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Coordinates: 39°52′24″N 8°26′23″E / 39.8733°N 8.43972°E / 39.8733; 8.43972

Corinthian columns at Tharros
For the ancient city in Crete, see Tarra, Crete.

Tharros (also spelled Tharras, Greek: Θάρρας, Ptol., Tarrae or Tarras) was an ancient city on the west coast of Sardinia, Italy, and is currently an archaeological site near the village of San Giovanni di Sinis, municipality of Cabras, in the Province of Oristano. It is located on a peninsula that forms the northern cape of the Bay of Oristano, the cape of San Marco. Tharros, mentioned by Ptolemy and in the Itineraries, seems to have been one of the most important places on the island.

Archaeological research done in the area of Tharros has established that in the eighth century BCE the town was founded by Phoenicians. On the remains of a former nuragic village on top of the hill called Su Muru Mannu they founded a tophet, an open air sacred place common for several installations of Phoenicians in the western Mediterranean, and seen as a first sign of colonization and urbanization. Excavations have shown that from the eighth century BCE until the abandonment of Tharros in the 10th century CE the place was inhabited, first by Phoenicians, then by the Punics and then under Roman domination. The town was abandoned under pressure of the incursions of Saracen raiders. The site was used for centuries after that as a quarry for building materials for the surrounding villages and towns. Certainly there has always been a strong Sardic element during the whole time of its existence. An inscription records the repair of the road from Tharras to Cornus as late as the reign of the emperor Philip. (De la Marmora, Voy. en Sardaigne, vol. ii. pp. 359, 477.) The Antonine Itinerary correctly places it 18 miles from Cornus and 12 from Othoca (modern Santa Giusta near Oristano). (Itin. Ant. p. 84; Ptol. iii. 3. § 2.)

The area is now an open air museum and still excavations are done bringing to light ever more details of the past of this town. What is to be seen is most of the period of Roman domination or early Christianity. Amongst the interesting structures is the tophet itself, the bath installations, the temple foundations and a part of the area with houses and artisan workshops.

Most of the artifacts can be found in the Archaeological Museum at Cagliari, in the Antiquarium Arborense and the Archaeological Museum of the town of Cabras.


  • Acquaro, E. and C. Finzi 1986: Tharros, Sassari
  • Osborne, R. and B. Cunliffe ed. 2005: Mediterranean Urbanization 800-600 BC, New York

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

THARROS, an ancient town of Sardinia, situated on the west coast, on the narrow sandy isthmus of a peninsula at the north extremity of the Gulf of Oristano, now marked by the tower of S. Giovanni di Sinis. It was 12 m. W. of Othoca (Oristano) by the coast road, which went on northward to Cornus (a milestone of it is given in Corp. Inscr. Lat. x. 8009), and thence to Turris Libisonis. It was of Phoenician origin, but continued to exist in Roman times, as the inscriptions show, though they give but little information (Mommsen in Corp. Inscr. Lat. x. 822). It was destroyed by the Saracens in the 11th century. Scanty traces of Roman buildings may be seen, and an ancient road paved with large blocks of stone. A part of the site of the town is now invaded by the sea. The church of S. Giovanni di Sinis is a heavy building of the 8th (?) century A.D. originally cruciform, with a dome over the crossing; the transepts and dome are still preserved, but the nave with its two aisles is later. It is naturally built of materials from the old town. Close to it is a watch-tower and a spring of fresh water. The importance of Tharros may be inferred from the extent of its necropolis, which lies on the basaltic peninsula of S. Marco to the S.; on the summit of it are the remains of a nuraghe. Casual excavations are mentioned under the Spanish viceroys, but regular exploration only began. in 1838, when the Roman tombs were examined. In 1850 Spano excavated many Phoenician tombs; they are rectangular or square chambers cut in the rock, measuring from 6 to 9 ft. each way, in which inhumation was the rule. The objects found - pottery, scarabs, jewelry, amulets, &c. - were of considerable interest. In 1851 Lord Vernon opened fourteen tombs, and after that the whole countryside ransacked the necropolis, without any proper records or notes being taken, and with great damage to the objects found. Some of these objects are in the museum at Cagliari, others in private collections, and many scarabs are in she British Museum, all of which by the coins found with them are dated later than the Roman occupation (Catalogue of Gems, London, 1888,1888, pp. 13 sqq.). In 1885-86 regular excavations were made, the results of which may be seen in the museum at Cagliari. One tomb contained some fine gold ornaments, with Roman coins of the 1st to 3rd century A.D. (F. Vivanet in Notizie degli Scavi, 1886, 27; 1887, 46, 124). The objects, like those found at Sulcis, show considerable traces of Egyptian influence, but are probably all of Phoenician importation - the theory of the existence of Egyptian colonies in Sardinia being quite inadmissible. Some 3 m. to the N. is the church of S. Salvatore, with underground rock-cut chambers below it, used as a baptistery (?) by the early Christians, though the walls are decorated with paintings of a decidedly pagan nature. (T. As.)

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