Italy - Sardinia
( Originally Published 1920 )
IT is a curious fact that an island so fertile as Sardinia, so rich in metals, and so favourably situated in the centre of the Tyrrhenian Sea, should have lagged behind in the race of progress as it has. When the Carthaginians held that island its population was certainly more numerous than it is now, and the fearful massacres placed on record by the historians of Rome testify to this fact Its decadence was sudden and thorough. In part it may be accounted for by the configuration of the island, which presents steep cliffs towards Italy, whence emigrants might have arrived, whilst its western coast is bounded by marshes and insalubrious swamps. But the principal cause of this torpor, which endured for centuries, is traceable to the actions of man. The conquerors who succeeded the Romans and Byzantines in the possession of the island, whether Saracens, Pisans, Genoese, or Aragonese, monopolized its produce solely with a view to their own profit, and further mischief was wrought by the pirates of Barbary, who frequently descended upon its coasts. As recently as 1815 the Tunisians landed upon Saut' Antioco, massacring the inhabitants, or carrying them into slavery. The coast districts became depopulated, and the inhabitants retired to the interior, where, oppressed by their feudal lords, they led a life of isolation from the rest of Europe. It is hardly a generation since Sardinia began to participate in the general progress made throughout Italy.
Sardinia is nearly as large as Sicily, but has only a fourth of its population. Geographically it is more independent of Italy than the southern island, and a profound sea, more than 1,000 fathoms in depth, divides it from the African continent. Sardinia with Corsica forms a group of twin islands, which is separated from the Tuscan archipelago by a narrow strait only 170 fathoms in depth.
The geological structure of the two islands is identical, and there can be no doubt that the islands and rocks in the Strait of Bonifacio are the remains of an isthmus destroyed by the sea. On the other hand, we learn from a studs of the geology of Sardinia that at a period not very remote that island must have consisted of several separate islands. The principal island formed a southerly continuation of the mountains of Corsica, whilst the smaller ones lay to the west. Alluvial deposits, volcanic eruptions, and perhaps, also, an upheaval of the soil, have converted the shallow straits which separated them into dry land.
The mountains of Sardinia may be said to begin with the islands of Maddalena and Caprera in the Strait of Bonifacio, and in the mountain mass of the Gallura they attain already a considerable height. A depression separates these from the southern portion of the great back-bone of the island, which stretches along the whole of the eastern coast, and terminates abruptly at Cape Carbonaro. These mountains, like those of Corsica, consist of crystalline rocks and schists ; but whilst the slope on the latter island is steepest towards the west, the reverse is the case on Sardinia, and that island may almost be said to turn its back upon Italy.
The general slope of the island is towards the west, and its occupation by Spain could therefore be justified by purely geographical arguments.
The highest summits of the island are found in the central portion of this crystalline chain, where the Gennargentu, or silver mountain," rises to a height of 6,116 feet. A little snow remains in the crevices of this mountain throughout the summer. The inhabitants of Northern Sardinia formerly imagined that their own Gigantinu, or " giant," in the mountains of Limbarra, constituted the culminating point of the island, but careful measurements have shown that that superb peak only attains an elevation of 4,297 feet.
The secondary mountain groups in the western portion of the island are separated from the main chain by recent geological formations. The granitic region of La Nurra, to the west of Sassari, almost uninhabited in spite of its fertile valleys, and the island of Asinara adjoining it, which abounds, in turtle, are amongst these insulated mountain regions. Another, intersected by the beautiful valley of Domus Novas, occupies the south-western extremity of the island. Geologists look upon it as the most ancient portion of the island, and the plain of Campidano, which now occupies the site of an ancient arm of the sea, is of quaternary formation. The transi ersal range of Marghine occupies the centre of the island, and there, too, we meet with vast limestone plateaux pierced by volcanic rocks. The ancient craters, however, no longer emit lava, nor even gases, and the villagers have tranquilly built their huts within them. Thermal springs alone indicate the existence of subterranean forces. Volcanic cones of recent age are met with in the north-western portion of the island, as well as in the valley of the Orosei, on the east coast. The trachytic rocks of the islands of San Pietro and Sant' Antiuco are of greater age. They sometimes present the appearance of architectural piles, especially at the Cape of Columns, which is, however, rapidly disappearing, as the stone is being quarried to be converted into pavement. On Sant' Antioco, which a bridge joins to the mainland, there are deep caverns, the haunts of thousands of pigeons, a hich are caught by spreading a net before their entrance.
In addition to the changes wrought by volcanic agencies, Sardinia exhibits traces of a slow upheaval or subsidence due to the expansion or contraction of the upper strata of the earth. Raised beaches have been discovered by La Marmora near Cagliari, at an elevation of 243 and 322 feet above the sea-level, where shells of living species are found together with potsherds and other articles, pros ing that when this upheaval took place the island was already inhabited. Elsewhere there exist traces of a subsidence, and the old Phoenician cities of Nora, to the south-west of Cagliari, and Tharros, on the northern peninsula of the Gulf of Oristano, have become partly submerged.
Amongst the rivers of the island there is only one which deserves that name. This is the Tirso, or Fiume d'Oristano, which is fed by the snows of the Gennargentu and the rains which descend on the western mountain slopes. Other rivers of equal length are hardly more than torrents, which at one time invade the fields adjoining them, and at another shrink to a thin thread of water meandering between thickets of laurel-trees. Most of the riser beds are dry during eight months of the year, and even after rain the water does not find its way into the sea, but is absorbed by the littoral swamps.
All these swamps have brackish water. The largest amongst them communicate freely with the sea, at least during the rainy season, but others are separated from it by a strip of sand. But these, too, are brackish, for the sea-water percolates through the soil, and keeps them at the same level. The water of the inland swamps is likewise saturated with saline substances derived from the surrounding soil. They generally dry up in summer, but the coating of salt which then appears is hardly dry enough to repay the labour of collection and refinement. The only salt marshes actually exploited are those of Cagliari and of Carlo-Forte, on San Pietro. They have been leased to a French company, and yield annually nearly 120,000 tons of salt.
Swamps and marshes envelop nearly the whole of the island in a zone of' miasmata, which are carried by the wind into the interior, producing fever even in the more elevated mountain districts. There are localities on the island the air of which no stranger can breathe with impunity. The coast districts of Sardinia, with their stagnant waters, are, in truth, the most unhealthy in Italy, and quite one-fourth of the area of the island is exposed to the scourge of malaria, which sufficiently accounts for the small population of the island and the little progress made.
Even when Sardinia was at the height of its prosperity, and supplied Rome with an abundance of corn, cheese, pork, lead, copper, iron, and textile fabrics, it was noted for its unhealthiness, and the emperors exiled to it those whom they desired to get rid of. Then, as now, the landed proprietors, about the middle of June, retired to the towns, the walls of which offered some protection against the poisonous air. The Italian Government officials are sent to the island as a punishment, and for the most part look upon themselves as condemned to death. Even the native villagers are bound to observe the greatest precautions, and wear garments of skin or leather which are impenetrable to rain, mist, and dew. They are dressed most warmly during the hottest part of the year as a protection against the climate, and in their long mastracas of sheepskin they almost look like WalIachian herdsmen.
Ancient geographers, as well as the Sardinians themselves, ascribe the unhealthiness of the climate to the rarity of north-easterly winds. The mountains of Liuibarra, in the north of the island, are popularly supposed to act as a sort of screen, which diverts this health-bringing wind, to the great detriment of Lower Sardinia; and there appears to be much truth in this popular notion. South-westerly winds, or libeccios, are almost equally rare, and when they blow they do so with tempestuous violence.
The regular winds of Sardinia blow from the north-west or south-east. The former is known as the maestrale the latter as the lecante or sirocco, called maledetto lervante by the inhabitants of Southern Sardinia. It becomes charged with moisture during its passage across the Mediterranean, and its temperature is in reality much less than might be supposed from the lassitude produced by it. The maestrale, on the other hand, is hailed with joy, for it is an invigorating wind. On reaching the coast it generally parts with its moisture, and when it arrives at Cagliari it is perfectly dry. The capital of Sardinia is indebted to this wind and to sea breezes for its low temperature (62.4° F.), which is far lower than that of Genoa.
Hurricanes are comparatively rare, and hailstorms, which work such damage elsewhere, are hardly known. Most of the rain falls in autumn ; it ceases in December, when the pleasantest season sets in. These are the " halcyon days " of ancient poets, when the sea calms down in order that the sacred bird may build his nest. But these pleasant days are succeeded by a wretched spring. February, the " double-faced month " of Sardinian mariners, brings capricious frosts, to which succeed, in March and April, abrupt changes of temperature, winds, and rain. -Vegetation in consequence is far more backward than might be supposed from the latitude.
The vegetation of Sardinia resembles that of the other islands of the Mediterranean. The forest in the highland valleys of the interior and on the trackless mountain slopes consists of pines, oaks, and holm-oaks, mixed here and there with yoke-elms and maples. The villages are surrounded by chestnut-trees and groves of magnificent walnut-trees. The hill-tops, robbed of their forests, are covered with odoriferous plants and thickets of myrtles, strawberry-trees, and heather. It is there the bees collect the bitter honey so much despised by Horace. Vast tracts of uncultivated land near the seashore are covered with wild olive-trees, which only need grafting to yield excellent fruit. All the fruit trees and useful plants of the Mediterranean flourish in Sardinia. Almond and orange trees, introduced by the Moors at the close of the eleventh century, flourish rigorously. The orange groves of Millis, which are protected by the extinct volcano of Monte Ferru, are, perhaps, the most productive on the shores of the Mediterranean, and in good seasons yield 60,000,000 oranges. The gardens of Bourns Novas, Ozieri, and Sassari are of surprising fertility. In the southern part of the island, wherever the cultivated fields gain upon the lands covered with rock-roses, fennel, and lilies, they are fenced in with fig-trees. The fan-shaped foliage of the date-palm is seen near every town. and more especially in the environs of Cagliari. By a curious contrast the dwarf palm is not met with in the southern lowlands of the island, though their climate is almost African, but forms dense thickets in the solitudes of Alghero, in the north of the islands. The inhabitants eat the roots of' this tree, as do also the Moors.
Although all the plants of neighbouring countries become easily acclimatized in Sardinia, that island is naturally poorer in species than are continental regions lying under the same latitude. There is nothing special about its flora, for the island is probably only a remnant of a larger tract of land which formerly joined Europe to Africa. As to the famous plant mentioned by ancient writers, which, eaten by mistake, produced fits of " sardonic laughter," or even death, it does not appear to he peculiar to the island. Mimaut thinks, from the descriptions of Pliny and Pausanias, that the large-leafed water-parsley (Sium (latifolium) is referred to.
The number of species of animals, like that of plants, is smaller in Sardinia than on the neighbouring continent. There are neither hears, badgers, polecats, nor moles. Vipers or venomous serpents of any description do not exist, and the only animal to be dreaded is the tarentula (arza, or argia), a sting from which can be cured only by dancing until completely exhausted, or by immersion in dung. The ordinary frog, though common in Corsica, does not exist, but European butterflies are numerous. The moufflon, which is, perhaps, the ancestor of our domestic sheep, and has been exterminated in nearly all the islands of the Mediterranean, still lives in the mountains of Corsica and Sardinia. Wild horses roamed over Saut' Autioco as recently as the beginning of this century ; myriads of rabbits burrow in the small islands lining the coast; and wild goats with long horns and yellow teeth inhabit the limestone island of Tavolara, in the Gulf of Terranova. These goats are descended from domestic animals abandoned at some former period. Caprera, the residence of Garibaldi, is named after the goats which formerly inhabited it, and animals of that kind recently introduced there quickly returned to a state of nature.
Naturalists have observed that the mammals of Sardinia are smaller than the saine species living on the continent. The goat is the only exception to the rule. The stag, deer, wild hoar, fox, wild cat, hare, rabbit, marten, and weasel are all of them smaller than the continental varieties. The same rule applies to domesticated animals, with the exception of the pig, which grows to a great size, especially where it is allowed to roam through oak forests. There is a variety of this animal whose hoofs are not cloven, and which ought, therefore, to be classed amongst solipeds. The horses and asses of Sardinia are dwarfs. But the horse is distinguished by great sobriety, sureness of foot, vigour, and endurance. If in addition to these advantages it possessed a more attractive exterior, it would rank among the most highly appreciated horses of Europe. As to the donkeys, though hardly larger than a mastiff, they are brase little animals, and frequently share with their masters the only room of their abode. The old-fashioned mills, resembling in every respect the Roman bas-reliefs which may be seen in the Vatican, are propelled by these donkeys, which thus materially contribute towards the support of their proprietors.
Sardinia abounds more than any other country of Western Europe in pre-historic remains. There are megaliths, known as " giants' stones," " altars," or long-stones," as in Brittany, scarcely any of them showing traces of the chisel. Dolmens, however, are rare, and the genuineness of all is doubted. Amongst these monuments there are, perhaps, some which were connected with the worship of some Eastern deity, for Phoenicians and Carthaginians stayed for a considerable time upon the island, where they founded Caralis, Nora, Tharros, and other towns ; and even during the time of the Romans it was customary to place Punic inscriptions upon the tombstones. The ruins of Tharros have yielded golden idols and other articles in large numbers, most of them being of Egyptian origin. But the principal witnesses to the civilisation of the ancient Sards are the curious structures known as nuraghi. They generally occupy the hill-tops, and, seen from a distance, resemble pyramids. The limestone plateau of Giara, near the centre of the island, is surrounded by masonry structures of this description, which abound also in other portions of the island, the number still existing being nearly 4,000. They are most numerous in the basaltic region to the south of Macomer, and are met with for the most part in fertile districts, far away from the arid steppes.
The origin and uses of these nuraghi have been a subject of much discussion, but archeologists now almost universally adopt the views of Signor Spano, the indefatigable explorer of Sardinian antiquities. According to him these nuraghi were dwellings, and their Phoenician name simply means " round house." The rudest among them, dating back probably for forty centuries, contain but a single chamber. They mere erected during the age of stone, when man first gave up his cavern dwellings. The more recent constructions date back to the age of bronze, and es en of iron. More skill is exhibited in their structure, though no mortar has been used, and they contain two or more chambers, forming as many floors, and accessible by means of stone stairs. The ground floor of some is large enough for the accommodation of forty or fifty persons, and is furnished with antechambers and small semicircular recesses. The nuraghi of Su Domu or S'Orcu, near Domus Novas, which has recently been demolished, contained ten chambers and four courtyards; it was a fortress as well as a dwelling-place, capable of accommodating a hundred persons and standing a siege. The dwellings of the modern Albanians and of the Swaneti in the Caucasus still resemble these ancient abodes.
The rubbish which accumulated in these nuraghi has yielded a multitude of objects which throw light upon the daily life of the inhabitants, and bear witness tc their relative cis ilisation. The lower strata only contain hand-made utensils, stone arms, and pottery, but in the upper and more recent layers many articles of bronze have been found. Other monuments of cyclopean structure stand near these ancient dwellings. They are popularly known as " giants' tombs," and Signor Sapi, who has examined a large number of them, has discovered in every instance the ashes of human beings.
Though very superstitious, the Sardinians have no legends respecting these dwellings of the aborigines, and at most attribute them to the devil. This absence of traditions is no doubt traceable to the almost total annihilation of the inhabitants by successive conquerors. The Carthaginians showed no mercy to the aborigines, and during the first centuries of Roman rule massacres and forcible emigration were the order of the day, and the gaps thus created were filled up by Italian colonists and exiles.
The ancient Sards were most likely Iberians. They are of low stature, and the climate, which has stunted the growth of wild and domesticated animals, appears to have influenced man likewise; but they are well proportioned and muscular, have an abundance of black hair and strong beards, and scarcely ever grow bald. There are minor differences in the Sards of the two provinces. Those of the north base generally oval features and an aquiline nose, whilst those near Cagliari, who are probably more mixed, have irregular features and prominent cheek-bones.
The inhabitants of the interior of the island are, perhaps, of purer race than any other Europeans. Their ancestors, no doubt, w ere of the most diverse origin, but most invasions which took place after the Roman era stopped short at the coast. The Vandals paid a visit to Sardinia, but all the other Germanic tribes, who ravaged nearly every other country of Western Europe, spared that island, and its inhabitants were thus able to preserve their manners and language. The Moors, Pisans, Genoese, Catalonians, and Spaniards, who successively invaded the island, never penetrated beyond the coast. There is only one exception to this rule, viz. that of the Barbaricini, who inhabit the mountain district of Barbagia, in the very centre of the island, and who are supposed to be the descendants of Berbers expelled from Africa by the Vandals. When they came to the island they were still pagans, and they intermarried with their neighbours, the Menses, an aboriginal tribe, pagans like themselves. They were converted to Christianity in the seventh century, and the sombre dress worn by their women reminds us of Barbary.
Of all the idioms derived from the Latin, that spoken in Sardinia has most resemblance to the language of the ancient Romans. More than five hundred words are absolutely identical. There are likewise a few Greek words not met with in any other Latin idiom, as well as two or three words which have no affinity with any other European tongue, and which are, perhaps, derived from the language spoken by the aborigines. The two leading dialects, those of Logoduro, in the north, and of Cagliari, are directly derived from the Latin, and are, perhaps, most nearly related to Spanish. At Sassari, and in some of the neighbouring coast districts, an Italian dialect is spoken which is very much like that of Corsica or Genoa. At Alghero the descendants of the Catalonian immigrants who settled there about the middle of the fourteenth century still speak their old Provencal. The Maurelli, or Maureddus, in the environs of Iglesias, who are probably Berbers, and can be recognised by their narrow skulls, make use of a few African words. Maltzan looks upon the inhabitants of the fertile district of Millis as the purest representatives of African immigrants, and it was they who introduced the cultivation of the orange into Sardinia.
The Sardinians of the interior not only retain their ancient language, but likewise many of their ancient customs. Their (lances are still the same as in the time of Greece. In the north the steps are regulated by the human voice, the chanters occupying the centre of the ring. In the south a musical instrument, the launedda, is used, which is nothing but an ancient flute, made of two or three reeds. The customs observed at christenings, weddings, and funerals are likewise of remote date. Marriage, as amongst nearly all the ancient inhabitants of Europe, is preceded by a feigned abduction of the bride. The latter, after she has entered the house of her husband, must not stir from her place during that day, nor speak a single word. Mute as a statue, she is no longer a sentient being, but a "thing," the property of her husband. She is not permitted to see her relatives during three days, and in the south many women partly conceal their features.
The mountaineers likewise observe the lugubrious ceremony of a wake, called titio or attito. Women, who are either the friends of the deceased or are engaged for the purpose, penetrate the mortuary chamber, tear their hair, bowl, and improvise hymns of mourning. These old pagan ceremonies become truly terrific when the deceased has been the victim of assassination, for in that case the mourners swear to take the life of the murderer. Up to the beginning of this century the practice of the vendetta annually cost the lives of hundreds of young men. At the present day it is confined to the most secluded parts of the island, and in the mountain districts of Nuoro and La Gallura it is customary at christenings to place a few bullets in the swaddling-clothes of the infants, these consecrated bullets being supposed never to miss their mark. Another custom still more barbarous has ceased to be observed since the beginning of the last century. Women, called " finishers" (accabadure), were employed to hasten the end of dying persons, a practice which often led to the most atrocious deeds.
The peasant of Sardinia, though not the proprietor of the soil, is nevertheless permitted to enjoy the result of his labour. The feudal system existed up to 1840, and many traces of it still stirs ive. The great barons, most of them of Spanish extraction, were almost the absolute masters of the country, and up to 18:36 they administered the law, had their prisons, and erected gallows as a symbol of their power. The peasants, however, were not tied to the land, but could migrate at pleasure, and custom granted them a fair share of the produce of the soil. By virtue of an adempririo they were permitted to cut wood in the forests, to pasture their sheep on the hills, and to bring into cultivation the waste hinds of the plains. Agriculture was carried on in the most primitive fashion, for the great lords of the land usually resided abroad, and the management of their estates was left to bailiffs. Government has now become the proprietor of most of the unenclosed land, 80,O00 acres of which have been ceded to the Anglo-Italian Company, which has undertaken to provide the island with a network of railways.
In the more densely populated districts the division of the land is exceedingly minute, and this subdivision is still progressing at a most disastrous rate. The nomad herdsmen, on the other hand, possess no land of their own, though, if inclined, they are at liberty to enclose a plot. But vague proprietary rights like these render the careful cultivation of the soil impossible. It has been seriously proposed to expropriate the whole of the land, and to sell it to a few enterprising capitalists, but this would simply amount to a. restoration of the old feudal times, and poverty, which is great even now, would become greater. There are villages in the district of tialiastra where the peasants eat bread made of the acorns of Qrraieus ilex, the dough being kneaded with water containing a fatty clay. This is, perhaps, the only instance of earth-eating in Europe. The Spaniards, too, eat acorn bread, but they use the fruit of Q#mrrus La/Iota, which is really edible, and are careful not to mix its flour with earth.
The Sardinians, even when they are the owners of pasture-grounds or of fields, never live in the country. Like the Sicilians, they are concentrated in towns or large villages, and neither hamlets nor isolated farmhouses are met with. Even the shepherds in the mountains build their huts in groups called stazzi, and combine for mutual protection into cussorgie. Members of these associations, when they lose their cattle from disease or any other cause, may claim one or more beasts from every one of their comrades living within the same district or canton. In other parts of the island—as, for instance, near Iglesias—the produce of the orchards is looked upon as common property. The mountaineers, though poor, practise the ancient virtue of hospitality, and though the dwellings are rude, they find means of making a stranger staying amongst them comfortable.
The products of Sardinia form but a small proportion of those of all Italy. Most of the peasants only work by fits and starts, and hardly more than a fourth of the area of the island has been brought under cultivation. It sometimes. happens that the crops are destroyed by the scorching heat of the sun, or eaten up by locusts, which come in swarms from Africa. Except near Sassari no attempt is made to improve the produce. The olive-tree alone is cultivated with some care, for the grower of a certain number of these trees may claim political privileges, and even the title of " Count," and thousands of proprietors have converted their sterile steppes into productive olive groves. The millions of oranges grown in the gardens of Millis and elsewhere are taken entirely for home consumption. Commercially these oranges are of less importance than the saline plants collected in the marshes of the coast districts, and the ashes of which are exported to Marseilles to be converted into soda.
The working of granite and marble quarries yields some profit, but the mines. which were of such importance in the time of the Romans, are hardly touched now. There is only one iron mine, that of ti in Leone, where work has been carried on seriously by at French company since 1822. It yields about 50,000 tons of ore annually, and the oldest railway of the island connects that mine with Cagliari. The district of Iglesias, where the Romans founded Plumbea and Metalla, and the Pisans searched for silver, has recently regained some of its ancient importance on account of its lead and zinc mines. The waste of the old mines is likewise being scientifically treated by French, English, and Italian companies, to whom mining claims have been ceded, and a curious stalactite cavern which traverses the hill near Domus Novas has been utilised in gaining access to the scoriae. Iglesias is rapidly growing into a city of modern aspect, the village of Gonessa is already a respectable town, and the little harbour of Porto Scuso, until recently almost deserted, is now crowded with small craft employed in carrying annually 900,000 tons of lead and zinc ore to the roadstead of Carlo-Forte. Unfortunately the miners, especially those from abroad. frequently succumb to the climate.
The fisheries, being for the most part carried on in the bays exposed to the sea breezes, are not attended by the same dangers. Certain portions of the coast abound in fish, such as the Bay of Cagliari, and the narrow arms of the sea in the archipelago of the Maddalena, which the ancients searched for purple shells and " sardines" periodically visit the coasts, and as many as 30,000 tunny-fish are sometimes caught in a single season. The swamps or lagoons like-wise yield fish, which are caught in nets spread at the openings of the channels communicating with the sea. The swamp of Cagliari abounds in shad, that of Oristano in mullets and eels, and that of Alghero in pike and gold fish. The fisheries of Sardinia are consequently of much importance, but most of their profits are reaped by strangers. Corsicans fish near La Maddalena, Genoese around San Pietro, and Italians monopolize the coral fisheries. These latter, too, collect the Pinna nobilis a shell, the silky byssus of which is converted into stuff for garments. Nor do the Sardinians take to the sea as sailors, and the commerce of the island is carried on almost exclusively in Genoese and other Italian vessels. Out of 2,4UU proverbs collected by Spano, only three refer to the sea !
The inhabitants of the northern " Cape " of Sassari, or di Sopra, claim to be more intelligent and civilised than those of the southern " Cape " of Cagliari, or di Sotto. The former do not call themselves Sardinians at all, but apply that name, which to them is synonymous with barbarians, to the inhabitants of the interior and of the south. In former times these two sections of the population hated each other, and the spirit of the vendetta, which set family against family, village against village, made its influence felt all over the island. This old animosity has not yet completely died out ; but the people of Sassari can na longer claim to be the superiors of their southern neighbours. They certainly are better agriculturists and more industrious, but the southerners possess the richest mines, their portion of the island is most productive, and it is the seat of the capital.
Cagliari, the ancient Caralis, has remained the great emporium of the island since the days of Carthage. Only a few idols, sepulchral chambers, the ruins of an aqueduct, and an amphitheatre excavated in the rock, recall the dominion of' Carthaginians and Romans, but it could not be deprived of its excellent harbour and magnificent roadstead. The town was only a short time under the rule of the Moors, but its physiognomy is almost more oriental than that of any city in Europe, many of its houses being provided with cupolas and balconies over-hanging the streets. It- position as a place of commerce is most favourable, for it lies ou the ocean highway connecting Sicily with the Balearic Islands, and the coast of Africa is within a day's sail. It is sure to prosper, especially if a serious effort is made to drain the marshes and to transform the plain of the Campidano into a fertile garden. The latter, an ancient arm of' the sea, extends to the southeast towards Oristano, the "town of potters." During the Middle Ages the latter was the seat of the most powerful lords of the island, and it was thence Eleonora promulgated her famous Carta (le loge, which became the public law of the whole island. Oristano has an excellent harbour, sheltered by the peninsula of Tharros, upon which the Phoenicians had founded one of their settlements; its fields are fertile, and, to bring about a return of its ancient prosperity, it is only necessary to drain the marshes which now hem it in. In former times fires were lighted upon the walls of the town during the season of malaria, to purify the atmosphere; but the vast forests from which the fuel for these fires was procured have disappeared, and this portion of Sardinia is no longer entitled to its ancient epithet of "Arborea." It is said that in the marshes of Nurachi, to the north-east of Oristano, may be heard now and then a noise resembling the bellowing of a bull. This noise is probably produced by the passage of air through some subterranean cavern, and similar phenomena have been observed on the coast of Dalmatia.
Sassari the delightful, the rival of Cagliari, is embosomed amidst olive-trees, gardens, and country houses. It alone, of all the towns of the island, could boast of a republican government during the Middle Ages, and the public spirit of its present inhabitants is, perhaps, traceable to this circumstance. Its geographical position, however, is far less favourable than that of Cagliari, for a zone of swamps separates it from the sea. It might export its produce through the port of Alghero or the excellent harbour of Porto Conti), to the south of the mountains of La Nurra ; but facility of access has dictated its choice of Porto Torres, a miserable village on the swampy shore of the Gulf of Asinara. Porto Torres occupies the site of a Roman city, and the arches of a huge aqueduct and the columns of a Temple of Fortune still rise above the reeds. This old port certainly offers great facility for the export of the olive oil of Sassari and the wines of Tempio, as respects France and Genoa ; but the intricate navigation of the Strait of Bonifacio separates it from the nearest Italian coast. Italy has therefore determined to create an additional port on the east coast of' the island, and the Bay of Terranova has been selected for that purpose. Olbia, which at the time of the Romans had no less than 150,000 inhabitants, occupied the site of the present town, which the Italians fondly imagine may become the great emporium of the island. Its port is certainly well sheltered, and the roadsteads of the archipelago of La Maddalena near it afford additional accommodation ; but seriously to improve the condition of Sardinia it will be necessary, above all things, to drain its dreary swamps, and to transform their poisonous exhalations into bread."