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A Greek battleground in southern Italy: new light on the ancient Sagra
Author: Paolo Visonŕ and James R. Jansson. JGA 2 2017: P 131-154.ISBN JGAVOL22017VISONAETAL.

In the Battle of the Sagra River, the earliest known battle fought at a river in southern Italy, the army of Locri Epizephyrii (with the support of Rhegion) defeated superior forces of Kroton. This was one of the most salient events in the history of Magna Graecia before the fall of Sybaris in 510 BC. Its significance was magnified throughout the Greek world as an upset victory achieved through supernatural intervention: the Dioscuri were said to have come from Sparta to aid the Locrians. However, no primary sources about this conflict have survived and nothing is known about the topography of the battle. As a consequence, archaeologists have hitherto made no attempt to investigate the Sagra battleground. ‘Epizephyrian Locri defeated Croton in a great battle on the Sagra river, but the story we are told is so markedly romantic and fictional that it cannot be rationalized into history’, A.J. Graham has argued. Scholars therefore have focused upon the scant temporal and spatial references in the literary sources in order to date the battle, to identify the river after which it was named, and to discern the underlying causes of the enmity between Locri and Kroton that led to this engagement. It is now agreed that the Battle of the Sagra River was fought after the Locrians had founded sub-colonies at Medma and Hipponion on the western coast of Italy, thwarting Kroton’s further expansion into this area. The 6th century was a time of acute interstate rivalry in Magna Graecia. A coalition of Achaian cities including Sybaris, Metapontum, and Kroton, destroyed the Ionian city of Siris c. 570 BC. Kroton may have decided to retaliate against Locri because the latter had sent aid to Siris, or because of Locrian attempts to encroach upon the chora (territory) of Kaulonia, a city-state to the north of Locri, which Kroton had helped to found. The Krotoniates’ defeat at the Sagra River may thus have occurred around 560 BC.

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