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Dolmen in Sardinia Italy
Nora archeological site Sardinia Italy

Sardinia History

the beginning


Throughout the island, you'll find remains of the numerous populations that colonized the island. The Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs, Vandals, Byzantines, Pisans, and Spanish all arrived to this splendid island and left behind a rich heritage of arts and architecture.

Until recently, it was believed that the first inhabitants arrived in the late Neolithic Era, about 5,000 years ago. But Paleolithic remains near Perfugas were discovered in 1979, leading archeologists to believe that early inhabitants date back as far as 500,000 BC and, more than likely, arrived from the Tuscan islands and Corsica.

After 4000 BC, people lived in caves and in unfortified villages of large wood-framed huts. This was the period where elaborate rock-cut tombs called domus de janas were constructed (over 2,000 of these survive). One of the most impressive is the temple at Monte d'Accoddi near Sassari. During the Bronze Age, nuraghes (the name is of unknown origin), were built. These tower-like structures, built of large stones, served a defensive purpose and may have been the homes of chiefs. The sheer number of them is impressive, some 30,000 were built, of which about 7,000 remain. Some nuraghes were constructed into castles, such as the ones at Torralba or Barumini. The largest nuraghi often have remains of villages of round stone huts adjacent to them.


the first settlements


The 9th century BC saw the arrival of the first Phoenician traders who set up trading posts at Nora, Tharros, Cagliari, and elsewhere on the island. By the 7th century, Carthaginians, Greeks, and the Etruscans of central Italy, were looking for new opportunities for trade, mining, and colonization. The effects on Sardinia can be measured in the Greek and Etruscan artifacts, especially ceramics, found inside excavated nuraghi, and in the Sardinian bronze artifacts that turn up in Etruscan tombs.

In 509 B.C. as the Phoenician expansion inland was becoming ever more threatening, the native Sardinians attacked the coastal cities who, in order to defend themselves, called upon Carthage for help. The Carthaginians, after a number of military campaigns, overcame the Sardinians and conquered the whole island (apart from the mountainous region) which was later referred to as Barbagia (Barbaria). For 271 years, the Carthaginian or Punic civilization flourished alongside the local nuragic culture.

In 238 B.C. the Carthaginians were defeated by the Romans in the first Punic War and Sardegna became a province of Rome. The Romans enlarged the coastal cities and penetrated the Barbagia region, thereby eliminating the Nuragic civilization.

In 456 A.D., the Vandals, occupied Cagliari, along with the other coastal cities of Sardinia. In 534 they were defeated at Tricamari, by the troops of the Eastern Emperor Justinian and Sardinia became Byzantine. They kept Sardinia for the next two centuries.


The island was divided into four regions ruled by the judex provinciae (judge) who assumed overall command with both civil and military powers. Each region was then divided into partes, governed by a curatore, while the individual villages or estates were in the hands of a maiore (mayor). The Byzantines were primarily interested in taxing the Sicilians and keeping their naval base at Cagliari, and allowed the judices curators and maiores to govern.

From 640 to 732 the Arabs occupied North Africa, Spain, a part of France, and in 752 gained control of part of the island. The four judices put up a resistance and over the years Sardinians pushed the invaders back. The next three centuries of Sardinian history would follow the same pattern.

The judices (now evolved into guidici) ruled as kings of their regions and the four states, or giudicati, roughly following the Byzantine division: Logudoro, or Torres, in the northwest; Arborea, around Oristano on the west coast; Gallura, in the northeast; and Cagliari (the richest and most important) in the south. Each one of these four regions constituted an independent sovereign kingdom and decided all issues of national interest by representatives of the people gathered in an assembly called corona de logu.


from the 11th century on


In 1479, Sardegna was ruled by Spain for approximately four hundred years, absorbing a number of the Spanish traditions and lifestyles.

In 1708 as a result of the Spanish War of Succession, the rule of the Kingdom of Sardinia passed into the hands of the Austrians who landed on the island. In 1717, Cardinal Alberoni, minister of Felipe V of Spain, reoccupied Sardegna. In 1718 with the treaty of London, the kingdom of Sardinia was handed over to the Dukes of Savoy. In 1799, as a consequence of the Napoleonic wars in Italy, the Dukes of Savoy left Turin and took refuge in Cagliari for fifteen years.


In 1847 the Sardinian spontaneously renounced their state autonomy and formed an alliance with Piedmont in order to have a single parliament, a single magistracy, and a single government in Turin. In 1848 the Wars of independence broke out for the Unification of Italy, and in 1861, Sardinia joined Italy's unification..



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