Once Upon a Time in Tarentum

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It was a short-lived rebellion and the city once again came fully under Roman control in BCE when it was captured by Quintus Fabius Maximus. Tarentum was left at the mercy of Rome. With its lands greatly reduced and governed directly by a Roman praetor, the city eventually regained its former status as a formal ally c. With the extension of the via Appia to Brundisium further to the south-east, Tarentum lost its position as the primary port in southern Italy.

Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (), TAANACH, TARENTUM

The city still produced products for export such as wool, textiles, Tyrian purple dye, and foodstuffs. Epigraphic evidence, the density of private housing and presence of several large villas demonstrate that the city remained economically active and relatively prosperous well into the imperial period with Emperor Nero r. Both Jews and Christians were a strong presence in Tarentum from the 1st century CE onwards with a bishopric established by the 4th century CE or earlier. During the Gothic invasions the town was, notwithstanding its new fortifications, occupied by Totila , king of the Ostrogoths r.


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In CE Tarentum, still, as ever, a strategically useful acquisition for invaders, entered the medieval period with a bang when the Lombard duke Romauld sacked the city. Tarentum once had large sacred complexes with impressive temples but due to the fact that the city has been continuously occupied since antiquity most of the large scale ancient architecture has long since been dismantled and reused elsewhere in more modern buildings.

An exception are the two massive columns once belonging to an archaic temple dedicated to Poseidon.

These columns now stand in the corner of the municipal square not their original location and their massive size hints at the enormity of this now lost temple. What Tarentum may lack in architecture is more than compensated for in the richness of the artefacts excavated at the site, the surrounding countryside, and the harbour itself.

Many of the artefacts are from tombs and none is more interesting than the Tomb of the Athlete, a tomb of a Tarentum victor at the Olympic Games complete with his discus, weights, and javelin heads and, touchingly, the prize he famously won in life, the black-figure amphora given to all winners.

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Special mention should be made of the many fine floor mosaics from the city's grander Roman residences. The largest and best preserved is a late-2nd or early 3rd century CE mosaic with four main panels depicting an abduction of a nymph and additional scenes of a leopard, lion and tiger hunting. Smaller side panels show birds and fruit. Another splendid floor mosaic has purely geometrical and floral shapes with a large central circle whose folded velarium curtain is given an almost three-dimensional quality by the use of variously shaded tesserae pieces.

This perfectly square mosaic dates to the 2nd century CE and belonged to a Roman house or domus in central Tarentum. Finally, one of the star pieces from ancient Taranto and one which welcomes visitors to the archaeological museum is a bronze statue of Zeus. Dating to c.

Once Upon a Time in Tarentum

Editorial Review This Article has been reviewed for accuracy, reliability and adherence to academic standards prior to publication. We're a small non-profit organisation run by a handful of volunteers. Become a Member. Cartwright, M.


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