A sybarite is a person who is fond of luxury and pleasure. The word conies from Sybaris, a once great city that is almost forgotten today.
Before the Romans came to power in Italy, the Greeks established a number of colonies there. The southernmost part of Italy was later called Magna Graecia, or “Great Greece,” because of its many Greek settlements. The oldest colony in the region was Sybaris, located on the Gulf of Taranto. along the “sole” of the Italian “boot”.
Sybaris was founded around 720 B.C. It grew steadily in importance as people came there from many parts of the Mediterranean. The magnificence and luxury of the city soon became renowned in Greece. By the sixth century B.C., Sybaris was wealthier than Athens or any other city in Greece.
Then in 510 B.C., Sybaris was defeated in a war with a nearby Greek colony. The city was destroyed, and a river was allowed to flow over the ruins. Before long, the exact site of the city was forgotten. Scientists who searched for Sybaris found only a few burial sites and some gold objects bearing strange inscriptions.
More recently, a group of American scientists began digging in the region where they thought Sybaris had been. They discovered the ruins of structures buried some 20 feet in the wet earth. A great deal of money would be required to unearth these ruins, so for the time being they still lie buried.
No one knows what splendors might someday be found in the ruins of Sybaris, the grandest city of its age.