1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Metapontum

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METAPONTUM (Gr. Μεταπόντιον, mod. Metaponto), an ancient city of Magna Graecia situated on the Gulf of Tarentum, near the mouth of the river Bradanus, and distant about 24 m. from Tarentum and 14 m. from Heraclea. It was founded by an Achaean colony from Sybaris and Crotona about 700 B.C. Metapontum was one of the cities that played a conspicuous part in the troubles arising from the introduction of the Pythagorism into Magna Graecia, and it was there that Pythagoras died in 497 B.C. His tomb was still shown in the time of Cicero.

At the time of the Athenian expedition to Sicily (415 B.C.) Metapontum appears to have been an opulent and powerful city, whose alliance was courted by the Athenians; but it contented itself with a very trifling support. IN 332 B.C., at the time of the expedition of Alexander, king of Epirus, into Italy, it was one of the first cities to enter into an alliance with him. The Second Punic War gave a fatal blow to its prosperity. After the battle of Cannae in 216 B.C. it was among the first cities in the south of Italy to declare in favour of Hannibal, and became for some years the headquarters of Hannibal. Hence, when the defeat of Hasdrubal at the Metaurus (207 B.C.) compelled him to abandon this part of Italy, the inhabitants of Metapontum abandoned their city, and followed him in his retreat.

From this time Metapontum sank; though it was still existing in the days of Cicero, Pausanias tells us that in his time nothing remained of it but a theatre and the circuit of the walls.

Metapontum has the remains of two temples, both of which seem to belong to the period 510–480 B.C. (Koldewey and Puchstein, Die griechischen Tempel in Unteritalien und Sicilien, Berlin, 1899, pp. 35–41). The so-called Chiesa di Sansone, which lay within the ancient town, and was probably dedicated to Apollo Lycius, was a peripteros measuring 186 by 9134 ft., of which only the foundations are left. The capitals were 313 ft. in diameter. The temple was decorated with finely painted terra-cottas. Of the other temple, the so-called Tavole Paladine, which lay outside the area of the ancient city, and was a peripteros with 6 columns, 313 ft. in diameter, in front and 12 ft. at the sides, 15 columns are standing, with the lower portion of the epistyle. It measured 105 ft. by 49 ft. without the steps. There are also traces of the town walls, which have served for the construction of farmhouses, of tombs, and of a harbour by the shore. Pliny speaks of a temple of Juno at Metapontum supported by columns of vinewood (Hist. nat. xiv. 9). An archaic treasure-house dedicated at Olympia by the people of Metapontum has been discovered there. The railway station is the junction of the line from Battipaglia (and Naples) with that from Taranto to Reggio.  (T. As.)

See M. Lacava, Topografia e storia di Metaponto (Naples, 1891).