below sea level and 4-5 m
below the water table. Soundings exposed stone foundations of 6th c. B.C. structures,
masses of roof tiles, and archaic pottery in a single level of occupation in the
N sector of the site, i.e., not covered over by later Greek and Roman structures.
But in the S sector only later Greek and Roman structures were found overlying
a level of archaic Greek pottery at ca. 6 m in depth. A stone retaining wall was
traced by the magnetometers, drills, and soundings for 800 m roughly parallel
and to the N of the Crati river. The lower part of the wall was built in the Hellenistic
period (Thurii) and the upper part during the period of Roman settlement.
Since 1968 there have been three seasons of excavation at the site.
Utilizing a well point system, large sectors have been pumped constantly so that
the water table has been reduced to a depth below the archaic level allowing dry
excavation to at least 6 m. Four separate excavations have been made, the largest
extending over 2 ha in the Parco del Cavallo area where a Roman structure protruding
above ground was found in 1928, and where there were excavations in 1961-62. The
principle structure now unearthed there is a theater of the 1st and 2d c. A.D.,
surrounded by a residential area of the period of Roman Copia. There is also a
major road of the same period passing the theater in an E-W direction. Below the
Roman theater, soundings have exposed Greek structures and pottery extending over
the period from the 8th to the 5th c. B.C., indicating no significant period when
the site was not occupied after the original settlement by the archaic Greeks.
This excavation indicates that the site was abandoned in the 4th c. A.D.
The second major excavation was made in the N sector (Stombi--now
called the Parco dei Tori) where the earlier research disclosed only an archaic
level. Here the foundations of the three buildings have been uncovered; also a
pottery kiln. Although unidentified, the structures appear to be part of an organized
town settlement of the 6th c. B.C.
A third excavation in the locality of Casa Bianca, at the E end of
the long retaining wall, exposed more of the Roman habitation area and part of
a road which probably connects with another passing the Parco del Cavallo section
in an E-W direction. The fourth excavation in the San Mauro area to the S and
outside the limits of the Sybaris zone, exposed a small Roman structure in the
The almost total destruction of the archaic city, indicated by the
six soundings excavated in the years 1962-67, is borne out by the large excavations
in the Stombi area. The recent excavations also clarify the problem of the physical
deposition of the ruins. It is now clear that the plain of the Crati settled below
the present sea level after the period of Roman occupation rather than before,
as assumed in the 1968 report. The problem of preserving the site is still to
be solved. At present, constant and expensive pumping is required to expose Roman
buildings which lie below the water table.
|F. Rainey, ed.|
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites,
Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from
Perseus Project URL below, which contains 5 image(s), bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.
| Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities
A celebrated Greek town in Lucania, situated between the rivers Sybaris and Crathis,
at a short distance from the Tarentine Gulf, and near the confines of Bruttium.
It was founded B.C. 720 by Achaeans and Troezenians, and soon attained an extraordinary
degree of prosperity and wealth. Its inhabitants became so notorious for their
love of luxury and pleasure that their name was employed to indicate any voluptuary.
At the time of their highest prosperity their city was fifty stadia, or upwards
of six miles, in circumference, and they exercised dominion over twenty-five towns,
so that we are told they were able to bring into the field 300,000 men, a number,
however, which appears incredible. But their prosperity was of short duration.
The Achaeans having expelled the Troezenian part of the population, the latter
took refuge at the neighbouring city of Croton, the inhabitants of which espoused
their cause. In the war which ensued between the two States, the Sybarites were
completely conquered by the Crotoniates, who followed up their victory by the
capture of Sybaris, which they destroyed by turning the waters of the river Crathis
against the town (B.C. 510). The greater number of the surviving Sybarites took
refuge in other Greek cities in Italy; but a few remained near their ancient town,
and their descendants formed part of the town of Thurii founded in B.C. 443 near
|This text is cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks|
| Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)
(Sutharis: Eth. Sutharites, Sybarita). A celebrated city of Magna
Graecia, situated on the W. shore of the Tarentine gulf, but a short distance
from the sea, between the rivers Crathis and Sybaris. (Strab. vi. p. 263; Diod.
xii. 9.) The last of these, from which it derived its name, was the stream now
called the Coscile, which at the present day falls into tlie Crati about 3 miles
from its mouth, but in ancient times undoubtedly pursued an independent course
to the sea. Sybaris was apparently the earliest of all the Greek colonies in this
part of Italy, being founded, according to the statement of Scymnus Chius, as
early as B.C. 720. (Scymn. Ch. 360; Clinton, F. H. vol. i. p. 174.) It was an
Achaean. colony, and its Oekist was a citizen of Helice in Achaia: but with the
Achaean emigrants were mingled a number of Troezenian citizens. The Achaeans,
however, eventually obtained the preponderance, and drove out the Troezenians.
(Strab. l. c.; Arist. Pol. v. 3.) The Sybarites indeed appear to have sought for
an origin in heroic times; and Solinus has a story that the first founder of the
city was a son of Ajax Oileus (Solin. 2. § 10); but this is evidently mere fiction,
and the city was, historically speaking, undoubtedly an Achaean colony. It rose
rapidly to great prosperity, owing in the first instance to the fertility of the
plain in which it was situated. Its citizens also, contrary to the policy of many
of the Greek states, freely admitted settlers of other nations to the rights of
citizenship, and the vast population of the city is expressly ascribed in great
measure to this cause. (Diod. xii. 9.) The statements transmitted to us of the
power and opulence of the city, as well as of the luxurious habits of its inhabitants,
have indeed a very fabulous aspect, and are without doubt grossly exaggerated,
but there is no reason to reject the main fact that Sybaris had in the sixth century
B.C. attained a degree of wealth and power unprecedented among Greek cities, and
which excited the admiration of the rest of the Hellenic world. We are told that
the Sybarites ruled over 25 subject cities, and could bring into the field 300,000
of their own citizens (Strab. l. c.), a statement obviously incredible. The subject
cities were probably for the most part Oenotrian towns in the interior, but we
know that Sybaris had extended its dominion across the peninsula to the Tyrrhenian
sea, where it had founded the colonies of Posidonia, Laus, and Scidrus. The city
itself was said to be not less than 50 stadia in circumference, and the horsemen
or knights who figured at the religious processions are said to have amounted
to 5000 in number (Athen. xii. p. 519), which would prove that these wealthy citizens
were more than four times as numerous as at Athens. Smindyrides, a citizen of
Sybaris, who was one of the suitors for the daughters of Cleisthenes of Sicyon,
is said by Herodotus to have surpassed all other men in refined luxury. (Herod.
vi. 127.) It was asserted that on this occasion he carried with him a train of
1000 slaves, including cooks, fishermen, &c. (Atlien. vi. p. 273; Diod. viii.
Fr. 19.) It is unnecessary to repeat here the tales that are told by various writers,
especially by Athenaeus, concerning the absurd refinements of luxury ascribed
to the Sybarites, and which have rendered their very name proverbial. (Athenae.
xii. pp. 518-521; Diod. viii. Fr. 18-20; Suid. s. v. Sutharitikais.) They were
particularly noted for the splendour of their attire, which was formed of the
finest Milesian wool, and this gave rise to extensive commercial relations with
Miletus, which produced a close friendship between the two cities. (Timaeus, ap.
Athen. xii. p. 519; Herod. vi. 21.) As an instance of their magnificence we are
told that Alcimenes of Sybaris had dedicated as a votive offering in the temple
of the Lacinian Juno a splendid figured robe, which long afterwards fell into
the power of Dionysius of Syracuse, and was sold by him for 120 talents, or more
than 24,0001. sterling. (Pseud. Arist. Mirab. 96; Athen. xii. p. 541.)
Notwithstanding these details concerning the wealth and luxury of
Sybaris. we are almost wholly without information as to the history of the city
until shortly before its fall. Herodotus incidentally refers to the time of Smindyrides
(about 580-560, B.C.) as the period when Sybaris was at the height of its power.
At a later period it seems to have been agitated by political dissensions, with
the circumstances of which we are very imperfectly acquainted. It appears that
the government had previously been in the hands of an oligarchy, to which such
persons as Smindyrides and Alcimenes naturally belonged; but the democratic party,
headed by a demagogue named Telys, succeeded in overthrowing their power, and
drove a considerable number of the leading citizens into exile. Telys hereupon
seems to have raised himself to the position of despot or tyrant of the city.
The exiled citizens took refuge at Crotona; but not content with their victory,
Telys and his partisans called upon the Crotoniats to surrender the fugitives.
This they refused to do, and the Sybarites hereupon declared war on them, and
marched upon Crotona with an army said to have amounted to 300,000 men. They were
met at the river Traeis by the Crotoniats, whose army did not amount to more than
a third of their numbers; notwithstanding which they obtained a complete victory,
and put the greater part of the Sybarites to the sword, continuing the pursuit
to the very gates of the city, of which they easily made themselves masters, and
which they determined to destroy so entirely that it should never again be inhabited.
For this purpose they turned the course of the river Crathis, so that it inundated
the site of the city and buried the ruins under the deposits that it brought down.
(Diod. xii. 9, 10; Strab. vi. p. 263; Herod. v. 44; Athenae. xii. p. 521; Scymn.
Ch. 337-360.) This catastrophe occurred in B.C. 510, and seems to have been viewed
by many of the Greeks as a divine vengeance upon the Sybarites for their pride
and arrogance, caused by their excessive prosperity, more especially for the contempt
they had shown for the great festival of the Olympic Games, which they are said
to have attempted to supplant by attracting the principal artists, athletes, &c.,
to their own public games. (Seymn. Ch. 350-360; Athen. l. c.)
It is certain that Sybaris was never restored. The surviving inhabitants
took refuge at Laus and Scidrus, on the shores of the Tyrrhenian sea. An attempt
was indeed made, 58 years after the destruction of the city, to establish them
anew on the ancient site, but they were quickly driven out by the Crotoniats,
and the fugitives afterwards combined with the Athenian colonists in the foundation
of Thurii. At the present day the site is utterly desolate, and even the exact
position of the ancient city cannot be determined. The whole plain watered by
the rivers Coscile and Crati (the ancient Sybaris and Crathis), so renowned in
ancient limes for its fertility, is now a desolate swampy tract, pestilential
from malaria, and frequented only by vast herds of buffaloes, the usual accompaniment
in Southern Italy of all such pestiferous regions. The circumstance mentioned
by Strabo that the river Crathis had been turned from its course to inundate the
city, is confirmed by the accidental mention in Herodotus of the dry channel of
the Crathis (para ton xeron Krathin, Herod. v. 44): and this would sufficiently
account for the disappearance of all traces of the city. Swinburne indeed tells
us that some degraded fragments of aqueducts and tombs were still visible on the
peninsula formed by the two rivers, and were pointed out as the ruins of Sybaris,
but these, as he justly observes, being built of brick, are probably of Roman
times, and have no connection with the ancient city. Keppel Craven, on the other
hand, speaks of a wall sometimes visible in the bed of the Crathis when the waters
are very low as being the only remaining relic of the ancient Sybaris. (Swinburne's
Travels, vol. i. pp. 290--292; Craven's Southern Tour, pp. 217, 218.) The ruins
marked on Zannoni's large map as l'Antica Sibari are probably those of Thurii.
But it is certain that the locality has never yet been thoroughly examined, and
it is probable that some light may even yet be thrown upon the site of this celebrated
city: especially if the marshy plain in which it is situated should ever be reclaimed
and cultivated. There is no doubt that if this were done, it would again be a
tract of surpassing fertility: it is cited as such by Varro, who tells us that
in Sybaritano wheat was said to produce a hundred-fold. (Varr. R. R. i. 44.) Even
at the present day the drier spots produce very rich crops of corn. (Swinburne,
The river Sybaris was said to be so named by the Greek colonists from
a fountain of that name at Bura in Achaia (Strab. viii. p. 386): it had the property,
according to some authors, of making horses shy that drank of its waters. (Pseud.
Arist. Mirab. 169; Strabl. vi. p. 263.) It is a considerable stream, and has its
sources in the Apennines near Murano, flows beneath Castrovillari, and receives
several minor tributary streams before it joins the Crathis.
|This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited June 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks|
Sybaris, Sybarites, Sybarite, Sybaritan
Sybaris. City of southern Italy.
The city was founded in 720 by settlers from Peloponnese
and was very prosperous for a while. It retained a reputation of luxury and lush
life (hence the word “sybarite” for one living a life of pleasure
and luxury. The city was destroyed in 511 by neighboring Crotona.
After two unsuccessful attempts at reviving the city, the Panhellenic
city of Thurii was created
near the site of Sybaris in 444 at the instigation of Pericles.
|Bernard Suzanne (page last updated 1998), ed.|
This text is cited July 2003 from the Plato and his dialogues URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks.