MAG'NA GRIETIA (Lat., great Greece, Gk. pryOn he mcgalt7. Hellas). The name given in ancient times to that part of Southern Italy which was thickly planted with Greek colonies. The origin of the name is un certain, though it has been plausibly conjec tured that it was given by the Actrean colonists in remembrance of their former home in the little district which originally was called Hellas. The language of Polybius. in whose writings the term first occurs, implies that it was believed to have been in use as early as the sixth century B.C. Some later writers include under the term the Greek cities in Sicily; others restrict it to those situated on the Gulf of Tarentum. hut in general it is used to denote all the Greek cities in the south of Italy, exclusive of those in Sicily. The oldest settlement is believed to have been Cumie—though it is doubtful whether it and its colonies, Diewarebia and Neapolis, were really embraced under the designation Magna Grfecia—which must have been founded near the end of the eighth century. The Greek colonization of Southern Italy seems to have begun a little later than that of Sicily, but the dates commonly given must not be considered as more than approximate. The earliest settlement, not reckoning Clime, was said to be Sybaris (founded by the Acheans, B.c. 721) ; next, Cro ton (by the Achnans, B.C. 710) ; then Tarenturn (probably by Laconian Dorians; the traditional date B.C. 707 is wholly uncertain) ; Locri (by the Loerians about B.C. 6S5) ; Rhegium (by the Chal eidians; date of origin not known, hut believed by seine to be older than even Sybaris) ; Meta pontum (by the Achmans, B.C. 700-6SO) ; and Sills (by Ionians from Colophon, about B.C. 650; it seems to have been seized later by the Achnan colonies near by). Later Thu•ii was founded in B.C. 443 by Greeks from many cities under the leadership of Athens. These cities became, in their turn, the parents of many others.
Of the earlier history of Magna Grfecia we know almost nothing. It is noticeable that while the Sicilian cities were on the coast and essen tially mercantile, the Italian Greeks pushed into the fertile plains of the interior, subdued the native tribes, and developed as great agricultural communities, with a land-owning aristocracy.
Not that trade was neglected, for with the great development of these cities during the and especially the sixth century, they carried on an active commerce with the Greeks of the east, the Etruscans of the north, and the native races of the interior, exporting grain and other natural products, and importing the manufac tures of Asia Minor and Hellas. The region was also the seat of an active intellectual life. Pythagoreanisin developed in Croton, and for a time exercised a powerful influence on the politi cal life of that city. The Orphie theology seems also to have found here a favorable soil for its growth, and at Elea the philosophers Xenophanes and Parmeuides founded the Eleatic school. The cities never formed a permanent union, though from time to time we find several joined in temporary alliance. On the contrary, the wars between them were often hitter and bloody. and contributed larrly to the decline of the whole region. In the century B.C. the tribes of the north began to press hard on the border cities, especially the Samnites and Lucanians, while at the same time Dionysius of Syracuse endeavored to make his influence supreme. From this time the history is simply a record of endeavors of one or another city to keep hack the rising tide of invasion, often by calling in the aid of foreign leaders. The most famous example is the alli ance between the Tarentines and Pyrrhus of Epirus against Rome. The failure of this effort led to the capture of Tarentinn in B.C. 272. and after that the Roman influence in the peninsula was supreme. The Second Punic War. when the presence of Hannibal induced most of the Greek cities again to seek their independence, com pleted the ruin of the region, and the cities rapidly sank into decay. Consult Lenormant, La Grandc-areec (Paris, ISSI-84).