Nora & Tharros


Nora and Tharros share common Phoenician origins, fundamental centres for the trade of this ancient people of the sea, built in strategic positions on even more ancient remains of Nuragic settlements.

Nora, according to the Greek historian Pausanias, was founded in the 8th century BC by Norax, a leader of the Iberians, and is recognised as the oldest city in Sardinia.

Phoenician mariners arrived from the sea, not as invaders, but to trade; they first settled in temporary settlements that were to serve as warehouses for the collection of raw materials.

Remains of the Phoenician-Punic domination are still visible, such as the sacred area for the cult of the goddess Tanit and the tophet for the funerary rite of children, as well as the Stele of Nora, preserved in the Archaeological Museum of Cagliari, the oldest document in the West on which the name Shrdn, ‘Sardinia’, appears.

The Roman conquest of 298 BC transformed Nora into the capital of the Roman Province of Sardinia and Corsica. From this historical period the remains of the baths, the Forum with its shops, the great theatre, originally covered in marble, with twenty tiers of seats and a thousand seats, the Temple dedicated to the God of medicine Aesculapius (Asclepius) and the ‘domus of the tetrastyle atrium’, from the Imperial Roman period, the richest and most spectacular private building, with its white columns, symbol of Nora, and its mosaics, are still visible.

The history of Tharros is very similar to that of Nora.

Founded on a Nuragic settlement, it grew and developed thanks to its ‘strategic’ position that offered three different possibilities of shelter from the fury of the sea. Tharros became a flourishing Phoenician port, then a Carthaginian fortress, a Roman urbs, a Byzantine capital and an Arborean capital.

The Phoenician heritage are two necropolis and the tophet, a cemetery sanctuary where urns containing the ashes of sacrificed infants and animals were placed. During the Republican period, the city was transformed until it reached its peak in the 3rd century AD. During this period three thermal baths were built close to the sea and the castellum aquae, the waterproofed aqueduct located in the centre of the city.

The slow decline of the two cities began almost at the same time in the 4th century AD, when Rome’s control over its provinces began to wane and the seas became unsafe. With the arrival of the Vandals in 455 AD and the subsequent Saracen raids, the inhabitants began to abandon the coastal areas in favour of the more inland and safer parts of the island, until the final depopulation and fall into ruin.

Today, the two archaeological sites are among the most appreciated by tourists, capable of thrilling and telling centuries-old stories of the peoples who built a true commercial empire on the west coast of Sardinia.