ARCHAEOLOGY | Metaponto – Basilicata – the pearl of Magna Graecia

Metaponto, an ancient city of Magna Graecia, was probably founded in the eighth century BC by groups of Achaeans from the Peloponnese. According to the tradition handed down by Strabo, it seems that the centre was initially constituted by the veterans of the Trojan war.

The new veterans, however, lived together and clashed with the local populations of the Oenotrians. In the oldest phase of the area there was also an important inhabited area, now designated as the archaeological area of the “Incoronata of San Teodoro.

 

History of the city

The place, during the early age, was called Metabos with regard to a legend, and from this comes the subsequent evolution in the name. The ceramic productions were important in the area of ancient Metaponto.

Among the ancient artists the “Painter of Pisticci” should be remembered . The craftsmanship of bronze, sometimes illustrated, found in the Incoronata site was also important.

The city, in the period of maximum splendour, was able to host Pythagoras, who fled from Crotone. Following the events of the times, the city of the Achaeans often allied with nearby Taranto, following its fate for a long time. After being involved in the wars between the Romans and the Carthaginians, Metaponto entered the Roman orbit, first as a Federal City, then as a City Hall  in the 1st century BC.

 

The archaeological area

The sacred area is bordered on the west and east side by a perimeter wall ,Témenos, as well as by wide orthogonal streets. The east side, on the other hand, is marked only by a symbolic theory of pillars, which physically separates the area from the other public space, the agora.

The two major temples, Heraion and Apollonion, were built in the Doric style around the mid-sixth century BC. They are the result of a process of monumentalization of the sanctuary, which seems to end with the construction of the Ionic temple and with the reconstruction of building, in the first decades of the fifth century BC. The most impressive remains belong to the temple of Hera, the series of the 8 columns of the eastern front with a partial reconstruction of the elevation is proposed. The entire floor plan, on the other hand, is suggested by the orderly arrangement of the other remaining architectural elements.

On the side there is the temple dedicated to Apollo Lykaios, named as the Virtuous or the “Wolf”, of which some monolithic non-fluted columns relating to a previous building, never built, can be appreciated. The grandeur of the structure, the large base, is due to the need to support a great weight, determined by the marble roof. The building is characterized by the central division of the cell and by the double colonnade on the eastern front.

This building and the Ionic temple dedicated to Artemis maintain an old orientation, different from that of the two major temples, which instead align perfectly with the geometries of the urban grid. In front of the temples are situated the altars, accompanied by numerous bases, inscriptions and votive objects.

 

PUBLIC SPACES

In the agora, however, the architectural grandeur of the theatre is clearly distinguished, which during the second half of the fourth century BC replaces the previous archaic circular building, conventionally referred to as Ekklesiasterion. The building certainly hosted the highest town hall meeting, Ekklesia, but also competitions and shows with great popular participation. The absence of a hilly slope in the area has forced the invention of an artificial embankment. This is held on the outside by a retaining wall made of large limestone blocks.

In the current arrangement we can point out the development of the first layout, following that one of the metal section bars. In the centre the orchestra is recognizable, rectangular in shape, with two large opposite entrances. To represent the elevation of the theatre, instead, the masonry reconstruction of a sector of the external retaining wall, decorated with columns and Doric frieze, was preferred. Along this wall there are also the entrances, which should have allowed the spectators to access the upper part of the steps, the cavea.

 

Remains of the theatre
Remains of columns and doric frieze

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


On the opposite side of the modern access road to the park, before the railway line, the area of the so-called Castro Romano develops, built between the agora and the line of the eastern walls. This is happened probably to house the Roman military garrison during the wars of the third century BC, before the definitive defeat of the Carthaginian army led by Hannibal. It is important the large portico or stoà, probably on two floors, with columns and Doric frieze, which closes the east side of the agora.

During the imperial period, Metaponto was further reduced to a small town within the Castro area. It exists in the basis of the port and the coastal road system. It is significant that the public space of the Greek city , agora and sanctuary, hosts a sector of the necropolis as if to underline the loss of any cultural and topographical relationship with the previous stages of life.

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