According to the traditional disciplinary-academic subdivisions of archaeological subjects, Francesco De Stefano's book should be counted among the numerous contributions dedicated to the so-called “Archeology of Magna Graecia”. The area of the Italian peninsula affected by that complex historical and cultural phenomenon which for convenience we call "Greek colonization", and which was defined since ancient times as "Magna Grecia" (Megàle Ellas, Magna Graecia), must refer to the territories, the monuments and objects collected, examined and commented on in this work. However, in this broad and articulated geographic and ethnic context we can identify "constants" which, from the point of view of historical-archaeological research, make it not too different from other sectors of the Classical World. The history, art and some of the major monuments are generally known from the Greek cities of southern Italy and their territories, as well as Rome and its empire or Etruria. Instead, it remains for the most part to define an overall vision of these worlds that attempts to reconstitute and explain their original variety. For this it is necessary to consider the ancient cities, the territories of Italy and the empire as unitary realities (contexts). These contexts were made up of minor organisms (single settlements or territorial entities, buildings and objects of all kinds) which defined their structure and fabric in a continuous transformation, of the individual parts and of the whole, over time.
Today the ancient world has disappeared, generally buried, in many parts lost forever. The contexts have been erased and the links between the constituent parts have been broken. Archeology has faced the challenge of reconstructing these realities only in very recent times, integrating the missing parts. There was still a lack of a study dedicated to the Archeology of Magna Graecia that would systematically start from these premises and intend to offer a proposal for historical and cultural narration, woven with different documents and appreciable at different scales.
The image and its context
The title chosen by the author does not seem to leave doubts about the setting of the work. Examining figurative heritages, to the point of tracing an art history, requires the consideration of individual works, which are particularly significant for illustrating iconographies and styles of certain periods. From this derives a necessarily anthological approach to the narrative. But in this way it can also happen that sometimes the same works remain isolated, that is separate from the physical context in which they were conceived and used and from the architectures that supported or contained them. Naturally, it is not a question of extending the historical-formal analysis to buildings or discussing whether architecture itself can be considered a form of art or not. Images and styles have developed over time in intimate connection with the monuments, immobile elements that define the landscape. Therefore, the structure and nature of the places that have formed the ultimate context of all ancient works of genius, the container of all containers, are the object of our interest.
In fact, ancient cities and territories were a multiform reality, characterized by landscapes defined as "promiscuous", through which an uninterrupted plot of intertwining realities that were different if not antinomic: public and private, rich and poor, of high or low quality. , of political, economic or juridical-sacral importance. In them coexisted continuity, due to the permanence and conservation of buildings connected to specific traditions or memories, and discontinuities, due to the usual flow of material things and the innumerable human actions underlying long-lasting historical phenomena. All this also applies to Siris, Metaponto and the enotri settlements that preceded them or that managed to coexist for a limited period of time with the new realities established by the Greeks.