Detailed sheets

The “Romanization” of Sardinia

When Sardinia passed under Roman dominion in 238 B.C., there was no radical, sudden change in its social and economic organization. The concept of “Romanization”, then old and abandoned, assumed a conquest using force and imposition of different uses and customs to the traditional ones. What really happened was that Rome sent governors, supported by a few military contingents, but local administration was managed by local officials based on rooted traditions. However, the territory was organised and controlled (fig. 1).

Fig. 1 - Boundary marker of the territory of one of the local Sardinian populations: the Uddadhaddar (gullies) of the Numisie, found in the territory of Cuglieri. This is evidence of the Romans' territorial organisation (photo Archaeological Superintendence Cagliari).

Rome did not enter those areas of the island that still had independent communities; it just checked they paid their tributes and did not make any raids. The Fordongianus dedication by the local communities to the emperor Tiberius is a clear example.

The spread of typically Roman customs is due to the slow infiltration of the Latin language and its material culture (objects, working techniques, etc.); and also to the higher classes adapting to the lifestyle of their "new masters”, the Romans, to try to be as much like them as possible, thus maintaining their privileged positions.

The spread of typically Roman elements in Sardinia, like mosaic floors (fig. 2) funerary inscriptions (fig. 3), is an indication of culture penetrating the deeper parts of the island; associated to the territorial transformation to create structures at the service of town life, like aqueducts (fig. 4).

Fig. 2 - Signs of Romanisation: mosaics (from Rowland 1981, fig. 3; re-worked by C. Tronchetti).
Fig. 3 - Signs of Romanisation: funerary inscriptions (from Rowland 1981,fig. 11; re-worked by C. Tronchetti)
Fig. 4 - Remains of the Roman aqueduct in the territory of Assemini (photo Archaeological Superintendence Cagliari).



  • R. J. ROWLAND, I ritrovamenti romani in Sardegna, Roma 1981.
  • N. TERRENATO, The cultural implications of the Roman conquest, in E.BISPHAM (ed.) Roman Europe, Oxford 2008, pp. 234-264;
  • A.WALLACE-HADRILL, Rome’s cultural revolution, Cambridge 2008, pp. 9-14.
  • S. ANGIOLILLO, Sardinia, in E.C.PORTALE, S. ANGIOLILLO, C. VISMARA, Le grandi isole del Mediterraneo occidentale. Sicilia, Sardinia, Corsica, Roma 2005, pp. 198-201.