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Border Town: Tharros and the Roman Frontier in Sardinia

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Nebojša Radić .

The imperial limes in Roman history has been examined at length in scholarship (e.g. Breeze, 2021) but the question of a Republican period frontier, often neglected, still needs to be addressed. Sardinia, as Rome’s second provincia, makes for an interesting case study in the development of the Roman frontier. The island, previously under the dominium of Carthage for over two centuries, was conquered by the Romans in 238 BCE during the interbellum period between the First and Second Punic Wars (Dyson and Rowland, 2007:128). In Sardinia, the Romans were presented with two threats, the hostile Nuragic tribes who inhabited the interior of the island and the threat posed by the Carthaginians at sea.

This paper will firstly discuss how the Romans conquered the island and the immediate consequences of Roman annexation. It will then analyse the archaeological site of Tharros, a Punic-Roman city on Sardinia’s west coast, to determine the consequences of Roman dominium at a civic level, particularly in light of recent excavations undertaken by the Tharros Archaeological Research Project (TARP) which suggest a different pre-imperial urban configuration at the site (Ellis et al., 2021). Specifically, this paper proposes that the city of Tharros was one part of a wider system of highly defensible Sardinian cities which formed a Republican period frontier in terms of its ability to restrict Carthaginian movements in the central western Mediterranean. This is demonstrated by Hannibal’s chosen Alpine route to avoid the island and its supporting navy under Cnaeus Servilius entirely.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Seminars series.

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