The Decline of the Aristocracy in Eleventh and Twelfth Century Sardinia
Robert J. Rowland, Jr.
Quaderni D’Italianistica: Vol 4:2 (1983)
Beginning in the eleventh century, Pisa and Genoa — both as communes and in the persons of individual Pisans and Genovese, — followed by Catalans and Aragonese, exhibited an increasing, and increasingly covetous, interest in Sardinia and (especially) its resources; and, already during the twelfth century, the island had fallen largely under continental domination. That the story developed as it did should evoke no puzzlement: Pisa, Genoa, and the Iberians had more powerful navies, more fully developed economies, and when necessary, stronger armies; Sardinia’s rulers, moreover, helped bring about their own eclipse, granting concessions and aligning themselves, to their own disadvantage, with one or another of the competing powers. Nor were papal policies without importance.
Decisive as these factors were, however, they were external; what seems to have been generally overlooked is that there were coeval internal factors at work which functioned further to weaken Sardinia during this most crucial period of its history. The closed, now anachronistic, manorial economy is certainly one internal weakening factor; but it has often been cited. What I wish to suggest here is that the combination of three factors — 1) alienation of land and other property by the aristocracy, particularly to the church; 2) Sardinian partible inheritance practices; and 3) the church’s imposition of its prohibition of consanguineous marriages — accelerated, if it did not cause, the decline of the indigenous aristocracy, thereby facilitating the victory of the continentals.