Ancient Mamertion

The site of Contrada Mella is located in the region of Calabria in the “toe” of Italy.  Nestled in the foothills of the Aspromonte mountain range, Contrada Mella is situated on an alluvial terrace overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Ancient Mamertion was settled in the 3rd Century B.C. by the Tauriani, an Oscan speaking Italic people.  The Tauriani adopted much of the material culture from the Greek cities in the region, such as Kaulonia, Locri, and Rhegion.

Present evidence suggests that Contrada Mella may be the city of Mamertion mentioned by the Julio-Claudian geographer Strabo (6.1.9).  This ancient literary source located Mamertion “in the hinterland between the ancient Greek cities of Rhegion and Locri.”

Contrada Mella is the southernmost Italic settlement in the region, as is Strabo’s Mamertion.  Local antiquarian tradition since the late Middle Ages also identifies the site of Contrada Mella with that of ancient Mamertion.  Moreover, there is archaeological and literary evidence linking the Tauriani and the Mamertini, the Italic mercenaries who seized the Greek city of Messana (modern Messina) in Sicily.  The Tauriani and the Mamertini maintained strong cultural and economic ties throughout the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C.

The town of Contrada Mella had a rectilinear plan with streets intersecting at right angles and separating long and narrow blocks of houses.  Located on the westward slope of the alluvial terrace, Contrada Mella was a hilltown built on steps, with split-level houses stacked in tiers, very much like many present-day towns in the interior of Calabria.

The original settlement may have covered an area of 15 to 20 hectares (approx. 37-50 acres) which is about one-fourth to one-third the area of Pompeii.  Numerous earthquakes and landslides since late antiquity have substantially altered the topography of the site.

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