Monte Claro culture pottery
The Cagliari area has been inhabited since the Neolithic. It occupies a favourable position between the sea and a fertile plain and is surrounded by two marshes (which provides defence against attacks from the inland). There are high mountains nearby, to which people could evacuate if the settlement had to be given up. Relics of prehistoric inhabitants were found in the hill of Monte Claro (Monte Claro culture) and in
Cape Sant'Elia (several domus de janas).
Karaly (Punic: 𐤊𐤓𐤋𐤉, KRLY) was established around the 8th/7th century BC as one of a string of Phoenician colonies in Sardinia, including Tharros. Its founding is linked to its position along communication routes with Africa as well as to its excellent port. The Phoenician settlement was located in the Stagno di Santa Gilla, west of the present centre of Cagliari. This was also the site of the Roman Portus Scipio, and when Arab pirates raided the area in the 8th century it became the refuge for people fleeing from the city. Other Phoenician settlements have been found at Cape Sant'Elia.
In the late 6th century BC Carthage took control of part of Sardinia, and Cagliari grew substantially under their domination, as testified by the large Tuvixeddu necropolis and other remains. Cagliari was a fortified settlement in what is now the modern Marina quarter, with an annexed holy area in the modern Stampace.
Sardinia and Cagliari came under Roman rule in 238 BC, shortly after the First Punic War, when the Romans defeated the Carthaginians. No mention of it is found on the occasion of the Roman conquest of the island but, during the Second Punic War, Caralis was the headquarters of the praetor, Titus Manlius Torquatus, from whence he conducted his operations against Hampsicora and the Carthaginians. At other times it was also the Romans' chief naval station on the island and the residence of its praetor.
The Romans built a new settlement east of the old Punic city, the vicus munitus Caralis (i.e. the fortified community of Caralis) mentioned by Varro Atacinus. The two urban agglomerations merged gradually during the second century BC; to this process is perhaps attributable the plural name Carales.
Florus calls it the urbs urbium or capital of Sardinia. He represents it as taken and severely punished by Gracchus, but this statement is wholly at variance with Livy's account of the wars of Gracchus, in Sardinia, according to which the cities were faithful to Rome, and the revolt was confined to the mountain tribes. In the Civil War between Caesar and Pompey, the citizens of Caralis were the first to declare in favor of the former, an example soon followed by the other cities of Sardinia; and Caesar himself touched there with his fleet on his return from Africa. A few years later, when Sardinia fell into the hands of Menas, the lieutenant of Sextus Pompeius, Caralis was the only city which offered any resistance, but was taken after a short siege.
Cagliari continued to be regarded as the capital of the island under the Roman Empire, and though it did not become a colony, obtained the status of Municipium.
Remains of Roman public buildings were found to the west of Marina in Piazza del Carmine. There was an area of ordinary housing near the modern Via Roma, and richer houses on the slopes of the Marina distinct. The amphitheatre is located to the west of the Castello.
A Christian community is attested in Cagliari at least as early as the 3rd century, and by the end of that century the city had a Christian bishop. In the middle decades of the 4th century bishop Lucifer of Cagliari was exiled because of his opposition to the sentence against Athanasius of Alexandria at the Synod of Milan. He was banished to the desert of Thebais by the emperor Constantius II.
Claudian describes the ancient city of Karalis as extending to a considerable length towards the promontory or headland, the projection of which sheltered its port. The port affords good anchorage for large vessels, but besides this, which is only a well-sheltered standby, there is a large salt-water lake or lagoon, called the Stagno di Cagliari, adjoining the city and communicating by a narrow channel with the bay, which appears from Claudian to have been used in ancient times as an inner harbor or basin. The promontory adjoining the city is evidently that noticed by Ptolemy (Κάραλις πόλις καὶ ἄκρα), but the Caralitanum Promontorium of Pliny can be no other than the headland, now called Capo Carbonara, which forms the eastern boundary of the Gulf of Cagliari and the southeast point of the whole island. Immediately off it lay the little island of Ficaria, now called the Isola dei Cavoli ("Cabbage Island" in Italian, Isula de is Càvurus "Crab Island" in Sardinian).
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire Cagliari fell, together with the rest of Sardinia, into the hands of the Vandals, but appears to have retained its importance throughout the Middle Ages.
Saint Peter of the Fishermen church, 12th century
Judicate of Cagliari
Griffin and Pegasus pluteo, Byzantine Middle Ages. National Archaeological Museum of Cagliari
Subsequently, ruled by the Vandals and then part of the Byzantine Empire, Cagliari became the capital of a gradually independent Judicate,(from latin Iudex, Governor and Supreme Magistrate, used in late roman and byzantine period, along with the medioeval greek ἄρχων). This state was born around 1020 and was overthrown by the Republic of Pisa in 1258. Traditionally, due to the overlap of buildings since the year 800 B.C., and the scarcity of archeological and historical informations, it was believed that the population was moved to more inland areas of the territory, along the lagoon, in a city called Santa Ilia or Santa Igia (modern San Gilla) and it was believed that the ancient Roman and Byzantine city had been abandoned because it was too exposed to attacks by Moorish pirates coming from north Africa and Spain. Recent studies have instead hypothesized that the capital of the Giudicato was located around the road that it directed towards Sassari, today called Corso Vittorio Emanuele II (in sardinian language: Su Brugu, the borough), although there are not yet archelogical confirmations, particularly of the Cathedral and the Judex Palace, destroyed after the Pisan conquest .
The Judicate of Cagliari comprised a large area of the Campidano plain, the Sulcis-Iglesiente and the mountain region of Ogliastra.
11th to 13th century
During the 11th century, the Republic of Pisa began to extend its political influence over the Judgedom of Cagliari. Pisa and the maritime republic of Genoa had a keen interest in Sardinia because it was a perfect strategic base for controlling the commercial routes between Italy and North Africa.
In 1215 the Pisan Lamberto Visconti, judike of Gallura, forced the judikessa Benedetta of Cagliari to give him the mount located east of Santa Igia. Soon (1216–17) Pisan merchants established there a new fortified city, known as Castel di Castro, which can be considered the ancestor of the modern city of Cagliari.
In 1258, after the defeat of William III, the last king of Cagliari, the Pisans and their Sardinian allies (Arborea, Gallura and Logudoro) destroyed the old capital of Santa Igia. The Judgedom of Cagliari was then divided into three parts: the northwest third went to Gallura; the central portion was incorporated into Arborea; Sulcis and Iglesiente, on the southwest, were given to the Pisan della Gherardesca family, while the Republic of Pisa maintained control over its colony of Castel di Castro.
Some of the fortifications that still surround the current district of Castello were built by the Pisans, including the two remaining white limestone towers (early 14th century) designed by the architect Giovanni Capula. Together with the district of Castello, Castel di Castro comprised the districts of Marina (which included the port), and later
Stampace and Villanova. Marina and Stampace were guarded by walls, in contrast to Villanova, which was mostly home to peasants.
14th to 17th centuries
In the second decade of the 14th century the Crown of Aragon conquered Sardinia after a series of battles against the Pisans. During the siege of Castel di Castro (1324-1326), the Aragonese, led by the infant Alfonso, built a stronghold on a more southern hill, that of Bonaria.
View of Cagliari from Civitates orbis terrarium
(1572) by Georg Braun
When the fortified city was finally conquered by the Catalan-Aragonese army, Castel di Castro (Castel de Càller or simply Càller in Catalan) became the administrative capital of the newborn Kingdom of Sardinia, one of the many kingdoms forming the Crown of Aragon, which later came under the rule of the Spanish Empire. After the expulsion of the Tuscans, the Castello district was repopulated by the Catalan settlers of Bonaria while the indigenous population was, as in the past, concentrated in Stampace and Villanova.
The kings of Aragon and later the kings of Spain, were represented in Cagliari by a viceroy, who resided in the Palazzo Regio.
In the 16th century the fortifications of the city were strengthened with the construction of the bastions and the rights and benefits of the Catalan-Aragonese were extended to all citizens. The intellectual life was relatively lively and in the early years of the 17th century the University was founded.
In 1718, after a brief rule by the Austrian Habsburgs, Cagliari and Sardinia came under the House of Savoy. As rulers of Sardinia, the Savoys took the title of kings of the Sardinian kingdom. During the Savoyard Era, until 1848, the institutions of the Sardinian kingdom remained unchanged, but with the "Perfect Fusion" in that year, all the possessions of the House of Savoy House, comprising Savoy, Nice (now part of France), Piedmont and from 1815 Liguria, were merged into a unitary state. Although Sardinian by name, the kingdom had its parliament in Turin, where the Savoys resided, and its members were mainly aristocrats from Piedmont or the mainland.
In the late 18th century during the Napoleonic wars France tried to conquer Cagliari because of its strategic role in the Mediterranean sea (Expédition de Sardaigne). A French army landed on Poetto beach and advanced towards Cagliari, but the French were defeated by Sardinians who had decided to defend themselves against the revolutionary army. The people of Cagliari hoped to receive some concession from the Savoys in return for their defence of the town. For example, aristocrats from Cagliari asked for a Sardinian representative in the parliament of the kingdom. When the Savoyards refused any concession to the Sardinians, the inhabitants of Cagliari rose up against them and expelled all the representatives of the kingdom along with the Piedmontese rulers. This insurgence is celebrated in Cagliari during Sa die de sa Sardigna ("The day of Sardinia") on the last weekend of April. However, the Savoys regained control of the town after a brief period of autonomous rule.
Triumphal arch King Umberto I
, better known as Bastione Saint Remy
View of Via Roma and the Port
Starting in the 1870s, in the wake of the unification of Italy, the city experienced a century of rapid growth. Many buildings were erected by the end of the 19th century during the term of office of mayor
Ottone Bacaredda. Numerous buildings combined influences from Art Nouveau together with the traditional Sardinian taste for floral decoration; an example is the white marble City Hall near the port. Bacaredda is also known for his strong repression of one of the earliest worker strikes at the beginning of the 20th century.
During the Second World War Cagliari was heavily bombed by the Allies in February 1943. In order to escape from the danger of bombardments and difficult living conditions, many people were evacuated from the city into the countryside. In total the victims of the bombings were more than 2000 and about 80% of the buildings were damaged. The city received the Gold Medal of Military Valour.
After the Italian armistice with the Allies in September 1943, the German Army took control of Cagliari and the island, but soon retreated peacefully in order to reinforce their positions in mainland Italy. The American Army then took control of Cagliari. Airports near the city (Elmas, Monserrato, Decimomannu, currently a NATO airbase) were used by Allied aircraft to fly to North Africa or mainland Italy and Sicily.
After the war, the population of Cagliari grew again and many apartment blocks and recreational areas were erected in new residential districts.
Coats of Arms of Cagliari
From the 14th to 17th century
From the 18th century to the present