Rhegium

RHEGIUM (rē'jĭ-ŭm, Gr. Rhēgion ). A Greek colony on the toe of Italy, founded in 712 b.c.; modern Reggio. Opposite Messana in Sicily, where the strait is only six miles (ten km.) wide, Rhegium was an important strategic point. As such it was the special object of Rome’s care, and in consequence a loyal ally. The port was also a haven in extremely difficult water. The captain of the ship Paul was on, having tacked widely to make Rhegium, waited in the protection of the port for a favorable southerly wind to drive his ship through the currents of the strait on the course to Puteoli (Acts.28.13).


RHEGIUM re’ jĭ əm (̔Ρήγιον, G4836; modern Reggio).

The spelling is disrupted and complicated by naive ancient ideas of etymology. The Greeks, thinking of Sicily as “broken” from Italy by the seven-mile-wide Messina strait, derived the word from rhegnumi—to break. Italians favored the root “reg-” meaning “royal.” Hence the “h” or the absence of it. The name is prob. pre-Greek, and if one derivation is to be preferred to the other the Latin or Italian origin of the word is the more likely.

The town, at any rate, was a Gr. colony on the toe of the Italian peninsula opposite Messana, and was founded in 720 b.c. by Chalcis with a strong infusion of citizens from Messenia, a colony itself only a few years older.

Rhegium was originally an oligarchy, but little is known of the first two centuries of its history. Anaxilas is named as its “tyrant” (in the Gr. sense of that word) in the generation of 494 to 476 b.c., and he led the city into an era of imperialism. Thus involved in Sicilian politics, Rhegium met destruction at Syracuse’s hands in 387 b.c. Rebuilt, it is found later in control of Campanian mercenaries (280 to 270 b.c.), and successfully resisted the two conquerors Pyrrhus and Hannibal in the same cent.

As the occupant of a strategic watch-point opposite the Sicilian bridgehead into Italy Rhegium was esp. cultivated by Rome, and proved a loyal ally, receiving municipal status in 90 b.c.

Rhegium was a safe haven in a straint notoriously difficult for ancient ships to navigate (see the legends of Scylla and Charybdis). Paul’s ship having tacked widely to make Rhegium (Acts 28:13), waited under the lee of the Italian shore for a funneling S wind to drive her through the strait with its complex currents, en route to Puteoli.

Rhegium remained a Gr.-speaking city throughout imperial times, taking the name Rhegium Julium under Augustus. It was the birthplace of the poet Ibycus (mid-5th cent. b.c.).

Bibliography

Strabo, 6.257f.; Herodotus 6.23; 7.165, 170; Thucydides 4, 6, 7 passim; Polybius 17; 9.7; Livy 23.30; 36.42.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

re-ji-um: This city (@Rhegion] (Ac 28:13), the modern Reggio di Calabria) was a town situated on the east side of the Sicilian Straits, about 6 miles South of a point opposite Messana (Messina). Originally a colony of Chalcidian Greeks, the place enjoyed great prosperity in the 5th century BC, but was captured and destroyed by Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse, in 387 BC, when all the surviving inhabitants were sold into slavery (Diodorus xiv. 106-8, 111, 112). The city never entirely recovered from this blow, althouah it was partially restored by the younaer Dionysius. On the occasion of the invasion of Italy by Pyrrhus, the people of Rhegium had recourse to an alliance with Rome (280 BC) and received 4,000 Campanian troops within their walls, who turned out to be very unruly guests. For, in imitation of a similar band of mercenaries across the strait in Messana, they massacred the male inhabitants and reduced the women to slavery (Polybius i.7; Orosius iv.3). They were not punished by the Romans until 270 BC, when the town was restored to those of its former inhabitants who still survived. The people of Rhegium were faithful to their alliance with Rome during the Second Punic War (Livy xxiii.30; xxiv. 1; xxvi.12; xxix.6). At the time of the Social War they were incorporated with the Roman state, Rhegium becoming a municipality (Cicero Verr. v.60; Pro Archia, 3).

The ship in which Paul sailed from Melita to Puteoli encountered unfavorable winds after leaving Syracuse, and reached Rhegium by means of tacking. It waited at Rhegium a day for a south wind which bore it to Puteoli (Ac 28:13), about 180 miles distant, where it probably arrived in about 26 hours.

George H. Allen