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Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea (after Sicily). The island is surrounded (clockwise from north) by the island of Corsica, the Italian Peninsula, Tunisia and the Balearic Islands (off the coast of Iberia.) Around 1500 BC the island was first called in Greek, Hyknusa (Latinized Ichnusa) by the Mycenaeans, probably meaning island of the Hyksos, the people who had just been expelled by Ahmose I of Egypt circa 1540 BC. Sandalyon was another Greek name, probably due to its shape, resembling a footprint. Its present name is Sardinia, after the Shardana (whose invasion of Egypt was defeated by Ramesses III circa 1180 BC.)


Sardinia has been inhabited since the most ancient times, and was home to native civilizations influenced by the Egyptians, Phoneacians, Greeks and Romans.

Beginning around 1000 BC, Phoenician mariners sailing from the Levant established several ports of trade on the Sardinian coast. In 509 BC, war broke out between the native Nuragic people and the Phoenician settlers. The settlers called for help from Carthage (themselves in origin Phoenician settlers) and the island became part of the Carthaginian Hegemony. In 238 BC, after being defeated by the Roman Republic in the First Punic War, Carthage was forced to fight an uprising against former mercenaries who had not received their promised pay in a conflict known as the Mercenary War. Rome jumped at this opportunity to annex Corsica and Sardinia without resistance from the overstretched Carthaginians.

During the Roman period, the geographer Ptolemy noted that Sardinia was inhabited by the following peoples, from north to south: the Tibulati and the Corsi, the Coracenses, the Carenses and the Cunusitani, the Salcitani and the Lucuidonenses, the Æsaronenses, the Æchilenenses (also called Cornenses), the Rucensi, the Celsitani and the Corpicenses, the Scapitani and the Siculensi, the Neapolitani and the Valentini, as well as the Solcitani and the Noritani. Ptol. III, 3.

From 456-534, Sardinia was a part of the short-lived kingdom of the Vandals in North Africa, until it was reconquered by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. During this time a coinsiderable number of Vandals settled on the island, traces of whose male I2b1 DNA can be found to this day. Also Iranian Alans arrived on the island. Under the Byzantines, the imperial representative was a judge who governed from the southern city of Caralis. Byzantine rule was practically nonexistent in the mountainous Barbagia region in the eastern part of the island, and an independent kingdom persisted there from the 6th to the 9th centuries.

Beginning in the 8th century, Arabs and Berbers began raiding Sardinia. After the Muslim conquest of Sicily in 832, the Byzantines were unable to effectively defend their most distant province, and the provincial judge assumed independent authority. To provide for local defence, he divided the island into four giudicati, Gallura, Logudoro, Arborea, and Caralis. By 900, these districts had become four independent monarchies. At various times, these fell under the sway of Genoa and Pisa. The town of Sassari proclaimed itself a free republic, allied to Genoa, in 1290. In 1297 Pope Boniface VIII granted the title of King of Sardinia and Corsica.