Salvatore La Rosa


Over the centuries many travelers have written about the ancient Locri Epizephyrii in their travel accounts; reports through which we learned about the state of conservation of the ruins of the ancient city through the ages.
But we owe the first proper study of the ancient Locri Epizephyrii to Honoré Théodoric d'Albert, Duc de Luynes who, in addition to the excavation of the temple of "Casa Marafioti", also made the first plan of the ancient city; plan that was published in 1830 by the Institute of Archaeological Correspondence of Rome.
Afterwards Locri Epizephyrii was the object of study of Pasquale Scaglione, a native of Gerace, that in 1856 published his work entitled "Storie di Locri e di Gerace" (Histories of Locri and Gerace), still important nowadays for the large number of information provided regarding the area of the ancient city, information that, otherwise, wouldn't have reached our age.

However, the real beginning of the modern archaeological history of Locri Epizephyrii was in 1889 when a young Italian archaeologist from the town of Rovereto, Paolo Orsi, was sent to Locri by the Ministry of National Education to assist (but, especially, "to oversee"), the famous German archaeologist Eugen von Petersen who had obtained a permission to lead a German excavation campaign on the Locrian territory. Campaign that, thanks to Orsi's help, was a success and allowed an accurate study of the Temple of Marasà (during this campaign was also recovered the marble group of the Dioscuri which decorated the pediment of the ancient temple).

Years went by, and during those years the archaeological site was once again left to itself and the news of ravages and looting were the order of the day.

Until 1907 when, with the establishment of the Superintendencies to better protect the national archaeological heritage, the Superintendence for Calabria was created and entrusted to Paolo Orsi, that firmly wanted that job, after his first fortunate experience in the Locrian land.

And in fact Paolo Orsi promptly began a long series of successful excavation campaigns not only in Locri Epizephyrii, but also in other important archaeological sites in Calabria. During this period, in Locri, he brought back to light the Persephoneion (with the discovery of the Pinakes), the native necropoleis of Canale and Janchina, the Greek necropoleis of Monaci district and Lucifero district; he completed the exploration of the temple of "Casa Marafioti" (with the discovery of the famous terracotta statue group known as Marafioti Horseman), picked up an impressive amount of data, even through small excavations in various areas of the city, and completed the plans of all the areas explored until then.

The activity in Locri of the archaeologist from Rovereto ends in 1915 (while he will continue to work on other archaeological sites in Calabria through 1925); and so, once again, the archaeological work in the area was suspended for a long period.

Until 1940, when it was taken up by prof. Paolo Enrico Arias who discovered the Shrine of "Grotta Caruso" and, above all, he recognized and brought (partially) to light the Theatre.

In 1950 the excavation activity was again resumed by the then Director of the National School of Archaeology of Rome, prof. Gaspare Oliverio, who began the work of excavation in Centocamere district. These excavations focused on a very large area of the ancient city, bringing to light an entire neighborhood, allowing the scholars to better deepen the knowledge of some aspects of what once was the daily life in the ancient Locri Epizephyrii. Excavations that were not completed due to premature death, in 1956, of prof. Oliverio.

However the archaeological activity in the ancient city was not interrupted and, in the same year (1956), Alfonso De Franciscis resumed the investigation of the area of Marasà and completed the excavation of the Theatre. The same De Franciscis carried out the study of the Bronze Tablets (discovered in 1959) of the Sanctuary of Olympian Zeus and some minor excavations.

In 1969 the Archaeological Superintendence for Calabria and the University of Turin sign their first agreement and, since that moment to the present day, with a succession of scholars such as Giorgio Gullini and Marcella Barra Bagnasco, such agreement has led to a long and active cooperation that has considerably contributed to let us better understand the ancient polis that once was one of the most flourishing cities of Magna Graecia, as well as having allowed to put in place projects aimed at preserving for the future generations those monuments that, already brought to light, have become an heritage for everyone.

But the ancient Locri has not yet finished to amaze us; as a matter of fact only a small part of the territory of the ancient city has been explored and therefore, over the coming years, new wonders will undoubtedly emerge from the Locrian soil.






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