Between the territories of Locri and Crotone, in Monasterace Marina (Reggio Calabria), we find the archaeological site of ancient Kaulonia (in greek Καυλωνια), Magno-Greek city of Achaean origin, which then fell under the influence of Crotone. The name “Kaulonia,” according to legend, derives from “Kaulon” name of the son of the Amazon Clete, founder of the city and founder of the lineage of queens who reigned there until the advent of dominance of the city of Pythagoras. According to the myth, it was actually “Kaulon” that rebuilt the city after the destruction that followed the clash with Crotonians.
In the sixth century BC (560-535 ) its territory was the scene of the famous battle on the River Sagra, right between the cities of Locri and Crotone. The war was won by the Locrians, with the help of Reggio, who feared an expansion of Crotone in an area contiguous to its territory, and its colonies Hipponion and Medma.
In 388 BC, Kaulonia was under a harsh siege and then destroyed by Dionysius the Elder, tyrant of Syracuse, rebuilt by Dionysius the Younger, then finished under the rule of Campani of Reggio (280 BC). In 205 BC was conquered by the Romans and since then it was no longer inhabited. According to sources (Tuc. VII, 25, 2) it is remembered for the export of timber, which was used in the shipping industry.
The present archaeological site, which consists of the walls, the sacred areas, the necropolis and parts of the residential area, was found by the archaeologist Paolo Orsi Trentino in the early ‘900s. The area, therefore, next to the areas used for worship, also contain the remains of an ancient part of the town Kaulonia, where the masonry foundations of the buildings are visible. Among them, the most important is the one called the “House of the Dragon,” from the magnificent ancient Hellenistic mosaic, two meters by one meter, depicting a sea dragon with a crested back and tail of a fish, found at one side of a room paved with mosaics, with prevalent stylized waves. Based on the construction technique and materials used, it was agreed that the mosaic dates from the III century BC so it would be the oldest mosaic in Calabria. In 2012, the “dragon of Kaulonia” has been reproduced by the artist Luigi Gallo on a large wall of the port of Bahia Blanca, Argentina.
Going outside of the perimeter walls, it deserves mention the findings on Tersinale hill. From here come some fragments of crockery attributable to the different stages of construction of a small size temple. Among these, a framework dating back to the sixth century BC and the other of the first half of the V with lion head shaped drainage gutters.
Valued also are the remains from the sea, including the majestic ruins of an Ionic temple, which now can be seen at the Museum of Monasterace.
The Doric Temple, which is located about 150 meters from the sea near the lighthouse at Punta Stilo, undoubtedly the most important monument of ancient Kaulonia. Composed of six front columns and, most likely, 14 lateral columns, with its marble covering, dating back to the fifth century BC.
During the campaign of 2013 excavations, there were brought to light new pieces of the mosaic floor in the spa room called the “Casa Matta (Crazy House)”. They represent a small dolphin, another dragon and another big dolphin who faces the dragon previously discovered.
One can say, finally, that the site is, in many ways, one of the most interesting among those belonging to the ancient city of Magna Grecia, if only because certain discoveries and finds in it are helping to rewrite, to reconsider, some parts of the story ancient.
The many finds over the years at the archaeological site are kept in the National Museum of Reggio Calabria and the Archaeological Museum of Monasterace Marina near the Doric Temple. Among the various exhibits, a special place is reserved for coins. This is because Kauolonia was the first city of antiquity to mint silver coins.