was founded as a Greek colony in the VIII century B.C. by
the Spartans. It was therefore a city of the Magna Grecia
powerful enough to stand the Roman attack until 272 B.C.
renowned for its wool, its oysters and mussels, and its dyes
(the imperial purple was the product of decayed Tarentine
mollusc). Its acropolis harboured a vast bronze of Poseidon
that was one of the wonders of the ancient world.
In 367 BC
Carthage and the Etruscans signed a pact to counter
Taranto's power in southern Italy.
Under the rule
of its greatest statesman, strategist and army commander,
the philosopher and mathematician Archytas, Taranto reached
its peak power and wealth; it was the most important city of
the Magna Grecia, the main commercial port of southern
colonists called the city Taras, from the name of the
mythical eponymous hero Taras, while the Romans, who
connected the city to Rome with an extension of the Appian
way, called it Tarentum.
Second Punic War, the Romans heavily stronghold the city for
fear that it might go over to Hannibal. In 122 BC a Roman
colony named Neptunia was founded next to Taranto, after the
Roman sea god Neptune. The Roman colony was separate from
the Greek city, and populated by Roman colons, but it was
later unified to the main centre when Taranto become a
municipium, in 89 BC.
In 540, Taranto
became part of Byzantine Empire until the arrival of the
Longobards with the Duchy of Benevento who captured the city
in 662 to be again under the Byzantine rule in 663. In 700s,
the Arabs started to raid Taranto and southern Italy.
The city became
an Arab stronghold and privileged harbour for long years. In
880, the Byzantine took back Taranto from the Arabs, ending
a forty years dominion.
Among the first
actions taken by the Byzantine ruler was to import in the
city Greek colons in order to increase the population.
Taranto became one of the most important cities in the
Byzantine possession in southern Italy.
fights between Arabs and Byzantine were on play and the city
was again destroyed (927) by the Arabs and again rebuilt by
history of Taranto is full of wartime events, and the town
was invaded and destroyed. The Saracens were ruthless with
Taranto, and they turned it into a heap of rubble, then, was
taken by the Normans, the Swebians, the Angevins.
In the XI
century the city witnessed the struggle between Normans and
Byzantines. With the Norman victory, Taranto became a
principality and for 377 years it was a powerful and almost
independent feudal fief of the Kingdom of Sicily and later
the Kingdom of Naples where the city was strongly fortified.
position of Taranto on the sea was again recognized with
Napoleon as he wanted to build a stronghold to keep under
pression the British base of Malta.
After the fall
of napoleon, southern Italy and Taranto, returned under the
Bourbon dynasty's rule, forming the Kingdom of the Two
was then annexed to the Savoy dynasty's Kingdom of Piemonte-Sardinia,
which became the Kingdom of Italy.
Home to the
Italian fleet after Unification, the city was consequently
heavily bombed during the last war.