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ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES IN SARDINIA>THARROS
 

 

THARROS
the Punic and Roman town

Where:
on the southern tip of the Sinis peninsula, near the San Giovanni beach, within the town limits of Cabras (Oristano)

Period:
from the VIII cent. BC to 1000 AD.

Civilization: Phoenician-Punic and Roman

Description:
Tharros, the name of the town, appears in ancient epigraphic sources. The Phoenician name is still unknown, but we can trace it back to the Mediterranean root *tarr.

The Sinis Peninsula has been inhabited since ancient times; the nuragic remains inside the town of S.Giovanni, on the Su Muru Mannu hill and the nuraghe Baboe Cabitza in the plain of Capo S. Marco bear witness to this fact.
The ruins face the Oristano Gulf, bordered on the north by the "Su muru mannu" hill, on the west by the San Giovanni Tower hill and on the south by the isthmus leading to the Capo S. Marco headland.
Ancient grammarians often stressed the plurality of the name Tharros (Pseudo Probus and Marco Plozio Sacerdote: "Tharros nomen est numeri semper plurali"). This fact may be connected to the existence of two separate burial grounds: two incineration necropolises which date back to the Phoenician period (San Giovanni di Sinis and Capo San Marco headland).

The Phoenicians settled in Tharros during the VIII cent. BC, in an area which had already been inhabited by Proto-Sardinians. There are several theories on the original location of the ancient town: Barreca believed that the first Phoenician settlement was in the Capo San Marco plain.
Staring from the VI cent. BC, the Carthaginians reinforced the northern walls, dug underground rooms in the southern and northern necropolises, and decorated the town centre with steles, the tofet "cippi" and altars and the famous Monumental Temple.
The Romans settled here in the III cent. BC; they did not change the town structure, but maintained the previous plans, constructing new buildings in the built-up public and private areas, as happened for the thermae.
Tharros became a municipium or colonia during the Empirial Age, and Christians settled there from the VI cent. AD, after the Vandals tried to sack the town several times.
Tharros still existed during the Middle Ages: Giovanni Fara, a sixteenth century author, said that the Judge of Arborea ordered all the people living there to move, and he transferred the archiepiscopal seat from Tharros to Oristano in 1070, after which there is no reference to the site.

The town plan in Tharros is very similar to that of other Punic towns. A main road separates two distinct areas: the western residential quarter, at the foot of the S. Giovanni Tower hill, and the eastern one on the Oristano Gulf, where many public buildings have been found. Another recurring feature is the suburban location of the tofet, near the fortified walls; in Tharros it is found to the north, on the Su Muru Mannu hill.
There are several places of worship (the small rural temple in Capo S. Marco, the Temple of the Egyptian Gorges, the Temple of Demetra and Core). The Monumental Temple deserves special mention; it is also known as the Temple of the Doric Semi-Columns, with decoration and pilasters on some sides of the base.
The tofet (an open-air sanctuary, typical of the Phoenician and Punic civilizations), is very similar to the one found in Carthage, and was used from the VII cent. BC up to the II cent. BC.
The monumental character of Tharros is expressed by the simple and monumental steles, the thtonese and the characteristic altars, typical of Tharros.

Clandestine and illegal excavations took place in Tharros up to 1832, when the King of Sardinia Carlo Alberto banned them.
Due to English and French excavations, as well as those led by archaeologists from the mainland (Lord Vernon-1851, L. Gouin and A. Baux, Gaetano Cara,1853-56), most of the finds from Tharros are today in the British Museum, in the Borely Museum in Marseille, and in Torino, Collezioni Reali.
Today, you can see steles and urns from the tofet and other finds in the Town Museum in Cabras, opened in 1997, in addition to the evocative remains of the town.

Tourist Information:

  • Town Museum "Giovanni Marongiu" in Cabras - via Tharros, 121 Tel.0783 290636  - 391999
    Opening hours: summer 9-13; 16-20 winter 9-13; 15-20

texts Manuela Cuccuru
 

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