Calabria, a territorial district of both ancient and modern Italy.
(1) The ancient district consisted of the peninsula at its southeast extremity, between the Adriatic Sea and the Gulf of Tarentum, ending in the lapygian promontory (Lat. Promunturium Sallentinum; the village upon it was called Leuca - Gr. λευκά, white, from its colour - and is still named S. Maria di Leuca) and corresponding in the main with the modern province of Lecce, Brundisium and Tarentum being its most north-westerly cities, though the boundary of the latter extends somewhat farther west. It is a low terrace of limestone, the highest parts of which seldom reach 1500 ft.; the cliffs, though not high, are steep, and it has no rivers of any importance, but despite lack of water it was (and is) remarkably fertile. Strabo mentions its pastures and trees, and its olives, vines and fruit trees (which are still the principal source of prosperity) are frequently spoken of by the ancients. The wool of Tarentum and Brundisium was also famous, and at the former place were considerable dye-works. These two towns acquired importance in very early times owing to the excellence of their harbours.
Traces of a prehistoric population of the stone and early bronze age are to be found all over Calabria. Especially noticeable are the menhirs (pietre fitte) and the round tower-like specchie or truddhi, which are found near Lecce, Gallipolli and Muro Leccese (and only here in Italy); they correspond to similar monuments, the perdas fittas and the nuraghi, of Sardinia, and the inter-relation between the two populations which produced them requires careful study. In 272-266 B.C. we find six triumphs recorded in the Roman fasti over the Tarentini, Sallentini and Messapii, while the name Calabria does not occur; but after the foundation of a colony at Brundisium in 246-245 B.C., and the final subjection of Tarentum in 209 B.C., Calabria became the general name for the peninsula. The population declined to some extent; Strabo (vi. 281) tells us that in earlier days Calabria had been extremely populous and had had thirteen cities, but that in his time all except Tarentum and Brundisium, which retained their commercial importance, had dwindled down to villages.
The Via Appia, prolonged to Brundisium perhaps as early as 190 B.C., passed through Tarentum; the shorter route by Canusium, Barium and Gnathia was only made into a main artery of communication by Trajan (see Appia, Via). The only other roads were the two coast roads, the one from Brundisium by Lupiae, the other from Tarentum by Manduria, Neretum, Aletium (with a branch to Callipolis) and Veretum (hence a branch to Leuca), which met at Hydruntum. Augustus joined Calabria to Apulia and the territory of the Hirpini to form the second region of Italy. From the end of the second century we find Calabria for juridical purposes associated either with Apulia or with Lucania and the district of the Bruttii, while Diocletian placed it under one corrector with Apulia. The loss of the name Calabria came with the Lombard conquest of this district, when it was transferred to the land of the Bruttii, which the Byzantine empire still held.
(2) The modern Calabria consists of the south extremity of Italy (the "toe of the boot" in the popular simile, while the ancient Calabria, with which the present province of Lecce more or less coincides, is the "heel"), bounded on the N. by the province of Potenza (Basilicata) and on the other three sides by the sea. Area 5819 sq. m. The north boundary is rather farther north than that of the ancient district of the Bruttii (q.v.). Calabria acquired its present name in the time of the Byzantine supremacy, after the ancient Calabria had fallen into the hands of the Lombards and been lost to the Eastern empire about A.D. 668. The name is first found in the modern sense in Paulus Diaconus's Historia Langobardorum (end of the 8th century). It is mainly mountainous; at the northern extremity of the district the mountains still belong to the Apennines proper (the highest point, the Monte Pollino, 7325 ft., is on the boundary between Basilicata and Calabria), but after the plain of Sibari, traversed by the Crati (anc. Crathis, a river 58 m. long, the only considerable one in Calabria), the granite mountains of Calabria proper (though still called Apennines in ordinary usage) begin. They consist of two groups.
The first extends as far as the isthmus, about 22 m. wide, formed by the gulfs of S. Eufemia and Squillace; its highest point is the Botte Donato (6330 ft.). It is in modern times generally called the Sila, in contradistinction to the second (southern) group, the Aspromonte (6420 ft.); the ancients on the other hand applied the name Sila to the southern group. The rivers in both parts of the chain are short and unimportant. The mountain districts are in parts covered with forest (though less so than in ancient times), still largely government property, while in much of the rest there is good pasture. The scenery is fine, though the country is hardly at all visited by travellers. The coast strip is very fertile, and though some parts are almost deserted owing to malaria, others produce wine, olive-oil and fruit (oranges and lemons, figs, etc.) in abundance, the neighbourhood of Reggio being especially fertile. The neighbourhood of Cosenza is also highly cultivated; and at the latter place a school of agriculture has been founded, though the methods used in many parts of Calabria are still primitive. Wheat, rice, cotton, liquorice, saffron and tobacco are also cultivated.
The coast fisheries are important, especially in and near the straits of Messina. Commercial organization is, however, wanting. The climate is very hot in summer, while snow lies on the mountain-tops for at least half the year. Earthquakes are frequent and have done great damage: that of the autumn of 1905 was very disastrous (O. Malagodi, Calabria Desolata, Rome, 1905), but it was surpassed in its effects by the terrible earthquake of 1908, by which Messina (q.v.) was destroyed, and in Calabria itself Reggio and numerous smaller places ruined. The railway communications are sufficient for the coast districts; there are lines along both the east and west coasts (the latter forms part of the through route by land from Italy to Sicily, ferry-boats traversing the Strait of Messina with the through trains on board) which meet at Reggio di Calabria. They are connected by a branch from Marina di Catanzaro passing through Catanzaro to S. Eufemia; and there is also a line from Sibari up the valley of the Crati to Cosenza and Pietrafitta. The interior is otherwise untouched by railways; indeed many of the villages in the interior can only be approached by paths; and this is one of the causes of the economic difficulties of Calabria. Another is the unequal distribution of wealth, there being practically no middle class; a third is the injudicious disforestation which has been carried on without regard to the future.
The natural check upon torrents is thus removed, and they sometimes do great damage. The Calabrian costumes are still much worn in the remoter districts: they vary considerably in the different villages. There is, and has been, considerable emigration to America, but many of the emigrants return, forming a slightly higher class, and producing a rise in the rate of payment to cultivators, which has increased the difficulties of the small proprietors. The smallness and large number of the communes, and the consequently large number of the professional classes and officials, are other difficulties, which, noticeable throughout Italy, are especially felt in Calabria. The population of Calabria was 1,439,329 in 1901. The chief towns of the province of Catanzaro were in 1901: - Catanzaro (32,005), Nicastro (18,150), Monteleone (13,481), Cotrone (9545), total of province (1871) 412,226; (1901) 498,791; number of communes, 152; of the province of Cosenza, Cosenza (20,857), Corigliano Calabro (15,379), Rossano (13,354), S. Giovanni in Fiore (13,288), Castrovillari (9945), total of province (1871) 440,468; (1901) 503,329, number of communes, 151; of the province of Reggio, Reggio di Calabria (44,569), Palmi (13,346), Cittanova (11,782), Gioiosa Ionica(11,200), Bagnara Calabra (11,136), Siderno Marina (10,775), Gerace (10,572), Polistena (10,112); number of communes 106; total of province (1871) 353,608; (1901) 437,209. A feature of modern Calabria is the existence of several Albanian colonies, founded in the 15th century by Albanians expelled by the Turks, who still speak their own language, wear their national costume, and worship according to the Greek rite.
Similar colonies exist in Sicily, notably at Piana dei Greci near Palermo.