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“The ancient Greek colony called Sybaris” - Greek colony, Sybaris has kept its history in a precious way. Today we will get to know this very special place better: Sybaris.

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Introduction

Of great historical and cultural importance, Sybaris and its relics are worth visiting. This little gem in Calabria tells the story of Greek colonization and all its expansion, offering us, until today, a territory of great historical wealth for humanity. Let´s Sybari in Calabria? Here at Traveling to Calabria you make the trip of your dreams!!! Are you staying in Calabria? Looking for a hotel? Click here and discover best accommodation options in Calabria!

A Little More About Sybaris

Sybaris was an epic developing colony of Magna Graecia, founded around the first millennium BC. The city had an abundant cultural life, but a less frenetic pace on an economic and social level. Located in a geographic depression and facing the Ionian Sea (which at that time had an intense circulation), Sybaris is between two rivers: Crato (Crathis) and Coscile (Sybaris). The city was, undoubtedly, the most illustrious metropolis of Magna Graecia, for its richness, sophistication and luxury – so that no future generation could reach. Read also What Are The Ten Places You Must See In Calabria?

Historical Facts

The city of Sybaris was founded around 710 BC at the end of the reign of Romulus, belonging to the colony of the Achaeans. Like almost all the Greek colonies, also Sybaris was formed near the sea, between the rivers Crato and Coscile. The city, with a modest agricultural and commercial structure, grew ever larger until it occupied a big area, becoming a rich and powerful city. Read also Enogastronomic Itinerary In Calabria

The Greek colony of Sybaris

The Greek colony of Sybaris arose in a very favorable period for planting, and this allowed the city to increase its wealth, thanks also to a strategy that favored immigration. It was homeland of other colonies of the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, among them Poseidonia, Laos and Skidros.

The sybarites were notorious in sixth-century Greece for their luxurious lifestyle. They quickly became a great trading group, making several trade negotiations with the largest ports in the East. At the height of its power, however, Sybaris envied the neighboring towns, especially the city of Crotona. Therefore, in 510 BC, the people of Crotona completely destroyed it (diverting the course of the Crato River towards the residential area of Sybaris, so that it could never again ‘revive’).

After sixty-six years (444 BC)

After sixty-six years (444 BC), by order of Pericles of Athens, the city of Thurii was founded in the same place of Sybaris (but Thurii never achieved the greatness of the old Sybaris). After undergoing through so many dangers and threats from neighboring populations, Thurii was forced to ask the Romans for help – thus becoming a Roman colony, known as Copia (Copy, in English). The center remained active until the end of the sixth century AD, when the spread of malaria culminated in its abandonment.

The archaeological sites are witnesses of this overlapping of peoples and civilizations. The surface layer of the excavations reveals the ruins of the Roman Copia (the theater, the thermal baths and the patrician houses – Roman aristocracy). In the third layer appears Sybaris, actually, Thurii. After a century of Roman domination (when the city was rebuilt), the government granted its inhabitants the privilege of Roman citizenship (which had its advantages there). Today the geophysical situation is very different from that time, with the plan design impaired after so many alluvial changes – which makes it difficult to correctly identify each city.

Curiosities

  • Historians claim that Sybaris was the most prosperous colony of Magna Graecia, but it also had all the ills and vices of the world. The sybaritic personality was a symbol of idleness, lust and perversion. 
  • It is said that the sybarites were lovers of good meals (and of great gluttony), so much that it was common to organize banquets at the expense of the State.
  • This civilization was known, in the ancient world, as a people without a sense of honor or friendship.

The Archaeological Sites

From the 19th century, interest in the numerous historical vestiges of Sybaris allowed, over the decades, to make several surveys based on the topographical indications of serious sources. Thus, the site was located and excavations finally began in the 1930s, revealing the still unknown and mysterious marks of Sybaris and its history. The large systematic campaigns of the 1960s (and subsequent years) allowed exploring only part of the great area of Sybaris, revealing the mainly structures referring to the Roman period of the city of Copia.

The several problems inherent in the excavations

The several problems inherent in the excavations – such as the thickness of the alluvial layers that covered the old installations, the phases of overlapping of the three cities, the layer of water that made archaeological operations even worse – contributed to a careful programming of interventions. Since at the time was not possible to explore large areas as in the past, it focused on punctual excavations (using X-rays and scanners) to clarify some of the main aspects of Sybaris, Thurii and Copia.

Archaeological Park and Museum of Sybaris

The archeological site of Sybaris is located in front of the Ionic highway, in the south of the city – and, without a doubt, deserves a visit! In the ruins, discovered in the 1930’s, some paved streets of visible Roman origin (stone floor) and a few scattered columns managed to translate only a part of the greatness of the city appear. At the time of Magna Graecia, Sybaris competed with Taranto, with an estimated population of 100,000.

Archaeological research in the territory of Sybaris began in 1960, when they revealed the three areas of great importance: the first, and most extensive, is the ‘Horse Park’, where you can see what remains of the city’s gateway and part of the urbanization. The second is the ‘Casa Bianca’ (White House, in English) and the third one is the ‘Extension of the Road’ – each of them near the other. Among the excavated areas, only one is open to the public (via the SS 106 highway – 2 km south, from the main headquarters).

The visit to the Archaeological Park

The visit to the Archaeological Park allows you to admire the whole archeological district of Sybaris, known as the Park of the Bulls, with the ruins of the Roman theater of the first century AD, the Roman baths and taverns, the large urban village and the Domus (type of house occupied by wealthy families) with stone floors. Not far from there is the Archaeological Museum, where objects found during excavations in the surroundings (such as anchors, coins, clay sculptures) are exposed.

Statue of the ‘Toro Cozzante’

The most famous item is the bronze statue of the ‘Toro Cozzante’ – found recently in a building of the ancient Roman colony Copia, from the fifth century BC. The treasure is considered by the researchers, after the Riace Bronzes, the most important discovery of the Age of the Bronze.

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The Sibarita National Archaeological Museum

It is the main cultural center in the ionic province of Cosenza and houses archaeological finds of three overlapping cities: the old Sybaris, Thurii (Archaic and Hellenic) and Copia (Roman). The modern building with two floors houses a number of objects and is distributed into five exhibition areas, including a central one. In the first dome are the findings of the Prehistoric era and the Proterozoic period, from the Mordillo Tower and the Broglio di Trebisacce Archaeological Park (on the outskirts of Spezzano Albanese). In the second dome are the findings from the first foundation of Sybaris. In the third, there is the collection of Francavilla Marittima. In the fourth dome is the archaeological evidence of the urban area of Sybaris and Sibarita Plain, with objects from the city of Thurii.

Location

The museum is located between the archaeological park of the old Sybaris (where the current town of Sybaris is nowadays) and the village of Cassano allo Ionio, in the province of Cosenza. The main headquarters of the museum was built in the ’90s under the design of the architect Riccardo Wallach.

The museum has surviving finds from the Protozoan era of Magna Graecia to Roman civilization, concerning the cities of Sybaris, Thurii and Copia (and from the various locations in the area, including Brutium and Enotria) found, mainly, during excavations in the Horse Park, Casa Bianca, the archaeological site of Castiglione di Paludi and Mount Timpone Motta.

Useful information

Admission is free for visitors up to 18 years old, seniors over 65 and Art History students. Opening hours: 9:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (closes Mondays).

Entrance:
  • € 2,00 – visitors from 26 to 65 years old.
  • € 1,00 – visitors from 18 to 25 years old.

How to get there?


1) How to get there? BY BUS

Line service from Rome, Perugia, Florence, Bologna, Milan, Verona and Turin – with daily departures.

2) How to get there? BY TRAIN

Eurostar and Wagonlit from Milan, Turin and Rome – to the station of Sybaris.

3) How to get there? BY PLANE

Stopovers from Lamezia Terme, Crotona and Bari.

4) How to get there? BY CAR

A3 highway (Salerno / Reggio Calabria), exit Sibari + SS 534. Route A14 (Bologna / Taranto), exit Taranto + SS 106 until km 27 (Marina di Sibari).

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IMPORTANT TO KNOW!

Remember that to drive in Italy it is MANDATORY to have the International Driving License, the famous IDP (International Driving Permit). The certificate is not issued in Italian, but it is accepted in English! The IDP lasts 180 days (it depends where you live) and is issued by the Traffic Department of your country (if you have the European Driver License, you don’t need to worry about it!).

NOTE:
  • Check with your country’s Traffic Department which documents are required and the rates for issuing the IDP. If you chose to travel by car, be sure to read our Post “Driving in Italy“. It is very important to avoid winning fines for lack of information.

Conclusion

Let´s Sybari in Calabria? This part of Calabrian territory, known topographically as ‘Sybarite Plain’, witnessed the emergence, development, expansion and then the decline of the great city of Sybaris. Here new settlements settled in successive times to the destruction of the Greek city, overlapping its old ruins. This stratification makes Sybaris one of the biggest and important places of the Mediterranean of the archaic and the classic ages.

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