The first twenty years of the third century
b.C. correspond to the last period of real independence and
prosperity for the polis of Locri Epizephyrii.
major event of this period was probably an attempt made by
Syracuse, under the guidance of the tyrant Agathocles, along
with the Locrian ally, to regain control of what once was,
under Dionysius I, the vast territory that was under the
But such an attempt, although
initially marked by many successes (the taking of Kroton in
295 b.C., the liberation of Hipponion in 292 b.C. from the
domination of the Bruttii), failed because of the illness that
struck the tyrant and lead him to death (in 289 b.C.).
The consequences of such failure were disastrous, not only for
Syracuse and Locri Epizephyrii itself, but also for all the
other Greek cities of southern Italy which now, having lost
their ancient splendor and heavily weakened by a military
perspective found themselves unprepared for the threat that to
them is now represented by the Bruttii and other
indigenous populations, such as the Samnites or the Lucanians;
the same also happened for the Greek cities in Sicily which,
now without the protection of Syracuse, were easy prey for the
Being unable to defend themselves and by
now fearing for their own survival, the Greek cities of
southern Italy now could only seek the help of Rome. Which, of
course, took the opportunity to extend its control southward
and thus answered favorably to the requests for help and to
send a military garrison that one by one the Greek cities of
southern Italy made.
Request that the even Locri
Epizephyrii was forced to do receiving, in 282 b.C., a Roman
PYRRHUS OF EPIRUS IN ITALY
In 280 b.C., however, the arrival in Italy of Pyrrhus of Epirus,
whose aid had been requested from Taras to stem the southward
Roman advance, changed again the fragile balances that were
reached during those years in Magna Graecia and Sicily.
And this because the vast majority of the Greek cities of
southern Italy (and in particular those based on a democratic
system, such as Locri Epizephyrii) didn't look favorably on
the presence of Roman armies in their territory, feeling
themselves, in such way, subservient to Rome.
With these premises, supported by the
first successes (albeit partial) that Pyrrhus obtained against
the Romans, soon the cities began to side with the king of
Epirus by removing, often by force, the garrisons that Rome
had sent them.
So did Locri Epizephyrii, thus deciding
to follow the fortunes of Pyrrhus. During this period,
however, the Locrian polis was not involved in clashes of
major importance, except for a joint effort of Carthaginians
and Romans (allies against a common enemy in this historical
period) that in 278 b.C. attempted a sortie against it by sea
being, however, rejected.
Pyrrhus' expedition went on,
meanwhile, with some success which however did not result in
great results while, on the contrary, the Roman army was
reorganized and seemed to have the upper hand over Pyrrhus and
his allies from Taras.
Such a situation compounded by
the arrogance and harassment that often were committed by
Pyrrhus' expeditionary forces in the cities which were hosting
them, was the cause of many contrasts within the Greek cities
between the aristocrat (favorable to Rome) and the democrat
(sided with Pyrrhus) sides and led, in 277 b.C., the polis of
Locri Epizephyrii, in which prevailed the aristocratic party,
to hand the city over to the Roman consul Publius Cornelius
Rufinus who was advancing southward with his troops after
regaining the control of many cities that at first had sided
Thus Rome by now controlled most of
southern Italy, and Pyrrhus, engaged against the Carthaginians
in Sicily, was forced to go back to the Bruttium to try to
stem the Roman advance.
So he moved his troops and
first of all attacked Locri Epizephyrii, retaking its control
in 275 b.C. and harshly taking revenge against the people who
handed the city to the Romans; not satisfied with that he also
became the protagonist of devastations and looting which
didn't spare the famous Persephoneion, as Livy himself (Ab
Urbe Condita XXIX 8, 9) narrates:
"Iam avaritia ne
sacrorum quidem spoliatione abstinuit; nec alia modo templa
violata sed Proserpinae etiam intacti omni aetate thesauri,
praeterquam quod a Pyrrho [...] spoliati dicebantur."
"In fact their avarice did not refrain from despoiling even
sacred things; and not only other temples were desecrated, but
also the treasure of Proserpina (Persephone), untouched in
every age, that it was said to have been despoiled only by
Livy himself, however, continuing the
narration, tells us how Pyrrhus, repentant of the serious
outrage perpetrated against the goddess, interpreted some of
his subsequent misfortunes as a punishment of the goddess
herself against him and decided to return the treasure of the
Sanctuary to try to appease her anger:
"[...] qui cum
magno piaculo sacrilegii sui manubias rettulit."
it was also said that Pyrrhus), after a severe atonement,
restored the plunder (gained) by his sacrilege.".
However the failure for Pyrrhus was now close and took place,
in 275 b.C., due to the defeat of Maleventum which forced him
to leave Italy.
So the main effect that the arrival
in Italy of Pyrrhus had was to have allowed Rome to accelerate its
expansion southward, taking control of what had once been the
Magna Graecia; and as it happened to all of the other cities
in Bruttium, even Locri Epizephyrii fell back under the
control of Rome thus following, from now on, its fortunes.