Metaponto and the Ionian Coast

The Ionian Coast is in the southeast of Basilicata in the province of Matera. It is a strip of land that faces the Ionian Sea and runs from Metaponto to Nova Siri. The Ionian coast includes the towns of Bernalda, Scanzano Ionico, Policoro, Rotondella and Nova Siri as well as the seaside villages of Metaponto and Marina di Pisticci.
The Ionian Coast has always been a popular holiday destination thanks to the sandy beaches of Metaponto and the pebbled shores of Nova Siri and Policoro; all have a wild appearance due to the fragrant white water-lilies that sprout up almost everywhere and to the sea-holly that holds the sandy dunes together. The numerous seaside resorts offer various amenities to tourists and holiday-makers and some are even equipped to cater for those keen on watersports and fishing enthusiasts.
  • Metaponto and the Ionian Coast
  • Metaponto and the Ionian Coast
  • Metaponto and the Ionian Coast
  • Metaponto and the Ionian Coast
  • Metaponto and the Ionian Coast
  • Metaponto and the Ionian Coast

The splendours of Magna Graecia

The Archaeological Park of Metaponto is home to the remains of what has been saved from the continual pillaging of the ancient Greek city-states. The National Museum of Metaponto preserves relics from the Prehistoric Age to the Late Antiquity period and boasts the Temple of Hera, more commonly known as the Tavole Palatine (Palatine Tables) that enables tourists to get first-hand knowledge of Magna Graecia culture.

The Greek colonies greatly affected the surrounding area; the chora, an extremely fertile terrain outside the city walls, immediately led to the creation of infrastructures and rural sanctuaries that highlighted the presence of these new peoples and mark the boundaries of the city-state of Metaponto. The most important sanctuary - and the only one left standing – is the one called Tavole Palatine, an impressive temple with Doric-styled columns, twelve on the long side and six on the shorter side, built at the end of the 6th century BC and located near a sacred spring as was the custom in the Greek world. The temple is dedicated to Hera and 15 of the original columns are still standing.

An inspection of the area of the Bradano and Basento uncovered relics that confirm the presence of numerous farms; this leads us to believe that at least half of the local population lived in the surrounding countryside, divided up into allotments, that marked the boundaries of the settlers’ farmland, and were assigned before the first half of the 5th century BC.
The monumental development of the asty, that is the town centre of Metaponto, takes place during the central decades of the 6th century BC, when the whole area was re-designed in a rigid, geometric pattern. A large central axis (plateia), running front the north to the south, became the central point of the entire village separating the two main public spaces of the agora and the sacred area.

The latter area contains the ruins of four main temples of which the largest, Temple A and Temple B, do not have an archaic appearance but, by facing slightly eastwards, are in line with the new geometric pattern of the town structure.
The other two smaller temples, C and D, respect the original archaic orientation. Only a few blocks remain of Temple C that was most probably dedicated to Athena and dates back to 580 BC.

Temple A, dedicated to Hera was built in the Doric style towards the middle of the 6th century BC. It is an enormous structure made up of 8 front columns and 17 side columns. The neighbouring Temple B, built in honour of Lycean Apollo, is slightly smaller but still Doric in style. All that remains of Temple D is the entrenched foundations but the numerous erratic blocks allow us to date the temple back to 470 BC and confirm that it was in Ionian style and dedicated to Artemis. In the middle of the sacred area, another small temple is in honour of Dionysus.

The temple of Lycean Apollo
The agora is characterised by the shrine named after Apollo and the impressive semicircular theatre, whose stone steps replaced the old circular structure called Ekklesiasterion that was used to hold the town meetings during the second half of the fourth century.

Since there was no natural gradient, a man-made slope was built supported by containing wall and the entrance was on the upper part of the steps. The theatre of Metaponto is unique; the architectural model paved the way for the Roman amphitheatres that were to follow. Near the theatre we can also find the ruins of a temple dedicated to Zeus Agoraios, patron of the agora.