In Greek- Megale Hellas (Greater Greece)

Term used for Southern Italy prior to Rome establishing its rule in the area in the 3rd century BC.

From the 8th century BC, colonists from the Greek city-states left their cities and established new colonies from the Black Sea (Chersonesos) to Lebanon (Al Mina) to Libya (Cyrene) to Spain (Saguntum) to Southern France (Massilia.)

The driving factor behind this was most likely overpopulation, although no doubt a desire to cash in on Mediterranean trade and a need for a refuge in case the mother city was captured were also important.

The greatest concentration of cities was in Southern Italy. There are a multitude of reasons for this. The Levantine coast was largely a Phoenician preserve, the Carthaginians drowned any foreign sailors they caught west of Sicily, successive empires tended to conquer the Ionian colonies in Asia Minor, the land in Libya is relatively barren and Italy is comparatively closer than all of the other mentioned colonies bar the Ionian settlements.

Magna Graecia included most of coastal Southern Italy (Calabria, Apulia, Lucania, Bruttium and Campania) but not Sicily or much of the interior.

Major cities (from the Bay of Naples round the coast to the Gulf of Taranto) were Cumae (colonised by Chalcis,) Neapolis (from Cumae,) Paestum (from Sybaris,) Elea (from Phocaea,) Laos (from Sybaris,) Hipponium (from Epizephyrian Locris,) Rhegium (from Chalcis,) Epizephyrian Locris (from Locris,) Caulonia (from Croton,) Croton (from Achaea,) Thurii (from Athens,) Sybaris (from Achaea,) Heraclea (from Tarentum,) Metapontum (from Achaea) and Tarentum (from Sparta.)

Croton was the home of Pythagoras, Elea of another philospher, Parmenides, and his followers whilst Thurii is primarily known as the resting place of Herodotus.

Those cities colonised directly from Greece date back to around 700BC except for Elea and Thurii (which was built on the site of Sybaris.) Those colonised from other colonies of Magna Graecia are probably around a century younger.

Despite managing to fend off the Etruscans, after 500BC, Magna Graecia began to fall from its position of prominence due to malaria, internecine warfare and the rising power of Carthage, Rome and Sicily.

By 275BC, the cities of Magna Graecia had accepted Roman overlordship. In The Second Punic War, some Greek cities joined Hannibal (Tarentum and Croton being the most significant ones) but most refused to support him and in doing so played a major role in his failure.

Today Neapolis survives as Naples, Rhegium as Reggio di Calabria and Tarentum as Taranto.