Taranto, a spartan Colony
  • Europe /
  • Italy /
  • Taranto

Discovering the ancient origins of Taranto, founded by settlers of mighty Sparta

Archaeological Park of Collepasso
Heritage place of interest.
Heritage place of interest.

The tour begins at the Archaeological Park of Collepasso, where it is possible to get a first glimpse of what was the ancient polis. 

Traditional chronology assigns the date of the foundation of Taras to 706 BCE. Sources handed down by the historian Eusebius of Caesarea speak of the transfer of the “parthenes”, sons of Ilothian enslaved people and Spartan women, as Sparta colonists to this area because of the need for expansion and overpopulation or due to exclusion from the distribution of land. 

We find ourselves where the walls of Taras stood almost 2500 years ago. The city stretched westwards toward the old town, which we will explore later. The park shows the remnants of defensive walls, and explanatory panels provide insight into the city’s legendary history, founded by Spartan settlers.

It was precisely in 1987 CE, during a campaign of excavations with the intent to study the ancient history of Taranto when a group of archaeologists brought to light the remains of the perimeter wall of the Greek era dating to the 5th century BCE. These walls stood to protect the city to the east and reached in this place the shores of the so-called Mar Piccolo (Small Sea), which probably covered in the past an area larger than its current size, forming a natural salt lake divided from the sea by a narrow strip of land. 

Today it is possible to admire the foundations of the city walls, built with a building technique called “Emplekton”, with which soil and rocks were used to fill the empty space between the external and internal parameters of the city walls, made of stone blocks. Close to these defensive lines are also visible various examples of burials dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries BCE. The bodies were generally laid in a pit in a prone position and then covered with stone slabs. To be noted among the different graves those characterised by coverage in terracotta panels, logs and tiles for child burials. 

If the city’s foundation date is identified in 706 BCE, Taranto, or Taras, reached its most significant growth only a few centuries later, precisely in the fourth century BCE, becoming a vital maritime trade centre thanks to its strategic position in the Mediterranean Sea. 

Unfortunately, this period of flourishing development was abruptly interrupted by Rome’s expansion, which caused Taras to capitulate in 272 BCE despite the latter being allied to the mighty king of Epirus, Pyrrhus.

In fact, in addition to the ancient walls and burials, it is possible to observe a roman road that documents the dominion of Rome in the area, clearly demonstrating the succession and end of the Greek era in southern Italy.

The Archaeological Park of Collepasso is undoubtedly small but of great importance, able to narrate an ancient and flourishing past.

We continue following the tour’s course, proceeding to the next place, an extraordinary and hidden beauty of Taranto: the “necropolis”.


1. Archaeological Park of Collepasso

2. The Necropolis

3. National Archaeological Museum of Taranto-Marta

4. Temple of Poseidon

5. Spartan Hypogeum