Attic Pottery Imports and the Fall of Sybaris: Material Culture and Middle Ground in Late Archaic Oenotria

Attic Pottery

The archaeological research in the Oenotrian context of Francavilla Marittima (CS) carried out by the University of Basel has entered its final phase, focusing on the transitional years between the 6th and the 5th centuries BCE. Ancient sources date to this period the devastating end of the Achaean city of Sybaris, conquered in 510 BCE by the rival Croton. The downfall of Sybaris also represents a profound change in the general demographic system of the region, where for centuries the interests of the Greek colony were linked to those of the local indigenous communities. The latter were drawn into the colony's sphere of influence, and an active and reciprocal dialogue was conducted with them; it redefined practices and customs of individuals and communities over time, blurring the distinctions between existing aprioristic categories such as "Greeks" and "Indigenous."

This complex situation is reinterpreted in light of the recent results of the excavation campaigns within the Macchiabate necropolis, which is part of the centuries old Oenotrian site of Timpone Motta near Francavilla Marittima. In fact, in the necropolis are preserved funerary remains of a community that predates the founding of Sybaris, then coexists in close relationship, and finally reaches the end of the Greek polis. Contrary to the idea deriving from classical historiography, however, life in the indigenous settlement seems to have continued beyond the traditional date of the fall of Sybaris, suggesting that the Sibaritide overcame the moment of crisis with a new social, cultural, political, and economic physiognomy.

Crucial to these considerations is the previously unpublished presence of Attic pottery in graves from the late 6th century BCE in the Macchiabate necropolis. Attic pottery is known from other contexts at Francavilla Marittima or from Sybaris itself during the 6th century BCE, but never before had it been reported within the material culture of the necropolis' indigenous grave goods. Moreover, the Attic material under examination is datable precisely to the years in which Sybaris perished, suggesting that the Oenotrian community of Timpone Motta was still viable immediately after the demise of Sybaris and, indeed, able to continue to import pottery from Athens, a role previously performed by the wealthy Sybaris, from which the intra-Oenotrian communities obtained goods available in the Mediterranean trade network. In the next stages of the project, the Attic pottery of Macchiabate will be read and interpreted on several levels. On the one hand, its presence updates the relations between the locals and the Greek culture, which had already existed for centuries, especially in relation to the burial ritual. The dynamics of exchange and influence between the Oenotrians and the Greek colony can be brought into sharper focus in this way, but a different line of inquiry can also be pursued outside of the individual site. An inventory of Attic pottery within the economic and political territory of Sybaris (southern Campania, Basilicata, and Calabria) will be used to investigate whether there are constants or differences in the way Late-Archaic Attic production was received in Magna Graecia, both in the Italic and colonial spheres. In this way, it will be clarified whether the Macchiabate example can be considered part of a larger association of trans-regional practices that may have been influenced by common trade flows, or whether we are instead dealing with a more composite mosaic of practices rooted in the specific traditions of each site.

MA Niccolò Savaresi
Assistent / Doktorand
Philosophisch-Historische Fakultät
Departement Altertumswissenschaften
Fachbereich Klassische Archäologie

Assistent / Doktorand

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