1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sulci

SULCI, an ancient town (mod. S. Antioco), situated on the east coast of an island on the south-west of Sardinia. The date of its foundation is not known, but it is certainly of Carthaginian origin. The assumption that it was originally an Egyptian colony is not justified. Its walls, of large rectangular blocks of stone, can be traced for a circuit of upwards of a mile: it extended to the low ground on the shore near the modern cemetery, where a dedicatory inscription set up by the people of Sulci in honour of Hadrian in A.D. 128 was found (F. Vivanet in Notizie degli Scavi, 1897, 407). Various discoveries have been made within the circuit, both of Phoenician and of Roman antiquities, including several statues[1] and inscriptions and many smaller objects, gems, &c., but at present few traces of ancient buildings are left, owing to their continued destruction in medieval and modern times. A cistern of fine masonry, perhaps dating from the Punic period, in the low ground below the modern town, may be mentioned. Close to it, among the houses of the modern town, a solid base about 25 ft. square, belonging possibly to a lighthouse or a tomb, records the existence of a temple of Isis and Serapis during the imperial period. A bilingual inscription of the 1st century B.C. (?) in Latin and in neo-Punic records the erection of a statue to Himilkat, who had carried out a decree of the local senatus for the erection of a temple to a goddess (described in the Punic version as domino dea—possibly Tanit herself) by his son Himilkat (T. Mommsen in Corp. inscr. lat. x. 7513, 7514). The Phoenician tombs consist of a chamber cut in the rock, measuring about 14 ft. square and 8 ft. high, and approached by a staircase; some of these have been converted into dwellings in modern times. Many of the curious sculptured stelae found in these tombs are now in the museum of Cagliari. On many of them the goddess Tanit is represented, often in a form resembling Isis, which gave rise to the unfounded belief of the Egyptian origin of Sulci. The Roman tombs, on the other hand, are simply trenches excavated in the rock.

There are also several catacombs: a group still exists under the church, in which was discovered the body of the martyr St Antiochus, from whom the modern town takes its name. The church is cruciform, with heavy pillars between nave and aisles, and a dome over the crossing: it belongs to the Byzantine period, and contains an inscription of Torcotorius, protospatarius and Salusius, ἄρχων, dating from the 10th century A.D. (A. Taramelli in Archivio storico sardo, 1907, 83 sqq.). Others farther south-west were Jewish; they have inscriptions in red painted on the plaster with which they are lined, and the seven branched candlestick occurs several times. The fort which occupies the highest point—no doubt the acropolis of the Punic period—is quite modern. The long, low isthmus which, with the help of bridges, connects the island with the mainland, is very likely in part or entirely of artificial origin; but neither it nor the bridges show any definite traces of Roman date. On either side of it ships could find shelter then as nowadays.

The origin of Sulci is attributed by Pausanias to the Carthaginians, and the Punic antiquities found there go to indicate the correctness of his account. It is mentioned in the account of the First Punic War as the place at which the Carthaginian admiral Hannibal took refuge after his defeat by C. Sulpicius, but was crucified. In 46 B.C. the city was severely punished by Caesar for the assistance given to Pompey’s admiral Nasidius. Under the empire it was one of the most flourishing cities of Sardinia. It was attacked by the Vandals and Saracens, but ceased to exist before the 13th century. Previously to this it had been one of the four episcopal sees into which Sardinia was divided. A castle in the low ground, attributed to the index Torcotorius, to the south of the modern town, was destroyed in modern times.

See A. Taramelli in Notizie degli scavi (1906), 135; (1908), 142; 192.  (T. As.) 

  1. A statue of Drusus, the brother of Tiberius (?) was found in 1908.