For five hundred years from the mid-8th century BC, the art of South Italy was defined by the continuous interaction of two traditions. One was that of the Greek cities founded in the coastal area, which were themselves not uniform. The other tradition was represented by the colourful cultures of the Italic peoples who lived in the interior of the peninsula and spoke a variety of languages.
Taras, which was founded by the Spartans, played a leading role in the region until the 3rd century BC. Antefixes, which decorated the edges of tiled roofs represented unique creatures only known from Taras: the female head with a lion’s skin headdress (1) is so far the only known example of the type.
Medma was founded by the people from nearby Lokroi. As the votive statuettes from the sanctuaries of the city attest, religious life centred on a goddess: perhaps Persephone, the mistress of the underworld, who was also a mythical model for marriageable girls. The female figures and large busts (2–4) are documents of a unique, local variant of the early Classical Greek sculptural style.
Vessels with geometric decoration, produced in shapes different from the Greek repertoire (5–8) were created by the Daunians who lived near Taras. Ancient historians also mentioned other peoples of the region (like the Ausonians or the Oenotrians), who did not have a similarly characteristic, clearly identifiable material culture.