In the beginning of the fifth
century the political balances between the colonies of Magna
Graecia changed again. Kroton, in fact, after having
obliterated Sybaris (510 b.C.) regained control of most of the
territory that had lost after the defeat in the battle of the Sagra river, and even extended it.
THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
All of this
damaged mainly Locri Epizephyrii. The Locrian polis, after
having experienced what was one of the most flourishing
periods of its history after the victory against Kroton, was
now facing a very
difficult situation that was harming the city, day by day, by
losing control of larger parts of what was once its vast
In fact, during these years, it seems that
Locri Epizephyrii lost the direct control over all its
sub-colonies and the cities that had integrated under its
influence after the victory in the battle of the Sagra river,
including the nearby Kaulon, which again fell under the
control of Kroton.
Despite this, however, during the
fifth century Kroton never constituted a real threat to Locri
The real threat to Locri Epizephyrii came
from Rhegion which, once realized that Kroton while being
always a threat to its territory at the moment didn't seem
interested in waging war southwards, put its eyes on Locri
Epizephyrii, at this moment in difficulty, to finally get rid of the
geographical shackles that the same Locri Epizephyrii had
imposed over Rhegion by preventing its expansion due to the
close boundaries between the two cities.
In 477 b.C.
the Rhegion's army led by Leophron, son of Anaxilas, lord of
Rhegion, was about to attack Locri Epizephyrii. However the
battle was avoided thanks to a strong diplomatic action of
Hiero I, tyrant of Syracuse (to whom the Locrians had asked
for help), who managed to dissuade Anaxilas from his intent.
From now on, the relationships between Locri and
Syracuse became very close, giving rise to an alliance that
will have an important place in Magna Graecia's history.
AND ITS CONSEQUENCES IN THE GREEK
In the second half of the fifth century the great
war between Athens and Sparta (the Peloponnesian war)
inevitably affected also the western poleis, primarily because
of the Athens' politics focused, in that period, to try to
extend her influence (and her control) over the Greek colonies
in Italy and Sicily. Control that tried to exercise even
through the foundation of cities (as Thurii), the colonization
of Neapolis, and some treaties, such as those with Rhegion,
Leontini and other cities. Situations, these, which
undoubtedly foreshadowed an Athenian military commitment in
these lands much larger than anyone could have imagined by
The excuse to send her fleet in the West was
offered to Athens by the request for help made by Leontini
during the battle with Syracuse (427 b.C.). Rhegion
immediately sided with Athens, becoming her base for naval
operations in the West while, of course, Locri Epizephyrii
along with the other cities loyal to the league of Sparta,
took the field alongside the Syracusan ally.
phase of Athens' military operations in the West ended in 426
b.C. with a defeat near Locri Epizephyrii, which forced the
Athenian army and fleet to a temporary retreat.
following year Locri Epizephyrii and Syracuse, convinced that
the control of the Strait was strategically crucial for the
fate of the war, decided for a simultaneous attack by sea
against Messene (the ancient Zancle, to which Anaxilas of
Rhegion, once he took the control of the polis, imposed the name of his old
home town) and occupied the city; at the same time, whilst the
fleet was engaged in Messene, the Locrian army attacked the
territory of Rhegion, in order to prevent a possible attempt
of the polis' army to aid Messene, and withdrawing only after
having laid waste on it.
Then there was a period of
continuous clashes, by sea and by land, between the armies of
Syracuse and of Locri Epizephyrii against their Athenians and
Rhegion enemies in which there were ups and downs for both
contenders; clashes that ended around 422 b.C.
brief period of calm, in 416 b.C., Athens tried again to
conquer the Sicily, and to do this moved from Korkyra to
Rhegion a fleet of 136 warships carrying an army of
approximately 6500 men; during the winter of 415 b.C., since
the Athenian fleet had received additional reinforcements,
everything was ready for the battle that soon took place and
that, at first, was in favor of the Athenians. In 414 b.C.,
in fact, the Athenian army and fleet laid siege to Syracuse.
The siege lasted for a long time but, thanks to its
allies, and especially to a Spartan fleet, Syracuse was never
conquered; on the contrary, during the following year, 413
b.C., the fleet of Syracuse and of her allies inflicted a
heavy defeat to the Athenian one; defeat that also the
Athenian army suffered by land in the following days. The
siege was now broken and the Athenian fleet was so much in
serious trouble that it suffered another heavy defeat; this
time definitive and that forced, at first, a rapid retreat and,
later on, the definitive surrender.
War was finally over and the main consequences it had for
Locri Epizephyrii were, at least for the time being, to have
rejected the danger that came from Rhegion and, above all, to
have established a close relationship with Syracuse; a
relationship that will be strengthened even more in the early
fourth century b.C. with the marriage between Dionysius I,
tyrant of Syracuse, and the daughter of an illustrious family
of the Locrian nobility.