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Taranto

Tarde  (Neapolitan)
Tárantas  (Greek)
Comune di Taranto
The 15th century Aragon Castle
The 15th century Aragon Castle
Coat of arms of Taranto
Coat of arms
Location of Taranto
Taranto is located in Italy
Taranto
Taranto
Location of Taranto in Italy
Taranto is located in Apulia
Taranto
Taranto
Taranto (Apulia)
Coordinates: /təˈrænt/, also US: /təˈrɑːnt, ˈtɑːrənt, -rɑːn-/,[3][4][5][6] Italian: [ˈtaːranto] (About this soundlisten); Tarantino: Tarde; Latin: Tarentum;[7] early Italian: Tarento;[8]; Ancient Greek: Τάρᾱς[9]) is a coastal city in Apulia, Southern Italy. It is the capital of the Province of Taranto and is an important commercial port as well as the main Italian naval base.[10]

Taranto was founded by the Spartans in the 8th century BC. During the period of Greek colonization on the coasts of Southern Italy, the city was among the most important in Magna Graecia and it became a cultural, economic and military power, which gave birth to philosophers, strategists, writers and athletes, such as Archytas, Aristoxenus, Livius Andronicus, Heracleides, Iccus, Cleinias, Leonidas, Lysis, and Sosibius. The seven-year rule of Archytas marked the apex of Taranto's development and the recognition of its hegemony over the other Greek colonies of southern Italy.

During the Norman period, it became the capital of the Principality of Taranto, which covered almost all of the heel of Apulia.

From the name of the city derives that of the species Lycosa tarantula, which originated the terms tarantella, tarantism and tarantula. Taranto is also known for the large population of dolphins and other cetaceans that historically live near the Cheradi Islands, located in front of the city.

It is the third-largest continental city in southern Italy and an important commercial and naval port with well-developed steel and iron foundries, oil refineries, chemical works, naval shipyards, and food-processing factories.

Around 500 BC the city was one of the largest in the world with population estimates up to 300,000 people.[11][12]

Overview

Taranto naval base for the Italian Regia Marina's First Squadron, 1930s

Taranto's pre-history dates back to 706 BC[13] when it was founded as a Greek colony, established by the Spartans. The ancient city was situated on a peninsula; the modern city has been built over the ancient Greek city of which only a few ruins remain, including part of the city wall, two temple columns dating to the 6th century BC, and tombs.[14]

The Greek colonists from Sparta called the city Taras (Τάρας; GEN Τάραντος Tarantos) after the mythical hero Taras, while the Romans, who connected the city to Rome with an extension of the Appian way, called it Tarentum.

The islets of S. Pietro and S. Paolo (St. Peter and St. Paul), collectively known as Cheradi Islands, protect the bay, called Mar Grande (Big Sea), where the commercial port is located. Another bay, called Mar Piccolo (Little Sea), is formed by the peninsula of the old city and has flourishing fishing.

At the end of the 19th century, a channel was excavated to allow naval ships to enter the Mar Piccolo harbour, and the ancient Greek city become an island connected to the mainland by bridges. The islets and the coast are strongly fortified and Mar Piccolo is a naval port with strategic importance. Because of the presence of these two bays, Taranto is also called "the city of the two seas".

The comune of Taranto (red) within its province.

The natural harbor at Taranto made it a logical home port for the Italian naval fleet before and during the First World War. During World War II, Taranto became famous for a November 1940 British air attack on the Regia Marina naval base stationed here, which today is called the Battle of Taranto.

Taranto is also the origin of the common name of the Tarantula spider family, Theraphosidae, even though strictly speaking there are no members of Theraphosidae in the area. In ancient times, residents of the town of Taranto, upon being bitten by the large local Wolf Spider, Lycosa tarentula, would promptly do a long vigorous dance like a jig. This was done in order to sweat the venom out of their pores, even though the spider's venom was not fatal to humans. The frenetic dance became known as the Tarantella.

In geology, Taranto gives its name to the Tarantian Age of the Pleistocene Epoch.

Physical geography

Greek colonization on the coasts of Southern Italy, the city was among the most important in Magna Graecia and it became a cultural, economic and military power, which gave birth to philosophers, strategists, writers and athletes, such as Archytas, Aristoxenus, Livius Andronicus, Heracleides, Iccus, Cleinias, Leonidas, Lysis, and Sosibius. The seven-year rule of Archytas marked the apex of Taranto's development and the recognition of its hegemony over the other Greek colonies of southern Italy.

During the Norman period, it became the capital of the Principality of Taranto, which covered almost all of the heel of Apulia.

From the name of the city derives that of the species Lycosa tarantula, which originated the terms tarantella, tarantism and tarantula. Taranto is also known for the large population of dolphins and other cetaceans that historically live near the Cheradi Islands, located in front of the city.

It is the third-largest continental city in southern Italy and an important commercial and naval port with well-developed steel and iron foundries, oil refineries, chemical works, naval shipyards, and food-processing factories.

Around 500 BC the city was one of the largest in the world with population estimates up to 300,000 people.[11][12]

Taranto's pre-history dates back to 706 BC[13] when it was founded as a Greek colony, established by the Spartans. The ancient city was situated on a peninsula; the modern city has been built over the ancient Greek city of which only a few ruins remain, including part of the city wall, two temple columns dating to the 6th century BC, and tombs.[14]

The Greek colonists from Sparta called the city Taras (Τάρας; GEN Τάραντος Tarantos) after the mythical hero Taras, while the Romans, who connected the city to Rome with an extension of the Appian way, called it Tarentum.

The islets of S. Pietro and S. Paolo (St. Peter and St. Paul), collectively known as Cheradi Islands, protect the bay, called Mar Grande (Big Sea), where the commercial port is located. Another bay, called Mar Piccolo (Little Sea), is formed by the peninsula of the old city and has flourishing fishing.

At the end of the 19th century, a channel was excavated to allow naval ships to enter the Mar Piccolo harbour, and the ancient Greek city become an island connected to the mainland by bridges. The islets and the coast are strongly fortified and Mar Piccolo is a naval port with strategic importance. Because of the presence of these two bays, Taranto is also called "the city of the two seas".

The comune of Taranto (red) within its province.

The natural harbor at Taranto made it a logical home port for the Italian naval fleet before and during the First World War. During World War II, Taranto became famous for a November 1940 British air attack on the Regia Marina naval base stationed here, which today is called the Battle of Taranto.

Taranto is also the origin of the common name of the Tarantula spider family, Theraphosidae, even though strictly speaking there are no members of Theraphosidae in the area. In ancient times, residents of the town of Taranto, upon being bitten by the large local Wolf Spider, Lycosa tarentula, would promptly do a long vigorous dance like a jig. This was done in order to sweat the venom out of their pores, even though the spider's venom was not fatal to humans. The frenetic dance became known as the Tarantella.

In geology, Taranto gives its name to the Tarantian Age of the Pleistocene Epoch.

Physical geography

Greek colonists from Sparta called the city Taras (Τάρας; GEN Τάραντος Tarantos) after the mythical hero Taras, while the Romans, who connected the city to Rome with an extension of the Appian way, called it Tarentum.

The islets of S. Pietro and S. Paolo (St. Peter and St. Paul), collectively known as Cheradi Islands, protect the bay, called Mar Grande (Big Sea), where the commercial port is located. Another bay, called Mar Piccolo (Little Sea), is formed by the peninsula of the old city and has flourishing fishing.

At the end of the 19th century, a channel was excavated to allow naval ships to enter the Mar Piccolo harbour, and the ancient Greek city become an island connected to the mainland by bridges. The islets and the coast are strongly fortified and Mar Piccolo is a naval port with strategic importance. Because of the presence of these two bays, Taranto is also called "the city of the two seas".

The natural harbor at Taranto made it a logical home port for the Italian naval fleet before and during the First World War. During World War II, Taranto became famous for a November 1940 British air attack on the Regia Marina naval base stationed here, which today is called the Battle of Taranto.

Taranto is also the origin of the common name of the Tarantula spider family, Theraphosidae, even though strictly speaking there are no members of Theraphosidae in the area. In ancient times, residents of the town of Taranto, upon being bitten by the large local Wolf Spider, Lycosa tarentula, would promptly do a long vigorous dance like a jig. This was done in order to sweat the venom out of their pores, even though the spider's venom was not fatal to humans. The frenetic dance became known as the Tarantella.

In geology, Taranto gives its name to the Tarantian Age of the Pleistocene Epoch.

Physical geographyTaranto is also the origin of the common name of the Tarantula spider family, Theraphosidae, even though strictly speaking there are no members of Theraphosidae in the area. In ancient times, residents of the town of Taranto, upon being bitten by the large local Wolf Spider, Lycosa tarentula, would promptly do a long vigorous dance like a jig. This was done in order to sweat the venom out of their pores, even though the spider's venom was not fatal to humans. The frenetic dance became known as the Tarantella.

In geology, Taranto gives its name to the Tarantian Age of the Pleistocene Epoch.

Taranto faces the Ionian Sea. It is 14.5 metres (48 ft) above sea level. It was built on a plain running north/north-west–southeast, and surrounded by the Murgia plateau from the north-west to the east. Its territory extends for 209.64 square kilometres (80.94 sq mi) and is mostly underwater. It is characterised by three natural peninsulas and a man-made island, formed by digging a ditch during the construction of Aragon Castle. The city is known as the "city of two seas" because it is washed by the Big Sea in the bay between Punta Rondinella to the northwest and Capo San Dante to the south, and by the vast reservoir of the Little Sea.

Big Sea and Little Sea

The view of the Little Sea from the Appian Way

The Big Sea

The Big Sea is frequently known as the Big Sea bay as that is where ships harbour. It is separated from the Little Sea by a cape which closes the gulf, leading to the artificial island. This island formed the heart of the original city and it is connected to the mainland by the Ponte di Porta Napoli and the Ponte Girevole. The Big Sea is separated from the Ionian Sea by the Capo San Vito, the Isole Cheradi of St Peter and St Paul, and the three islands of San Nicolicchio, which are completely incorporated by the steel plant. The latter form a little archipelago which closes off the arc creating the natural Big Sea bay.

The Little Sea is considered to be a lagoon so it presents problems of water exchange. It is virtually divided into two by the Ponte Punta Penna Pizzone, which joins the Punta Penna to the Punta Pizzone. The first of these forms a rough triangle, whose corners are the opening to the east and the Porta Napoli channel linking it to the Big Sea in the west. The second half forms an ellipse whose major axis measures almost 5 kilometres (3 miles) from the south-west to the north-east. The Galeso river flows into the first half.

The two water bodies have slightly different winds and tides and their underwater springs have different salinities. These affect the currents on the surface and in the depths of the Big Sea and the two halves of the Little Sea. In the Big Sea and in the northern part of the Little Sea, there are some underwater springs called citri,Ponte Punta Penna Pizzone, which joins the Punta Penna to the Punta Pizzone. The first of these forms a rough triangle, whose corners are the opening to the east and the Porta Napoli channel linking it to the Big Sea in the west. The second half forms an ellipse whose major axis measures almost 5 kilometres (3 miles) from the south-west to the north-east. The Galeso river flows into the first half.

The two water bodies have slightly different winds and tides and their underwater springs have different salinities. These affect the currents on the surface and in the depths of the Big Sea and the two halves of the Little Sea. In the Big Sea and in the northern part of the Little Sea, there are some underwater springs called citri,[15] which carry undrinkable freshwater together with salt water. This creates the ideal biological conditions for cultivating Mediterranean mussels, known locally as cozze.

The climate of the city, recorded by the weather station situated near the Grottaglie Military Airport, is typical of the Mediterranean with frequent continental features.

The spring is usually mild and rainy, but it is not uncommon to have sudden cold spells from the north and east, which often cause snowfall. Average annual precipitation is fairly low (even for southern Italy), measuring just 425 millimetres (16.7 in) per year.

The summer is hot

The spring is usually mild and rainy, but it is not uncommon to have sudden cold spells from the north and east, which often cause snowfall. Average annual precipitation is fairly low (even for southern Italy), measuring just 425 millimetres (16.7 in) per year.

The summer is hot and humid, with temperatures averaging 29 °C (84 °F).

On 28 November 2012 a large F3 tornado hit the port of Taranto and damaged the Taranto Steel Mill where workers were protesting against the plant's pollution emissions; about 20 people were injured, and another man was reported missing. The tornado is one of nine to hit Italy since 1 October.[citation needed]

It is classified as Geographical zone C and having a degree-day of 30.

History

Doric columns from the Temple of Poseidon in Taranto, legacy of its Greek origins.

Taranto was founded in 706 BC by Dorian Greek immigrants hailing from Sparta, its origin are peculiar: the founders were Partheniae ("sons of virgins"), sons of unmarried Spartan women and Perioeci (free men, but not citizens of Sparta); these out-of-wedlock unions were permitted extraordinarily by the Spartans to increase the prospective number of soldiers (only the citizens of Sparta could become soldiers) during the bloody Messenian Wars, but later they were retroactively nullified, and the sons were then obliged to leave Greece forever. Phalanthus, the Parthenian leader, went to Delphi to consult the oracle: the puzzling answer designated the harbour of Taranto as the new home of the exiles. The Partheniae arrived in Apulia, and founded the city, naming it Taras after the son of the Greek sea god, Poseidon, and of a local nymph,[20] Satyrion.[citation needed] According to other sources, Heracles founded the city. Another tradition indicates Taras as the founder of the city; the symbol of the Greek city (as well as of the modern city) depicts the legend of Taras being saved from a shipwreck by riding a dolphin that was sent to him by Poseidon. Taranto increased its power, becoming a commercial power and a sovereign city of Magna Graecia,[21] ruling over the Greek colonies in southern Italy.

Its independence and power came to an end as the Romans expanded throughout Italy. Taranto won the first of two wars against Rome for the control of Southern Italy: it was helped by Pyrrhus, king of Greek Epirus,[21] who surprised Rome with the use of war elephants in battle, a thing never seen before by the Romans. Rome won the second war in 272 BC. This subsequently cut off Taranto from the centre of Mediterranean trade, by connecting the Via Appia directly to the port of Brundisium (Brindisi).

Ancient art

Like many Greek city states, Taras issued its own coins in the 5th and 4th centuries BC. The denomination was a Nomos, a die-cast silver coin whose weight, size and purity were controlled by the state. The highly artistic coins presented the symbol of the city, Taras being saved by a dolphin, with the reverse side showing the likeness of a hippocamp, a horse-fish amalgam which is depicted in mythology as the beast that drew Poseidon's chariot.

Taras was also the centre of a thriving decorated Greek pottery industry during the 4th century BC. Most of the South Italian Greek vessels known as Basilican ware were made in different workshops in the city.

Unfortunately, none of the names of the artists have survived, so modern scholars have been obliged to give the recognizable artistic hands and workshops nicknames based on the subject matter of their works, museums which possess the works, or individuals who have distinguished the works from others. Some of the most famous of the Apulian vase painters at Taras are now called: the Iliupersis Painter, the Lycurgus Painter, the Gioia del Colle Painter, the Darius Painter, the Underworld Painter, and the White Sakkos Painter, among others.

The wares produced by these workshops were usually large elaborate vessels intended for mortuary use. The forms produced included volute kraters, loutrophoroi, paterai, oinochoai, lekythoi, fish plates, etc. The decoration of these vessels was red figure (with figures reserved in red clay fabric, while the background was covered in a black gloss), with overpainting (sovradipinto) in white, pink, yellow, and maroon slips.

Often the style of the drawings is florid and frilly, as was already the fashion in 4th-century Athens. Distinctive South Italian features also begin to appear. Many figures are shown seated on rocks. Floral motifs become very ornate, including spiraling vines and leaves, roses, lilies, poppies, sprays of laurel, acanthus leaves. Often the subject matter consists of naiskos scenes (scenes showing the statue of a deceased person in a naos, a miniature temple or shrine). Most often the naiskos scene occupies one side of the vase, while a mythological scene occupies the other. Images depicting many of the Greek myths are only known from South Italian vases, since Athenian ones seem to have had more limited repertoires of depiction.