The Sardinians, or Sards (Sardinian: Sardos or Sardus; Italian and Sassarese: Sardi; Gallurese: Saldi), are a Romance ethnic group native to Sardinia, from which the western Mediterranean island and autonomous region of Italy derives its name.
Sardinian people and their traditional regional attires in 1880s
|Regions with significant populations|
(Inhabitants of Sardinia, regardless of ethnic origin rather than ethnic Sards)
|Italian • Sardinian|
|Mostly Christian (Roman Catholicism)|
|Related ethnic groups|
The ethnic origin of the Sardinians is hidden in the darkness of ante-historic ages: the ethnonym "S(a)rd" belongs to the Pre-Indo-European linguistic substratum, and whilst they might have derived from the Iberians, the accounts of the old authors differ greatly in this respect. The oldest written attestation of the ethnonym is on the Nora stone, where the word Šrdn (Shardan) bears witness to its original existence by the time the Phoenician merchants first arrived to the Sardinian shores. According to Timaeus, one of Plato's dialogues, Sardinia and its people as well, the "Sardonioi" or "Sardianoi" (Σαρδονιοί or Σαρδιανοί), might have been named after "Sardò" (Σαρδώ), a legendary Lydian woman from Sardis (Σάρδεις), in the region of western Anatolia (now Turkey). Some other authors, like Pausanias and Sallust, reported instead that the Sardinians traced their descent back to a mythical ancestor, a Libyan son of Hercules or Makeris (related either to the Berber verb Imɣur "to grow", to the specific Kabyle word Maqqur "He is the greatest", or also associated with the figure of Melqart) revered as a deity going by Sardus Pater Babai ("Sardinian Father" or "Father of the Sardinians"), who gave the island its name. It has also been claimed that the ancient Nuragic Sards were associated with the Sherden (šrdn in Egyptian), one of the Sea Peoples. The ethnonym was then romanised, with regard for the singular masculine and feminine form, as sardus and sarda.
Sardinia was first colonized in a stable manner during the Upper Paleolithic and the Mesolithic by people from the Iberian and the Italian peninsula. During the Neolithic period and the Early Eneolithic, people from Italy, Spain and the Aegean area settled in Sardinia. In the Late Eneolithic-Early Bronze age the "Beaker folk" from Southern France, Northeastern Spain and then from Central Europe settled on the island, bringing new metallurgical techniques and ceramic styles and probably some kind of Indo-European speech.
The Nuragic civilization arose in the Middle Bronze Age, during the Late Bonnanaro culture, which showed connections with the previous Beaker culture and the Polada culture of northern Italy. Although the Sardinians were considered to have acquired a sense of national identity, at that time, the grand tribal identities of the Nuragic Sardinians were said to be three (roughly from the South to the North): the Iolei/Ilienses, inhabiting the area from the southernmost plains to the mountainous zone of eastern Sardinia (later part of what would be called by the Romans Barbaria); the Balares, living in the North-West corner; and finally the Corsi stationed in today's Gallura and the island to which they gave the name, Corsica. Nuragic Sardinians have been connected by some scholars to the Sherden, a tribe of the so-called Sea Peoples, whose presence is registered several times in ancient Egyptian records.
The language (or languages) spoken in Sardinia during the Bronze Age is unknown, since there are no written records of such period. According to Eduardo Blasco Ferrer, the Proto-Sardinian language was akin to Proto-Basque and the ancient Iberian, while others believe it was related to Etruscan. Other scholars theorize that there were actually various linguistic areas (two or more) in Nuragic Sardinia, possibly Pre-Indoeuropeans and Indoeuropeans.
In the 9th century BC, the Phoenicians founded cities and ports along the southern and western coast, such as Karalis, Bithia, Sulki and Tharros; starting from the same areas, where the relations between the indigenous Sardinians and the Phoenician settlers had been so far peaceful, the Carthaginians proceeded to annex the Southern and Western part of Sardinia in the late 6th century BC.
After the First Punic War, the whole island was conquered by the Romans in the 3rd century BC. Sardinia and Corsica were then made into a single province; however, it took the Romans more than another 150 years to manage to subdue the more belligerent Nuragic tribes of the interior, and after 184 years since the Sardinians fell under Roman sway, Cicero noted how there was still not on the island a single community which had friendly intercourse with the Roman people.
Sardinia, with the exception of the innerlands and especially the mountainous area that would later be called Barbagia (Barbaria in Latin, due to the locals' refusal to assimilate during Roman rule), was heavily Latinized during the Roman period, and the modern Sardinian language is considered one of the most conservative Romance languages. Besides, during the Roman rule there was a considerable immigration flow from the Italian peninsula into the island; ancient sources mention several populations of likely Italic origin settling down in Sardinia, like the Patulcenses Campani (from Campania), the Falisci (from southern Etruria), the Buduntini (from Apulia) and the Siculenses (from Sicily). Roman colonies were also established in Porto Torres (Turris Libisonis) and Usellus. Strabo gave a brief summary about the Mountaineer tribes, living in what would be called civitates Barbariae, Geographica V ch.2:
There are four nations of mountaineers, the Parati, Sossinati, Balari, and the Aconites. These people dwell in caverns. Although they have some arable land, they neglect its cultivation, preferring rather to plunder what they find cultivated by others, whether on the island or on the continent, where they make descents, especially upon the Pisatæ. The prefects sent [into Sardinia] sometimes resist them, but at other times leave them alone, since it would cost too dear to maintain an army always on foot in an unhealthy place.
During the Middle Ages, the "Sardinian Nation" (Nació Sarda or Sardesca, as reported from the native and Aragonese dispatches) was juridically divided into four independent Kingdoms (known individually in Sardinian as Judicadu, Giudicau or simply Logu, that is "place"; in Italian: Giudicato); all of them, with the exception of Arborea, fell under the influence of the Italian maritime republics of Genoa and Pisa, as well as some noble families from the two cities, like the Dorias and the Della Gherardescas. The Dorias founded the cities of Alghero and Castelgenovese (today Castelsardo), while the Pisans founded Castel di Castro (today Cagliari) and Terranova (today Olbia); the famous count Ugolino della Gherardesca, quoted by Dante Alighieri in his Divine Comedy, favored the birth of the mining town of Villa di Chiesa (today Iglesias), which became an Italian medieval commune along with Sassari and Castel di Castro.
Following the Aragonese conquest of the Sardinian territories under Pisan rule, which took place between 1323 and 1326, and then the long conflict between the Aragonese Kingdom and the Judicate of Arborea (1353–1420), the newborn Kingdom of Sardinia became one of the Associate States of the Crown of Aragon. The Aragonese repopulated the cities of Castel di Castro and Alghero with Spaniards, mainly Catalans. A local dialect of Catalan is still spoken by a minority of people in the city of Alghero.
Modern and contemporary history
In the 16th and 17th centuries, the main Sardinian cities of Cagliari (the capital of the Kingdom), Alghero and Sassari appear well placed in the trades of the time. The cosmopolitan composition of its people provides evidence of it: the population was not only indigenous, but also hailing from Spain, Liguria, France and the island of Corsica in particular. Especially in Sassari and across the strip of territory that goes from Anglona to Gallura, the Corsicans became the majority of the population at least since the 15th century. This migration from the neighboring island, which is likely to have led to the birth of the Tuscan-sounding Sassarese and Gallurese dialects, went on continuously until the 19th century.
The Spanish era ended in 1713, when Sardinia was ceded to the Austrian House of Habsburg, followed with another cession in 1718 to the Dukes of Savoy, who assumed the title of "Kings of Sardinia" and ruled the island from Turin, in Piedmont. During this period, Italianization policies were implemented, so as to assimilate the islanders to the then Savoyard Mainland (stati di terraferma). In 1739, the Ligurian colonists escaped from Tabarka (Tunisia) were invited by Charles Emmanuel III to settle on the little islands of San Pietro and Sant'Antioco (at Carloforte and Calasetta), in the south-west area of Sardinia, bringing with them a Gallo-Italic dialect called "Tabarchino", still widely spoken there. Then, the Piedmontese Kingdom of Sardinia annexed the whole Italian peninsula and Sicily in 1861 after the Risorgimento, becoming the Kingdom of Italy.
Since 1850, with the reorganization of the Sardinian mines, there had been a considerable migration flow from the Italian peninsula towards the Sardinian mining areas of Sulcis-Iglesiente; these Mainland miners came mostly from Lombardy, Piedmont, Tuscany and Romagna. According to an 1882 census realised by the French engineer Leon Goüine, 10.000 miners worked in the south-western Sardinian mines, one third of whom being from the Italian mainland; most of them settled in Iglesias and frazioni .
At the end of the 19th century, communities of fishermen from Sicily, Torre del Greco (Campania) and Ponza (Lazio) migrated on the east coasts of the island, in the towns of Arbatax/Tortolì, Siniscola and La Maddalena.
In the 20th century, a large immigration flow from the Italian peninsula during the Fascist period occurred, as a result of a central government policy: a number of people hailing from every region of the Mainland, but especially Veneto, Marche, Abruzzo and Sicily, were encouraged to relocate to Sardinia so as to populate the island, ultimately founding the new mining town of Carbonia and the villages of Mussolinia di Sardegna (now Arborea) and Fertilia; besides, after World War II, Istrian Italian refugees were relocated in the Nurra region, along the north-western coastline. Today Istriot, Venetian and Friulan are spoken by the elderly in Fertilia, Tanca Marchese and Arborea. In the same period, a few Italian Tunisian families settled in the sparsely populated area of Castiadas, east of Cagliari.
Following the Italian economic miracle, a historic migratory movement from the inland to the coastal and urban areas of Cagliari, Sassari-Alghero-Porto Torres and Olbia, where today most Sardinians live, took place.
With a population density of 69/km2, slightly more than a third of the national average, Sardinia is the fourth least populated region in Italy. The population distribution is anomalous compared to that of other Italian regions lying on the sea. In fact, contrary to the general trend, urban settlement has not taken place primarily along the coast but towards the centre of the island. Historical reasons for this include repeated Moorish raids during the Middle Ages (making the coast unsafe), widespread pastoral activities inland, and the swampy nature of the coastal plains (reclaimed only in the 20th century). The situation has been reversed with the expansion of seaside tourism; today all Sardinia's major urban centres are located near the coasts, while the island's interior is very sparsely populated.
It is the region of Italy with the lowest total fertility rate (1.087 births per woman), and the region with the second-lowest birth rate. However, the population in Sardinia has increased in recent years because of massive immigration, mainly from the Italian mainland, but also from Eastern Europe (esp. Romania), Africa and China.
Life expectancy and longevity
Average life expectancy is slightly over 82 years (85 for women and 79.7 for men).
Sardinia is the first discovered Blue Zone, a demographic and/or geographic area of the world where people live measurably longer lives. Sardinians share with the Ryukyuans from Okinawa (Japan) the highest rate of centenarians in the world (22 centenarians/100,000 inhabitants). The key factors of such a high concentration of centenarians are identified in the genetics of the Sardinians, lifestyle such as diet and nutrition, and the social structure.
- Birth Rate: 8.3 (per 1,000 inhabitants – 2005)
- Fertility Rate: 1.07 (births per woman – 2005)
- Mortality rate: 8.7 (per 1,000 inhabitants – 2005)
- Infant mortality rate males: 4.6 (per 1,000 births- 2000)
- Infant mortality rate females: 3.0 (per 1,000 births – 2000)
- Marriage rate: 2.9 (per 1,000 inhabitants – 2014)
- Suicide rate: 22.65 (per 100,000 inhabitants)
- Total literacy rate: 98.2%
- Literacy rate under 65 years old: 99.5%
|Source: ISTAT 2011, – D.Angioni-S.Loi-G.Puggioni, La popolazione dei comuni sardi dal 1688 al 1991, CUEC, Cagliari, 1997 – F. Corridore, Storia documentata della popolazione di Sardegna, Carlo Clausen, Torino, 1902|
Division by gender and age
Total population by age
Most Sardinians are native to the island but a sizable number of people have settled outside Sardinia: it had been estimated that, between 1955 and 1971, 308,000 Sardinians have emigrated to the Italian mainland. Sizable Sardinian communities are located in Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy, Tuscany and Latium.
Sardinians and their descendants are also numerous in Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland. Almost all the Sardinians migrating to the Americas settled down in the Southern part of the continent, especially in Argentina (between 1900 and 1913 about 12,000 Sardinians lived in Buenos Aires and neighbourhoods) and Uruguay (in Montevideo in the 1870s lived 12,500 Sardinians). Between 1876 and 1903, 92% of the Sardinians that moved towards the Americas settled in Brazil. Between 1876 and 1925 34,190 Sardinians migrated to Africa, in particular towards the then French Algeria and Tunisia. Small communities with Sardinians ancestors, about 5000 people, are also found in Brazil (mostly in the cities of Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo), the UK and Australia.
The Region of Sardinia keeps a register of overseas Sardinians that managed to set up, in the Italian mainland and the rest of the world, a number of cultural associations: these are meant to provide the people of Sardinian descent, or those with an interest on Sardinian culture, an opportunity to enjoy a wide range of activities. As of 2012, there are 145 clubs registered on it.
|Sardinians residing in European countries 2008|
Unlike the rest of Italian emigration, where migrants were mainly males, between 1953–1974 an equal number of females and males emigrated from Sardinia to the Italian mainland.
Surnames and given names
The most common Sardinian surnames, like Sanna (fang), Piras (pears), Pinna (feather, pen) and Melis (honey), derive from the Sardinian language and developed in the Middle Ages as a result of being registered in documents like the condaghes for administrative purposes; most of them derive either from Sardinian place names (e.g. Fonnesu "from Fonni", Busincu "from Bosa" etc.), from animal names (e.g. Porcu "pig", Piga "magpie", Cadeddu "puppy" etc.) or from a person's occupation, nickname (e.g. Pittau "Sebastian"), distinctive trait (e.g. Mannu "big"), and filiation (last names ending in -eddu which could stand for "son of", e.g. Corbeddu "son/daughter of Corbu"); a number of them have undergone Italianization over the most recent centuries (e.g. Pintori, Scano, Zanfarino, Spano, etc.). Some local surnames also derive from terms of the Paleo-Sardinian substrate. The largest percentage of last names originating from outside the island is from Southern Corsica (like Cossu, Cossiga, Alivesi and Achenza, originally from the towns of Olivese and Quenza respectively), followed by Italian (especially Piedmontese but also Campanian, Sicilian and Ligurian, originating from the days of the Savoyard rule and the assimilation policy: some of them have been "Sardinianized", like Accardu, Calzinu, Gambinu, Raggiu, etc.) and Spanish (especially Catalan) surnames.
|Most common surnames|
The Sardinian personal names (like Baínzu "Gavin", Bachis "Bachisius", Bobore "Salvator", Iroxi "George", Chìriga "Cyrica", Elianora "Eleanor", Boele "Raphael", Sidore "Isidore", Tiadora "Theodora", etc.) are historically attested and were common among the islanders up until the contemporary era, when they switched in full measure to the Italian names.
Population surveys have been carried out, on repeated occasions, to provide information about the Sardinians' identity, as well as their modern conciliation with those related to the institutional layers of political governance. The most detailed survey, conducted by the University of Cagliari and Edinburgh, made use of a Moreno Question which gave the following results: (1) just Sardinian, 26%; (2) more Sardinian than Italian, 37%; (3) equally Sardinian and Italian, 31%; (4) more Italian than Sardinian, 5%; (5) only Italian and not Sardinian, 1%. A 2017 poll by the Ixè Institute reported that 51% of the Sardinians questioned identified themselves as Sardinian (as opposed to an Italian average of 15% who identified by their region of origin) rather than Italian (19%), European (11%), and/or citizen of the world (19%).
Italian (italiano) was first introduced to Sardinia by the House of Savoy in July 1760 and is the most commonly spoken language nowadays, albeit in a regional variety, as a result of language shift and assimilation waves.
On the other hand, Sardinian (sardu) has been the historical language of the indigenous Sards ever since Latin supplanted the Pre-Indo-European Paleo-Sardinian. Because of a movement, described by some authors like a "linguistic and cultural revival" that took off in the postwar period, the Sardinians' cultural heritage was recognized in 1999, which makes them the largest ethnolinguistic minority group in Italy, with around a million Sardinians still able to speak the language. However, because of a rather rigid model of Italian education system that strongly discouraged the Sardinian youth from learning and speaking their language, the language is moribund since the people effectively retaining Sardinian have gradually become a minority in their own island. Therefore, Sardinian is facing challenges analogue to other endangered minority languages across Europe, and its two main Logudorese and Campidanese varieties, as defined by their orthographies, have been designated as such by UNESCO.
The other languages spoken on Sardinia, all also endangered but with much fewer speakers than Sardinian, developed after the contact with certain communities from outside the island, namely Corsicans, Catalans and Italians from Genoa and Pisa, settling in different regions of Sardinia over the recent centuries; because of these dynamics, Sardinia's society has been characterized by situational plurilingualism at least ever since the late Middle Ages. These languages include Sassarese (sassaresu) and Gallurese (gadduresu), being of remote Corso-Tuscan origin but often socially associated with Sardinian, Algherese Catalan (alguerés), and Ligurian Tabarchino (tabarchin).
The so-called flag of the Four Moors is the historical and official flag of Sardinia. The flag is composed of the St George's Cross and four Moor's heads wearing a white bandana in each quarter. Its origins are basically shrouded in mystery, but it is presumed it originated in Aragon to symbolize the defeat of the Saracen invaders in the battle of Alcoraz.
Sa die de sa Sardigna ("Sardinia's Day" in English) is a holiday celebrated each 28 April to commemorate the revolt occurring from 1794 to 1796 against the feudal privileges, and the execution or expulsion of the Savoyard officials (including the then Piedmontese viceroy, Carlo Balbiano) from Sardinia on 28 April 1794. The revolt was spurred by the King's refusal to grant the island the autonomy the locals demanded in exchange for defeating the French. The holiday has been formally recognised by the Sardinian Council since 14 September 1993. Some public events are annually held to commemorate the episode, while the schools are closed.
Colourful and of various and original forms, the Sardinian traditional clothes are an ancient symbol of belonging to specific collective identities, as well as one of the most genuine ethnic expressions of the Mediterranean folklore. Although the basic model is homogeneous and common throughout the island, each town or village has its own traditional clothing which differentiates it from the others. The Sardinians' traditional garments, as well as their feminine jewellery, have been defined as an object of study in ethnography since the late 19th century, at a time in which they first started to be slowly displaced in favour of the "Continental fashion" in the various contexts of everyday life, and their primary function switched to become a marker of ethnic identity.
In the past, the clothes diversified themselves even within the communities, performing a specific function of communication as it made it immediately clear the marital status and the role of each member in the social area. Until the mid-20th century the traditional costume represented the everyday clothing in most of Sardinia, but even today in various parts of the island it is possible to meet elderly people dressed in costume.
The materials used for their packaging are among the most varied, ranging from the typical Sardinian woollen fabric (orbace) to silk and from linen to leather. The various components of the feminine apparel are: the headgear (mucadore), the shirt (camisa), the bodice (palas, cossu), the jacket (coritu, gipone), the skirt (unnedda, sauciu), the apron (farda, antalena, defentale). Those of the male are: the headdress (berrita), the shirt (bentone or camisa), the jacket (gipone), the trousers (cartzones or bragas), the skirt (ragas or bragotis), the overcoat (gabbanu and colletu), and finally the piece of clothing most associated with the Sardinians, the mastruca, a sheep or goatskin leather jacket without sleeves: "Sardi pelliti" and "mastrucati latrones" "[Sardinian] thieves with rough wool cloaks" were names by which Cicero and other authors mentioned the Sardinians.
Sardinians, while being part of the European gene pool, are well-known outliers in the European genetic landscape (together with the Basques, the Sami and the Icelanders) as a result of the strong Pre-Indo-European substrate of the Sardinians and of particular phenomena that are often found in isolated populations, such as the founder effect and the genetic drift. The data seem to suggest that the current population is derived in large part from the Stone age settlers, plus the contribution of the historical colonizers; however, the latter is relevant only in the coastal areas, as the natives would engage with the foreign powers by having them deal with the malaria-ridden (albeit strategically important) lowlands and taking refuge into the more rugged interior, where most of the historical settlements used to be concentrated. The researchers found the Basques to be the genetically closest population to the Sardinians, and that such similarity is not mediated by the influence of other Spaniards in modern times. Several studies have been carried out on the genetics of the Sardinian population, in light of the way such peculiarities can also further research on some pathologies to which the Sardinians seem to be predisposed, like diabetes mellitus type 1, beta thalassemia and favism, multiple sclerosis and coeliac disease. Some other genetic peculiarities have been noted, like the high frequency of rare uniparental haplotypes, extensive linkage disequilibrium of autosomal markers, as well as a high level of homozygosity.
Recent comparisons between the Sardinians' genome and that of some individuals from the Neolithic and the early Chalcolithic, who lived in the Alpine (Oetzi), German, and Hungarian regions, showed considerable similarities between the two populations, while at the same time consistent differences between the prehistoric samples and the present inhabitants of the same geographical areas were noted. From this it can be deduced that, while central and northern Europe have undergone significant demographic changes due to post-Neolithic migrations, presumably from the eastern periphery of Europe (Pontic-Caspian steppe), Southern Europe and Sardinia in particular were affected less; Sardinians appear to be the population that has best preserved the Neolithic legacy of Western Europe.
A 2016 study, published on the journal Genetics, traced the origin of the Sardinians in conjunction with a genetically isolated landrace dog breed from the island, the Sardinian Shepherd Dog or Fonni's dog, pinpointing a Middle Eastern and Central European lineage. A 2018 study by Llorente et al. found that the present-day Sardinians are the closest population to the genome of the West Eurasian backflow to the Horn of Africa in ancient times. A 2019 study estimated that the current Sardinian genome derives at roughly 61.4% from Neolithic Anatolia, at 9.5% from the Western Hunter-gatherers, at 19.1% from the Neolithic Ganj Dareh (Iran) and, lastly, at 10.0% from the Yamnaya Samara populations.
However, Sardinians as a whole are not a homogeneous population genetically: some studies have found some differences among the various villages of the island, as well as within three broad areas of the island. In this regard, the mountainous area of Ogliastra (part of the wider region of Barbagia) is more distant from the rest of Europe and the Mediterranean than other Sardinian sub-regions located in the plains and in the coastal areas, in part because these more accessible areas show, like the rest of much of Europe, a moderate genetic influx from the Yamna culture pastoralists, thought to be the carriers of Indo-European languages into Europe, while Ogliastra has retained unaltered Mesolithic/Neolithic roots.
According to a study released in 2014, the genetic diversity among some Sardinian individuals from different regions of the island is between 7 and 30 times higher than the one found among other European ethnicities living thousands kilometers away from each other, like Spaniards and Romanians. A similar phenomenon is commonly found in other isolated populations, like the Ladin groups from the Italian region of Veneto and in the Alpine area, where the local orography did not facilitate intraregional communications.
However, while a very high degree of interindividual genetic differentiation has been detected on multiple occasions, other studies have also stated that such variability does not occur among the main macro-regions of the island: a Sardinian region like the Barbagia has been proven not to be significantly different from the regions on the coast, like the area of Cagliari and Oristano. A study by Contu et al. (2008) found a relatively high degree of genetic homogeneity between Sardinian individuals from three different regions of the island: the Northernmost area (Tempio, Gallura), a central zone (Sorgono, Barbagia of Mandrolisai) and the Southernmost area (Cagliari, Campidano). Another study, based on the multinomial logistic regression model, suggested again a high degree of homogeneity within the Sardinian population.
The SardiNIA study in 2015 showed, by using the FST differentiation statistic, a clear genetic differentiation between Sardinians (whole genome sequence of 2120 individuals from across the island and especially the Lanusei valley) and mainland Italian populations (1000 genomes), and reported an even greater difference between Sardinians from the Lanusei valley and other European populations. This pattern of differentiation is also evident in the lengths for haplotypes surrounding rare variants loci, with a similar haplotype length for Sardinian populations and shorter length for populations with low grade of common ancestry.
A November 2019 study has suggested that Y-chromosome founding lineages G2-L91, I2-M26 and R1b-V88, were identified as strongly contributing to the definition of the outlying position of Sardinians in the European genetic context and marking a significant differentiation within the island. The present distribution of these lineages does not always mirror that detected in ancient DNAs.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to People of Sardinia.|
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The Sards are a Romance people
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Romance (Latin) nations... Sards
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