The Reign of Anassila

Busto del tiranno AnassilaIn the past, the Strait was a flourishing metropolis teaming with wealth and power. One figure who was predominant in the history of Reggio was the Greek tyrant Anassila, under which the city became a major centre of the Mediterranean. In the 5th century B.C., also commonly known in history as “the age of the polis” (polis = the city) is when the city reached its height in power. It was a time of the two great wars (Persian and Peloponnesian), imperialism, and the power of the Ancient Greek, in Reggio however, not everything was rosy. Reggio is situated in a strategic location and many tried to conquer the city; the Etruscans from the Tyrrhenian sea, Croton from an area not far from the actual city itself, and Syracuse from the south (Syracuse had long seized many other Sicilian colonies and was enthusiastic about making a jump to the other side of the strait). The Regginian reign was in turmoil, and seemed never safe from a outsiders and power hungry rulers. Then one fine morning, the young tyrant Anassila stood up and took charge of the democratic faction of the city, putting an end to the strife.

His first act was to receive many refugees such as the Samians and other Ionian fugitives who had left Greece because of the Persian wars. He then moved on to something he was passionate about: dominating the Strait. He ordered the construction of the beautiful fortress of Scilla for peace of mind and to remind all that he occupied the area. He then reinforced and strengthened his fleet, waiting for the perfect time to attack “Zancle” the ancient name of Messina. Anassila was eager to form a colony in Sicily, and with Zancle there ready and waiting to be occupied, he could not resist. He encouraged the Samians to seize Zancle, and a plan was hatched. The Zanclei learnt of his plans to conquer their city and asked for help from a very influential figure in those days in Sicily, the tyrant Hippocrates of Gela. He was reluctant however to be involved in a war against Anassila as he and his Reggio had become very powerful and eventually joined and allied with him against Zancle.

 Once Zancle was conquered, Anassila besieged the city himself and took power from the Samians. He renamed the city to Messana, after his native Messene (a region in the Pelopennese). With the Samians no longer in power and betrayed, it was not long before another betrayal was afoot. Gela, with the crucial support of Syracuse, attacked Himera, where the tyrant Terillo (father in law of Anassila) was forced to flee. He obtained the assistance of the Carthaginians for his father-in-law, who had been expelled from his city by Theron, tyrant of Agrigentum. Anassila was in trouble. Syracuse was ever expanding and such he had had to give up on his military campaign and ideas of war against Locri (city historically allied with Syracuse). He came to a realisation and to not lose it all, put aside his warlike intentions and married the daughter of Gelo. All seemed well, and after saving Reggio and achieving most of his goals, he died. He left a valuable political legacy as well as being without doubt one of the most interesting conquerers in the history of Reggio Calabria.