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The Lucanians

The arrival of a new elite

The people who took over Paestum in the fifth century BC were buried in painted tombs and their grave goods included splendid weapons and armour? Who were these new inhabitants? In the sources they are referred to as Lucanians, warriors from the wild mountainous inland region, inhabited by bears and wolves, who may have been recruited as mercenaries. At a certain point, unknown to us, this people took control of the city, changing its name from Poseidonia to Paistom, but showing profound respect for the layout and original function of the religious and political areas created by the Greek colonists on their arrival. Between the mid-fifth and the mid-fourth centuries BC, the urban area did not undergo any significant changes: situated in the heart of the Greek city (the “agora”), the tomb of the heroic founder (“heroon”) still represented the main gathering point for a public cult was while the circular building for meetings (“ekklesiasterion”) was also used for the same function by the Lucanians.


The sacred areas of the city continued to be dominated by Greek deities, at least judging from the discovery of numerous terracotta statuettes and vases (ex-votos). Alongside inscriptions written in Oscan, the language spoken by the Lucanians, the use of the Greek language continued. The population was probably a mixed community in which traditions and ideas mingled.