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Sant'Antioco during the Phoenician and Punic Ages

The Phoenicians arrived in Sardinia around 780/770 B.C.; this dating in Sant’Antioco is supported by the fact that the earliest artefacts found in the urban area do not precede that period. The first Phoenician occupation had to involve an area not far from the coastline and no traces of violent occupation or destruction have emerged from the archaeological research, but, on the contrary, the picture which emerges describes peaceful relations between the natives and the newcomers. At the time of the Phoenician arrival, the indigenous settlement was located on the hill where the Savoy stronghold now stands, since it is there that Nuraghic traces have been found and it is on that elevation that the acropolis of the Phoenician settlement will subsequently develop, a part of which has been brought to light at the foot of the hill, near the “Cronicario” (fig. 1).

Fig. 1 - Map of the Cronicario area (from

The Phoenician city of Sulky quickly became a wealthy metropolis which controlled the south-western area of Sardinia with two ports and an extensive trading network. The evidence of its relations with the mother-country Tyre and with other Phoenician cities of the eastern and western Mediterranean coasts and with Magna Greece is apparent from at least the first half of the eighth century B.C. (figs. 2-3).

Fig. 2 - Fragment of Euboea-Greek pottery on display at the Municipal Archaeological Museum "F. Barreca" (photo by M. Murgia).
Fig. 3 - Olla of Greek-Euboea production from Pitecusa (730-710 B.C.) (from TRONCHETTI 1989, p. 8, fig. 1).

The Phoenician community of Sulky led a life based on commerce and on farming for at least two hundred and fifty years, until it was conquered by Carthage around 540 B.C. Carthage was also a Phoenician colony founded probably in 814 B.C. by Tyre on the coast of modern Tunisia (fig. 4). It had long shown expansionist intentions: during the sixth century B.C. it attempted to conquer Sardinia, failing a first time with a military expedition in 540 B.C., under the command of General Malchus; the second attempt, under the guidance of Hasdrubal and Hamilcar in 520 B.C., favoured the Carthaginians who took control of Sardinia and put it under strict supervision, as we know through the treaty with Rome in 509 B.C.

Fig. 4 - Carthage, location of the Phoenician colony on the coast of Tunisia (reconstruction by C. Olianas from

After the Roman conquest, Sulky went through a period of crisis linked to being suddenly ousted from commerce with the resulting economic difficulties. At that time, new inhabitants arrived in Sant'Antioco, possibly of North African origin, bearers of new customs, who settled in the area of the Phoenician town. They renovated part of the buildings and built new ones on the ruins of those damaged by the invasion. Around the first half of the fourth century B.C., between 380 and 370 B.C., Carthage decided to restructure, strengthen and expand some cities of its empire, including Sulky, for which a new blooming began. Following the outbreak of the First Punic War (264-241 B.C.), the city took part in military operations and offered hospitality to military contingents of mercenaries. Immediately after the end of the conflict, Carthage had to face riots caused by its mercenary troops both in North Africa and Sardinia. It won with difficulty but, because of this, was forced to cede Sardinia to Rome. From 238 B.C. therefore Punic Sardinia passed under Roman rule (fig. 5).

Fig. 5 - Roman expansion in the Mediterranean between the third and second centuries B.C. (from



  • P. BARTOLONI, Orizzonti commerciali sulcitani tra l’VIII e il VII sec. a.C. = RAL 41, Roma 1986, pp. 219-226.
  • P. BARTOLONI, Il museo archeologico comunale “F. Barreca” di Sant’Antioco, Sassari 2007.
  • P. BARTOLONI, I Fenici e i Cartaginesi in Sardegna, Sassari 2009.
  • P. BERNARDINI, Le origini di Sulcis, in V. SANTONI (a cura di) , Carbonia e il Sulcis. Archeologia e territorio, Oristano 1995.
  • E. POMPIANU, Sulky fenicia (Sardegna): nuove ricerche dall’abitato = FOLD&R 2010-212, pp. 1-18.
  • C. TRONCHETTI, S. Antioco, Sassari 1989.