The history of Cagliari
In 238 B.C., after centuries of Punic domination in Sardinia, the Romans took the island and slowly transferred the commercial and administrative powers from the city of Nora to Cagliari.
The Roman influence was present in Sardinia until the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 A.D., when the Vandal invasions of the island by the German tribes.
Why the Romans founded Cagliari?
The ancient Phoenician city of Nora enjoyed a strategic position in the maritime routes which linked Africa to the Iberian Peninsula, but, by contrast, it was easily subject to raids and looting by the nuragic populations.
In fact, the city was difficult to defend due to the mountain massif to the North, today known as Mount Arcosu, which facilitated ambushes. On the contrary Cagliari, like Rome, was structured on isolated hills, much more appropriate for monitoring and protection of the territory.
In addition, the raids from sea, were prevented by the Molentargius lagoon which, dominated by the Saint Elia hill where a watchtower was located, represented an inaccessible barrier for the enemies of Rome. For this reasons, and for a higher accessibility to the cultivable and flat lands of Campidano, the Romans slowly relocated their interests from Nora to Karalis.
Which Roman monuments may I visit in Cagliari?
The original core settlement area, identified on the East side of the pond of Saint Gilla, slowly progressed from a port neighbourhood, while the middle class made self-sufficient dwellings in the higher areas. The first stop of our tour is the Villa of Tigellius, one of the few complete archaeological findings of a Roman dwelling in Sardinia.
Located in the historic neighbourhood of Stampace, it is made up by the remains of three dwelling structures, a hallway and a thermal structure, dating back to the first century A.D. the archaeological area represents one of the greatest findings of Roman History of Sardinia, and a must-see for the lovers of Roman history.
The site preserves the romantic charm of “ruin”, but is fully accessible, thanks to the walkways inside; in addition, there are qualified tourist guides capable of accompanying you along the visit.
Urbanisation also means need for water services a few steps away from the Villa of Tigellio, in Via Sant'ignazio Da Laconi, within the picturesque frame of the Botanical Garden of Cagliari, you will be able to admire an intact roman cistern.
This is a finding testifying the Roman ability in engineering, and it was part of a complex water system serving the ancient Karalis. With its 9 m height and 8.5 m depth, this cistern, covered with hydraulic mortar is not the only one in the area. In fact, in the nearby Garden of Capuchins, there are many more, probably born from caves for stone extraction used for construction of the Roman Amphitheatre of Cagliari, the third stage or our tour.
Before leaving the Botanical Garden, we have a break to enjoy the marvellous variety of flora which offers a shelter to visitors in the hottest days. Gained our strengths, we can face the difficult slope of Viale Fra Ignazio da Laconi, but, believe us, the visit to the top of the hill of Buoncammino will repay you any effort.
Like any other relevant city of the Empire, Cagliari has its own Amphitheatre, the heart and core of social and cultural life of the city.
Nearby the Villa of Tigellius, the ancient Roman Amphitheatre of Cagliari is a structure made in the bare calcareous rock of the Hill of Buoncammino between the first and second century A.D. It was the seat of fights between glators, theatre performances and public executions during the feast called “ludi”.
You can have a guided tour with expert staff, which will bring you to discover the most hidden corners of one of the most important monuments in Cagliari.
We continue along the panoramic wallk of Buoncammino, from where it is possible to admire a breathtaking landscape of the ancient Roman Amphitheatre and of the entire city, to get to the fourth stop of our tour: the Citadel of Museums in Cagliari.
Here, you can visit the National Archaeological Museum of Cagliari with its exhibition of statues, pottery and other roman findings, from different areas of Sardinia (including Nora). Now, it is a must-see, a visit to one of the most important places for the Christians of Cagliari, linked to the worship of a person who lived in the ancient Rome, a saint worshiped and beloved by the population, Saint Efisio.
Going down the slope of Via Ospedale, and getting nearby the Church of Saint Efisio, it will be possible to visit the prisons of the Christian Martyr, sentenced and killed under the Empire of Diocletian. This is an hypogeum, which probably dates back to the Punic epoch, where different relics were found during the quest of the “Saint bodies” in the seventeenth century.
The Saint is the protagonist of the celebrations and procession which takes place every year on 1st May due to an ancient vow made by the population of Cagliari, as thanksgiving since Cagliari was released from Black Death in 1656.
Once overcome Largo Carlo Felice, ancient area of Roman baths, we go towards the neighbourhood of Marina, rich with shops and traditional restaurants, and we continue towards Vicolo Collegio for a new underground exploration.
This time, we talk about the archaeological area of Saint Eulalia, a site of the Republican epoch, which arises into an underground cavity beneath the church bearing the same name. This ancient place testifies the strong presence of Romans nearby the area of the harbour, with areas dedicated in the past, to religious worship, to the extraction of construction materials, to water systems, to a road network, and dwellings.
Back to the sunlight and immerged in the scents of the ancient city, our tour among the roman ruins could finish but, if you still have some energies, and are willing to know the history of the ancient Karalis, we have one more surprire for you.
Continuing towards Piazza del Carmine, the ancient seat of the Roman Forum of Cagliari, around which the dwellings of the middle class of the epoch arose, and going through Viale Trieste, an area with high population density during the empire, and rich of findings preserved in the underground, you can reach the Cave of the Viper, located in Viale Sant'Avendrace.
The funerary building, commissioned by Lucius Cassius Philippus for his deceased wife Attilia Pomptilla between the end of the first and the beginning of second century A.D., testifies a love story which whitstands the passing of centuries and, still nowadays, is relevant archaeological and tourist destination in Cagliari.
A site we absolutely recommend you, a testimony of the funerary customs, along with the nearby necropolis of Tuvixeddu, even if not necessarily in the centre. Our short tour among the memories of Roman Cagliari terminates here. Thansk to the busses of line 9 you can easily return to Via Roma, in the harbour area, to get onboard your cruise ship and continue your pleasant stay in Cagliari.