Not to be confused with Toronto.
Taranto (Ancient Greek: Τάρᾱς Tarās; Modern Greek: Τάραντας Tarantas) is a coastal city in Puglia, Southern Italy. It is the capital of the Province of Taranto and is an important commercial port as well as the main Italian naval base.
It is the third-largest continental city of southern Italy: according to the 2001 census, it has population of 201,349.
Taranto is an important commercial and military port. It has well-developed steel and iron foundries, oil refineries, chemical works, some shipyards for building warships, and food-processing factories.
Taranto history dates back to the 8th century BC when it was founded as a Greek colony. The ancient city was situated on a peninsula, protected by a helm; the modern city has been built over the ancient Greek necropolis.
The islets of S. Pietro and S. Paolo (St. Peter and St. Paul) protect the bay, called Mar Grande (Big Sea), where the commercial port is located. Another bay, called Mar Piccolo (Little Sea), is formed by the old city, and there fishing is flourishing; Mar Piccolo is a military port with a strategic importance.
At the end of the 19th century, a channel was excavated to allow the military ships to enter Mar Piccolo harbour, and the ancient Greek city become an island. In addition, the islets and the coast are strongly fortified. Because of the presence of these two bays, Taranto is also called “the city of the two seas”.
Taranto is also the origin of the common name of the Tarantula spider species, Theraphosidae. In ancient times, residents of the town of Taranto, upon being bitten by the large local Wolf Spider, Lycosa tarentula, would promptly do a long vigorous dance like a Jig. This was done in order to sweat most of the poison out of their pores and thus survive the spider bite. The dance they did became locally known as the Tarantella, which eventually became the name we use today to describe the large, sometimes hairy type of spider, the Tarantula.
Taranto was founded in 706 BC by Dorian immigrants as the only Spartan colony, and its origin is peculiar: the founders were Partheniae, sons of unmarried Spartan women and Perioeci (free men, but not citizens of Sparta); these unions were permitted by the Spartans to increase the number of soldiers (only the citizens of Sparta could become soldiers) during the bloody Messenian wars, but later they were nullified, and the sons were forced to leave. Phalanthus, the parthenian leader, went to Delphi to consult the oracle: the puzzling answer designated the harbour of Taranto as the new home of the exiles. The Partheniae arrived in Apulia, and founded the city, naming it Taras after the son of the Greek sea god, Poseidon, and of a local nymph, Satyrion. According to other sources, Heracles founded the city. Another tradition indicates Taras as the founder of the city; the symbol of the Greek city (as well as of the modern city) is Taras riding a dolphin. Taranto increased its power, becoming a commercial power and a sovereign city of Magna Graecia, ruling over the Greek colonies in southern Italy.
Taras was also the center of a thriving decorated Greek pottery industry during the 4th century BC. Most of the South Italian Greek vessels known as Basilican ware were made in different workshops in the city.
Unfortunately none of the names of the artists have survived, so modern scholars have been obliged to give the recognizable artistic hands and workshops nicknames based on the subject matter of their works, museums which possess the works, or individuals who have distinguished the works from others. Some of the most famous of the Apulian vase painters at Taras are now called: the Iliupersis Painter, the Lycurgus Painter, the Gioia del Colle Painter, the Darius Painter, the Underworld Painter, and the White Sakkos Painter, among others.
The wares produced by these workshops were usually large elaborate vessels intended for mortuary use. The forms produced included volute kraters, loutrophoroi, paterai, oinochoai, lekythoi, fish plates, etc. The decoration of these vessels was red figure (with figures reserved in red clay fabric, while the background was covered in a black gloss), with overpainting (sovradipinto) in white, pink, yellow, and maroon slips.
Often the style of the drawings are very florid, and frilly, as was already the fashion in Fourth-Century Athens. Distinctive South Italian features also begin to appear. Many figures are shown seated on rocks. Floral motifs become very ornate, including spiraling vines and leaves, roses, lilies, poppies, sprays of laurel, acanthus leaves, etc. Often the subject matter consists of naiskos scenes (scenes showing the statue of a deceased person in a naos, a miniature temple or shrine). Most often the naiskos scene occupies one side of the vase, while a mythological scene occupies the other. Images depicting many of the Greek myths are only known from South Italian vases, since Athenian ones seem to have had more limited repertoires of depiction.