Roman district in the heel of Italy, which became the south of the late Roman province of Apulia et Calabria;
- A Byzantine theme;
- A modern Italian region.
…but in these two latter cases Calabria means the toe of Italy, the southernmost mainland.
The Byzantines recovered Italy in the 6th century, but almost as soon as they had destroyed the Ostrogothic Kingdom there, Italy was invaded by the Lombards, who had established a Kingdom in the north and two duchies in the centre and the south by the end of the century. In the south much of the coastland remained part of the Byzantine Empire or acknowledged its authority.
The Lombards continued to advance in the 7th century, seizing much of Apulia, including Brindisi and Bari and leaving only the tip of old Calabria to the Byzantines, though in the west, which was much more mountainous, the Byzantines held on to the long, narrow peninsula the Romans had called Brutii. These fringes became collectively known as Calabria,. Eventually in the 9th century Arab incursions left only the western lands, apart from a fragment, in Byzantine hands, and this completed the transfer of the name Calabria from the heel to the toe of Italy.
By the late 9th century the Arabs had been forced to retreat and a revived Byzantium recovered not only the territories fairly recently lost to the Arabs but also a significant part of those lost to the Lombards long before. The name Calabria remained stuck in the west; the old Roman Apulia et Calabria was by then called Longobardia after the Lombards, who still lived there and whose law was still used. Later when the Byzantines extended the themes (regions combining civil government and military command under military leadership) to southern Italy, the western one was called Calabria, the eastern Longobardia.
In the mid-11th century the growing Norman presence in southern Italy led to incursions into rough and arid Calabria. Robert Guiscard lived a brigand’s life there before succeeding his brother as Count of Apulia. His younger brother, Roger, also lived the brigand’s life in Calabria before he and Robert joined together to begin the conquest of Sicily. Calabria was to be part of the Regno – the Kingdom on the southern mainland – until the unification of Italy in 1860.
From the time of the second Angevin King of Naples – Charles II, 1285-1309 – the title of Duke of Calabria was the normal title of the king’s eldest son, perhaps because the region pointed towards, and was the nearest part of the mainland to, the island of Sicily, which had been lost in 1282 by Charles II’s father.
In the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, there were three Calabrian provinces: Calabria Ulteriore I and II, and Calabria Citeriore, i.e. the farthest, less far and nearest provinces to Naples, the capital of the Kingdom. In united Italy these became the provinces of Reggio di Calabria, Catanzaro and Cosenza respectively.
The new republican state in the late 1940s provided for a region of Calabria, though it was not until the 1970s that the region became effective. It is 10th in both area and population of the 20 regions.