History of Sardinia

History of Sardinia


Sardinia is one of the most geologically ancient bodies of land in Europe. Though evidence of human visits date from the Palaeolithic period, permanent settlements only appear much later in the Neolithic age, around 6000 BC.

Giants' grave in Dorgali

The first people to settle in northern Sardinia probably came from the Italian mainland via Corsica, particularly from Etruria (present-day Tuscany), while those who populated the central region of the island around the salt lakes of Cabras and St Giusta may have arrived from the Iberian Peninsula by way of the Balearic Islands. The settlements founded around the Gulf of Cagliari seem to be of various origins.[7]

Evidence of trade with Aegean (Eastern Mediterranean) centres is present in the period 1600 BC onwards; for example fine ceramic products from Cydonia have been recovered in Sardinia.[citation needed] As time passed, the different Sardinian peoples appear to have became united in language[citation needed] and customs, yet remained divided politically as various small, tribal groupings, at times banding together, and at others waging war against each other. Habitations consisted of round thatched stone huts, similar to those of present-day shepherds.

Nuraghe Losa

From about 1500 BC onwards, villages were built around the round tower-fortresses called nuraghi (Northern Sardinian nuraghes, Southern Sardinian nuraxis, plurals of nuraghe and nuraxi respectively), which were often reinforced and enlarged with battlements. The boundaries of tribal territories were guarded by smaller lookout nuraghi erected on strategic hills commanding a view of other territories. Today some 7,000 nuraghi dot the Sardinian landscape. According to some scholars the nuragic peoples are identifiable with the Shardana, a tribe of the "Sea Peoples".

Ancient history

Circa 1000 BC the Phoenicians began visiting Sardinia with increasing frequency, presumably initially needing safe over-night and/or all-weather anchorages along their trade routes from the coast of modern-day Lebanon as far afield as the African and European Atlantic coasts and beyond, including Britain[citation needed]. The most common ports of call were Caralis, Nora, Bithia, Sulcis, Tharros, Bosa and Olbia. These soon became important colonies, inhabited by Phoenician traders and their families who traded overseas and with the Sardinians

While the Phoenicians stuck to the coastline, their relationship with the Sardinians was peaceful. However, after a few hundred years of habitation, they began expanding inward. They took over over valuable natural resources such as silver and lead mines, and established a military presence in the form of a fortress on Monte Sira in 650 BC. The Sardinians resented these intrusions, and In 509 BC they mounted a series of attacks against Phoenician settlements. The Phoenicians called upon Carthage for help, and when it arrived they successfully took control of most of the island.

In 238 BC the Carthaginians, as a result of their defeat by the Romans in the first Punic War, surrendered Sardinia to Rome. Sardinia became a Roman province, and the existing coastal cities were enlarged and embellished, while Coloniae such as Turris Lybissonis and Feronia were founded. These were populated by Roman immigrants. The Roman military occupation brought the Nuragic civilization to an end. Roman domination of Sardinia lasted 694 years, during which it was an important source of grain for the capital. Latin came to be the dominant spoken language of Sardinia during this period, though Roman culture was slower to take hold, and Roman rule was often contested by the inhabitants of Sardinia's mountainous central regions.

Vandal interlude

The Vandals led by King Geiseric had migrated to coastal Numidia (modern Morocco and Algeria) from Spain in AD 429 at the invitation of the Roman governor of North Africa Count Boniface. The Vandals were seeking safe haven from military pressure by the Romans from Gaul (modern France, Belgium and North Italy). Boniface was seeking to shore up his military position in the succession struggle following the death of Western Emperor Honorius. In AD 439, the Vandals revolted and seized Carthage and Africa (modern Tunisa, and Libya). The new Vandal Kingdom of North Africa achieved peace with the Romans on favorable terms in AD 442, but in AD 455 another Roman coup d'état killed Emperor Valentinian III whose daughter had been promised to Geiseric's son. Geiseric, led his powerful fleet to sack Rome, along the way occupying Caralis and other key coastal cities of Sardinia and claiming the island for his kingdom.

Vandal rule lasted for 77 or 88 years of which there is little detail in the historical record. It is known that the Vandal government continued the forms of the existing Roman Imperial structure. The governor of Sardinia continued to be called the praeses and apparently continued to manage military, judicial, and civil governmental functions via imperial procedures. (This continuity was not novel to Sardinia; like the Visigoths, the Vandals generally maintained the pretense of the empire, nominally acknowledging Constantinople and declaring themselves its deputies.) The only Vandal governor of Sardinia about whom there is substantial record is the last, Goddas, a Visigoth noble. In AD 530 a coup d'état in Carthage removed King Hilderic, a convert to Roman Catholicism, in favor of his cousin Gelimer, an Arian Christian like most of his kingdom. Goddas was sent to take charge and ensure the loyalty of Roman Catholic Sardinia. He did the exact opposite, declaring the island's independence from Carthage and opening negotiations with Emperor Justinian I, who had declared war on Hilderic's behalf. In AD 533 Gelimer sent the bulk of his army to Sardinia to subdue Goddas, with the catastrophic result that the Vandal Kingdom was overwhelmed when Justinian's own army under Belisarius arrived in their absence. The Vandal Kingdom conquered, Sardinia was returned to Byzantine rule.

Byzantine Period

In AD 533 Sardinia returned to the rule of the Eastern Roman Empire or the Byzantine Empire when the Vandals were defeated by the armies of Justinian I under the General Belisarius in the Battle of Tricamarum. This Roman victory over the Vandals in North Africa returned Sardinia to the Roman fold for the next 300 years.

Justinian I's Imperial Court Mosaic. Note: Justinian is center and Belisarius is likely the first man on the left.

Under Byzantine rule, the island was divided into districts called merèie, which were governed by a judge residing in Caralis (Cagliari) and garrisoned by an army stationed in Forum Traiani today known as Fordongianus under the command of a dux. The Byzantines practiced Christianity and converted the largely pagan population of early medieval Sardinia. Along with lay Christianity, the followers of monastic figures such as St. Basil became established in Sardinia. While Christianity penetrated the majority of the population, the region of Barbagia remained largely pagan. In Barbagia towards the end of the 6th century, a short-lived independent principality established itself, returning to the local traditional religions. One of its Princes, the last pagan Prince, was Ospitone, who conducted raids upon the neighboring Christian communities controlled by the Byzantine Dux Zabarda. He was later reprimanded by Pope Gregory I within a letter for "Dum enim Barbaricini omnes ut insensata animalia vivant, deum verum nesciant, ligna autem et lapides adorent (living, all like irrational animals, ignorant of the true God and worshiping wood and stone)." In AD 594. Ospitone was then convinced by Gregory the Great, and likely the circumstances of his conflict with Zabarda, to convert to Christianity after receiving the papal letter. His followers, however, were not immediately convinced and ostracized their prince for a short time before they themselves converted.

Exactly when and how Byzantine rule ended in Sardinia is not known. Direct central control was maintained at least through c. AD 650, after which local legates were empowered in the face of the rebellion of Gregory the Patrician, Exarch of Africa and the First Invasion of the Umayyad conquest of North Africa. There is some evidence that senior Byzantine administration in the Exarchate of Africa retreated to Cagliari following the final fall of Carthage to the Arabs in AD 697. The loss of imperial control in Africa led to escalating Moorish and Berber raids on the island, the first of which is document in AD 705, forcing increased military self-reliance in the province.Communication with the central government became daunting if not impossible during and after the Muslim conquest of Sicily of AD 827 and AD 902. A letter by Pope Nicholas I as early as 864 mentions the "Sardinian judges," without reference to the empire and a letter by Pope John VIII (reigned AD 872 – AD 882) refers to them as principes ("princes"). By the time of ‘’De Administrando Imperio’’, completed in 952, the Byzantine authorities no longer listed Sardinia as an imperial province, suggesting they considered it lost.

Whether this final transformation from imperial civil servant to independent sovereign resulted from imperial abandonment or local assertion, by the 10th century, the ‘’Giudici’’ (Latin iudiices, literally meaning "judges," a Byzantine administrative title) )had emerged as the autonomous rulers of Sardinia. The title of iudice changed with the language and local understanding of the position, becoming the Sardinian giudice, essentially sovereign, while giudicato, literally judgeship, came to mean both "state" and "palace" or "capital."

Medieval history

The next evolution within the Medieval political system of Sardinia followed the de facto end of Byzantine influence. This next evolution within the Sardinian political landscape was largely based on millennium old imperial structures left behind by the Romans and Byzantines. Examples are seen within naming conventions and the form of government. Sardinians called their leaders Giudici, derived from the Byzantine magistrate title of iuidici (judici, literally “judge,” or “magistrate”), though they were the equivalent of the equally new sovereign titles “duke,” and “king.” Although the Giudicati were hereditary lordships, the old Roman/Byzantine imperial notion that separated personal title or honor from the state still obtained, so the Giudicato (“judgeship,” essentially, a kingdom) was not regarded as the personal property of the monarch as was common in later European feudalism. Like the imperial systems, the new order also preserved Republican forms, with national assemblies called corona de logu, although its powers and importance are not well understood by historians. Each Giudicato saw to its own defense, maintained its own laws and administration, and looked after its own foreign and trading affairs.

In the 10th century there were five known Giudicati on Sardinia, but, the annexation of the Giudicato of Agugliastra by the Giudicato of Cagliari sometime in the 10th or 11th century stabilized the number at four, where it would remain until the Aragonese invasion of the 14th century. The history of the four Giudicati would be defined by the contest for influence between the rival rising sea powers of Genoa and Pisa, and later the ambitions of the Kingdom of Aragon.
Statue of Giudicessa Eleanor of Arborea in Oristano

The Giudicato of Cagliari was allied to the Republic of Genoa. It was brought to an end in 1258 when its capital, St Igia, was stormed and destroyed by an alliance of Sardinian and Pisan forces. The territory then briefly became a colony of Pisa.

The Giudicato of Logudoro (sometimes called Torres) was also allied to the Republic of Genoa and came to an end in 1259 on the death of the judikessa (queen) Adelasia. The territory was divided up between the Doria family of Genoa and the Basserra family of Arborea, while the city of Sassari became an autonomous city-republic.

The Giudicato of Gallura ended in the year 1288, when the last giudice, Nino Visconti (a friend of Dante Alighieri), was driven out by the Pisans, who occupied the territory.

The Giudicato of Arborea had a longer life compared to the other kingdoms. It lasted some 520 years and had Oristano (Sardinian: Aristanis) as its capital. The kingdom was called Arborea after its coat of arms, which featured a green uprooted tree on a white field. The history of Arborea is entwined with the history of the Sardinian struggle for independence against Aragonese invasion.

The first king of Arborea to actively pursue the plan to unite Sardinia under the rule of Arborea was Barisone the First. He managed to be crowned King of Sardinia by the Holy Roman Empire Emperor Frederick "Barbarossa" the First in 1164. However, in order to obtain the title of King of Sardinia, Barisone the First had taken out a loan from the Republic of Genoa that he was unable to pay back. For this reason, he was imprisoned by the Republic of Genoa and was detained for 7 years. Barisone never succeeded in uniting Sardinia under his rule because of his financial problems.

In 1297, Pope Boniface VIII established on his own initiative (motu proprio) a hypothetical regnum Sardiniae et Corsicae ("Kingdom of Sardinia and Corsica") in order to settle the War of the Vespers diplomatically. This had broken out in 1282 between the Angevins and Aragonese over the possession of Sicily. The Pope offered this newly created crown to James II, the King of Aragon, promising him support should he wish to conquer Pisan Sardinia in exchange for Sicily.

In 1323 the king of Arborea formed an alliance with James II of Aragon against the Pisans, despite being aware of the Aragonese plans to take control of Sardinia, because they saw the Pisans as a bigger threat. It is also important to remember that the kings of Arborea descended in part from an Aragonese family. The Aragonese flag appeared on the Arborean coat of arms and flags along with the uprooted tree until the later conflict between Arborea and Aragon escalated. Following a military campaign which lasted a year or so, the Aragonese occupied the Pisan territories of Cagliari and Gallura along with the city of Sassari, naming them "The Kingdom of Sardinia and Corsica". However, soon the king of Arborea started to wage war against the Aragonese, having his own plans to unite Sardinia as one independent kingdom.

When the other Giudicati had been taken over by foreign powers, the kings of Arborea started to see themselves as the legitimate defenders of Sardinian rule and Sardinian interests. They not only waged war against the Kings of Aragon, who were trying to conquer all of Sardinia, they also formalised the legal and political institutions that were the basis of their statehood and independence, such as by promulgating the legal code of the kingdom in the Carta de Logu (English: Charter of the Land). The Carta de Logu was originally compiled by Mariano IV of Arborea, and was amended and updated by Mariano's daughter, Queen Eleanor of Arborea. The legal code was written in Sardinian and established a whole range of citizens' rights. Among the revolutionary concepts in this Carta de Logu was the right of women to refuse marriage and to own property. In terms of civil liberties, the code made provincial 14th century Sardinia one of the most developed societies in all of Europe.

In the Carta de Logu it is clear that the kings and queens of Arborea saw themselves as the legitimate rulers of Sardinia: they stated very clearly that the Carta de Logu applied to the whole of Sardinia, not just to their dominions, and that it had been established to guarantee the well-being and development of the Sardinian state and its people.

In 1353 Peter IV of Aragon, following Aragonese custom, granted a parliament to the kingdom of Sardinia and Corsica, which was followed in due course by some degree of self-government under a viceroy and judicial independence. This parliament, however, had some very limited powers. It consisted of high-ranking military commanders, the clergy and the nobility. The kingdom of Aragon also introduced the feudal system into the areas of Sardinia ruled by it.

The Sardinian kingdoms never adopted feudalism, and the Kingdom of Arborea maintained its parliament called the "Corona de Logu". In this parliament, apart from the nobles and military commanders, also sat the representatives of each township and village. The Corona de Logu exercised some control over the king: under the rule of the "bannus consensus" the king could be deposed or even killed if he did not follow the rules of the kingdom.

From 1365 to 1409 the Arborean giudici Mariano IV, Ugone III, Mariano V (assisted by his mother Eleonora, the famous giudicessa regent), and Guglielmo III (the French grandson of Eleonora) succeeded in occupying all of Sardinia except the heavily fortified towns of the Castle of Cagliari (today simply Cagliari) and Alghero, which for years were the only Aragonese dominions in Sardinia. The Giudicato of Arborea and its monarchs received a great deal of support from many Sardinians of all classes, partly because many Sardinians were strongly against the feudal system that the Kingdom of Aragon introduced in its domains.

In 1409 Martin I of Sicily, king of Sicily and heir to the crown of Aragon, defeated the Sardinians at the Battle of Sanluri (Sa battalla de Seddori in Sardinian). The battle was fought by about 20,000 Sardinians, who had taken up arms voluntarily at a time when the population of Sardinia had been greatly depleted by the plague (and therefore 20,000 Sardinians represented a very considerable number). Despite the Sardinian army outnumbering the Aragonese army, they were defeated. It is estimated that about 5,000 Sardinians were killed in the battle. A field near Sanluri is still known to this day as S'Occidroxiu ("the massacre place").

The kingdom of Arborea finally surrendered only after some of its most notable men switched sides in exchange for privileges. For example, Leonardo Cubello, with some claim to the crown being from a family related to the Kings of Arborea, was granted the title of Marquis of Oristano and feudal rights on a territory that partly overlapped with the original extension of the Kingdom of Arborea in exchange for his subjection to the King of Aragon.

The successes of the Kingdom of Aragon were marred by the death of the heir to the Aragon crown, Martin I of Sicily, who died in Cagliari (where he is buried) of malaria contracted during the military campaign against the Kingdom of Arborea. Consequently the Crown of Aragon passed to a different dynasty, the Trastàmaras, to Ferdinand I of Aragon and his descendants through the Compromise of Caspe in 1412.

The conquest of Sardinia by the Kingdom of Aragon and the consequent loss of independence also meant the introduction of the feudal system throughout Sardinia. Thus Sardinia is probably the only European country where feudalism was introduced in the transition period from the Medieval to the Modern Era, at a time when feudalism had already been abandoned by many other European countries.
[edit] Modern history

In 1479, as a result of the marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabel of Castile, the "Kingdom of Sardinia" (which was separated from Corsica) became Spanish, with the state symbol of the Four Moors. Following the failure of the military ventures against the Muslims of Tunis (1535) and Algiers (1541), Charles V of Spain, in order to defend his Mediterranean territories from pirate raids by the African Berbers, fortified the Sardinian shores with a system of coastal lookout towers.
Map of Sardinia-Piedmont, 1836

The Kingdom of Sardinia remained Spanish for approximately 400 years, from 1323 to 1720, assimilating a number of Spanish traditions, customs and linguistic expressions, nowadays vividly portrayed in the folklore parades of Saint Efisio in Cagliari (May 1), the Cavalcade on Sassari (last but one Sunday in May), and the Redeemer in Nuoro (August 28).

Many famines have been reported in Sardinia. According to Stephen L. Dyson and Robert J. Rowland, "The Jesuits of Cagliari recorded years during the late 16th century "of such hunger and so sterile that the majority of the people could sustain life only with wild ferns and other weeds" ... During the terrible famine of 1680, some 80,000 people, out of a total population of 250,000, are said to have died, and entire villages were devastated..."

In 1708, as a consequence of the Spanish War of Succession, the rule of the Kingdom of Sardinia passed into the hands of the Austrians who occupied the island. In 1717 Cardinal Giulio Alberoni, minister of Philip V of Spain, reoccupied Sardinia. In 1718, with the Treaty of London, Sardinia was handed over to the House of Savoy.

On 28 April 1794, during an uprising in Cagliari, two Piedmontese officials were killed. That was the start of a revolt (called the "Moti rivoluzionari sardi") all over the island, which culminated in the expulsion of the tyrants. On 28 December 1795 in Sassari insurgents demonstrating against feudalism, mainly from the region of Logudoro, occupied the city. On 13 February 1796, in order to suppress a riot, the viceroy Filippo Vivalda gave to the Sardinian magistrate Giovanni Maria Angioy the role of Alternos, which meant a substitute of the viceroy himself. Angioy moved from Cagliari to Sassari, and during his journey almost all the villages joined the uprising, demanding an end to feudalism and the independence of Sardinia's people.

In 1799, as a consequence of the Napoleonic Wars in Italy, the Dukes of Savoy left Turin and took refuge in Cagliari for some fifteen years. In 1847 the Sardinian parliaments (Stamenti) spontaneously renounced their state autonomy and formed a union with Piedmont in order to have a single parliament, a single magistracy and a single government in Turin.

In 1848 the Italian Wars of Independence broke out for the Unification of Italy and were led by the kings of Sardinia for thirteen years. In 1861 Sardinia joined the newly founded Kingdom of Italy.

During the First World War the Sardinian soldiers of the Brigata Sassari distinguished themselves, several being decorated with gold medals and other honours. It was the first and only Italian military unit constituted exclusively from Sardinian soldiers.

The Sardinian writer Grazia Deledda won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1926.

During the Fascist period, and implementation of the policy of autarky, several swamps were reclaimed around the island and agrarian communities founded. The main communities were in the area of Oristano, where the village of Mussolinia (now called Arborea) was located, and in the area adjacent the city of Alghero, within the region of Nurra, Fertilia was founded. Also established during that time was the city of Carbonia, which became the main centre of mining activity. Works to dry the numerous waste lands and the reprise of mining activities favored the arrival of settlers and immigrants, at first from Veneto, and after World War II Istrian Italians and Dalmatian Italians from territories lost to Yugoslavia.

The oppression by the fascist regime of its opponents within the region was ruthless. Antonio Gramsci, one of the founders of the Italian Communist Party, was arrested and died in prison. Michele Schirru was executed on May 29, 1931, after a failed assassination plot against Benito Mussolini.

Post World War II Period

In 1946 by popular referendum Italy became a republic, with Sardinia administered since 1948 by special statute of autonomy. By 1951, malaria was successfully eliminated with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, which facilitated the commencement of the Sardinian tourist boom, mainly focused on beach holidays and elite tourism. Today about ten million people visit the island every year.

With the increase in tourism, coal decreased in importance. In the 1950s and 1960s the greatest Sardinian migration began. However, in the early 1960s an industrialization effort was commenced, the so-called Piani di Rinascita (rebirth plans), with the initiation of major infrastructure projects on the island. These included the construction of new dams and roads, reforestation, agricultural zones on reclaimed marshland, and large industrial complexes (primarily oil refineries and related petrochemical operations). With the creation of petrochemical industries, thousands of ex-farmers became industrial workers. Nevertheless, the 1973 oil crisis caused the termination of employment for thousands of workers employed in the petrochemical industries.
Santo Stefano's former NATO Naval Base

The economic crisis, unemployment, and the establishment of military bases in the island (70% of Italian military bases were located in Sardinia) aggravated the crime rate,[citation needed] with increasing kidnappings and political subversion. Communist groups flourished, the most famous being Barbagia Rossa, which perpetrated several terrorist actions between the 1970s and the early 1980s.

In 1983 a militant of an autonomist-indipendentist party, the Sardinian Action Party (Partito Sardo d'Azione), was elected president of the regional parliament, and in the 1980s several indipendentist movements were born; in the 1990s some of them became political parties, and in 2006 in the Province of Sassari the first separatist militant was elected. In 1999 the local languages (Sardinian, Sassarese, Gallurese, Algherese and Tabarchino) received official status together with Italian.

Today Sardinia is phasing in as an EU region, with a diversified economy focused on tourism and the tertiary sector. The economic efforts of the last twenty years have reduced the handicap of insularity, especially in the fields of low-cost air travel and advanced information technology. For example, the CRS4 (Center for Advanced Studies, Research and Development in Sardinia) developed the first Italian website in 1991 and webmail in 1995. CRS4 allowed several telecommunication companies and internet service providers based on the island to flourish, such as Videonline in 1994, Tiscali in 1998 and Andala Umts in 1999.

A G8 summit was planned to be held in Sardinia, on the island of La Maddalena, in July 2009. However in April 2009, the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, decided, without convoking the Italian parliament or consulting the governor of Sardinia, to move the summit, even though the works were almost completed, to L'Aquila, provoking protests among Sardinians that the autonomous status of Sardinia had been violated.
Arbus Beach, Discover the beauty of Arbus Beach, Arbus Beach in Sardinia, Attractions in Arbus Beach, Visiting Arbus Beach