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Durham University

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Calabria, c.300-1000CE: Settlements, societies and landscapes

A research project of the Department of History, part of the Medieval research group.


Calabria, the ‘toe’ of Italy’s boot, was in the past – and remains today – the most remote region of the Italian peninsula. This has led to a perception that it was also isolated, particularly in late antiquity and the early middle ages (c. 300-1000CE), when much of Calabria was under Byzantine rule. My project will examine Calabrian settlements, societies and landscapes in order to re-evaluate relationships between Calabria and the wider world, by focusing on evidence for trade, travel and long-distance communication. While ancient Greek colonies and the Normans in Calabria have been the subject of significant scholarly attention, Calabria in the period c. 300-1000CE has been marginalised in scholarship. Much of the limited existing research consists of local studies which tend neither to explore broader chronological or geographical trends or concerns, nor to place the region in wider historical, geographical and archaeological contexts. My preliminary research shows that Byzantine Calabria was integrated into wider networks of communication and trade, and its links extended both into the Mediterranean and north towards the rest of Europe. Moreover, in the early Middle Ages Calabria was a gateway region, caught between (and fought over by) the Byzantine Empire, the Lombards, northern Italian and Ottonian ‘inheritors’ of the Roman Empire, and Muslim rulers from North Africa and Sicily; it was also a stopping-point for travellers (primarily traders and pilgrims) between the Holy Land/Constantinople, and Rome/western Europe. Calabria’s mixture of cultures (Roman, Calabrian, Lombard, Greek, North African, Near Eastern), religions (Latin and Greek Christianity; Islam; Judaism) and languages (Greek, Latin, Arabic, Hebrew) made this region distinctively multicultural, adding another dimension to our understanding of settlements, societies and landscape-use.

Bova Marina Archaeological Project

This research builds on, and is related to, the longstanding and ongoing work of the Bova Marina Archaeological Project. Team members from a number of universities including Cambridge, Notre Dame, Leicester, Liverpool and Durham have been involved with an extensive programme of survey and excavation as well as multidisciplinary landscape studies encompassing historical landscape use, geomorphology, GIS, and underwater geological reconnaissance, over the last twenty years or so. The sites discovered and examined range from the Neolithic through to the twentieth century, via Classical Greek, Roman, late antique and medieval sites. The church of Sant'Aniceto, pictured here, dates probably from the eleventh century; nearby Bronze Age remains were discovered, perhaps from a farmhouse. It is plausible - though it has not been possible to discover this via excavation - that the eleventh-century church was constructed over an earlier church building.


Chiesa S. Giovannello

Gerace is a medieval hilltop town, sited 10km inland above the classical city of Lokri Epizephyroi. Archaeological evidence suggests long-standing settlement at this site, though it seems to have flourished particularly following the demise of Lokri in the late antique period. Byzantine architecture still stands in Gerace, including (probably) the earliest phases of the predominantly Norman castle, and the Church of 'Little John' (S. Giovannello), dating from the tenth century.


From the Department of History

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