The ancient settlement of Hipponion

The latest archaeological studies confirm that throughout the coastal area of Vibo Valentia human settlements existed since the Neolithic period which based their economy on maritime traffic in obsidian from the Aeolian Islands. Some ancient sources testify then that the foundation of the Locrian colony named “Hipponion” [=Vibo Valentia] took place around the end of the seventh century BC.

The port of Hipponion, according to Strabo [60 BC-23 AD] (VI, I, XV), was built at the beginning of the third century BC. by Agathocles, tyrant of Syracuse [317-289], who thus consolidated its hegemonic position in the area. having landed at the port without much difficulty the Tyrant of Syracuse besieged the city, which, meanwhile, was supposedly ruled by the Brettii.

According to Diodorus Siculus (90-27 BC) [XXI, 8], some time later the inhabitants of Hipponion mutinied and killed the soldiers of the garrison of Syracuse freeing the hostages and finally freeing themselves from the domination of Syracuse. Later the Romans expelled the Brettii, occupied the town and gave it the name of “Vibona Valentia,” an event that was also described by Velleius Patercolus (19-31 AD) [I, 14, 8].

Military events related to the use of the port of Vibona seem to confirm the presence of the Romans before the foundation of the Roman colony in 192 BC, and also confirmed that the port became an important strategic base for the Roman naval fleet from about 218 BC, a time when the presence of a Roman naval fleet is reported by Titus Livius (59-17 BC) [XXI, 51, 4].

Origins of the name Vibo Valentia

We have seen that the Romans called the town "Valentia" and the origins of the name have been much discussed by scholars. According to recent studies, from the indigenous place name "ueiqu" [from which “Vipona” or “Viponion” was derived], the Greeks, without understanding its meaning, then derived "Eiponion" and "Hipponion" [1]. The ancient indigenous name "ueiqu", according to scholars, derives from a root "veip" which, according to G. Semeraro, would have the same meaning as the Latin term "oppidum" [= fortified city]. In fact, G. Semeraro wrote:

"The ancient town of the Bruttii had a name that in ancient coins appeared as 'Veip', which was renamed by the Greeks as 'Hipponion'. The Romans here deduced a colony and the town was called 'Valentia', but the old name did not disappear; in fact, its modern name is 'Vibo'. 'Veip' corresponds to the base of the Latin term 'oppidum', Akkadian 'appu' = top, crown, edge, spur of land" [2].

In fact, under the Romans, the name was changed to “Valentia” [=skilful], after the glorious deeds accomplished in the Punic War, while the agglomeration around the harbour continued to be called “Vibo,” which, as we have seen, derives from “veip” - Hipponion.

Vibo Valentia after the romans

In Byzantine times the city was an important military and strategic stronghold for the whole of Calabria. In 850 and in 983 the town was invaded and destroyed by the Saracens.

At the beginning of the 11th century with the arrival of the Normans, it became an important military centre, because of the position that allowed it to control both the hinterland and the coastal traffic. The construction of the Castle of Vibo dates from this period.

It was then destroyed by the Saracens, then later Frederick II (1194-1250) rebuilt it under the name of “Monteleone” which developed into a centre of commerce and culture. Later it was ruled by various powerful families like the Caracciolo and Pignatelli. During the Napoleonic period it became the capital of Calabria “ulteriore”.

In 1861 the city joined the Kingdom of Italy, and in 1928 was given its present name, Vibo Valentia.

See also our travel guide for Vibo Valentia


1. See M. Lombardo, “Fonti letterarie e problemi della storia di Ipponio”, in “Annali della Scuola Normale di Pisa”, 1989, pp. 448 ff.

2. See G. Semeraro," The origins of European culture ", Olschki, 1984, Part II, p. 517