Necropolis of Via Marche ~ Taranto Capitale di Mare

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Necropolis of Via Marche

Via Marche, 74123 Taranto TA


This important archaeological area, intercepted and investigated after the functionalization interventions of the spaces adjacent to the nearby court of the city, represents the largest funeral destination, currently open to visitors, of the Greek polis of Taranto.

The space, well organized and intended for tourist use, preserves about one hundred and forty burials attributable to one of the most significant areas of the Tarantine necropolis, used from the Archaic to the Hellenistic age.

At the nodal points of the blocks and at the intersection of the ancient road axes, still visible below the walkways, eight chamber tombs can be identified, dating back to between the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C., two of which are entirely built with squared blocks of carparo. The other ones, equipped with access dromos (corridor), are carved into the rock and in their upper part are completed with regular blocks and projecting cornices.

The rooms are characterized by the presence, in some cases extremely evident, of traces of the original plasters and colors and the funeral beds on which the body of the deceased was placed at the time of burial.

The study of the interesting archaeological context ensured that the urban development of the Greek polis of Taranto was analyzed in detail, noting how, especially after the 5th century B.C., the areas dedicated to the burial of the deceased were considered almost as living spaces in all respects. The organization of the road axes, as well as the distribution of the burials, does not appear to be the result of random choices, but seems to respond to specific urban planning and symbolic rules according to which the most prestigious tombs were placed in the immediate vicinity of the main road axes.

In terms of knowledges of the development of the ancient city of Taranto, the organization of the spaces intended for the necropolis is undoubtedly the better known aspect, perhaps thanks to the high number of tombs studied over the years.

In the Archaic period, as well as in the following ones, most of the tombs found in the Tarantine necropolis consisted of pits dug directly into the earth or dug out of the rocky bank, often provided with a counter pit useful to facilitate the positioning of the covering slabs.

Alongside this typology, which appears to be the most widespread, the presence of chamber tombs of particular monumental value built in imitation of the andròn (an environment typical of the aristocratic houses of Taranto destined for the celebration of the symposium) is documented by sarcophagi or funeral beds arranged along the walls of the klinai (beds) of the royal house. Perhaps one the most emblematic example of this type of monumental burial is the Tomb of the Athletes, which can be visited in Via Crispi.

Today, Taranto is one of the very few Greek cities that have returned funerary hypogea of ​​this importance that testify the presence of refined social elites, united by similar political and social ideals and also by exercising gymnastic and sporting activities.

The 5th century B.C. marked an important change of political direction of the polis that is easy to re-read in the contexts of the necropolis. With the advent of democracy, in fact, there were a general urban restructuring that is also highlighted in the funerary ritual, which is characterized by the search for a sort of “moderation of customs” that will lead to the non-use of the monumental burials or those considered as such.

With the construction of the defense walls, still clearly visible, the vast area already intended for the necropolis was incorporated within the urban space.

A new neighborhood based on regular blocks partially occupied spaces already used for burials, generating a curious and unusual “alternation” between tombs and dwellings that the ancients already explained as a specific will of the citizens to respect an oracle that guaranteed them great prosperity if they lived “with the most”, that is, with the dead (Polybius VIII, 28).

Next to the pit tombs dug into the earth, excavated in the rock or obtained in clayey deposits, there are the pit tombs covered with carparo slabs and the sarcophagus tombs with flat or double sloping roofs.

The use of chamber tombs seems to stop within the first quarter of the fifth century B.C., with rare exceptions, only to reappear in the mid-fourth century B.C. with structures consisting of single rooms or multiple rooms side by side.

Especially in the III and II century. B.C., semi-chamber tombs started to spread. They were structurally close to chamber tombs, but smaller in size, in which the body of the deceased was placed on a stone or wooden funeral bed.

With the Roman conquest, the diffusion of the rite of cremation started to spread. The practice, which at first seems to be the prerogative of military enclaves, spreads quite quickly among the population.

This types of depositions consist of simple quadrangular or circular pits dug into the earth or rock inside which a terracotta, glass or metal cinerary was placed containing the mortal remains of the deceased.

In the declination of the various sepulchral typologies adopted in ancient Taranto, there are, however, cases of reuse of pre-existing chamber tombs in which we note the presence of niches created along the walls, intended for the conservation of the urns or for  secondary depositions.

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9.00 – 13.00 / 19.00- 21.00

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Necropolis of Via Marche is an Off Course attractor

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Via Marche, 74123 Taranto TA



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