The history of Roman Sardinia began in 238 BC and ended in 456 AD with the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Although Rome controlled Sardinia during the first two Punic Wars, there had been numerous attempts to conquer the island by the Romans in previous years but, having realized its impossibility, the venture had been abandoned. Instead, in 241 BC they decided to sign a peace treaty with the Carthaginians and the island was left in peace under the rule of Carthage. In 238 BC, urged by Punic mercenaries who had left the island following a revolt by the Sardinians, Rome agreed to come to their aid and sent soldiers to the island, because the Romans had understood the strategic aspirations of the Carthaginians who wished to expand their power and conquer Roman lands. The Carthaginians were not able to resist the Roman advance as they lacked the military strength to do so.
The Sardinians did not view their new rulers in a good light and two years after the invasion launched a few rebellions. Despite the disapproval and revolts of the Sardinians, the Romans celebrated their false triumph over the island numerous times.
The Sardinian population was forcefully repressed and two consular armies were sent to the island – one commanded by Gaius Papirius and the other by Marcus Pomponius Matho – neither of which obtained the desired submission of the Sardinian people.
By this time Rome controlled the Mediterranean Sea and Sardinia became increasingly important due to its strategic position, finally being recognized as a province of the Empire.
During the Roman Age, Sardinia had a population of 3-400,000 inhabitants.
During the 2nd century the island developed markedly and the natives no longer launched significant rebellions against their new ruler. The wealth was due to agriculture and mineral extraction: the island exported lead, iron, steel and silver, as well as wood, wheat (the island became the “Granary of Rome”) and honey. The island dwellers began to speak Latin. Taxes were high, the latifundia spread and farmers became increasingly tied to the land.
The Romans founded Turris Libisonis, Carales, Olbia, Fanum Carisii, Nora and Tharros, Forum Traiani, Forum Augustis and many other settlements.
Pig, cattle and sheep farms were widespread, with sheep being particularly important for their wool and milk.
Governors of the island included Cato the Elder (known as the Censor) in 198 BC.
So what traces of the 700 years of Roman rule are still found in modern Sardinian cooking? Ingredient names have remained almost intact in the Sardinian language, and many cooking methods have been retained.
Below are just a few examples relating to farming and dairy products:
Casu e regottu mustiu (cheese and smoked ricotta) – from the Latin caseus musteus, cited by Pliny the Elder;
Casu fresa – from the Latin caseus fresus, the past participle of frendo, crushed. The process for preparing caseus mamu pressus;
Giagada ischida (curd) – Pliny wrote that the barbarian people, who didn’t have cheese, would eat milk curd, caudiaux and acorjucindus.