CARALES , the most important ancient city of Sardinia, situated on the south coast of the island. Its foundation is generally attributed to the Carthaginians, and Punic tombs exist in considerable numbers near the present cemetery on the east and still more on the rocky plateau to the north-west of the town. It first appears in Roman history in the Second Punic War, and probably obtained full Roman civic rights from Julius Caesar. In imperial times it was the most important town in the island, mainly owing to its fine sheltered harbour, where a detachment of the classis Misenas was stationed. In the 4th and 5th centuries it was probably the seat of the praeses Sardiniae. It is mentioned as an important harbour in the Gothic and Gildonic wars. It was also the chief point of the road system of Sardinia. Roads ran hence to Olbia by the east coast, and through the centre of the island, to Othoca (Oristano) direct, and thence to Olbia (probably the most frequented route), through the mining district to Sulci and along the south and west coasts to Othoca. The hill occupied by the Pisan fortifications and the medieval town within them must have been the acropolis of the Carthaginian settlement; it is impossible to suppose that a citadel presenting such natural advantages was not occupied. The Romans, too, probably made use of it, though the lower quarters were mainly occupied in imperial times. A. Taramelli (Notizie degli Scavi, 1905, 41 seq.) rightly points out that the nucleus of the Roman municipium is probably represented by the present quarter of the Marina, in which the streets intersect at right angles and Roman remains are frequently found in the subsoil. An inscription found some way to the north towards the amphitheatre speaks of paving in the squares and streets, and of drains constructed under Domitian in a.d. 83 (F. Vivanet in Notizie degli Scavi, 1897, 279). The amphitheatre occupies a natural depression in the rock just below the acropolis, and open towards the sea with a fine view. Its axes are 95 and 79 yds., and it is in the main cut in the rock, though some parts of it are built with concrete. Below it, to the south, are considerable remains of ancient reservoirs for rain-water, upon which the city entirely depended. This nucleus extended both to the east and to the west; in the former direction it ran some way inland, on the east of the castle hill. Here were the ambulationes or public promenades constructed by the pro-consul Q. Caecilius Metellus before a.d. 6 (Corp. Inscrip. Lat. x., Berlin, 1883, No. 7581). Here also, not far from the shore, the remains of Roman baths, with a fine coloured mosaic pavement, representing deities riding on marine monsters, were found in 1907. To the east was the necropolis of Bonaria, where both Punic and Roman tombs exist, and where, on the site of the present cemetery, Christian catacombs have been discovered (F. Vivanet in Notizie degli Scavi, 1892, 183 seq.; G. Pinza in Nuovo Bullettino di Archeologia Cristiana, 1901, 61 seq.). But the western quarter seems to have been far more important; it extended along the lagoon of S. Gilla (which lies to the north-west of the town, and which until the middle ages was an open bay) and on the lower slopes of the hill which rises above it. The chief discoveries which have been made are noted by Taramelli (loc. cit.) and include some important buildings, of which a large Roman house (or group of houses) is the only one now visible (G. Spano in Notizie degli Scavi, 1876, 148, 173; 1877, 285; 1880, 105, 405). Beyond this quarter begins an extensive Roman necropolis extending along the edge of the hill north-east of the high road leading to the north-west; the most important tomb is the so-called Grotta delle Vipere, the rock-hewn tomb of Cassius Philippus and Atilia Pomptilla, the sides of which are covered with inscriptions (Corpus Inscr. Lat. x., Berlin, 1883, Nos. 7563-7578). Other tombs are also to be found on the high ground near the Punic tombs already mentioned. The latter are hewn perpendicularly in the rock, while the Roman tombs are chambers excavated horizontally. In the lagoon itself were found a large number of terra cottas, made of local clay, some being masks of both divinities and men (among them grotesques) others representing hands and feet, others various animals, and of amphorae of various sizes and other vases. Some of the amphorae contained animals' bones, possibly the remains of sacrifices. These objects are of the Punic period; they were all found in groups, and had apparently been arranged on a platform of piles in what was then a bay, in readiness for shipment (F. Vivanet in Notizie degli Scavi, 1893, 255). It is probable that the acropolis of Carales was occupied even in prehistoric times; but more abundant traces of prehistoric settlements (pottery and fragments of obsidian, also kitchen middens, containing bones of animals and shells of molluscs used for human food) have been found on the Capo S. Elia to the south-east of the modern town (see A. Taramelli in Notizie degli Scavi, 1904, 19 seq.). An inscription records the existence of a temple of Venus Erycina on this promontory in Roman times. The museum contains an interesting collection of objects from many of the sites mentioned, and also from other parts of the island; it is in fact the most important in Sardinia, and is especially strong in prehistoric bronzes (see Sardinia).
For the Roman inscriptions see C.I.L. cit., Nos. 7552-7807.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)