Thurii (/ˈθʊərɪaɪ/; Greek: Θούριοι Thoúrioi),
called also by some
Latin writers Thurium (compare Greek:
Θούριον in Ptolemy), for a time also Copia and Copiae, was a
city of Magna Graecia, situated on the Tarentine gulf, within a short
distance of the site of Sybaris, whose place it may be considered as
having taken. The ruins of the city can be found in the Sybaris
archaeological park near
Sibari in the Province of Cosenza, Calabria,
3 Famous people
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Excavated area seen from the normal elevation of the surrounding
Excavated remains of buildings, possibly from Thurii.
Excavated mosaic floor with swastikas, possibly from Thurii.
Thurii was one of the latest of all the Greek colonies in this part of
Italy, not having been founded until nearly 70 years after the fall of
Sybaris. The site of that city had remained desolate for a period of
58 years after its destruction by the Crotoniats; when at length, in
452 BCE, a number of the Sybarite exiles and their descendants made an
attempt to establish themselves again on the spot, under the guidance
of some leaders of Thessalian origin; and the new colony rose so
rapidly to prosperity that it excited the jealousy of the Crotoniats,
who, in consequence, expelled the new settlers a little more than 5
years after the establishment of the colony. The fugitive Sybarites
first appealed for support to Sparta, but without success: their
application to the Athenians was more successful, and that people
determined to send out a fresh colony, at the same time that they
reinstated the settlers who had had been lately expelled from thence.
A body of Athenian colonists was accordingly sent out by Pericles,
under the command of Lampon and Xenocritus. Pericles' expressed intent
was for it to be a Panhellenic colony, and the number of Athenian
citizens was small, the greater part of those who took part in the
colony being collected from various parts of Greece. Among them were
two celebrated names –
Herodotus the historian, and the orator
Lysias, both of whom appear to have formed part of the original
colony. The laws of the new colony were established by the sophist
Protagoras at the request of Pericles, adopting the laws of
Zaleucus of Locri.
The new colonists at first established themselves on the site of the
deserted Sybaris, but shortly afterwards removed (apparently in
obedience to an oracle) to a spot at a short distance from thence,
where there was a fountain named "Thuria", from whence the new city
derived its name of Thurii. The foundation of
Thurii is assigned by
Diodorus to the year 446 BCE; but other authorities place it three
years later, 443 BCE, and this seems to be the best authenticated
date. The protection of the Athenian name probably secured the
rising colony from the assaults of the Crotoniats, at least we hear
nothing of any obstacles to its progress from that quarter; but it was
early disturbed by dissensions between the descendants of the original
Sybarite settlers and the new colonists, the former laying claim not
only to honorary distinctions, but to the exclusive possession of
important political privileges. These disputes at length ended in a
revolution, and the Sybarites were finally expelled from the city.
They established themselves for a short time in
Sybaris on the Traeis
but did not maintain their footing long, being dislodged and finally
dispersed by the neighboring barbarians. The Thurians meanwhile
concluded a treaty of peace with Crotona, and the new city rose
rapidly to prosperity. Fresh colonists poured in from all quarters,
especially the Peloponnese; and though it continued to be generally
regarded as an Athenian colony, the Athenians in fact formed but a
small element of the population. The citizens were divided, as we
learn from Diodorus, into ten tribes, the names of which sufficiently
indicate their origin. They were: the Arcadian (from Arcadia), Achaean
(from Achaea), Elean (from Elea), Boeotian (from Boeotia),
Amphictyonic (from Amphictyonis), Dorian (from Doris), Ionian (from
Ionia), Athenian (from Athens), Euboean (from Euboea), and Nesiotic
(from the islands). The form of government was democratic, and the
city is said to have enjoyed the advantage of a well-ordered system of
laws; but the statement of Diodorus, who represents this as owing to
the legislation of Charondas, and that lawgiver himself as a citizen
of Thurii, is certainly erroneous. The city itself was laid out with
great regularity, being divided by four broad streets or plateae, each
of which was crossed in like manner by three others.
Very shortly after its foundation,
Thurii became involved in a war
with Tarentum (modern Taranto). The subject of this was the possession
of the fertile district of the Siritis, about 50 km north of
Thurii, to which the Athenians had a claim of long standing, which was
naturally taken up by their colonists. The Spartan general,
Cleandridas, who had been banished from
Greece some years before, and
taken up his abode at Thurii, became the general of the Thurians in
this war, which, after various successes, was at length terminated by
a compromise, both parties agreeing to the foundation of the new
colony of Heracleia in the disputed territory.
Knowledge of the history of
Thurii is very scanty and fragmentary.
Fresh disputes arising between the Athenian citizens and the other
colonists were at length allayed by the oracle of Delphi, which
decided that the city had no other founder than Apollo. But the
same difference appears again on occasion of the great Athenian
expedition to Sicily, when the city was divided into two parties, the
one desirous of favoring and supporting the Athenians, the other
opposed to them. The latter faction at first prevailed, so far that
the Thurians observed the same neutrality towards the Athenian fleet
Alcibiades as the other cities of Italy. Thurii
was, in fact, the city where
Alcibiades escaped his Athenian captors
who were taking him home for trial.
But two years afterwards (413 BCE) the Athenian party had regained the
ascendency; and when Demosthenes and Eurymedon touched at Thurii, the
citizens afforded them every assistance, and even furnished an
auxiliary force of 700 hoplites and 300 dartmen. From this time we
hear nothing of
Thurii for a period of more than 20 years, though
there is reason to believe that this was just the time of its greatest
prosperity. In 390 BCE we find that its territory was already
beginning to suffer from the incursions of the Lucanians, a new and
formidable enemy, for protection against whom all the cities of Magna
Graecia had entered into a defensive league. But the Thurians were too
impatient to wait for the support of their allies, and issued forth
with an army of 14,000 foot and 1000 horse, with which they repulsed
the attacks of the Lucanians; but having rashly followed them into
their own territory, they were totally defeated, near Laüs, and above
10,000 of them cut to pieces.
This defeat must have inflicted a severe blow on the prosperity of
Thurii, while the continually increasing power of the
Bruttians, in their immediate neighborhood would prevent them from
quickly recovering from its effects. The city continued also to be on
hostile, or at least unfriendly, terms with Dionysius of Syracuse, and
was in consequence chosen as a place of retirement or exile by his
Leptines and his friend Philistus. The rise of the
Bruttian people about 356 BCE probably became the cause of the
complete decline of Thurii, but the statement of
Diodorus that the
city was conquered by that people must be received with
considerable doubt. It reappears in history at a later period, when
Corinthian soldiers en route to join
Timoleon on his expedition to
Syracuse are blockaded there by Carthaginian ships. At this point it
is still an independent Greek city, though much fallen from its former
greatness. No mention of it is found during the wars of Alexander of
Epirus in this part of Italy; but at a later period it was so hard
pressed by the
Lucanians that it had recourse to the alliance of Rome;
and a Roman army was sent to its relief under Gaius Fabricius
Luscinus. He defeated the Lucanians, who had actually laid siege to
the city, in a pitched battle, and by several other successes to a
great extent broke their power, and thus relieved the Thurians from
all immediate danger from that quarter. But shortly after they
were attacked on the other side by the Tarentines, who are said to
have taken and plundered their city; and this aggression was one
of the immediate causes of the war declared by the Romans against
Tarentum in 282 BCE.
Thurii now sunk completely into the condition of a dependent ally of
Rome, and was protected by a Roman garrison. No mention is found of
its name during the wars with Pyrrhus or the First Punic War, but it
plays a considerable part in the
Second Punic War
Second Punic War with Hannibal. It
was apparently one of the cities which revolted to the Carthaginians
after the battle of Cannae, in another passage,
Livy places its
defection more precisely in 212 BCE. After the defection of
Tarentum, they betrayed the Roman troops into the hands of the
Carthaginian general Hanno. A few years later (210 BCE), Hannibal,
finding himself unable to protect his allies in Campania, removed the
Atella who had survived the fall of their city to
Thurii; but it was not long before he was compelled to abandon the
latter city also to its fate; and when he himself in 204 BCE withdrew
his forces into Bruttium, he removed to
Crotona 3500 of the principal
citizens of Thurii, while he gave up the city itself to the plunder of
his troops. It is evident that
Thurii was now sunk to the lowest
state of decay; but the great fertility of its territory rendered it
desirable to preserve it from utter desolation: hence in 194 BCE, it
was one of the places selected for the establishment of a Roman colony
Latin rights. The number of colonists was small in proportion
to the extent of land to be divided among them, but they amounted to
3000 foot and 300 knights.
Livy says merely that the colony was
sent in Thurinum agrum, and does not mention anything of a change of
Strabo tells us that they gave to the new colony the name of
Copiae, and this statement is confirmed both by Stephanus of
Byzantium, and by the evidence of coins, on which, however, the name
is written "COPIA". But this new name did not continue long in
Thurii still continued to be known by its ancient
appellation. It is mentioned as a municipal town on several occasions
during the latter ages of the Roman Republic. In 72 BCE it was taken
by Spartacus, and subjected to heavy contributions, but not otherwise
injured. According to Suetonius, the Octavian family held some
renown there, and Gaius Octavius (father of the future Caesar
Augustus) defeated a Spartacist army near there; as a result, the
future emperor was granted the surname Thurinus shortly after birth.
At the outbreak of the Civil Wars it was deemed by
Julius Caesar of
sufficient importance to be secured with a garrison of Gaulish and
Spanish horse; and it was there that
M. Caelius Rufus was put to
death, after a vain attempt to excite an insurrection in this part of
Italy. In 40 BCE also it was attacked by Sextus Pompeius, who laid
waste its territory, but was repulsed from the walls of the city.
It is certain therefore that
Thurii was at this time still a place of
some importance, and it is mentioned as a still existing town by Pliny
and Ptolemy, as well as Strabo. It was probably, indeed, the only
place of any consideration remaining on the coast of the Tarentine
Crotona and Tarentum; both
Metapontum and Heracleia
having already fallen into almost complete decay. Its name is still
found in the Itineraries. and it is noticed by
Procopius as still
existing in the 6th century.
Over time the sediment accretion of the Crati river caused its river
delta to shift towards the sea at a long term rate of one meter a
year. As a consequence the successive sites of Sybaris,
Copia became landlocked and lost their importance because they no
longer had easy access to the sea for trade. The period of its
final decay is uncertain; but it seems to have been abandoned during
the Middle Ages, when the inhabitants took refuge at a place called
Terranova (Terranova da Sibari), about 15 kilometers inland, on a hill
on the left bank of the Crati.
O: helmeted head of Athena left, wearing Attic helmet decorated with
Skylla holding a rudder, neck guard decorated with a palmette. TIMO
R: bull butting right; above, Nike flying right, crowning bull.
AR Stater (7.98 g, 6h) Lucania, Thourioi ~350-300 BCE
The exact location of Greek
Thurii is not known, but that of the Roman
town, which probably though not certainly occupied the same site, is
fixed by several ruins as being c. 6 kilometers to the east of
Terranova da Sibari, and as occupying an area some 6 km in
circuit. It is clear, from the statements both of
Diodorus and Strabo,
Thurii occupied a site near to, but distinct from, that of
Sybaris: hence the position suggested by some local topographers
at the foot of the hill of Terranova, is probably too far inland. It
is more likely that the true site is to be sought to the north of the
Coscile (the ancient Sybaris), a few kilometers from the sea, where
ruins still exist, attributed to Sybaris, but which are probably in
reality those of Thurii. Henry Swinburne, however, mentions Roman
ruins as existing in the peninsula formed by the rivers Crathis and
Sybaris near their junction, which may perhaps be those of Thurii.
Thurii had an active mint in antiquity. The coins of
Thurii are of
great beauty; their number and variety indeed gives us a higher idea
of the opulence and prosperity of the city than we should gather from
the statements of ancient writers.
Alexis (ancient comic poet)
Herodotus, who migrated to
Athens after 443 BCE.
^ Diod. xi. 90, xii. 10.
^ a b Pomeroy, Sarah; Burstein, Stanley; Donlan, Walter; Roberts,
Jennifer (2008). Ancient Greece: A Political, Social, and Cultural
History (second edition). New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
p. 275. ISBN 978-0-19-530800-6.
^ Diod. xii. 10;
Strabo vi. p. 263; Dionys. Lys. p. 453; Vit. X. Orat.
Plutarch Peric. 11, Nic. 5.
^ Barrett, Harold. The Sophists (Novato, California: Chandler &
Sharp Publishers, INC, 1987), 10.
^ Diod. l. c.;
Strabo l. c.
^ Clinton, F. H. vol. ii. p. 54.
^ Diod. xii. 11, 22; Arist. Pol. v. 3.
^ Diod. xii. 11.
^ Diod. xii. 10.
^ Diod. xii. 23, 36, xiii. 106;
Strabo vi. p. 264; Polyaen. Strat. ii.
^ Diod. xii. 35.
Thucydides vi. 44.
^ Id. vii. 33, 35.
^ Diod. xiv. 101.
^ Diod. xv. 7.
^ xvi. 15.
Livy Epit. xi.; Pliny xxxiv. 6. s. 15;
Valerius Maximus i. 8. § 6.
^ Appian, Samn. 7. § 1.
^ Liv. xxii. 61, xxv. 1.
^ Id. xxv. 15; Appian, Hann. 34.
^ Appian, Hann. 49.
^ Appian, l. c., 57.
^ Liv. xxxiv. 53;
Strabo vi. p. 263.
^ Liv. xxxv. 9.
Strabo l. c.; Steph. Byz. s. v. Θούριοι; Eckhel, vol. i. p.
^ Appian, B.C. i. 117.
Commentarii de Bello Civili
Commentarii de Bello Civili iii. 21, 22.
^ Appian, B.C. v. 56, 58.
Strabo vi. p. 263; Plin. iii. 11. s. 15; Ptol. iii. 1. § 12.
Antonine Itinerary p. 114, where it is written Turios; Tabula
^ Procop. B. G. i. 15.
^ Stanley, Jean-Daniel; Bernasconi, Maria Pia (2009).
"Sybaris-Thuri-Copia trilogy: three delta coastal sites become
land-locked". Méditerranée (112): 75–86.
^ Diod. xii. 10; Strab. l. c.
^ Henry Swinburne, Travels, vol. i. pp. 291, 292; Romanelli, vol. i.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Smith, William, ed. (1854–1857). "article
name needed". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography. London: John
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Thurii".
Encyclopædia Britannica. 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University
Media related to
Thurii at Wikimedia Commons
Sybaris on the Traeis