Map of the Roman Empire - Sardinia

G-5 on the Map

Sardinia A 140 mile long island in the Tyrhenian Sea and the second largest island in the Mediterranean. Sardinia was situated south of Corsica and northwest of Sicily and its southern tip is only 120 miles from Africa.

Sardinia (ἡ Σαρδώ or Σαρδών; later Σαρδανία or Σαρδηνία). Sardinia, a large island in the Mediterranean, is in the shape of a parallelogram, upwards of 140 miles in length from north to south, with an average breadth of 60. It was regarded by the ancients as the largest of the Mediterranean islands, and this opinion, though usually considered an error, is now found to be correct; since it appears by actual measurement that Sardinia is a little larger than Sicily. Sardinia lies in almost a central position between Spain, Gaul, Italy, and Africa. A chain of mountains runs along the whole of the eastern side of the island from north to south, occupying about one third of its surface. These mountains were called by the ancients Insani Montes, a name which they probably derived from their wild and savage appearance, and from their being the haunt of numerous robbers. Sardinia was very fertile, but was not extensively cultivated, in consequence of the uncivilized character of its inhabitants. Still the plains in the western and southern parts of the island produced a great quantity of corn, of which much was exported to Rome every year. Among the products of the island one of the most celebrated was the Sardonica herba, a poisonous plant, which was said to produce fatal convulsions in the person who ate of it. These convulsions agitated and distorted the mouth so that the person appeared to laugh, though in excruciating pain; hence the well known risus Sardonicus (Σαρδώνιος γέλως, see Suidas, s. h. v.). Sardinia contained a large quantity of the precious metals, especially silver, the mines of which were worked in antiquity to a great extent. There were likewise numerous mineral springs; and large quantities of salt were manufactured on the western and southern coasts. The Greeks called the island Ichnūsa (Ἰχνοῦσα), from its shape, which suggested a footprint, and Sandaliōtis as resembling a sandal (Pausan. x. 17, 2; Sil. Ital. xii. 358; Pliny , Pliny H. N. iii. 85). The population of Sardinia was of a very mixed kind. To what race the original inhabitants belonged we are not informed; but it appears that Phśnicians, Tyrrhenians, and Carthaginians settled in the island at different periods. The Greeks are also said to have planted colonies in the island, but this account is very suspicious. Sardinia was known to the Greeks as early as B.C. 500, since we find that Histiaeus of Miletus promised Darius that he would render the island of Sardo tributary to his power. It was conquered by the Carthaginians at an early period, and continued in their possession until the end of the First Punic War. Shortly after this event the Romans availed themselves of the dangerous war which the Carthaginians were carrying on against their mercenaries in Africa to take possession of Sardinia, B.C. 238. It was now formed into a Roman province under the government of a praetor; but a large portion of it was only nominally subject to the Romans; and it was not till after many years and numerous revolts that the inhabitants submitted to the Roman dominion. Sardinia continued to belong to the Roman Empire till the fifth century, when it was taken possession of by the Vandals. - Harry Thurston Peck. Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. New York. Harper and Brothers. 1898.

Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea (after Sicily and before Cyprus). It is an autonomous region of Italy, and the nearest land masses are (clockwise from north) the French island of Corsica, the Italian Peninsula, Sicily, Tunisia and the Spanish Balearic Islands. The name Sardinia is from the pre-Roman noun *sard[], romanised as sardus (feminine sarda); that the name had a religious connotation is suggested from its use also as the adjective for the ancient Sardinian mythological hero-god Sardus Pater "Sardinian Father" (misunderstood by many modern Sardinians/Italians as being "Father Sardus"), as well as being the stem of the adjective "sardonic". Sardinia was called Ichnusa (the Latinised form of the Greek Hyknousa), Sandalion, Sardinia and Sardo by the ancient Greeks and the Romans.

Ancient History of Sardinia. 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. In 509 BC, as Phoenicians expanded along the coastal cities, the Sardinians attacked them. The Phoenicians then called upon their fellow Phoenicians in Carthage for help. For 271 years, the Carthaginian or Punic civilizations flourished alongside each other. 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. Despite campaigns into the central mountain ranges, called by the Romans Barbaria (Modern Sardinian Barbagia), Roman domination of the center of Sardinia was never more than nominal. Roman domination of Sardinia lasted 694 years. However, it was often opposed by the Sardinians in the mountainous regions, even though even here the Latin language came to dominate, though not Latin civilization. - Wikipedia

Sardinia (Sardon, Sandaliotis, Ichnusa), an isl. in the Tyrhenian sea, s. of Corsica, in length 170, in breadth 90, in circuit 560 m. Named from Sardus, son of the Lybian Hercules, leader of the Libyan colonists who first occupied it. It received also at various periods Iberian, Trojan, Greek, and Carthaginian settlers, the latter of whom chiefly possessed it at the period of its subjugation by Rome, 231 B.c. Its fertility caused it to be considered one of the granaries of Rome. It was exempt from wolves, and from all venomous creatures except a sort of spider, the ranunculus sceleratus, which it produced in large quantities, and which, from its effect in causing a convulsive contraction of the facial nerves, gave rise to the expression risus Sardonicus. Sardinia. - Classical Gazetteer

Map of the Roman Empire (Click to Enlarge)

Large Map of the Roman Empire (Clickable Locations)

The Roman Empire During the First Century AD

Maps are essential for any serious study, they help students of Roman history understand the geographical locations and historical backgrounds of the places mentioned in historical sources.

Map of New Testament Israel  |  Map of Old Testament Israel

Map of the Roman Empire  |  Bible History Online

SARDI´NIA (Σαρδώ: Eth. Sa?d???, Sardus: Sardinia), one of the largest and most important islands in the Mediterranean sea, situated to the S. of Corsica (from which it was separated only by a narrow strait, now called the Strait of Bonifazio) and NW. of Sicily. Its most southern extremity, Cape Spartivento, was distant only 120 geog. miles from Cape Serrat in Africa.

It was a disputed point in ancient times whether Sicily or Sardinia was the largest. Herodotus calls Sardinia “the largest of islands” (??s?? ?pas??? µe??st??, 1.170, ??s?? t?? µe??st??, 5.106), but in passages where it is not certain that the expression is to be construed quite strictly. Scylax, however, distinctly calls Sardinia the largest of all the islands in the Mediterranean, assigning to Sicily only the second rank (Scyl. p. 56.113); and Timaeus seems to have adopted the same view (ap. Strab. xiv. p.654). But the general opinion was the other way: the comic poet Alexius already enumerated the seven great islands, as they were called, placing Sicily first and Sardinia second (Alex. ap. Const. Porphyr. de Prove. 2.10): and this view is followed by Scymnus Chius, as well as by the later geographers. (Scymn. Ch. p. 223; Strab. ii. p.123; Plin. Nat. 3.7. s. 13, 8. s. 14; Diod. 5.17). Diodorus, however, justly remarks, that it is very nearly equal to Sicily in magnitude (Diod. 5.16): and this opinion, which was adopted by Cluverius (Sicil. Ant. p. 478), continued to prevail down to a very recent period. But modern researches have proved that Sardinia is actually the larger of the two, though the difference is but trifling. (Smyth's Sardinia, p. 66.) Its general form is that of an oblong parallelogram, above 140 geog. miles in its greatest length, by about 60 in its average breadth, which, however, attains to as much as 77 in one part. The measurements given by Pliny, of 188 miles (148 3/5 geog. miles) in length along the E. coast, and 175 on the W., are therefore very fair approximations (Plin. Nat. 3.7. s. 13), while those of Strabo, who calls the island 220 miles in length by 98 in breadth, are considerably overstated. (Strab. v. p.224.)

Sardinia is a much more fertile and less mountainous island than Corsica. It is, however, traversed throughout its whole length from N. to S. by a chain of mountains which commence at the headland called Capo Lungo Sardo, and extend along the eastern side of the island, as far as Capo Carbonara, which forms the SE. extremity of the island. This range, which is composed of granitic and other primary rocks, is undoubtedly a continuation, in a geological sense, of the mountains of Corsica, and produces a rugged and difficult country forming much the wildest and most uncivilised part of Sardinia. The mountain summits, however, are far from attaining the same elevation as those of Corsica, the highest point, called Monte Genargentu, rising only to 5276 feet, while the Monte di Sta Vittoria, in the same neighbourhood, rises to 4040 feet, and the peak of Limbarra (the most northerly group of the chain) to 3686 feet: but the general elevation of the range rarely exceeds 3000 feet. (Smyth, p. 67.) West of this mountain district, which may be considered on a rough estimate as comprising about one half of the whole island, are situated three detached groups of mountains; the most considerable of which is that in the SW., which extends from Capo Spartivento to Capo delta Frasca on the Gulf of Oristano, and the highest summits of which attain to an elevation of nearly 4000 feet. In the extreme NW. of the island is another isolated range of less extent, called the Monti della Nurra, extending from the Capo della Caccia to the Capo del Falcone. Both these groups are, like the mountains in the E. of the island, composed of primary rocks; but N. of the river Tirso, and extending from thence to the N. coast of the island beyond Sassari, is an extensive volcanic tract, occupied in considerable part by a range of extinct volcanoes, one of which, the Monte Urticu, rises to an elevation of 3430 feet. There is no trace of any volcanic action having taken place within the historical period, but extensive tracts are still covered with broad streams and fields of lava. Notwithstanding this abundance of mountains, Sardinia possesses several plains of considerable extent. The largest of these is that called the Campidano, which extends from the Gulf of Cagliari to that of Oristano, thus separating entirely the range of mountains in the SW. from those in the E. of the island; it is a tract of great fertility. A similar plain, though of less extent, stretches across from the neighbourhood of Alghero to that of Porto Torres, thus isolating the chain of the Monti della Nurra; while several smaller ones are found in other parts of the island. The general character of Sardinia is therefore well summed up by Strabo, when he says, “the greater part of it is a rugged and wild country, but a large part contains much fertile land, rich in all kinds of produce, but most especially in corn.” (Strab. v. p.224.)

The great disadvantage of Sardinia, iii ancient as well as modern times, was the insalubrity of its climate. This is repeatedly alluded to by ancient writers, and appears to have obtained among the Romans an almost proverbial notoriety. Mela calls it “soli quam coeli melioris, atque ut foecunda, ita pene pestilens.” Strabo gives much the same account, and Martial alludes to it as the most deadly climate he can mention. (Strab. v. p.225; Mel. 2.7.19; Paus. 10.17.11; Martial, 4.60. 6; [2.908] Cic. ad Q. Fr. 2.3; Tac. Hist. 2.85; Sil. Ital. 12.371.) There can be no doubt that this was mainly owing to the extensive marshes and lagunes on the coast, formed at the mouths of the rivers; and as these naturally adjoined the more level tracts and plains, it was precisely the most fertile parts of the island that suffered the most severely from malaria. (Strab. l.c.) The more elevated and mountainous tracts in the interior were doubtless then, as now, free from this scourge; but they were inhabited only by wild tribes, and rarely visited by the more civilised inhabitants of the plains and cities. Hence the character of unhealthiness was naturally applied to the whole island.

The statements of ancient writers concerning the origin of the population of Sardinia are extremely various and conflicting, and agree only in representing it as of a very mixed kind, and proceeding from many different sources. According to Pausanias, who has given these traditions in the greatest detail, its first inhabitants were Libyans, who crossed over under the command of Sardus, the son of a native hero or divinity, who was identified by the Greeks with Hercules. (Paus. 10.17.2.) This Sardus was supposed to have given name to the island, which was previously called, or at least known to the Greeks, by that of Ichnusa (?????sa), from the resemblance of its general form to the print of a man's foot. (Paus. l.c. § 1; Sil. Ital. 12.358-360; Pseud. Arist. Mirab. 104.) Timaeus, according to Pliny, called it Sandaliotis from the same circumstance (Plin. Nat. 3.12. s. 17); but it is clear that neither of these names was ever in general use. The fact that the earliest population came from Africa is intrinsically probable enough, though little value can be attached to such traditions. Pausanias indeed expressly tells us (l.c. § 7) that the population of the mountain districts (the people whom he calls Ilienses) resembled the Libyans both in their physical characters and their habits of life. The next settlers, according to Pausanias, were a Greek colony under Aristaeus, to whom some writers ascribe the foundation of Caralis; and these were followed by a body of Iberians under a leader named Norax, who founded the city called Nora in the SW. part of the island. Next to these came a body of Greeks from Thespiae and Attica, under the command of Iolaus, who founded a colony at Olbia in the NE. corner of the island. After this came a body of Trojans, a part of those who had escaped from the destruction of their city, and established themselves in the southern part of the island. It was not till long afterwards that they were expelled from thence by a fresh body of Libyans, who drove them up into the more rugged and inaccessible parts of the island, where they retained down to a late period the name of Ilienses (???e??, Paus. 10.17. § § 2--7; Sil. Ital. 12.360-368). The existence of a mountain tribe of this name is a well attested fact, as they are mentioned by Livy as well as by the geographers; and it is probable that the casual resemblance of name gave occasion to the fable of their Trojan origin. [ILIENSES] The Iolai or Iolaenses, on the other hand, had lost their name in the time of Strabo, and were called, according to him, Diaghesbians (??a??sße??, v. p. 225), a name which is, however, not found in any other ancient author. Another tribe, whose name is found in historical times, is that of the Balari, who, according to Pausanias, derived their origin from a body of mercenaries in the service of Carthage, that had fled for refuge to the mountains. (Paus. l.c. § 9.) To these must be added the Corsi, whose origin is sufficiently indicated by their name. They dwelt in the mountains in the N. of the island (the Montagne di Limbarra), and had evidently crossed over from the adjacent island of Corsica, as they are described by Pausanias as having done. (Paus. l.c.)

It is idle to attempt to criticise such traditions as these; they are related with many variations by other writers, some of whom term the Iolaenses, others the Ilienses, the most ancient inhabitants of the island (Diod. 4.29, 5.15; Mel. 2.7.19; Strab. v. p.225; Sil. Ital. l.c.); and it is clear that the different mountain tribes were often confounded with one another. Strabo alone has a statement that the earliest inhabitants of Sardinia (before the arrival of Iolaus) were Tyrrhenians (v. p. 225), by which he must probably mean Pelasgians, rather than Etruscans. We have no account of any Greek colonies in Sardinia during the historical period; though the island was certainly well known to them, and seems to have been looked upon as affording a tempting field for colonisation. Thus we are told by Herodotus that when Phocaea and Teos were taken by Harpagus (B.C. 545) the project was suggested that all the remaining Ionians should proceed in a body to Sardinia, and establish themselves in that island. (Hdt. 1.170.) Again in B.C. 499, Histiaeus of Miletus promised Darius to subdue the whole island for him; and it appears that the project of emigrating there was seriously entertained. (Id. 5.106, 124.) Pausanias indeed represents the Messenians as thinking of emigrating there at a much earlier period, just after the close of the Second Messenian War, B.C. 668 (Paus. 4.23.5); but none of these projects were realised, and it seems certain that there were no Greek settlements in the island at the time when it fell into the hands of the Carthaginians.

The Carthaginian conquest is indeed the first fact in the history of Sardinia that can be considered as resting on any sure historical foundation; and even of this the date cannot be fixed with certainty. It is probable indeed that at a much earlier period the Phoenicians had not only visited the coasts of Sardinia for commercial purposes, but had established trading stations or factories there. Diodorus indeed expressly tells us that they planted colonies in Sardinia, as well as in Sicily, Spain, and Africa (Diod. 5.35); and there seems some reason to ascribe to them the first foundation of the important cities of Caralis, Nora, and Sulci. (Movers, die Phönizier, vol. iii. pp. 558, 573.) But in this case, as in many others, it is impossible to separate distinctly what was done by the Phoenicians themselves and what by their descendants the Carthaginians. It is, however, certain that it was reserved for the latter to form extensive and permanent settlements in the island, of which they reduced the greater part under their authority. According to Justin, the first Carthaginian expedition took place under a leader named Malchus, who was, however, defeated in a great battle by the native barbarians. (Justin, 18.7.) The next invasion was conducted by Hasdrubal, the son of Mago, and the elder brother (if we may trust to the accuracy of Justin) of Hamilcar, who was killed at Himera, B.C. 480. Hasdrubal himself, after many successes, was slain in battle; but the Carthaginians seem to have from this time maintained their footing [2.909] in the island. (Id. 19.1.) The chronology of Justin does not claim much confidence; but it seems probable that in this instance it is not far from correct, and that we may place the Carthaginian conquest about 500--480 B.C. It can hardly have taken place much earlier, as the Ionian Greeks still looked upon the island as open to colonisation in the reign of Darius Hystaspis.

Of the details and circumstances of the Carthaginian conquest we have no account; but we are told in general terms that they made themselves masters of the whole island, with the exception of the rugged mountain districts which were held by the Ilienses and Corsi. (Paus. 10.17.9; Pol. 1.10.) They founded many towns, and from their superior civilisation struck such deep root into the country, that even in the time of Cicero the manners, character, and institutions of the Sardinians were still essentially Punic. It even appears that a considerable part of the population was of Punic origin, though this was doubtless confined to the towns and the more settled districts in their immediate neighbourhood. (Cic. pro Scaur. § § 15, 42, 45.) But notwithstanding these clear evidences of the extent of the Carthaginian influence, we have scarcely any account of the long period of above two centuries and a half, during which they continued masters of all the more important portions of the island. An isolated notice occurs in B.C. 379 of a great revolt in Sardinia, the inhabitants of which took advantage of a pestilence that had afflicted the Carthaginians, and made a vigorous effort to shake off their yoke, but without success. (Diod. 15.24.) We learn also that already at this period Sardinia was able to export large quantities of corn, with which it supplied the fleets and armies of Carthage. (Diod. 14.63, 77.) The story current among the Greeks, of the Carthaginians having systematically discouraged agriculture in the island (Pseud. Arist. de Mirab. 104), is therefore, in all probability, without foundation. During the First Punic War (B.C. 259) L. Cornelius Scipio, after the conquest of Aleria in Corsica, directed his course to Sardinia, where he defeated the Carthaginian fleet near Olbia, but did not venture to attack that city. (Zonar. 8.11.) Having, however, received reinforcements from Rome, he landed in the island, totally defeated the Carthaginian general Hanno, and took the city of Olbia, as well as several minor towns. The next year C. Sulpicius followed up this advantage, and ravaged the greater part of the island, apparently with little opposition. (Zonar. 8.11, 12; Pol. 1.24; Oros. 4.7, 8; Flor. 2.2.16; V. Max. 5.1.2.)

No real footing was, however, gained by the Romans in Sardinia during the First Punic War; and the peace which put a close to that contest left the island subject to Carthage as before. But a few years afterwards the Carthaginian mercenaries in Sardinia followed the example of their brethren in Africa, and raised the standard of revolt; they were indeed overpowered by the natives, and driven out of the island, but their cause was espoused by the Romans, who undertook to restore them, and threatened the Carthaginians with war if they attempted the restoration of their own dominion in Sardinia. The latter were exhausted with the long and fierce contest with their mercenary troops in Africa, and were in no condition to resist. They consequently submitted to the demands of the Romans, and agreed by treaty to abandon all claims to Sardinia, B.C. 238. (Pol. 1.79, 88; Appian, App. Pun. 5; Liv. 21.1.) But the Carthaginians could cede no more than they possessed, and the whole island was at this time in the hands of the natives. Its subjugation was not effected by the Romans till after several campaigns; and though in B.C. 235 T. Manlius Torquatus triumphed over the Sardinians, and is said to have reduced the whole island to subjection (Eutrop. 3.3; Oros. 4.12; Vell. 2.38; Fast. Capit.), it is clear that this statement must be understood with considerable limitation, as the consuls of the two succeeding years, Sp. Carvilius and Pomponius Matho, were still able to earn the distinction of a triumph “de Sardis.” (Fast. Capit.) The conquest of the island was now considered complete; and it was reduced to the condition of a province, to which a praetor was annually sent. Corsica was soon after annexed to his jurisdiction. But it is certain that the wilder mountain tribes of the interior, though they may have tendered a nominal submission, were not really subdued, and continued long after to molest the settled parts of the island by their depredations, as well as to find employment for the arms of the praetor by occasional outbreaks of a more serious description.

During the Second Punic War, Sardinia was naturally watched with considerable jealousy, lest the Carthaginians should attempt to regain possession of what they had so long held. But the war which broke out there in B.C. 215, under a native chief named Hampsicora, is attributed by the Roman writers themselves in great measure to the severity of taxation and the exactions of their governors. T. Manlius Torquatus, the same who as consul had already triumphed over the Sardinians, was appointed to quell this insurrection. He defeated the Sardinians under Hiostus, the son of Hampsicora, in the neighbourhood of Cornus: but the arrival of a Carthaginian force under Hasdrubal gave fresh spirit to the insurgents, and the combined armies advanced to the very gates of Caralis. Here, however, they were met by Torquatus in a pitched battle and totally defeated. Hasdrubal was taken prisoner, Hiostus slain in the battle, and Hampsicora in despair put an end to his own life. The remains of the defeated army took refuge in the fortress of Cornus; but this was soon reduced by Manlius, and the other towns of Sardinia one after the other made their submission. (Liv. 23.32, 40, 41.)

From this time we hear no more of any general wars in Sardinia; and the large supplies of corn which the island began to furnish to Rome and to the armies in Italy (Liv. 25.22, 30.24) sufficiently prove that a considerable part of it at least was in the peaceable possession of the Roman authorities. The mountain tribes were, however, still unsubdued; and in B.C. 181 the Ilienses and Balari broke out into a fresh insurrection, which assumed so formidable a character that the consul Tib. Sempronius Gracchus was expressly sent to Sardinia to carry on the war. He defeated the insurgents with heavy loss, and followed up his victory with such vigour that he put to the sword or took prisoners not less than 80,000 persons. (Liv. 40.19, 34, 41.6, 12, 17, 28.) The number of captives brought to Rome on this occasion was so great that it is said to have given rise to the proverb of “Sardi venales” for anything that was cheap and worthless. (Vict. Fir. Ill. 65.) Another serious outbreak occurred in Sardinia as late as B.C. 114, to repress which M. Caecilius Metellus was [2.910] sent as proconsul to the island, and after two years of continuous warfare he earned the distinction of a triumph, a sufficient proof of the formidable character of the insurrection. (Eutrop. 4.25; Ruf. Fest. 4.) This is the last time we hear of any war of importance in Sardinia; but even in the time of Strabo the mountaineers were in the habit of plundering the inhabitants of the more fertile districts, and the Roman praetors in vain endeavoured to check their depredations. (Strab. v. p.225.)

The administration of the province was entrusted throughout the period of the Republic to a praetor or propraetor. Its general system was the same as that of the other provinces; but Sardinia was in some respects one of the least favoured of all. In the time of Cicero it did not contain a single free or allied city (civitas foederata) (Cic. pro Scaur. § 44): the whole province was regarded as conquered land, and hence the inhabitants in all cases paid the tenth part of their corn in kind, as well as a stipendium or annual contribution in money. (Cic. pro Balb. 18; Liv. 23.41.) From the great fertility of the island in corn, the former contribution became one of the most important resources of the Roman state, and before the close of the Republic we find Sardinia, Sicily, and Africa alluded to as the “tria frumentaria subsidia reipublicae.” (Cic. pro Leg. Manil. 12; Varr. R. R. ii. Pr. § 3; Valerius Maximus also terms them “benignissimae urbis nostrae nutrices,” 7.6.1.) For this reason, as soon as Pompeius was appointed to the command against the pirates, one of his first cares was to protect the coasts of these three provinces. (Cic. l.c.) Among the eminent persons who at different times filled the office of praetor or propraetor in Sardinia, may be mentioned the elder Cato in B.C. 198 (Liv. 32.8, 27); Q. Antonius Balbus, who was appointed by Marius to the government of the island, but was defeated and killed by L. Philippus, the legate of Sulla, B.C. 82 (Liv. Epit. lxxxvi.); M. Atius Balbus, the grandfather of Augustus, who was praetor in B.C. 62, and struck a coin with the head of Sardus Pater, which is remarkable as the only one belonging to, or connected with, the island [Biogr. Dict. Vol. I. p. 455]; and M. Aemilius Scaurus, who was praetor in B.C. 53, and was accused by the Sardinians of oppression and peculation in his government, but was defended by Cicero in an oration of which some fragments are still extant, which throw an important light on the condition and administration of the island. (Cic. pro Scaur. ed. Orell.; Ascon. in Scaur.)

In B.C. 46 the island was visited by Caesar on his return from Africa, and the Sulcitani severely punished for the support they had given to Nasidius, the admiral of Pompey. (Hirt. B. Afr. 98.) The citizens of Caralis, on the contrary, had shown their zeal in the cause of Caesar by expelling M. Cotta, who had been left by Pompey in charge of the island. (Caes. B.C. 1.30.) Sardinia was afterwards occupied by Menodorus, the lieutenant of Sextus Pompeius, and was one of the provinces which was assigned to the latter by the treaty of Misenum, S. C. 39; but it was subsequently betrayed by Menodorus himself into the hands of Octavian. (D. C. 48.30, 36, 45; Appian, App. BC 5.56, 66, 72, 80.) It was probably for some services rendered on one or other of these occasions that the citizens of Caralis were rewarded by obtaining the rights of Roman citizens, a privilege apparently conferred on them by Augustus. ( “Caralitani civium Romanorumn,” Plin. Nat. 3.7. s. 13.) This was in the days of Pliny the only privileged town in the island: but a Roman colony had been planted in the extreme N. at a place called Turris Libysonis. (Plin. l.c.) Two other colonies were established in the island at a later period (probably under Hadrian), one at Usellis, on the W. coast, the other at Cornus. (Ptol. 3.3.2; Zumpt, de Col. p. 410.)

Under the Roman Empire we hear but little of Sardinia, which continued to be noted chiefly for its abundant supply of corn, and for the extreme unhealthiness of its climate. In addition to the last disadvantage, it suffered severely, as already mentioned, from the perpetual incursions of the wild mountain tribes, whose depredations the Roman governors were unable to repress. (Strab. v. p.225.) With the view of checking these marauders, it was determined in the reign of Tiberius to establish in the island a body of 4000 Jews and Egyptians, who, it was observed, would be little loss if they should perish from the climate. (Tac. Ann. 2.85.) We have no account of the success of this experiment, but it would seem that all the inhabitants of the island were gradually brought under the Roman government, as at the present day even the wildest mountaineers of the interior speak a dialect of purely Latin origin. (De la Marmora, Voy. en Sard. vol. i. pp. 198, 202.) It is clear also from the number of roads given in the Itineraries, as well as from the remains of them still existing, and the ruins of aqueducts and other ancient buildings still extant, that the island must have enjoyed a considerable degree of prosperity under the Roman Empire, and that exertions were repeatedly made for its improvement. At the same time it was frequently chosen as a place of exile for political offenders, and nobles who had given umbrage to the emperors. (Tac. Ann. 14.62, 16.9, 17; D. C. 56.27; Martial, 8.32.) Its great importance to Rome down to the latest period of the Empire, as one of the principal sources from which the capital was supplied with corn, is attested by many writers, so that when at length it was occupied by the Vandals, it seemed, says a contemporary writer, as if the life blood of the city had been cut off. (Prudent. adv. Symach. 2.942; Salvian. de Provid. vi.)

During the greater part of the Roman Empire Sardinia continued to be united with Corsica into one province: this was one of those assigned to the senate in the division under Augustus (D. C. 53.12); it was therefore under the government of a magistrate styled proconsul; but occasionally a special governor was sent thither by the emperor for the repression of the plundering natives. (Id. 55.28; Orell. Inscr. 74, 2377.) After the time of Constantine, Sardinia and Corsica formed two separate provinces, and had each its own governor, who bore the title of Praeses, and was dependent on the Vicarius Urbis Romae. (Not. Dign. ii. p. 64; Böcking, ad loc.; Ruf. Fest. 4.) It was not till A.D. 456 that Sardinia was wrested from the Roman Empire by Genseric, king of the Vandals; and though recovered for a time by Marcellianus, it soon fell again into the hands of the barbarians, to whom it continued subject till the fall of the Vandal monarchy in Africa, when Cyrillus recovered possession of the island for Justinian, A.D. 534. (Procop. B. V. 1.6, 10, 11, 2.5.) It was again conquered by the Gothic king Totila in A.D. 551 (Id. B. G. 4.24), but was recovered by Narses after the death of that monarch, and seems from this period to have [2.911] remained a dependency of the Byzantine Empire down to a late period. But in the 8th century, after having suffered severely from the incursions of the Saracens, it passed for the most part into, the hands of that people, though the popes continued to assert a nominal sovereignty over the island.

The principal physical features of Sardinia have been already described. Of the numerous ranges, or rather groups, of mountains in the island, the only ancient name that has been preserved to us is that of the INSANI MONTES (Liv. 30.39; Claudian, B. G. 513; t? ?a???µe?a ???, Ptol.), and even of these it is not easy to determine the position with any degree of accuracy: the name was apparently applied to the mountains in the N. and NE. of the island, which seem to have been regarded (though erroneously) as more elevated than those farther S., so that the unhealthiness of the southern part of the island was popularly attributed to the shutting out of the bracing north winds by this range of lofty mountains. (Claudian, l.c. 513--515.) From its extent and configuration, Sardinia could not possess any very considerable rivers. The largest were, the THYRSUS (T??s??, Ptol.: Tirso), which rises in the mountains in the NE. of the island, and flows into the Gulf of Oristano on the W. coast; the SACER FLUVIUS (?e??? p??aµ??, Ptol.), which falls into the same gulf near Neapolis, now called the R. di Pabillonis; the TEMUS or TERMUS (???µ??, Ptol), still called the Temo, and falling into the sea near Bosa, to the N. of the Thyrsus; the CAEDRIUS (?a?d????, Ptol.), on the E. coast of the island, now the Fiume di Orosei; and the Saeprus (Sa?p???, Ptol.), now the Flumnendosa, in the SE. quarter of the island. No ancient name has been preserved for the Rio Samassi, which flows into the Gulf of Cagliari, near the city of that name, though it is a more considerable stream than several of those named.

Ptolemy has preserved to us (3.3) the names of several of the more important promontories and headlands of the coast of Sardinia; and from its nature and configuration, most of these can be identified with little difficulty. The most northern point of the island, opposite to Corsica, was the promontory of Errebantium (???eß??t??? ?????, Ptol.), now called the Punta del Falcone, or Lungo Sardo. The NW. point, forming the western boundary of an extensive bay, now called the Golfo dell' Asinara, is the Gorditanum Prom. (G??d?ta??? ?????) of Ptolemy: immediately opposite to it lies the Isola dell' Asinara, the HERCULIS INSULA (??a?????? ??s??) of Ptolemy and Pliny, and one of the most considerable of the smaller islands which surround Sardinia. This headland forms the N. extremity of the ridge of mountains called Monti della Nurra: the S. end of the same range forms a bold headland, now called Capo della Caccia, immediately adjoining which is a deep land-locked bay, the Nymphaeus Portus of Ptolemy (??µfa??? ??µ??), now called Porto Conte. The Hermaeum Prom. (??µa??? ?????) of the same author is evidently the Capo di Marragiu, about 12 miles N. of the river Temo: the Coracodes Portus (???a??d?? ??µ??), which he places between that river and Tharros, is probably the small bay that is found S. of Capo Mannu. The Prom. Crassum (?a?e?a ???a) must be Capo Altano, from whence the coast trends to the SE. as far as the Capo di Teulada, the extreme S. point of the whole island, which must be the one called Chersonesus by Ptolemy; but his positions for this part of the coast are very inaccurate. Opposite to this SW. corner of the island lay two small islands, one of them, called by Ptolemy the Island of Hawks (?e????? ??s??), is the Isola di S. Pietro; the other, now known as the Isola di S. Antioco, is called by him Plumbaria Insula (????ß?d?? ??s??), while it is named by Pliny Enosis. It was joined to the mainland by a narrow strip of sand, and was the site of the celebrated town of Sulci, from whence the adjoining bay (now known as the Golfo di Palmas) derived the name of Sulcitanus Portus. Two other small ports mentioned by Ptolemy between Cape Teulada and the site of Nora (at Capo di Pula), Bitiae Portus and Herculis Portus, must be the small coves at Isola Rossa di Teulada and Porto Malfattano. The next headland, named Cunicularium Prom. (?????????????? ?????, but the reading is doubtful), is the Punta della Savorra; and the promontory of Caralis must be the headland immediately adjoining the city of that name, now called the Capo di S. Elia. Pliny, however, gives the name of Caralitanum Prom. to the SE. headland of Sardinia, for which (singularly enough) Ptolemy furnishes us with no name. The small island lying off it, called both by him and Pliny Ficaria, is a mere rock, now known as the Isola dei Cavoli. Proceeding along the E. coast of the island, we find the Sulpicius Portus (S???p????? ??µ??), which cannot be identified with certainty, and the Portus Olbianus (??ß?a??? ??µ??), which is certainly the Gulf of Terranova; while towards the NE. extremity of the island are two headlands called Columbarium and Arcti Promontorium. The latter is still called Capo dell' Orso, from its fancied resemblance to the figure of a bear; the former cannot be clearly identified, though it is most probably the Capo di Ferro. Opposite this corner of Sardinia lie several small islands, of which the Isola della Maddalena is the most considerable, and next to it the Isola di Caprera. These are probably the Phintonis and Ilva of Ptolemy, while Pliny terms them Phintonis and Fossa. The Cuniculariae Insulae of Pliny are the small islets N. of these, now called the Isole dei Budelli.

The towns of Sardinia were not numerous, and but few of them attained to any importance, at least down to a late period. Hence they are very summarily dismissed by Strabo, who notices only Caralis and Sulci by name, while Pliny tells us the island contained eighteen “oppida,” that is, towns of municipal rank, but enumerates only six, besides the colony of Turris Libysonis (Strab. v. p.22; Plin. Nat. 3.7. s. 13). The only towns which appear to have ever really been places of importance are: CARALIS the capital of the whole island, in ancient as in modern times; SULCI in the extreme SW. of the island, on the Isola di S. Antioco; NORA, on the coast between Caralis and Sulci at the Capo di Pula; NEAPOLIS on the W. coast, at the mouth of the Sacer Fluvius; THARROS, on a promontory at the N. extremity of the Gulf of Oristano; CORNUS on the W. coast, about 16 miles further N.; BOSA (??sa, Ptol. 3.3.7; Itin. Ant. p. 83), also on the W. coast, at the mouth of the river Temus, still called Bosa; TURRIS LIBYSONIS (Porto Torres), on the N. coast of the island; TIBULA at Lungo Sardo, near the extreme N. point or Cape Errebantium; and OLBIA on the Gulf of Terranova, in the NE. corner of the island. In the interior were: FORUM TRAJANI (Fordungianus), situated on the river Thyrsus [2.912] about 18 miles from its mouth; USELLIS about 15 miles to the S. of the preceding; VALENTIA to the SE. of Usellis: and GURULIS VETUS and NOVA, both of which were situated between the rivers Thyrsus and Temus.

Of the minor towns mentioned by Ptolemy or the Itineraries, the following may be noticed: 1. On the W. coast, were Tilium (Ptol.), which must have been near the Capo Negretto: Osaca or Hosaca (Id.) at Flumentorgiu, a few miles W. of Neapolis; and Othoca (Itin. Ant.) apparently the modern Oristano, near the mouth of the river Thyrsus. 2. On the S. coast, Pupulum (Ptol.) may probably be placed at Massacara, a few miles N. of Sulci; Bitia (Ptol.) at S. Isidoro di Teulada; and Tegula (Itin. Ant.) at the Capo di Teulada, the extreme S. point of the island. 3. On the E. coast, Feronia (Ptol.) must have been at or near Posada, 25 miles S. of Olbia, and is apparently the same place called in the Itineraries Portus Lugudonis. The other small places mentioned in the same Itinerary were probably mere stations or villages. 4. On the N. coast, besides the two considerable towns of Tibula and Turris Libysonis, Ptolemy places two towns, which he calls Juliola (probably the same with the Viniola of the Itinerary, still called Torre Vignola) and Plubium, which may probably be fixed at Castel Sardo. The small towns of the interior are for the most part very uncertain, the positions given by Ptolemy, as well as the distances in the Itineraries, varying so much as to afford us in reality but little assistance; and of the names given by Ptolemy, Erycinum, Heraeum, Macopsisa, Saralapis or Sarala, and Lesa, not one is mentioned in the Itineraries. The Aquae Lesitanae (Ptol.) are probably the Acqui di Benetutti in the upper valley of the Thyrsus: the Aquae Hypsitanae are those of Fordungianus, and the Aquae Neapolitanae the Bagni di Sardara. There remain considerable ruins of a Roman town at a place called Castro on the road from Terranova (Olbia) to Oristano. These are supposed to mark the site of a place called in the Itineraries Lugudonec, probably a corruption of Lugudo or Lugudonis. In the SW. portion of the island, also, between Neapolis and Sulci, are considerable Roman remains at a place called Antas, probably the Metalla of the Itineraries. (Itin. Ant. p 84.).

The Itineraries give several lines of road through the island of Sardinia. (Itin. Ant. pp. 78--85.) One of these proceeded from Tibula, at the N. extremity of the island, which was the usual place of landing from Corsica, along the whole length of the E. coast to Caralis. It did not accurately follow the line of coast, though it seldom departed far from it, but struck somewhat inland from Tibula to Olbia, and from thence with some exceptions followed the line of coast. A more circuitous, but probably more frequented, route was that which led from Tibula to Turris Libysonis, and thence along the W. coast of the island by Bosa, Cornus, and Tharros to Othoca (Oristano), from which one branch led direct across the island through the plain of the Campidano to Caralis, while another followed nearly the line of the coast by Neapolis to Sulci, and from thence round the southern extremity of the island by Tegula and Nora to Caralis. Besides these, two other cross lines of road through the interior are given: the one from Olbia to Caralis direct, through the mountain country of the interior, and the other crossing the same wild tract from Olbia direct to Othoca. Very few of the stations on these lines of road can be identified, and the names themselves are otherwise wholly unknown. The reader will find them fully discussed and examined by De la Marmora (Voy. en Sardaigne, vol. ii. pp. 418--457), who has thrown much light on this obscure subject; but the results must ever remain in many cases uncertain.

We learn from the geographers that even under the Roman Empire several of the wild tribes in the interior of the island retained their distinctive appellations; but these are very variously given, and were probably subject to much fluctuation. Thus Strabo gives the names of four mountain tribes, whom he calls Parati, Sossinati, Balari and Aconites (Strab. v. p.225), all of which, with the exception of the Balari, are otherwise entirely unknown. Pliny mentions only three, the Ilienses, Balari, and Corsi, which he calls “celeberrimi in ea populorum” (Plin. Nat. 3.12. s. 17), and which are in fact all three well known names. The existence of the Ilienses under the Empire is also distinctly attested by Pausanias (10.17.7): yet neither their name nor that of the Balari is noticed by Ptolemy, though he gives those of no less than eighteen tribes as existing in his time. These are, beginning at the N. point of the island and proceeding from N. to S.: “the Tibulatii and Corsi, the Coracenses; then the Carenses and Cunusitanae; next to these the Salcitani and Luquidonenses; then the Aesaronenses; after them the Cornenses (called also Aechilenses); then the Ruacenses; next to whom follow the Celsitani and Corpicenses; after them the Scapitani and Siculenses; next to these the Neapolitani and Valentini, and furthest to the S. the Sulcitani and Noritani.” (Ptol. 3.3.6). Of these the Corsi are otherwise well known [see above, pp. 908, 909]; the four last names, as well as the Tibulates and Cornenses, are evidently derived from the names of towns, and are probably the inhabitants of districts municipally dependent upon them, rather than tribes in the proper sense of the term. The other names are wholly unknown. After the fall of the Western Empire we find for the first time the name of Barbaricini (?a?ßa???????, Procop. B. V. 2.13) applied to the mountaineers of the interior. This appellation, which appears to be merely a corruption of “Barbari vicini,” was retained throughout the middle ages, and is still preserved in the name of Barbargia, given to the wild mountain tract which extends from the neighbourhood of Cagliari towards the sources of the Tirso. These mountaineers were not converted to Christianity till the close of the sixth century, and even at the present day retain many curious traces of paganism in their customs and superstitious usages. (De la Marmora, vol. i. p. 30.)

The chief produce of Sardinia in ancient times was, as already mentioned, its corn, which it produced in large quantities for exportation even before the period of the Roman conquest. Its mountain tracts were also well adapted for pasturage, and the native tribes subsisted mainly on the produce of their flocks and herds (Diod. 5.15), while they clothed themselves with the skins, whence they were sometimes called “pelliti Sardi.” The island also possessed mines both of silver and iron, of which the first are said to have been considerable. (Solin. 4.4.) They were undoubtedly worked by the Romans, as we learn from existing traces, and from the name of Metalla given to a place in the SW. of the island, between Neapolis and Sulci. (Itin. [2.913] Ant. p. 84; De la Marmora, vol. ii. p. 453.) It had also extensive fisheries, especially of tunny; and of the murex, or shell-fish which produced the purple dye (Suid. s. v.). But its most peculiar natural productions were the wild sheep, or moufflon, called by the Greeks µ??sµ?? (Ovis Ammn Linn.), which is still found in large herds in the more unfrequented parts of the island (Strab. v. p.225; Paus. 10.17.12; Aelian, Ael. NA 16.34), and a herb, called Herba Sardoa, the bitterness of which was said to produce a kind of convulsive grin on the countenances of those that tasted it, which was generally considered as the origin of the phrase, a Sardonic smile (risus Sardonicus; Sa?d????? ?????, Paus. 10.17.13; Suid. s. v. Sa?d?????; Serv. ad Virg. Ecl. 7.41; Solin. 4.4.) But the etymology and origin of this phrase are exceedingly dubious, and the peculiar herb alluded to by the ancients cannot be now identified. The bitterness of the Sardinian honey (Hor. A. P. 375), which was supposed to result from the same herb, is, however, a fact still observable at the present day. (Smyth's Sardinia, p. 104.) Pausanias mentions that the island was free from wolves, as well as from vipers and other venomous serpents, an advantage that it still enjoys (Paus. 10.17.12; Solin. 4.3; De la Marmora, vol. i. pp. 173, 177); but it contained a venomous spider, apparently a kind of tarantula, called Solifuga, which was peculiar to the island. (Solin. l.c.)

The native population of Sardinia seem to have enjoyed a very evil reputation among the Romans. The harsh expressions of Cicero (pro Scaur. 9. § § 15, 42, &c.) must, indeed, be received with considerable allowance, as it was his object in those passages to depreciate the value of their testimony; but the proverbial expression of “Sardi venales” was generally understood as applying to the worthlessness of the individuals, as well as to the cheapness and abundance of slaves from that country. ( “Habes Sardos venales, alium alio nequiorem,” Cic. Fam. 7.2. 4) The praetors, even in the days of Augustus, seem to have been continually making inroads into the mountain territories for the purpose of carrying off slaves (Strab. v. p.255); but as these mountaineers according to Strabo and Diodorus, lived in caves and holes in the ground, and were unacquainted with agriculture (Strab. l.c.; Diod. 4.30), it is no wonder that they did not make useful slaves.

Of the antiquities found in Sardinia, by far the most remarkable are the singular structures called by the inhabitants Nuraghe or Nuraggis, which are almost entirely peculiar to the island. They are a kind of towers, in the form of a truncated cone, strongly built of massive stones, arranged in layers, but not of such massive blocks, or fitted with such skill and care, as those of the Cyclopean structures of Greece or Italy. The interior is occupied with one or more vaulted chambers, the upper cone (where there are two, one over the other, as is frequently the case) being approached by a winding stair or ramp, constructed in the thickness of the walls. In some cases there is a more extensive basement, or solid substruction, containing several lateral chambers, all constructed in the same manner, with rudely pointed vaultings, showing no knowledge of the principle of the arch. The number of these singular structures scattered over the island is prodigious; above 1200 have been noticed and recorded, and in many cases as many as twenty or thirty are found in the same neigbourhood: they are naturally found in very different degrees of preservation, and many varieties of arrangement and construction are observed among them; but their purpose and destination are still unknown. Nor can we determine to what people they are to be ascribed. They are certainly more ancient than either the Roman or Carthaginian dominion in the island, and are evidently the structures alluded to by the author of the treatise de Mirabilibus, which he describes as ?????, or vaulted chambers, the construction of which he ascribes to Iolaus. (Pseud. Arist. de Mirab. 104.) Diodorus also speaks of great works constructed by Daedalus for Iolaus, which must evidently refer to the same class of monuments. (Diod. 4.30.) Both traditions are valuable at least as evidence of their reputed high antiquity; but whether they are to be ascribed to the Phoenicians or to the native inhabitants of the island, is a point on which it is very difficult to form an opinion. They are fully de scribed by De la Marmora in his Voyage en Sardaigne, vol. ii. (from which work the annexed figure is taken), and more briefly by Capt. Smyth (Sardinia, pp. 4--7) and Valéry (Voy. en Sardaigne).

The work of De Ia Marmora, above cited, contains a most complete and accurate account of all the antiquities of Sardinia, as well as the natural history, physical geography, and present state of the island. Its authority has been generally followed throughout the preceding article, in the determination of ancient names and localities. The works of Captain Smyth (Present State of Sardinia, 8vo. London, 1828), Valéry (Voyageen Corse et en Sardaigne, 2 vols. 8vo. Paris, 1838), and Tyndale (Island of Sardinia, 3 vols. 8vo. London, 1849), though of much interest, are of inferior value.  - Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) William Smith, LLD, Ed.


Map of the Roman Empire (Click to Enlarge)

Large Map of the Roman Empire (Clickable Locations)

The Roman Empire During the First Century AD

Maps are essential for any serious study, they help students of Roman history understand the geographical locations and historical backgrounds of the places mentioned in historical sources.

Map of New Testament Israel  |  Map of Old Testament Israel

Map of the Roman Empire  |  Bible History Online

Map of the Roman Empire - Places







Aegean Sea



















Arabian Desert







Balearic Islands








Caesarea Philippi





















Danube River



Dniester River

Douro River


Ebro River


Emerita Augusta




Euphrates River

Fair Havens


Forum Appius





Garonne River





Greater Syrtis

Guadalquivir River

Guadiana River


Halys River



Heraclea Pontus

Hippo Regius









Jordan River


Kure Mountains




Leptis Magna

Lesser Syritis


Loire River









Mauritania Caesariensis

Mauritania Tingitana


Mediterranean Sea






Mount Sinai


Nabataean Kingdom









Nile River


Oceanus Atlanticus



Orontes River


















Po River



Pontus Euxinus

Porta Veneris


Prut River








Sahara Desert







Saonne River






Sea of Adria

Seine River





Sinus Arabicus






Tagus River




Taurus Mountains







Tiber River


Tisza River