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The Romanization of Sardinia.

The museum

For a very long time it was thought  that Sardinian internal areas never went through the Romanization process. Today, however, we  know that  just like the rest of the island, even the central and mountainous areas of Barbagia were culturally conquered by Rome, both militarily and politically. The most indisputable traces of this phenomenon is perhaps the local variety of the Sardinian language, which is still today  the Romance language closest to the Latin spoken in Rome during the period of its expansion into the Mediterranean.

Furthermore, there are a series of archaeological and historical clues, such as the ancient water springs, that reveal the existence of a roadway connecting Olbia to Cagliari through the most inaccessible areas of central Sardinia, crossing the villages of Caput Tyrsi possibly located near  Buddusò, Sorabile near Fonni, and Biora, probably within the Serri territory.

The Roman presence  in the hinterland of Sardinia is well exemplified  by very important archaeological sites, that are sometimes located in very internal and hard to access areas. These sites include Tiscali in the Supramonte between Oliena and Dorgali, the ample Roman settlement of Sant’Efis of Orune, the  many Nuragic villages reused in Roman times such as, Sirilò near Orgosolo, the Nuraghe Mannu in Dorgali, and the discovered Roman votive deposit situated inside the deep and untamed Gorroppu gorge.

It was discovered, from excavations and studies, that some of  the island internal populations were hostile and rebellious towards the Roman Empire. Roman military leaders celebrated various victories against the Sardinians throughout the second century B.C., and the name of Barbagia, from Barbaria, land of non-Roman barbarians, was given to the territories occupied by these populations,. Moreover, these same populations were organized as Civitates Barbariae, groups of non-urbanized people.

Some of the names of the populations of the Civitates Barbariae were carved on stones and were used to mark the boundaries of their territory. An example is the tribe of Uddhadaddar, whose name is engraved on a stone from Cuglieri, kept today at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale of Cagliari.

The conquest of Sardinia was initially just military, but over time, it also involved the lifestyles that became more and more similar to those of their Roman counterparts, their food , law, and language.  This is the reason why when Roman ceramics are brought back to light during archaeological excavations, it is hard to determine with certainty if the user was a Roman that came to Sardinia from Rome or any other part of the Empire, or a Romanized Sardinian.

An example of this fusion of elements relevant to the different cultural components of Sardinia during the Roman era is Hannibal’s military discharge records. His records were found in Posada, and are exhibited at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale “Giorgio Asproni” of Nuoro. The name of the soldier is of Carthaginian tradition, the names of his parents were Nuragic, his daughters were given Nuragic names, and his sons were given Latin names. This was likely to facilitate the integration within the Roman society. Hannibal is a perfect example of a Romanized Sardinian who lived between the first and second century A.D.

And perhaps, this was the sense of Romanization. A slow and gradual adoption of a lifestyle, objects, traditions, values, ways of thinking, speaking or praying, not from imposition but from the influence and absorption of the Roman civilization.