The History of Oristano
The city of Oristano rises in the center of the vast Campidano plain, along the western coast of Sardinia, in the immediate hinterland of the gulf which bears its name.
This territory is characterized by a distinctive landscape variety, which has also ensured the settlement of man since the sixth millennium BC: beaches protected by coves sheltered from the winds, easy docking areas and ponds rich in fish population, grassy areas for raising animals, flat land for cultivation and mountains with pine forests, rich in wood and game.
Let’s now find out more about the history of Oristano and how the city has evolved over the centuries.
The presence of man in the territory of Oristano dates back to the sixth millennium BC, a time when several communities dedicated to hunting, fishing, agriculture and to exploiting Monte Arci’s obsidian deposits began to settle along the coast. There are many remains of villages with their related sepulchral areas (Conca ‘e Illonis, Cùccuru e Arrìus), Domus de Janas (Ipogee Tombs), Menhirs and the Megalithic Tombs dating back to this period.
XVI-XI centuries BC
This period is characterized by the spreading of Nuragic civilization, the traces of which can be found in the presence of truncated conical stone towers, intended for worship and defense of villages and tribal borders. Peculiarities of this civilization are the bronzetti ex voto, well temples such as the Pozzo di Santa Cristina, the “tombe dei giganti” (collective burials) and the betyls. In the 9th century BC, Phoenician merchants appeared on the coasts, to whom we owe the foundation of cities such as Tharros, in the Sinis Peninsula and Othoca, which is currently known as Santa Giusta.
VI-III centuries BC
The territory of Oristano is solidly under Carthaginian occupation. During this time, cities such as Tharros, Neapolis and Cornus became important economic centers, unlike the decadent Othoca.
From 227 BC to 456 AD
In 227 BC, the Romans formed the Province of Sardinia and Corsica after about ten years of battles against the Carthaginians. The Romans strengthened economic activities in urban centers, built roads, bridges, aqueducts, and favored latifundium and cereal farming. The Forum Traiani (Fordongianus) and Uselis (Usellus) centers were created to watch over the rebels in the interior of the region.
456 AD – IX century
Sardinia was occupied by the Germanic people of the Vandals, followed in 534 by the Byzantines, who transformed it into a province of the Exarchate of Africa. Civil government and military command were exercised respectively by a Praeses or Judex provinciae residing in Karalis (Cagliari), and by a dux residing in Forum Traiani. Early Arab raids began in the 8th century. The first historical evidence of the urban center of Aristanis (Oristano) dates back to this period, mentioned by Giorgio di Cipro in his work Descriptio Orbis Romani.
IX century – 1420
For favoring better organization of the island and facing Saracen raids, the Judex provinciae assigned its powers to the lieutenants of the districts of Calari, Torres, Gallura and Arborea. Due to the political isolation caused by the invasions, these lieutenants made themselves autonomous by proclaiming themselves Judices and creating the 4 sovereign kingdoms or “Giudicato”s. Among them the Giudicato of Arborea, with its capital first Tharros and then Oristano, will have a longer and more glorious history. The Giudicato or kingdom of Arborea lived its apogee in the fourteenth century, when after an alliance with the neighboring Kingdom of Sardinia and Corsica occupied by the Catalan-Aragonese, went to bitter war against it. From 1365 to 1409, Arborean judges occupied almost all of Sardinia, with the exception of the cities of Cagliari and Alghero. However, in 1409, William III was defeated in Sanluri, and, in 1420, all of the Giudicato’s territory became part of the Kingdom of Sardinia and Corsica.
1420 – XVI century
Under Catalan-Aragonese domination, the Giudicale territory was divided into various fiefs, among which the Marquisate of Oristano stands out, as it includes Oristano and its Campidani. In 1478 Marquis Leonardo Alagon rebelled against Spanish sovereign John II, but he was defeated. All his possessions were confiscated by the Spanish kingdom. In 1479, Oristano became Royal City.
During the Thirty Years War, in February 1637, French troops landed in the Gulf of Oristano and sacked the city and nearby areas. Pursued by the Sardinians, the soldiers left the city and abandoned two pieces of artillery, eleven boats, thirty-six prisoners and eight banners, four of which are kept in the Cathedral of Oristano. From 1652 to 1655, the plague raged in the plains, causing a very serious famine.
The Treaty of London of 1718 sanctioned the cession of the Kingdom of Sardinia to the Dukes of Savoy, princes of Piedmont. In August 1767, Oristano and its Campidani were handed over as a feud to wealthy merchant Damiano Nurra Conca, who took the title of Marquis d’Arcais. In 1796, following the expulsion of the Piedmontese, Oristano palely adhered to the anti-feudal revolt of Giò Maria Angioy. In 1838, Sardinian-Piedmontese king Carlo Alberto abolished feudalism and assigned all lands to peasants. In 1881, the monument dedicated to Giudicessa Eleonora d’Arborea was inaugurated.
In 1921, the Sardinian Action Party was born in Oristano. In the first post-war period, the imposing Santa Chiara dam was built on the Tirso river. During the Fascist era, between 1920 and 1930, the drainage works of the Sassu pond took place, with the reclamation of the territory and the foundation of the inhabited center of Mussolinia (Arborea). On July 16, 1974 Oristano became capital of the fourth Sardinian province.