Discovering the ancient origins of Taranto, founded by settlers of mighty Sparta
Persephone Hall (by Roberto Bellacicco, Associazione Culturale Filonide)
In less than four hundred metres, through the characteristic streets of Taranto’s old town, we reach the Spartan Hypogeum.
The term ‘hypogeum’ (from the Greek hypógheios) is an underground construction of historical and anthropological interest, built either entirely by humans or as an adaptation of natural cavities. In this case, it served as a quarry to extract materials for constructing the city’s temples and buildings.
Historical sources report that the Parthenes led by Phalanthus, came from Sparta to conquer land and found cities, as anticipated by the Oracle of Delphi. After an initial approach to the territory in the area of Saturus, the Spartans moved inland and conquered the site by military action, founding the city of Taras. The hypogeum, now a museum, is located in what was called the acropolis, i.e. the sacred part of the Greek Polis (city-state) where the Greeks built temples and held religious rites or town meetings. The stone extracted from the museum area was certainly used to construct local temples, such as the temple in front of the quarry itself, the remains of which we have just admired in the famous two columns in Piazza Castello in the city.
Within this structure, in addition to allowing the historical infrastructure to be visited, numerous cultural outreach activities are undertaken where scholars, historians and artists meet to create and initiate or develop projects of a historical-cultural nature.
The hypogeum offers incredible historical evidence of the ancient acropolis.
The site, which has been converted into a historical museum thanks to the noble efforts of a private fund, was created from what was once a quarry for the building material that the ancient Spartans used to construct temples and other parts of the city. The place is located underground and provides a characteristic setting, a must-see for its historical, artistic and cultural value. This is an exciting example of history made available to the public through the citizen’s will. This effort represents an essential key to understanding the importance of history and its impact on today’s culture.
This city, which seems to have lost the semblance of its ancient greatness, still has value to fascinate those who know how to look through the lenses of history, an important lesson to carry for the next adventures…