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Rivers, land organization, and identity in Greek Western Apoikíai

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The present article looks at the so-called ‘archaic Greek colonization’, and at the connection of the settlements with the territories they occupied, from the perspective of their relationship with water – the water of the sea, but mainly that of rivers and springs. The springs and, even more importantly, the rivers that traversed the places where the new Hellenic communities established themselves arguably offered an important referent for the definition, external as well as internal, of the new settlements and communities; the article shows that the creation of important connections with these landscape elements was conceived as a determinant part of the identity of these communities, denoting and connoting specific important aspects that have often been preserved by the tradition. The pragmatic and ideological aspects of the relationship with the landscape are examined with reference to the settlements established by the Greeks in Sicily and southern Italy between the eighth and the fifth centuries BCE. The analysis relies mainly on literary, historical sources, as, despite the historiographical and interpretive problems that this type of documentation raises, they offer a fairly consistent, if disjointed, panorama. The results of archaeological excavations and surveys are also taken into account: they confirm the picture inferred from the literary evidence and, when considered from a historical viewpoint, may in a number of instances explain the variety of strategies effectively brought into play by some of the cities of Sicily and southern Italy.
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Keywords: Greek colonization; fluvial valleys; landscape; river; waterways

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dipartimento di Beni Culturali,Università del Salento, Lecce, Italy

Publication date: June 1, 2012

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