Campania was colonized by Ancient Greeks and was part of Magna Graecia. Magna Graecia, meaning Great Greece in Latin, is the name of the coastal areas of Southern Italy on the Tarentine Gulf that were extensively colonized by Greek settlers. The colonists, i.e. the Greeks, who began arriving in the 8th century BC, brought with them their Hellenic cultures, which left a lasting impression on Italy, particularly on the culture of ancient Rome. The capital city of Campania is Naples. Ancient sites such as Pompeii, Herculaneum, Paestum, Velia and Mount Vesuvius are all located in Campania.
In the 8th and 7th centuries BC, Greeks began to settle and establish colonies in southern Italy. However, there are innumerable evidence that the Mycenaean Greek sailors visited the area as early as the Late Bronze Age (around 1400-1200 BC) to trade for copper. These newcomers were probably the direct ancestors of the peoples who inhabited southern Italy on the eve of the Roman conquest. Their progress was slow; the transition from Bronze Age to Iron Age was accomplished around 900 BC, few centuries after other European colonies mastered the technology of smelting iron ores. Southern Italy was very different back then, no olive farms or vineyards, just small villages, known for their cattle breeding.
“Ancient tradition claimed that the Greek geographical name Italia, which originally applied only to the southern part of the peninsula, derived from the native (Oscan) Vitelliu, which is related to the Latin vitulus, calf.” – Michael C. Astour (from the Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 19, Spring ’85)
However, the fall of the Mycenaean age (around 1100 BC), led to the dissolution of these colonies. The New Greek civilization emerged around 800 BC and they expanded geographically and once again to southern Italy. An original Hellenic civilization soon developed in southern Italy, as they interacted with the native Italic civilizations. Greek culture, artistic creativity, literary genres, and philosophical thought were exported to Italy. Thus many of the new Hellenic cities became very rich and powerful, like Neapolis (Naples), Syracuse, Acragas, and Sybaris. Other cities in Magna Graecia included Tarentum, Croton, Thurii, Elea, Nola, Ancona, Syessa, Bari and many others.
This cultural exchange is the reason why a vast majority of the vessels unearthed today in southern Italy, bear a striking similarity, in terms of style and materials used, to ancient Greek potteries. However, the most important cultural transplant was the Chalcidean/Cumaean variety of the Greek alphabet, which was adopted by the Etruscans; the Old Italic alphabet subsequently evolved into the Latin alphabet, which became the most widely used alphabet in the world.