Many people--myself included--sometimes forget how extensive the ancient Hellenic empire was. It wasn't just what is now modern Greece. It extended all the way down to, for example, Italy. Today: Cuma, or what the ancient Hellenes would have called Kumai.

[Temple of Zeus, was converted into a paleochristian basilica.
The baptismal font can still be seen in the back of the building.]

The ancient Hellenes had quiete a few names for it: Κύμη (Kumē) or Κύμαι (Kumai) or Κύμα (Kuma). It was an ancient city of Magna Graecia--the name of the coastal areas of Southern Italy on the Tarentine Gulf that were extensively populated by Greek settlers--on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. the city was founded by settlers from Euboea in the 8th century BC and Kumai was the first Hellenic colony on the mainland of Italy. Its ruins lie near the modern village of Cuma, a frazione of the comune Bacoli in the Province of Naples, Campania, Italy.

The settlement is believed to have been founded in the 8th century BC by Euboean Hellenes, originally from the cities of Eretria and Chalcis in Euboea, which was accounted its mother-city by agreement among the first settlers. They were led by  Megasthenes of Chalcis and Hippocles of Cyme, according to legend.

The Hellenes built upon an earlier setting of indigenous, Iron Age peoples; a memory of them was preserved as cave-dwellers named Cimmerians, among whom there was already an oracular tradition. Its name refers to the peninsula of Cyme in Euboea. The colony thrived. By the 8th century it was strong enough to settle other territiories: Zancle in Sicily, and Triteia in Achaea, amongst others. It spread its influence throughout the area over the 7th and 6th centuries BC, gaining sway over Puteoli and Misenum and, thereafter, founding Neapolis in 470 BC. All these facts were recalled long afterwards; Kumai's first brief contemporary mention in written history is in Thucydides and it is also mentioned in Pausanias.

The growing power of the Cumaean Greeks led many indigenous tribes of the region to organize against them, notably the Dauni and Aurunci with the leadership of the Capuan Etruscans. This coalition was defeated by the Cumaeans in 524 BC under the direction of Aristodemus, called Malacus, a successful man of the people who overthrew the aristocratic faction, became a tyrant himself, and was assassinated.

The Hellenic period at Kumai came to an end in 421 BC, when the Oscans broke down the walls and took the city, ravaging the countryside. Some survivors fled to Neapolis and Kumai came under Roman rule.

Kumai is still the location of many finds and historic facts. The colony was the entry point in the Italian peninsula for the Euboean alphabet, the local variant of the Hellenic alphabet used by its colonists, a variant of which was adapted and modified by the Etruscans and then by the Romans and became the Latin alphabet still used worldwide today.

Kumai had an Acropolis with a temple of Apollon and one of Zeus. It is also the location of the Cave of the Sibilla, the oracular cave of the Kumaian Sibyl--prophetess. All can be visited to this day.