Sardinia has been, since the dawn of civilization, a mooring frequented by those who sailed in the western Mediterranean Sea area, in search of new lands and commercial opportunities. The Sardinia history has been able to take advantage of its insularity – that drove the evolution of Nuragic Civilization – and of its strategic position that has allowed the island to become a major commercial and cultural crossroads in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.
In the historical and cultural heritage of Sardinia are abundant testimonies of indigenous cultures but also the influence and presence of ancient major colonialonizations.
There are at least three major different historic periods, among many in the history of Sardinia, that have deeply marked, more than others, the history of the Island. They are:
The Nuragic civilization was a civilization of Sardinia, lasting from the Bronze Age (18th century BC) to the 2nd century AD. The name derives from its most characteristic monuments, the Nuraghes. They consist of tower-fortresses, built starting from about 1800 BC.
No written record of this civilization seems to have come down to us. The only informations, more mythological than historical, that we have, come from the much later Greek-Roman classic literatur.
These towers were often reinforced and enlarged with battlements. Tribal boundaries were guarded by smaller lookout Nuraghes erected on strategic hills commanding a view of other territories.
Today, some 7,000 Nuraghes dot the Sardinian landscape. While initially these Nuraghes had a relatively simple structure, with time they became extremely complex and monumental (see for example Nuraghe Santu Antine, Su Nuraxi, or Nuraghe Arrubiu). The scale, complexity and territorial spread of these buildings attest to the level of wealth accumulated by the Nuragic people, their advances in technology and the complexity of their society, which was able to coordinate large numbers of people with different roles for the purpose of building the monumental Nuraghes.
The Nuraghes are not the only Nuragic buildings that survive, as there are several sacred wells around Sardinia and other buildings that had religious purposes such as the Giants’ grave (monumental collective tombs) and collections of religious buildings that probably served as destinations for pilgrimage and mass religious rites (e.g. Su Romanzesu near Bitti town).
Sardinia was at the time at the centre of several commercial routes and it was an important provider of raw materials such as copper and lead, which were pivotal for the manufacture of the time. By controlling the extraction of these raw materials and by commercing them with other countries, the Nuragic civilisation was able to accumulate wealth and reach a level of sophistication that is not only reflected in the complexity of its surviving buildings, but also in its artworks (e.g. the votive bronze statuettes found across Sardinia. Evidence of trade with the other civilizations of that time are attested by several artefacts (e.g. pots), coming from as far as Cyprus, Crete, Mainland Greece, Spain as well as from Italy, that have been found in Nuragic sites, which testifies the scope of commercial relations between the Nuragic people and other peoples in Europe and beyond.
Sardinia, after a relatively brief Vandal occupation (456-534), was from 535 until the eighth century, a province of the Byzantine Empire.
Since 705, with the rapid expansion of Islam, the Muslims pirates from North Africa began their raids against the island. These raids found no effective opposition of the Byzantine army and in 815 Sardinian ambassadors required military assistance to the Holy Roman Emperor Louis the Pious.
In 807, 810/812 and 821/822 the Arabs of Spain and North Africa tried to invade the island but the Sardinians resisted several attacks, so much that in a letter of the 851 Pope Leo IV ask aid to the Iudex Provinciae (judge of the province) of Sardinia, for the defense of Rome. With the fall in the eighth century of the Exarchate of Africa, based in Carthage, and especially with the emergence of the Arab presence in Sicily (827) Sardinia remained disconnected from Byzantium and had necessarily become economically and militarily independent.
It was in this period that Giudicati period started, but the almost total absence of historical sources does not allow to have certainty on the passage from the Byzantine central authority to a selfgovernment. It is believed that, at some point, the Iudex Provinciae, perphans the praeses, had the complete control of the island. He appointed, in the most strategic area for the defense of the coast, the lociservator (lieutenant) that, over time, became substantially autonomous; this was probably the cause that propitiated the birth of the Giudicati.
The first incontrovertible source that cites the existence of four giudicati is the epistle sent by Pope Gregory VII in October 14, 1073 to the Sardinian judges; however their autonomy was already clear in a later letter of Pope John VIII (872) in which he referred to them as principes Sardiniae (“princes of Sardinia”).
The known medieval giudicati were:
Each of the four States had fortified borders to protect their political and commercial interests, as well own laws, its own administration and its emblems.
The administrative organization of the Giudicati differed significantly from the feudal forms existing in the rest of medieval Europe as they institutions were closer to those of the territories of the Byzantine Empire, although with local peculiarities that some scholars consider of Nuragic derivation.
In the international context of the Middle Ages, the Giudicati were characterized by the modernity of their organization compared to the contemporary European kingdoms of feudal-barbaric tradition, since they were not owned by the sovereign but they were superindividual, belonging to the people that express his sovereignty through semi-democratic institutions as the Coronas de curatorias which in turn elected their own representatives to the maximum parliamentary assizes called Corona de Logu.
The central government and the entire Judicial society were naturally ruled substantially by the Judge, but the king did not have possession of the land nor he was neither the depositary of the sovereignty since this was formally of the Corona de Logu, a council of elders (representatives of the administrative districts said Curadorias) and high priests, who appointed the ruler and attributed him the supreme power, while maintaining the power to ratify the acts and agreements concerned relate to the entire kingdom.
During Su Collectu (coronation ceremony) came together in the capital a representative of each Curadorias, the members of the high clergy, the castle lords, two representatives of the capital elected by delegates from jurados Coronas de curatoria, then the Judex was crowned with a mixed-elected hereditary sistem following the direct male line and, only in the alternative, the female line.
As said, the judge ruled on the basis of a covenant with the people (the bannus-consensus), failed which the sovereign could be dethroned and even, in cases of serious acts of tyranny and oppression, legitimately executed by the same people, without this prejudging the inheritance of the title within the same ruling dynasty.
The Kingdom of Sardinia was a state in Europe from the early 14th until the mid-19th century. It was the predecessor state of today’s Italy. A small state with weak institutions when it was acquired by the Duke of Savoy in 1720, the Savoyards united their insular and continental domains and built Sardinia—often called Piedmont-Sardinia in this period—into one of the great powers by the time of the Crimean War (1853–56). Its final capital was Turin, the centre of Savoyard power since the Middle Ages.
The kingdom initially consisted of the islands of Corsica and Sardinia, sovereignty over both of which was claimed by the Papacy, which granted them as a fief, the regnum Sardiniae et Corsicae (“kingdom of Sardinia and Corsica”), to King James II of Aragon in 1297. Beginning in 1324, James and his successors conquered the island of Sardinia and established de facto their de jure authority. In 1420 the last competing claim to the island was bought out. After the union of the crowns of Aragon and Castile, Sardinia became a part of the burgeoning Spanish Empire. In 1720 it was ceded by the Habsburg and Bourbon claimants to the Spanish throne to Duke Victor Amadeus II of Savoy. The kingdom of Sardinia came to be progressively identified with the entire domain ruled by the House of Savoy, which included, besides Savoy and Aosta, dynastic possessions since the 11th century, the Principality of Piedmont (a possession built up in the 13th century), and the County of Nice in France (a possession since 1388). While the traditional capital of the island of Sardinia and seat of its viceroys was Cagliari, the Piedmontese city of Turin was the de facto capital of the House of Savoy.
When the mainland domains of the House of Savoy were occupied and eventually annexed by Napoleonic France, the king of Sardinia made his permanent residence on the island for the first time in its history. The Congress of Vienna (1814–15), which restructured Europe after Napoleon’s defeat, returned to Savoy its mainland possessions and augmented them with Liguria, taken from the Republic of Genoa. In 1847–48, in a “perfect fusion”, the various Savoyard states were unified under one legal system, with the capital in Turin, and granted a constitution, the Statuto Albertino. There followed the annexation of Lombardy (1859), the central Italian states and the Two Sicilies (1860), Venetia (1866), and the Papal States (1870). On 17 March 1861, to more accurately reflect its new geographic extent, the Kingdom of Sardinia changed its name to the Kingdom of Italy, and its capital was eventually moved first to Florence and then to Rome.
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