Landscape organization in Magna Graecia
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This dissertation is a first attempt to redefine the study of the agricultural territories, or chorai, attached to Greek colonies in the southern third of the Italian peninsula (Magna Graecia). In the past 50 years topographers and archaeologists have documented numerous anthropic features in these territories, such as roads and ditches, so that it is by now generally recognized that Greek colonists organized their territories, to some extent, in order to increase the efficiency of agricultural and pastoral activity and therefore increase the overall productivity of the territories. The existence of “geometric” arrangements of roads and ditches – i.e., features appearing in parallel and/or perpendicular sequences – in the territories of Metapontion and Herakleia, documented respectively by aerial photographs and inscriptions, has directed most scholarly interest to their geometric properties, rather than to their functions and significance. In their attempts to explain the often puzzling intervals and orientations of the linear features at Metapontion and Herakleia, the geometric arguments have achieved a complexity and abstraction that far exceed the knowledge of mathematics and geometry – both theoretical and practical – possessed by the Greeks in the Archaic and Classical periods. Consequently the question of function(s) has been addressed only sporadically, in part because the role of the climate and geography of southern Italy has long been undervalued. After an examination of the aerial photographic record over the majority of the Greek colonies, in order to define the set of potentially organized landscapes, and a review of the previous scholarship on the colonial landscapes of southern Italy, revealing its strengths and weaknesses, the dissertation assembles the evidence for the types of man-made features present in a Greek territory. Then the evidence from the two well-documented colonial territories – the aerial photographs over the Metapontino and the Herakleia Tablets – is re-examined and re-interpreted in the light of ancient geometric knowledge and surveying techniques. Geographic and climatic constraints are introduced as significant factors in the analysis, which leads to the conclusion that many of the ditches at Metapontion and Herakleia served to drain or irrigate the landscape as a means of improving its agro-pastoral potential.