The most important archaeological site in Sardinia, a city, first Phoenician, then Carthaginian, and finally a very important Roman center.
Province: Province of Cagliari
Maximum altitude: 20 m a.s.l.
Location: Sardinia Channel
Nora is mentioned in literary sources as “the oldest city in Sardinia”. Its mythical foundation is attributed to the eponymous ecista Norace; however, with the exception of the famous and very ancient “stele of Nora”, now preserved in the National Archaeological Museum of Cagliari and generally dated to the second half of the IX – first quarter of the IVIII see. BC, in which mention is made of an unknown sacred area, the first archaeological evidence dates back to the end of the seventh century. B.C. In fact, a series of post holes relating to tents and other temporary structures in perishable materials that have recently been identified in the eastern sector of the peninsula, below the forum complex and the nearby “Roman Temple”, can be referred to this period. These installations document a seasonal attendance by Phoenician merchants, within the framework of a commercial network that put the eastern populations in communication with those Sardinian producers of metals and other raw materials. The settlement scenario changed significantly towards the end of the 6th see. BC, when the whole of Sardinia finally fell into the hands of the hegemonic power of Carthage.
The temporary emporium settlement gave way to an articulated district of warehouses and houses, served by a straight road axis, which was evidently designed according to functionality and modularity criteria typical of an advanced urban planning. In the same period the city, whose port became the center of important trade routes, experienced a significant development of its monumental endowment, with the construction of a temple near the warehouses themselves and other sacred areas in correspondence with the three main hills of the peninsula: the so-called ‘Temple of Tanit’, the sacred area of ​​Coltellazzo and that of Sa Punta ‘e su Coloru (on which the Sanctuary of Aesculapius would later rise, a place where some interesting terracotta statues depicting devotees of the salutary divinity were found). Over time the inhabited area expanded towards the west, with the progressive development of new residential and artisan districts in the direction of the ancient port inlet, now partly occupied by the fishpond behind the peninsula of Is Fradis Minoris.
The simultaneous development of the chamber necropolis in the isthmus area and the tophet in the suburban sector, but also the intensive use of the quarries of the nearby peninsula of Is Fradis Minoris, confirm the importance assumed by Nora in the Punic age up to the initial stages. of the Roman domination.
The monumental adaptation of the city center found its natural continuation during the early imperial age. In fact, it dates to I see. A.D., if not already in the early Augustan age, the construction of the well-known masonry theater erected in the immediate vicinity of the forum, in the place of some older buildings. It is the only theatrical building preserved in the whole of Sardinia, capable of holding up to 1100-1200 seats. However, this is not the only building for shows in the city, since, at the entrance of the isthmus at the entrance to the town, the existence of a small amphitheater, of uncertain date, was also verified at the beginning of the twentieth century. , which makes Nora the only Sardinian town with both important structures.
Other building interventions are reported during the first and second centuries. A.D. The monumental center of the city improved its appearance in this period, thanks also to the erection of numerous honorary statues dedicated to emperors and illustrious citizens, while, on the opposite side of the city, towards the port, it became the seat of a new district. regular house-shop, specially designed for the housing and commercial needs of the middle class.
In the Severian age and in the decades following it we witness the most flourishing period of Nora, as evidenced by the growth of ceramic imports, by the development of artistic production, especially mosaics, and by the realization of the most imposing phase of monumental development, with the realization of important infrastructural interventions (among which the completion of the paving work of a large part of the road system equipped with underfloor sewer pipes) and of such a significant number of public and private structures that they cannot be compared in other periods of history urban. Between the end of the II and the first decades of the III see. A.D. First of all, the forensic complex was strengthened, with the restoration of the civil basilica, the construction of two imposing access arches and the enlargement of the square. In the context of the old “historical center”, this phase also includes the construction of the imposing hexastyle temple, known as the “Roman Temple”, raised on the south-eastern slopes of the so-called “Colle di Tanit”. In addition, the public aqueduct was built, which fed the city castellum aquoe with the underlying fountain and three thermal plants: the central thermal baths, the imposing thermal baths by the sea and the more modest small thermal baths, which may have arisen for private use. At this time, thanks to the dislocation of the spas, a sort of “quartering” of city life took place, thanks to the emergence of new aggregative spaces no longer gravitating on the forum-theater axis. In the central-southern sector of the city, a series of building interventions took place which led to the construction of two rich stately homes, including the so-called “House of the tetrastic atrium”. But, in absolute terms, the urban sector most affected by the building renovations of this phase was the north-western one, not only with the construction of spas such as the imposing Terme a mare, but also with the changes in the neighborhood of the house-shops and with the construction of a large multifunctional commercial and residential complex (the so-called “macellum / horreum” or “insula A”). The location of the building from which comes a rare dedication Dis deabusque secundum interpretationem oraculi Dear Apollinis, probably datable to the age of Caracalla, which seems to respond to a specific directive from the imperial power.
A certain economic and building vitality is also attested during the 4th see. A.D. In the eastern sector the Terme di Levante were built (or restructured), while on the southern tip the structure of the ancient “Sanctuary of Aesculapius” was monumentalized. Even the north-western sector was once again the scene of impressive architectural achievements, with the doubling of the extension of the so-called “macellum / horreum” and with the extension of the surface of the Small Baths, which was followed by the construction of a three-dimensional Christian basilica aisles probably already during the following century. In the first half of V see. A.D. the restoration of the western portico of the forum and that of the city aqueduct, remembered by an inscription, document the last public building activities of the Roman city before the Vandal conquest. Even after this epochal historical change, the town continued its life, albeit conditioned by a significant contraction of activities and urban spaces: the residential buildings in the central and north-western districts continued at least in part to be used, albeit with significant variations in use and with frequent structural changes, making use of the ancient road network, which is still substantially functional. The same trend of imports of African sealed ceramics into the city shows a certain recovery up to the first decades of the sixth century. AD, indirectly certifying the efficiency of the port infrastructures even after the end of the ancient age.