Geometric Greece: 900-700 BC

By J. N. Coldstream | Go to book overview

8

Italy and Sicily: Trade and Colonies

One of the most striking achievements of the eighth-century Greeks was the spread of their civilization to Italy and Sicily. Much of this chapter will be devoted to their first western colonies; yet some thought must also be given to their commercial exchanges with the native peoples, which began well before the arrival of the first colonists. These topics will be presented in a historical narrative covering the whole century, in which the experiences of three successive generations can be sharply distinguished.

During the first generation (c. 800-770 B.C.), and before the founding of the first colonies, Euboean merchants had already penetrated the Tyrrhenian sea, and were trading with the inhabitants of Etruria and Campania; a particular attraction of these regions was the abundance of metal ores, especially iron. These early Euboean prospectors were presumably operating from their homeland, but their successors of the second generation (c. 770-735 B.C.) established two permanent outposts in Campania, the first on the island of Pithecusae (Ischia), the second at Cumae on the mainland coast. Trade, rather than agriculture, must have been these settlers' main concern; this is the impression given by the siting of the two colonies as near as possible to the sources of metal, the lack of fertile land near by (especially on Pithecusae), and the wide variety of imports at both places, some objects coming from as far afield as the eastern Mediterranean. For this phase the term 'proto-colonial' has been coined: a phase which precedes the great wave of Greek colonial immigrants during the third generation.

Earlier Greek visitors, intent on trade, had paid little heed to the fertile coastal plains of eastern Sicily and the extreme south of Italy; but it was in these regions that every colony of the third generation was sited-ten in all, beginning with Sicilian Naxos (734 B.C.) and ending with Taras (706 B.C.). The foundation of these new states, almost all enjoying easy access to good agricultural land, helped to alleviate a pressing need of their mother-cities, at a time when their population was rapidly growing. In Athens, for example, the evidence from wells 1 suggests that the number of inhabitants increased threefold in the course of the Geometric period, and more than doubled within the eighth century. Now the Athenians, like the Argives, Boeotians, and Thessalians, possessed enough arable land to absorb this increase, and many new rural communities are known to have sprung up in the Attic countryside during this third generation (p. 133). Far less fortunate were the men of Chalcis, Corinth, Megara, and the Achaean cities, where the small amount of available land was hardly enough to feed a population rising at an analogous rate. Where land was scarce, the distress may have been accentuated by the engrossing of estates in the hands of powerful aristocratic

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Geometric Greece: 900-700 BC
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 1
  • Preface to the Second Edition 3
  • Preface to the First Edition 4
  • Contents 5
  • Contents 8
  • Acknowledgements 9
  • Abbreviations 12
  • Introduction 17
  • I - The Passing of the Dark Ages C. 900-770 B.C. 23
  • 1 - Isolation: the Early Ninth Century 25
  • 2 - The Awakening in the Mid-Ninth Century 55
  • 3 - Consolidation: Late Ninth to Early Eighth Century 73
  • II - The Greek Renaissance C. 770-700 B.C. Regional Survey 107
  • 4 - Athens and Attica 109
  • 5 - The Argolid, Arcadia, Laconia, and Messenia 140
  • 6 - Corinth and West Greece 167
  • 7 - Euboea, Boeotia, Thessaly, and the Cyclades 191
  • 8 - Italy and Sicily: Trade and Colonies 221
  • 9 - Eastern Greece and Anatolia 246
  • 10 - Crete 271
  • III - Life in Eighth-Century Greece 293
  • 11 - The Recovery of Literacy 295
  • 12 - Towns and Villages 303
  • 13 - Sanctuaries, Gods, and Votives 317
  • 14 - Recollection of a Heroic Past 341
  • 15 - Oriental Influences 358
  • 16 - Epilogue 367
  • Supplement 371
  • Epilogue 414
  • Glossary 416
  • Bibliography and Site Index 418
  • Index 443
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