In ancient times around 500 BC the city was one of the largest in the world with population estimates up to 300,000 people. Another bay, called Mar Piccolo (Little Sea), is formed by the peninsula of the old city, and has flourishing fishing.when it was founded as a Greek colony, established by the Spartans. Mar Piccolo is a military port with strategic importance.The ancient city was situated on a peninsula; the modern city has been built over the ancient Greek city of which only a few ruins remain, including part of the city wall, two temple columns dating to the 6th century BC, and tombs. At the end of the 19th century, a channel was excavated to allow military ships to enter the Mar Piccolo harbour, and the ancient Greek city become an island connected to the mainland by bridges.
Because of the presence of these two bays, Taranto is also called "the city of the two seas".
The Greek colonists from Sparta called the city Taras ( The natural harbor at Taranto made it a logical home port for the Italian naval fleet before and during the First World War.
During World War II, Taranto became famous as a consequence of the November 1940 British air attack on the Regia Marina naval base stationed here, which today is called the Battle of Taranto.
Taranto is also the origin of the common name of the Tarantula spider family, Theraphosidae, even though strictly speaking there are no members of Theraphosidae in the area. It was built on a plain running north/north-west–southeast, and surrounded by the Murgia plateau from the north-west to the east.
It is the third-largest continental city of Southern Italy: according to 2011 population census, it has a population of 200,154.
Taranto is an important commercial and military port.
It has well-developed steel and iron foundries, oil refineries, chemical works, some shipyards for building warships, and food-processing factories.
Taranto is known as "The Spartan City" because it was the only colony ever founded by Sparta, in 706 BC. Paul), collectively known as Cheradi Islands, protect the bay, called Mar Grande (Big Sea), where the commercial port is located.
In ancient times, residents of the town of Taranto, upon being bitten by the large local Wolf Spider, Lycosa tarentula, would promptly do a long vigorous dance like a Jig. Its territory extends for 209.64 square kilometres (80.94 sq mi) and is mostly underwater.
This was done in order to sweat the venom out of their pores, even though the spider's venom was not fatal to humans. It is characterised by three natural peninsulas and a man-made island, formed by digging a ditch during the construction of Aragon Castle.
The city is known as the "city of two seas" because it is washed by the Big Sea in the bay between Punta Rondinella to the northwest and Capo San Dante to the south, and by the vast reservoir of the Little Sea.