History in Sardinia
Sardinia's coasts are the one feature that most strongly characterise the island's landscape. But, as is the case with all islands, they have also shaped the civilisation of its inhabitants, over the centuries playing different, and sometimes even contradictory, roles in influencing the relations between the island's peoples and between them and those coming from abroad. It is all but certain that Sardinia's first inhabitants arrived from the sea and settled along certain coastal areas: the ruins of many nuraghes, Sardinia's unique, megalithic towers in the form of truncated cones, bear witness to this. The first Sardinians were navigators familiar with the sea: it is thanks to their seafaring skills that obsidian, the precious vitreous stone found at Monte Arci, was exported throughout the Mediterranean. Thus, the island people came into peaceful contact with the Phoenicians and, together with them, populated the first settlements, all built in close proximity to the sea: Tharros, Nora, Karales and other, smaller ones,. this choice was later confirmed in the long period of the Roman domination, during which other coastal settlements grew in importance, especially Olbia and Turris Libisonis, today's Porto Torres. With the fall of the Roman Empire, anarchy replaced order in the waters of the Mediterranean,. for Sardinia, this meant the beginning of a series of invasions and raids - the most memorable of which by Arab pirates - which continued almost up to the beginning of the contemporary era. The result was to reduce the numbers of settlements along the coasts to a bare minimum and to interrupt the harmonious relationship the Sardinians had enjoyed with the sea around them. The fear of marauders, coupled with that of malaria, which was endemic in the coastal wetlands, induced the Sardinians to retreat into the interior and settle in new villages in the hills and mountains, thus transforming them into an almost exclusively sheep-raising and agricultural people dominated by fear and mistrust, which in time became an almost atavistic characteristic, of the waves which continued to break against their coasts, with their extraordinarily variegated and breathtaking interplay of ravines, beaches, gulfs and promontories. Up to just a few decades ago, statistics confirmed that the population had settled in the interior and that few fishermen had remained to exploit the potential resources offered by the sea only to a limited extent. The inversion of this trend finally came about in the post-war period, starting from the 1950s. The reasons that led to this are to be found in the successful battle against malaria and the increase in the number of tourists, attracted almost exclusively by the coasts. Thus began a slow process which has. induced even the Sardinians to overcome their mistrut of the sea: an ever- increasing number of people are now backtracking along the routes over which their ancestors retreated to the interior, and are now repopulating the towns along the coast.