Seaport (pop., 2001 prelim.: 201,349), Puglia region, southeastern Italy. Located on the Gulf of Taranto, the old city is on a small island, with newer areas on the adjacent mainland. Founded by Spartans in the 8th century BC, it was called Taras and became one of the leading cities of Magna Graecia. It reached its zenith in the 4th century BC under Archytas. It came under Rome in 272 BC. Between the 5th and the 11th centuries AD it was taken by the Goths, Byzantines, Lombards, Arabs, and Normans. By the 15th century it was part of the Kingdom of Naples. It became part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies from 1815 and then joined the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. Taranto was an important stronghold of the Italian navy in both world wars; it was heavily bombed in 1940 and was occupied by British forces in 1943. Still an important naval base, it is the site of extensive shipyards and a large iron- and steelworks.
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