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Calabria, Italy has long taken a backseat to her more outspoken sister, Sicily, but no longer. The delights of this sun soaked region, long known to Italian holiday-goers, the rest of the world is quickly discovering. Calabria is known as the toe of Italy and the place that “kicks” her sister Sicily far into the Mediterranean Sea.
Calabria is also referred to as the heart of the Mezzogiorno region. Mezzogiorno can be translated to “midday” and is so called because of the sunshine that bakes the land. Calabria is a place of stunning beauty and it is rich in history. The history of Calabria, Italy can trace its origins far back to antiquity.
Early History of Calabria
We can begin to trace the history of Calabria, Italy by reaching back to the 11th century BC. It is said Calabria was settled first by tribes that spoke the Italic Oscan language. The Itali and the Oenotri were just two of these tribes. Italy derives its name from the Itali tribe after contact with the Greeks was made. The Greeks created many settlements along the coast and contributed much to the history of Calabria, Italy. The first founded Italian city was Rhegion known today as Reggio Calabria, and this city along with three others were major metropolises for Magna Graecia.
The history of Calabria, Italy continued once it was conquered by the Romans in the 3rd century BC and the area was not able to reclaim its former glory. The Greeks themselves were conquered by nomadic Oscan tribes that came from the north. The main cities of Calabria were founded by the Brutti who were an offshoot of the Lucanians. The capitol we know today as Cosenza was named Consentia by these early settlers.
After the Fall
Once the fall of the Roman Empire was complete, the history of Calabria, Italy tells us the population of the area was forced to travel inland because of the widespread threat of malaria. The history of Calabria at this point tells us that from the beginning of the Middle Ages through the 17th century, they suffered with many pirate raids as well.
Calabria was devastated during the 5th century Gothic War and the region was later ruled by a representative of the Byzantine Empire. Because Calabria was on the border between the Arab emirs located in Sicily and those of the Byzantine rule, they were victims of many skirmishes as well as raids.
By the 1060s, the history of Calabria, Italy takes a sharp turn. Roger Guiscard and the Normans under his command organized a government run along the lines of the Byzantines and became a strong presence in the borderland. It was the Hauteville clan that later formed the forerunners of the leaders of the Kingdom of Naples. They ruled Calabria until Italy became unified in 1861 by Giuseppe Garibaldi.