Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2014.05.26 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2014.05.26

Giovanna De Sensi Sestito, Stefania Mancuso (ed.), Enotri e Brettii in Magna Grecia: modi e forme di interazione culturale. Società antiche: storia, culture, territori.   Soveria Mannelli:  Rubbettino Editore, 2011.  Pp. 622.  ISBN 9788849826883.  €30.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Christopher Smith, British School at Rome; University of St Andrews (

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This collection of essays arises from a conference in 2007, and is one outcome of a range of activities, which included a travelling virtual reality exhibition, MNEME which was installed in several museums in the region and offered contextualised 3-D reconstructions of selected objects.1 A further volume is promised. The considerable archaeological work done in Calabria recently is making this an increasingly important area of study. 2

The aims of the volume are set out clearly (p8): first to look at territorial and social organization from the Bronze to Iron Age in Oenotrian sites, with special attention to connectivity and exchange; second to consider internal reaction in the eighth century to the arrival of the Greeks; and third to look at the military and territorial expansion of the Brettii and Lucanians in the fifth century and after, and how this was integrated with the Greek presence. The introduction summarises the chapters well, and most chapters are preceded by an English resume (one is in Latin).

Brocato and Caruso have re-examined a substantial quantity of Iron Age goods from a variety of necropoleis including Francavilla Marittima and Torre Galli and argue that they can see highly symbolic female roles, and relatively conservative male roles. They argue for a strong Cypriot influence as a mediator of eastern influences such as warrior goddesses.

One interesting theme is continuity; the sites of Calanna and Castellace carry on through the Iron Age. In the case of the latter, its important position secured its existence but it seems to have undergone changes of culture, especially with the beginning of a Brettian phase. La Torre puts this into a broader context by considering the persistence of indigenous populations to the Hellenistic period in sites including Castellace. At the same time, Greek cults, especially that of Herakles, are found, so this is a population which is adapting external models. Another example is Amantea near Temesa, which shows continuity until the fifth century and then a shift to Brettian culture in the fourth century.

The second part focuses on a number of settlements in the fourth and third centuries and the results show successful local occupationof key trading areas, until the Hannibalic period. Each case can be seen in some respect as part of an intersection of interests. In the area near Amendolara, which has been studied by a Dutch team (note 2), the pattern of continuity until the second century, and then a severe break, seems clear; yet it seems to co-exist with nearby Greek settlements.

Two chapters on Castiglione di Paludi give updates on this well-defended 40-hectare site with powerful walls and what may be some kind of federal religious site at the so-called theatre. It was continuously occupied from the ninth to the third centuries BC; the colonial foundation of Copia brought it to a close. Novellis and Paoletti describe the excavation history; Brienza, Caliò and Lippolis give an account of recent work, largely in the archive. Particularly interesting is their suggestion of Illyrian parallels for the defensive walls. The site’s careful urban planning is now more evident, with an identifiable agora and public buildings, which the authors compare with Morgantina. As a whole the site may reflect a similar process to Laos (modern Marcellina, in Calabria), both of which had a fourth-century refoundation moment. Polosa adds information on coins from the site, suggesting some scattered occupation or visitation in the second century BC.

Guzzo identifies the site of Torre Melissa with the site mentioned in the sources called Makalla, which was associated with a tomb of Philoctetes; recently discovered columns and bases may relate to some commemorative monument. Guzzo goes on to find both Latin and Punic roots to the name, all referring to mercantile activity.

Tiriolo, in the Ager Teuranus, dominates the narrowest part of the ‘toe’ of Italy, and is famous for the Senatus Consultum de Bacchanalibus of 186 BC, and which regulated in some way the worship of Bacchus, at least in Roman territory. The important tombs, and abundant evidence of local manufacture of ceramics and metalwork all indicate a prosperous society, controlling the Sila forest (see Dion. Hal. 20.15) and access to the three ports of Scoloacium to the east and Hipponium and Terina on the Tyrrhenian coast. This, then, is a highly successful venture, brought to an end by the Hannibalic War, the Roman aftermath, and the Gracchan intervention at Scolacium. Only traces of the subsequent villa culture have been found.

Mancuso and Spadea look at one end of Tiriolo’s trading network, Terina (Lamezia Terme) and the surrounding area. Fourth and third century settlement in the Piano della Tirena is matched by increasing evidence of urban planning at Terina itself, for instance at Sant’Eufemia Vetere , which has long been known for the jewellery hoard which is now in the British Museum; and Iardini di Renda which has been recently studied using geophysics and excavation). They claim to see Brettian ritual activity (bones and vessels, the remains of feasts, buried in boxes made of tiles). The section concludes with a chapter on sites near San Lucido, ancient Clampetia, inspired by a sculpture of a woman, or a baby, next to a shrine to the Madonna in the wall of an 18th century house. Sangineto demonstrates a shift in the second century BC and on to villas, with an attendant reduction in the status and capacity of the local population, and speculates that the statue belongs to this later phase.

The third part looks at specific artefactual evidence. There are three papers on coinage. Arslan divides Brettian coinage either side of 214/13, with the lighter issues on the later side, notes the importance of the sign of the crab, and of Petelia as an issuing site. Caccamo Caltabiano focuses instead on the image of Nike and the importance of Terina as a mint. Ruga publishes for the first time Brettian coins from the museum of Croton, showing their circulation and presence even in the Lakinian Heraion. Verbicaro presents evidence of manufacturing areas (weaving and food) in Petelia (Popolo di Strongoli) and Aversa looks at building techniques, arguing again for northern Greek influence on defensive walls. Cristiano notes the importance of certain symbolic armoury finds, especially sword belts, in fourth-century burials. Finally Lazzarini looks at Greek and Brettian interactions through epigraphy, and especially an intriguing defixio from Petelia (= Imagines Italicae 3.1475-7).

What do we now know better about the Oenotrians and Brettians, and what questions remain? There is a somewhat unresolved tension between signs of continuity and a concentration on the Brettian ‘arrival.’ The latter is problematic; as Crawford once said, of the Lucanians and Brettians, ‘almost everything we (think we) know about the two peoples depends on the perceptions of outsiders at particular moments, transmitted by a variety of intermediaries.’3 On the basis of the archaeological evidence, the Brettians seem to pick up from the Oenotrians as a well-integrated, culturally sophisticated group, capable of mediating between different groups.

What is also clear is that for the most part they looked everywhere but Rome. Their inherited cultural connections are to the east. The connections with northern Greece, given the adventure of Alexander of Molossus in this region, are especially interesting. Missing from this account are the connections to Etruria recently displayed in an exhibition on Vetulonian connections.4 It would be interesting to understand better the nature of relations between this area and Sicily; the shared interest in Nike is one element picked out here.5 Crawford’s speculation (see note 3) that the Brettians may have hoped for themselves and Sicily to be united under the Carthaginians would be an interesting line to pursue.

For Fronda, in his excellent book on southern Italy in the Hannibalic War, the Brettians seem to be an argumentative group, making land grabs towards Rhegium, largely objecting to the Greeks, and largely opposed to Rome, but sufficiently internally divided as to permit differences of opinion, hence Petelia’s resistance.6 That must be to some extent true, but this volume seems to tell a more complex picture, both of continuity from Oenotrians to Brettians and of convergence and exchange. Brettian settlements have their own logic, and their economic drive is clear.

It takes a long time for the ruptures to take place. Recently, Sangineto has noted that the Brettian independence was being eroded from the early third century to the later first century.7 This volume too seems to espouse a gradualist point of view. From a different point of view, it may be that the Brettii were producing forerunners of the Roman-inspired villas from the fourth century BC. From both directions we see slow change and adaptation, though the older views, based on the sources, suggest sharper breaks. Are we right to take this gradualist view? Or is the archaeology of this area, or its material culture, not well-suited to spotting dramatic shifts?

Mollo’s important summary of the Tyrrhenian coastal villages suggests that the impact of Roman interventions in the early third century BC may have forced the Brettii to look inward and this strengthened the importance of the Ager Teuranus. 8 Being able to use the evidence from Brettian communities to demonstrated the sea power of Rome at the time of the First Punic War is clever, and fits with signs of decline at Blanda, Laos and Terina.9 The Tyrrhenian coast clearly suffered particularly from the shifts in power; yet it may have been precisely under that pressure that the Brettians re-constructed their identity. The Brettian choice to side with Hannibal may, as Fronda argues, have been a response to their treatment in the 270s, but as Isayev showed for Lucania, there remains some serious chronological issues to be addressed in the archaeology.10 Again, a more nuanced history is required to provide a balance between those who see the 270s as the critically disastrous moment and those who place it after the Hannibalic War.

This is therefore a rich and valuable collection. Some other Italian publishers should take note of a well-presented, 600 page volume published for €30 – and follow suit. Whatever further work might have been done to contextualise the findings, the editors and publisher deserve grateful thanks for making important material available in an affordable way; and the next volume is eagerly awaited.

Table of Contents

G. Latorre, Presentazione
G. De Sensi Sestito, Enotri e Brettii in Magna Grecia. Note introduttive
S. Mancuso, Comunicare l'antico per creare identità
PRIMA PARTE Tra Enotri e Brettii
P Brocato, F. Caruso, Elementi dell'ideologia religiosa dai corredi delie necropoli dell'età del Ferro della Calabria
R. Agostino, Il basso Tirreno reggino tra età del Bronzo e del Ferro
M.M. Sica, Castellace tra Greci e Indigeni
G.F. La Torre, Il mondo indigeno lungo la costa tirrenica calabrese in età arcaica
F. Mollo, Nuove ricerche tra i torrenti Oliva e Torbido tra tardo arcaismo ed epoca ellenistica: Indigeni, Greci e Italici nell'area di Temesa
SECONDA PARTE Territori in epoca brettia
P. Carafa, S. Luppino, Il paesaggio agrario della Calabria settentrionale tra IV e III secolo a.C.
D. Novellis, M. Paoletti, Castiglione di Paludi e i Brettii
E. Brienza, L. Caliò, E. Lippolis, Castiglione di Paludi: nuove ricerche nel sito della città antica
A. Foiosa, Castiglione di Paludi: la circolazione monetaria
P.G. Guzzo, Filottete a Macalla. Nuove scoperte archeologiche a Torre Melissa
A. Racheli, R. Spadea, Vecchi e nuovi dati dall'Ager Teuranus
S. Mancuso, R. Spadea, Insediamenti brettii nella piana lametina
A.B. Sangineto, Il cippo di Pollella in comune di San Lucido (Cs). Un riesame del territorio di Clampetia fra IV a.C. e II d.C.
TERZA PARTE Documenti e materiali
E.A. Arslan, I Brettii: il quadro numismatico
M. Caccamo Caltabiano, La moneta dei Brettii e l'identità di Nika
A. Ruga, La presenza di moneta brettia tra Crotone e il Lacinio
G. Verbicaro, Nuovi dati sulla topografia di Petelia. Lo scavo in località Popolo di Strongoli: contesto e materiali
G. Aversa, Sulle tracce dell'architettura dei Brettii
E Cristiano, Armi ed equipaggiamenti militari: aggiornamento dei dati e nuove acquisizioni
M.L. Lazzarini, Interazioni culturali tra Greci e Brettii: l'epigrafia di Petelia


1.   See F. Bruno, S. Bruno, G. De Sensi, M-L. Luchia, S. Mancuso, M. Muzzupappa, ‘From 3D reconstruction to virtual reality: A complete methodology for digital archaeological exhibition,’ Journal of Cultural Heritage 11 (2010) 42–49.
2.   See an earlier and important collection of essays by one of the editors of this volume, Giovanna De Sensi Sestito (ed) La Calabria tirrenica nell'antichità: nuovi documenti e problematiche storiche Soveria Mannelli 2008; and also R. Neudecker (ed.) Krise und Wandel: Süditalien im 4. und 3. Jahrundert v. Chr. (Palilia 23, Wiesbaden, 2011); P. A. J. Attema, G-J. L. M. Burgers and P. M. van Leusen, Regional Pathways to Complexity: Settlement and Land-Use Dynamics in Early Italy from the Bronze Age to the Republican Period Amsterdam 2011.
3.   M. H. Crawford, rev. L. Cappelletti Lucani e Brettii. Ricerche sulla storia politica e istituzionale di due popoli dell'Italia antica CR 55. 2 (2005), 625-626
4.   S. Rafanelli, E. Setari Il modello inimitabile : percorsi di civiltà fra Etruschi, Enotri e Dauni Vetulonia, 2012.
5.   M. Talierco Mensitieri, ‘Monete e scambi nella Calabria tirrenica in epoca greca,’ in De Sensi Sestito (ed) Calabria tirrenica, n2 above, 317-41.
6.   M. P. Fronda, Between Rome and Carthage: Southern Italy during the Second Punic War Cambridge 2010, rev. BMCR 2011.09.22.
7.   A. B. Sangineto, Roma nei Bruttii: Città e campange nelle Calabrie romane Rossano 2013, esp. 23-6.
8.   F. Mollo, Ai confine della Brettia: Insediamenti e materiali nel territorio tra Belvedere Marittimo e Fuscaldo nel quadro del popolamento italico della fascia costiera tirrenica della provincia di Cosenza, Soverio Manelli, 2003
9.   De Sensi Sestito (ed) Tra l’Amato e il Savuto (2 vols) Soverio Manelli, 1999; G. F. La Torre ‘La romanizzazione del Tirreno cosentino: Il rulo di Blanda,’ in De Sensi Sestito (ed) Calabria tirrenica, n2 above, 497-517.
10.   E Isayev, Inside Ancient Lucania: Dialogues in History and Archaeology (BICS Supplement 90, London, 2007), 154-67.

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