(Gk. Taras), in southern Italy, an 8th‐cent. Spartan colony (see colonization, greek; sparta) dominating the best harbour on the gulf of Tarentum. The colonists were said to be the offspring of helots and Spartan women. Tarentum rose to prominence towards the end of the 5th cent. The early 4th cent. was marked by the ascendancy of Archytas, who dominated Tarentine politics and successfully expanded Tarentine influence. After his death c.350, Tarentum adopted a policy of employing mercenary generals to control increasing pressure from the Lucanians and Messapians, but with limited success. The last of the condottieri, Pyrrhus, was involved in a full‐scale war with Rome. After several inconclusive battles, he was forced to withdraw, and Tarentum fell to Rome, becoming an ally in 270. In 213 a faction of Tarentine aristocrats seized power and revolted from Rome. After a period of stalemate, during which Hannibal held the town and Rome held the acropolis, Tarentum was recaptured, with heavy losses (209). For a time, it was directly governed by a Roman praetor. The foundation of Brundisium and extension of the via Appia undercut Tarentine trade.
Subjects: Classical Studies.