An important seaside resort in the province of Matera, overlooking the Ionian Sea and located in a fertile plain of the Meta-Pontine area, Policoro is an ancient settlement founded in 680 B.C. by the Cofoloni, a population originally from Asia Minor. After a period of decline in the V century B.C., the colonies of Taranto and Thuru rebuilt the town on the old ruins of Siris and gave it the name of Heraclea. The city is still today famous for being the scenario of the first major clash between the Romans and Pyrrhus in 280 B.C., while in 212 B.C. it was besieged and conquered by Hannibal, until in 89 B.C. it returned to the Romans, under who the inhabitants of Heraclea obtained Roman citizenship with the Lex Plautia Papiria. During the Middle Ages it developed as a small town around the baronial castle and under Frederick II it became homeof the "Magister Ratiarum", a royal horse breeding farm established between the Meta-pontine plains.
Over the centuries Policoro belonged to the Sanseverino, the Jesuits, the Serra Gerace and in 1892 it was ceded to the Berlingieri. In 1959 the town gained its independence from the administrative council of Montalbano Ionico.
In 1732, in the district of Acinapura, the Tables of Heraclea were found: two bronze tablets that feature, in Greek, a series of laws regarding the tutelary and the exploitation of the agricultural lands. On the back of each table, there is an inscription Lex Julia Municipalis (municipal rules).
Not to miss:
- the Baronial castle, originally built between the XIII and XIV centuries, at present it features a style that recalls its Jesuit Monastic use during the XVII century;
- the Archaeological Park, located behind the Archaeological Museum of Siris, which includes the remains of the urban area of the ancient Heraclea-Siris. Today are visible the foundations of the archaic temple of Dionysus (VII century) and the Sanctuary of Demeter;
- the Sanctuary of Madonna del Ponte (XVIII century), which features a simple façade and inside preserves a valuable statue of the Madonna of the XIII century;
- the Mother Church with its simple façade;
- the Sanctuary of Santa Maria d'Anglona, located a few miles from the center of Policoro, where still visible are the remains of the old village built in the X century on the ruins of the Greek centre Pandosia, which was subsequently destroyed and rebuilt under Frederick II;
- the bronze statue of Hercules strangling the Nemean lion, masterpiece of Tonino Cortese, a local sculptor.