I messapiOn the wake of the ancient sea routes of the Mycenean people, after the Aegean crossing, the first seen land was that of Salento. The Greeks, maybe the first colonists of Metaponto, called it Messapia “the land in the water”, and just for case, during the years, Messapia became “the land between the two seas”: the Jonian Sea and the Adriatic one – as Mesopotamia was the “land between the two rivers”: Tigris and Euphrates. But Messapia, even before Metapia, was also “the Median land”, placed between the land occupied by the Iapigi and the greek territory represented by the Spartan colonists who, guided by Falanto, founded the Laconian colony of Taras (Taranto) at the end of the VIIIth century before Christ.


The Median land, seen as an eldorado, was divided into Kalabrìa to the north and Sallentina to the south and citizens, Calabri and Sallentini, belonged to two different Iapigi clans.

The messapian colony choice wasn’t accidental, but it was the answer to some specific survival parameters. The ideal solution corresponded to the strategic settlement on a little promontory, marked by some coves, from where the symultaneous control of the sea landings and the land circulation was possibile. Just when the coast was unhealthful, the settlement was established in a remote and protected area. The defense was given by some artificial structures made up of stones at the beginning, and later by a colossal fortress built with squared blocks, arranged according to the typical greek technique. It was one of the most original societies of the italic panorama, the only one for usual and funerary habits and manners, settlements evolution, artistic and handcrafted products and traditions, religious and cultural activities, social superstructures and commercial exchanges in a mysterious history. At the half of the IIIrd century before Christ, with the Roman conquest, the messapic civilization started its decline.

Text by Lory Larva. For information about this page, thanks to Viaggi nella Terra di Mezzo, Salento a colory