What is Greater Greece?

This site (a companion to Smoky Words) is dedicated to an exploration of the Gods, Spirits and Heroes of Southern Italy and Sicily – a Greece outside of Greece, greater than the one that birthed it.

Click the black box to the left to read sources on religion in the ancient poleis of Magna Graecia so that you can more properly envision the rebirth of the labyrinthine traditions of the Mezzogiorno in our world today, wherever (like the courageous colonists of old) we may find ourselves, we who are exiles and adventurers scattered to the Winds.


To root yourself in the history of this place, consider the words of Strabo:

As for the other sea, they could not reach it at first; in fact, the Greeks who held the Gulf of Tarentum were in control there. Before the Greeks came, however, the Leucani were as yet not even in existence, and the regions were occupied by the Chones and the Oenotri. But after the Samnitae had grown considerably in power, and had ejected the Chones and the Oenotri, and had settled a colony of Leucani in this portion of Italy, while at the same time the Greeks were holding possession of both seaboards as far as the Strait, the Greeks and the barbarians carried on war with one another for a long time. Then the tyrants of Sicily, and afterwards the Carthaginians, at one time at war with the Romans for the possession of Sicily and at another for the possession of Italy itself, maltreated all the peoples in this part of the world, but especially the Greeks. Later on, beginning from the time of the Trojan war, the Greeks had taken away from the earlier inhabitants much of the interior country also, and indeed had increased in power to such an extent that they called this part of Italy, together with Sicily, Magna Graecia. But to‑day all parts of it, except Taras, Rhegium, and Neapolis, have become completely barbarised, and some parts have been taken and are held by the Leucani and the Brettii, and others by the Campani — that is, nominally by the Campani but in truth by the Romans, since the Campani themselves have become Romans. However, the man who busies himself with the description of the earth must needs speak, not only of the facts of the present, but also sometimes of the facts of the past, especially when they are notable. All those peoples who lived between the Gulfs of Tyrhennia and Tarentum have so utterly deteriorated that it is difficult even to distinguish their several settlements; and the reason is that no common organisation longer endures in any one of the separate territories; and their characteristic differences in language, armour, dress, and the like, have completely disappeared. (Geography 6.1.2)

We remember and so these traditions live again.

Or as the prophets of Orpheus once put it: βίος. θάνατος. βίος. ἀλήθεια. Διόνυσος. Life. Death. Life. Truth [literally Loss of Forgetfulness]. Dionysos.

To learn more

James Adam, Orphic Religious Ideas
Britta K. Ager, Roman Agricultural Magic
Michael C. Astour, Ancient Greek Civilization in Southern Italy
Dan Attrell, Dead Kings and Saviour Gods – Euhemerizing Shamanism in Thracian Religion
Nicole Cama, Defining the ‘Strano’: Madness in Renaissance Italy
Giovanni Casadio and Patricia A. Johnston, Mystic cults in Magna Graecia
Laura Miguélez Cavero, The Appearance of the Gods in the Dionysiaca of Nonnus
Susan Guettel Cole, New Evidence for the Mysteries of Dionysos
Eric Csapo, The Dionysian Parade and the Poetics of Plenitude
Bruno Currie, Euthymos of Locri: A case study of heroization in the Classical Period
Daniel del Nido, The Body of Socrates: Plato’s Appropriation of Dionysian Mystery Religion in the Symposium
Fátima Díez-Platas, From the Heart and with a Serpent
Radcliffe Edmonds III, Recycling Laertes’ Shroud: More on Orphism and Original Sin
___ Redefining Ancient Orphism
___ Tearing Apart the Zagreus Myth: A Few Disparaging Remarks On Orphism and Original Sin
___ That Old Titanic Nature: Orphism and Plato Laws 701bc
Gunnel Ekroth, The sacrificial rituals of Greek hero-cults in the Archaic to the early Hellenistic periods
Christopher A. Faraone, Mystery Cults and Incantions: Evidence for Orphic Charms
in Euripides’ Cyclops 646–48?

Renaud Gagné, Winds and Ancestors: The Physika of Orpheus
Rudolf Habelt, Pharnabazos, the Diviner of Hermes: Two ostraka with curse letters from Olbia
A. W. Hands, The Coins of Magna Graecia: Coinage of the Greek Colonies of Southern Italy
George Hinge, Dionysus and Heracles in Scythia
Jens Holzhausen, Poetry and Mysteries: Euripides’ Bacchae and the Dionysiac Rites
James Horden, Notes on the Orphic Papyrus from Gurôb
Phillip Horky, The Imprint of the Soul: Psychosomatic Affection in Plato, Gorgias, and the “Orphic” Gold Tablets
Cornelia Isler-Kerényi, Dionysos in Archaic Greece: An Understanding through Images
Jordan Iliev, Oracles of Dionysos in Ancient Thrace
Ted Jenner, Ritual Performance and the Gold Leaves
Andromache Karanika, Ecstasis in Healing: Practices in Southern Italy and Greece from Antiquity to the Present
Anna S. Kuznetsova, Shamanism and the Orphic Tradition
Jennifer Larson, Ancient Greek Cults: A Guide
M. Owen Lee, Mystic Orpheus: Another Note on the Three-Figure Reliefs
Liz Locke, Orpheus and Orphism: Cosmology and Sacrifice at the Boundary
Kathryn Lomas, Beyond Magna Graecia: Greeks and Non‐Greeks in France, Spain and Italy
Bonnie MacLachlan, Kore as Nymph, not Daughter: Persephone in a Locrian Cave
Jonathan MacLellan, A City of Laughter: Assessing Tarentine Comedy from the Fourth Century to the Roman Stage
Irad Malkin, The Middle Ground: Philoktetes in Italy
Patrizia Marzillo, Attempt of a New Etymology for the Orphic divinity Phanes
Georgi Mishev, White, red and black: Bulgarian healing ritual
Dimitris Paleothodoros, Dionysiac Imagery in Archaic Etruria
Alexis Pinchard, The Salvific Function of Memory in the Archaic Poetry, in the Orphic Gold Tablets and in Plato: What Continuity, What Break?
Ronnie Pontiac, Orpheus and Counterculture
Mika Rissanen, The Hirpi Sorani and the Wolf Cults of Central Italy
Taylor Rabun, A Documentary History of Naples
Matthias Riedl, The Containment of Dionysos: Religion and Politics in the Bacchanalia Affair of 186 BCE
J. F. Russell, Tarantism
Rosicrucian Digest, Volume 87: The Orphic Mysteries
Rebecca K. Schindler, Aphrodite and the colonization of Locri Epizephyrii
Marilyn B. Skinner, Nossis and Women’s Cult at Locri
William Smith, Magna Graecia
Stian Torjussen, Dionysos in the underworld. An interpretation of the Toledo krater
___ Metamorphoses of Myth. A Study of the Orphic Gold Tablets and the Derveni Papyrus
Michael Turner, The Woman in White: Dionysos and the Dance of Death
Algis Uzdavinys, Orphism and the Roots of Platonism
Sarah Burges Watson, Muses of Lesbos or (Aeschylean) Muses of Pieria? Orpheus’ Head on a Fifth-century Hydria
___ Orpheus: A Guide to Select Sources
Velvet Yates, The Titanic Origin of Humans: The Melian Nymphs and Zagreus