15 The  Camillo Story

Invasions of Sardinia

In the centuries that followed, Sardinia often fell prey to passing pirates and marauders, owing to its strategic position in the middle of the Mediterranean sea.  It is no wonder therefore that most of the main Sardinian cities are inland, wary as Sardinians were of the dangers that came from the sea. These raids in fact continued right up to recent times, as some of the older folk used to describe.

On the Costa Smeralda, for example, the natural caves at Liscia di Vacca were used as hiding places from the pirates by the Orecchioni family, just at the turn of the century. The highest local peak, Monte Moro, is so called because it provided a useful look-out against the Moors. Monte Canaglia (Rascal Hill), is the name given to the place where the scoundrels settled down and you can find traces in some local surnames, like Ragnedda,  "wicked like a spider" or in place names, Lu Saraghinu "the Saracen", La Petra di li Tulchi, the rock where the Turks set ashore.

There is still memory in present day families of not too distant events, like the mother who left her child on the beach to play, while she collected berries close by. When she returned, she found the Saracens sailing off with her child and  in grief lost all reason. She became known as "La scasciata d'Agnula Maria", Mad Angle Maria. The Casalloni family that today resides in nearby San Pantaleo, narrowly escaped a bitter fate for their two small children, Stephen and Luke, who fortunately were not in their house but under a nearby olive tree, when it was ravaged by the Moors. In thanksgiving they made a donation to the church of an 18 century flag.  


It is curious to note a further indication of the natural fear of invaders from the sea, that on the coast, the old Sardinian cottages never have a sea view as they were always built in positions where they couldn't be seen from the sea. Moreover, Sardinians completely lack a fishing tradition and the few fishermen on the island are all migrants, or their descendants, from the Pontine Islands, close to the mainland.

It is an ironic quirk of fate, that today the recent economic prosperity of Sardinia has actually come from the sea, from an invasion of many summer tourists. This has also led to many intermarriages, with mainland Italians, Germans, Swiss, English, French, Scandinavian and even with Australians.

Presently, new waves are already beginning to come from the Eastern Block, Poland, ex-Yugoslavia, Albania, Russia and even from Africa, with young blacks selling their wares on the beaches. Certainly new romances will arise in the discotheques and eventually marriages, that will vary further the general genetic patrimony of the Sardinian population.

The conclusion, therefore, is that the Sardinian people are characterised by a very ancient stock, which remained cut off for thousands of years and was then periodically injected with very different racial chromosomes. Their mainland counterparts, on the other hand, during all this time had much more opportunity of racial intermingling and therefore diversified considerably.  One can safely say that modern mainland Italians are more closely related to say, the Germans, than to Sardinians, notwithstanding that they live in the same country and that twenty odd thousand years ago, they originated from the very same tribes.

These stories clearly show how racial types constantly change and develop, either in peaceful intermarriage or through violence. Today we are a product of the past and therefore to thoroughly know ourselves, it is fundamental to know those that came before us. Another lesson to be learnt is that racial hatred is pure folly, as we are all related at one point in time or another and probably much closer than what we all think.

From a language point of view, the Romans left the biggest mark in Sardinia and today we find that the Sardinian language is heavily based on the Latin language. In fact it is the best living example of what the Latin language sounded like. The isolation of the central parts of Sardinia from outside influences helped preserve their language over the last 2000 years.

Grammar however, was another matter, that is if the Sardinians ever learnt it properly in the first place. Dante Alighieri wrote that "the Sardinians mimic Latin grammar, just like the monkeys mimic humans, because they say 'domus nova et Dominus meus'.

The coastal areas of Sardinia, on the other hand, were very much influenced by the invading foreign forces: the Alghero area, by the Spanish Catalan dialect; the Gallura and Carloforte area, by the Genoan dialect and inflection.


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