Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography/Iapygium Promontorium

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IAPY'GIUM PROMONTO'RIUM (Ἄκρα Ἰαπυγία: Capo Sta. Maria di Leuca), a headland which forms the extreme SE. point of Italy, as well as the extremity of the long peninsula or promontory that divides the gulf of Tarentum from the Adriatic sea. It is this long projecting strip of land, commonly termed the heel of Italy, and designated by the Romans as Calabria, that was usually termed by the Greeks Iapygia, whence the name of the promontory in question. The latter is well described by Strabo as a rocky point extending far out to sea towards the SE., but inclining a little towards the Lacinian promontory, which rises opposite to it, and together with it encloses the gulf of Tarentum. He states the interval between these two headlands, and consequently the width of the Tarentine gulf, at its entrance, at about 700 stadia (70 G. miles), which slightly exceeds the truth. Pliny calls the same distance 100 M. P. or 800 stadia; but the real distance does not exceed 66 G. miles or 660 stadia. (Strab. vi. pp. 258, 281; Plin. iii. 11. s. 16; Ptol. iii. 1. § 13; Polyb. x. 1.)

The same point was also not infrequently termed the Salentine promontory (Promontorium Salentinum, Mel. ii. 4. § 8; Ptol. l. c.), from the people of that name who inhabited the country immediately adjoining. Saliust applies the same name to the whole of the Calabrian or Messapian peninsula. (Sall. ap. Serv. ad Aen. iii. 400.) Its modern name is derived from the ancient church of Sta. Maria di Leuca, situated close to the headland, and which has preserved the name of the ancient town and port of Leuca; the latter was situated immediately on the W. of the promontory, and afforded tolerable shelter for vessels. [Leuca.] Hence we find the Athenian fleet, in B. C. 415, on its way to Sicily, touching at the Iapygian promontory after crossing from Corcyra (Thuc. vi. 30, 44); and there can be no doubt that this was the customary course in proceeding from Greece to Sicily. [ E. H. B. ]