Sybaris, a city of Magna Graecia, on the Gulf of Tarentum, between the rivers Crathis (Crati) and Sybaris (Coscile), which now meet 3 m. from the sea, but in ancient times had independent mouths, was the oldest Greek colony in this region.
It was an Achaean colony founded by Isus of Helice about 720 BC, but had among its settlers many Troezenians, who were ultimately expelled. Although the region is now unhealthy, at the time it was very fertile, and following a liberal admission policy, the city became large and wealthy, with a vast subject territory and diverse daughter colonies even on the Tyrrhenian Sea (Posidonia, Laus, Scidrus).
For magnificence and luxury the Sybarites were proverbial throughout Greece, and in the 6th century probably no Hellenic city could compare with its wealth and splendor. Tension between the democrats and oligarchs, in which many of the latter were expelled and took refuge at Crotona, led to a war with that city, and the Crotoniats with very inferior forces were completely victorious. They razed Sybaris to the ground and turned the waters of Crathis to flow over its ruins in 510 BC.
Explorations undertaken by the Italian government in 1879 and 1887 failed to lead to a precise knowledge of the site. The only discoveries made were (1) that of an extensive necropolis, some 8 m. to the west of the confluence of the two rivers, of the end of the first Iron age, known as that of Torre Mordillo, the contents of which are now preserved at Potenza; (2) that of a necropolis of about 400 BC - the period of the greatest prosperity of Thurii — consisting of tombs covered by tumuli (called locally timponi), in some of which were found fine gold plates with mystic inscriptions in Greek characters; one of these tumuli was over 90 ft. in diameter at the base with a single burial in a sarcophagus in the centre.