Corsica and Sardinia

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Provincia Corsica et Sardinia
Province of the Roman Empire

238 BC–455 AD
Location of Corsica and Sardinia
Province of Corsica and Sardinia within the Empire (125 AD)
Capital Carales
39°15′N 09°03′E / 39.250°N 9.050°E / 39.250; 9.050Coordinates: 39°15′N 09°03′E / 39.250°N 9.050°E / 39.250; 9.050
 •  Roman annexation 238 BC
 •  Capture by Vandals 455 AD
Today part of  France

The Province of Corsica and Sardinia (Latin: Provincia Corsica et Sardinia) was an ancient Roman province including the islands of Corsica and Sardinia.

Pre-Roman times[edit]

The Roman empire in the time of Hadrian (ruled AD 117-138), showing the senatorial province of Corsica and Sardinia, two islands in the central Mediterranean Sea

The Nuragic civilization flourished in Sardinia from 1800 to 500 BC, the ancient Sardinians, also known as Nuragics, traded with many different Mediterranean peoples during the Bronze Age and early Iron Age, especially with the Myceneans and Cypriots. Sardinians also built many coastal settlements (like Nora and Tharros) and the characteristic tower buildings the island is known for, the nuraghes. A similar civilization also developed in Southern Corsica, where several torri were built. The ancient Sardinians had reached a high level of cultural complexity, they built large federal sanctuaries, where the Nuragic communities gathered to participate in the same rituals during festivities, the Nuragic people were able to organize themselves and accomplish several complex projects, such as building refined temples, hydraulic implants such as fountains and aqueducts, and creating life sized statues despite the lack of an elite and lacking virtually any degree of social stratification [1]. Later the Phoenicians established several commercial stations in the coast of Sardinia, after the Phoenicians, the Greeks arrived and established the colonies of Alalia and Olbia. The Carthaginians (a Phoenician colony), with the help of the Etruscans, conquered the Greek colony of Alalia on Corsica in 535 BC, after Corsica, even part of Sardinia came under the control of the Carthaginians.

Obtaining the province[edit]

Even though Rome had drawn up an earlier treaty with Carthage following the First Punic War, a complete disregard to this agreement led them to forcibly annex Corsica and Sardinia during the Mercenary War;[2] in 238 BC, the Carthaginians, accepting defeat in the First Punic War, surrendered Corsica and Sardinia, which together became a province of Rome.[3] This marked the beginning of Roman domination in the Western Mediterranean, the Romans ruled this area for 694 years.

Roman opinion of the province[edit]

Throughout this rule, Rome maintained an objective relationship with the province, the coastal regions of both islands were settled by Romans and adopted the Latin language and culture; however, the interior areas of Corsica and Sardinia resisted the Romans. A variety of revolts and uprisings occurred: however, since the interior areas were densely forested, the Romans avoided them and set them aside as the “land of the barbarians”.[4] Overall, Corsica and Sardinia became trivial gains compared to the Roman Empire's Eastern gains, the Romans regarded both the islands and their people as backward and unhealthy. From Corsica, the Romans did not receive much spoil nor were the prisoners willing to bow to foreign rule, and to learn anything Roman. Strabo, depicting the Corsicans as bestial people resorting to live by plunder, said that “whoever has bought one (Corsican), aggravating their purchasers by their apathy and insensibility, regrets the waste of his money”.[4][5] Same goes for the Sardinians, who acquired an infamous reputation for being untrustworthy and killing their master if they had a chance, since the Sardinian captives were flooding the Roman slave market after a Roman victory over a serious outbreak from the mountain tribes, the proverb Sardi venales ("Sardinians for cheap") became in fact an everyday Latin expression to indicate anything cheap and worthless,[6][7] as Livius reported. Cicero referred to the Sardinians, ill-disposed as no other towards the Roman people,[8] as "every one worse than his fellow" (alius alio nequior)[9] and to their rebels in the highlands, that kept fighting the Romans in guerrilla-style, as "thieves with rough wool cloaks" (latrones mastrucati).[8] The Roman orator linked in fact the Sardinians to the ancient Berber tribes of North Africa (A Poenis admixto Afrorum genere Sardi[8] "from the Punics, mixed with African blood, originated the Sardinians", Africa ipsa parens illa Sardiniae[8] "Africa itself is the parent of Sardinia"), using also the name Afer (African) and Sardus (Sardinian) as interchangeable, to prove their supposed cunning and hideous nature inherited by the former Carthaginian masters. Varro, following the tradition set by Cicero, used to compare the Sardinians to the Berber Getuli, saying quaedam nationes harum pellibus sunt vestitae, ut in Gaetulia et in Sardinia ("Some barbarous nations use [goat] skins for clothing, like, for instance, in Getulia and Sardinia").[10]

Relationship to Rome[edit]

Corsica and Sardinia ended up playing an important role in the happenings of the Empire. Sardinia provided much of the grain supply during the time of the Roman Republic. Corsica provided wax to the empire, as that was all that could be found on the island.

The islands also indirectly contributed to the demise of the Roman Republic. Gaius Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix settled their veterans on Corsica and used the islands' grain supply to support their war efforts. Julius Caesar had Sardinia occupied by his delegates and gained control of the grain supply, this supply of grain fed his army and ensured their victory in the civil war of 49 BC. Within the second triumvirate, Octavian received the islands as part of his share and used its grain supply to feed his armies against Brutus and Cassius.[4]

Corsica and Sardinia also came to be recognized as a place of exile. C. Cassius Longinus, the lawyer accused of conspiracy by Nero was sent to the province, while Anicentus, murderer of the elder Agrippina was sent to Sardinia. Many Jews and Christians were also sent to the islands under Tiberius.[4]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Caven, Brian (1980). The Punic Wars. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 
  3. ^ Bagnall, Nigel (1990). The Punic Wars: Rome, Carthage, and the Struggle for the Mediterranean. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 
  4. ^ a b c d Chapot, Victor (2004). The Roman World. London: Kegan Paul. pp. 140–150. 
  5. ^ Strabo, Geography V, 2, 7 H.C. Hamilton, Esq., W. Falconer, M.A., Ed.
  6. ^ Mastino, Attilio. 2004: La Sardegna romana in Storia della Sardegna, ed. M. Brigaglia, Cagliari, p.83
  7. ^ Mastino, Attilio. 2005: Storia della Sardegna Antica, Sassari, p.95
  8. ^ a b c d "Cicero: Pro Scauro". 
  9. ^ Epistolae ad familiares, VII, 24, 2
  10. ^ "Varro: Rerum Rusticarum de Agri Cultura".