Rethinking Collapse: the Fall of Sybaris (ca. 510 BC) and the Transformation of Greek Colonial Space

The four-year project (2022–2026) Rethinking Collapse: the Fall of Sybaris (ca. 510 BC) and the Transformation of Greek Colonial Space is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). It aims at the impact the violent destruction of Sybaris had on the development of the former cultural centre and its hinterland. Methodologically the project focuses on an interdisciplinary archaeological, historical and landscape archaeological approach.

Under the influence of contemporary experiences, research in cultural studies has been increasingly focusing on the end of cultural systems, on the ruptures and discontinuities that determine the history of humankind to this day. The present project seeks to advance the current debate in ancient studies, by looking at one specific case study, the downfall of Sybaris (ca. 510 BC), known as the wealthiest colony of the Greek Archaic world. So far, the discussion concerning the downfall of ancient cities and civilisations has been shaped primarily by literary traditions. Reports written by ancient historians and geographers have generally been taken literally and influenced our view of collapse. In the Sibaritide, Herodotos and Diodorus give us the impression of a devasted and abandoned wasteland following the destruction of Sybaris, and past archaeological research tended to corroborate this account. If we look more closely at the archaeological data, however, it becomes evident that, rather than total abandonment, a gradual transformation of the cultural landscape is to be observed. Within the present project three main lines of research will be pursued, an archaeological, a historical and a landscape archaeological one. With regard to the first, archaeological excavations will be carried out focusing at the latest stages of the Macchiabate-necropolis at Francavilla Marittima, situated at about 10 kilometers from Sybaris. In addition a doctoral thesis will investigate the role of Attic pottery imports in the Sibaritide and beyond with regard to the transformation of the cultural space and the emergence of new trading networks before and after the downfall of Sybaris. With regard to the second, postdoctoral research will be dealing with the historical tradition of the collapse of cities and entire political systems in the late archaic and classical periods on more general terms. Finally a geo- and landscape archaeological research project will analyse the topographical appearance of the Macchiabate terrace in terms of its natural and anthropogenic history, in order to better understand its importance as a burial place within the ancient settlement landscape of the Sibaritide. By combining the results from the four subprojects new evidence will emerge with regard to the reconstruction of a cultural landscape at a crucial moment of transformation including both the end of the powerful Achaean colony of Sybaris and the foundation - in the same place - of an equally potent new city, Thurioi, under Athenian leadership (444/43 BC).

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Le campagne di scavo annuali e il relativo lavoro di ricerca possono essere realizzati grazie al sostegno finanziario del Fondo Nazionale Svizzero, a cui vanno i nostri più sentiti ringraziamenti.