Nora: myth and mystery in Sardinia

“Nora was born in a myth,” says Franco Fresi, an expert on Sardinia’s history who in his book has described this old – perhaps the oldest – town on the island, still brimming with mystery.

“It is the ‘daughter’ of myth, in a way few settlements from the past can be. And it still has, after an old age of over two thousand years, enough to surprise visitors.”

“It has a woman’s name,” Fresi continues, “as well as a woman’s flirty grace and distracted mood, like someone who might cheat on you at any moment. Pausania and Solino gave her a harbor-like character since her foundation by the Phoenicians (as always). But legend has it that it is the oldest settlement in Sardinia, and that it was founded by a group of Iberians who came from Tartessos after ‘Norax’, son of Hermes and a nymph, Eriteide, who personally chose where the town would be built.”

What is left of the ancient village – including the vestiges of the Eshmun-Asclepius Temple and of the “tofet”, a sacred building of Phoenician-Punic origin – is incredibly fascinating. The traces of the Roman presence further contribute to the location’s beauty:

“Nora could be named ‘city of the hundred baths’: there are so many thermal bath establishments – some with wonderful mosaic floors – now known under modern names: the Terme Centrali from the 2nd-3rd centuries, the Terme a Mare from the 2nd, the Piccole Terme from the 4th. The ‘cavea’ of a small jewelry-box theater of Augustan Age, surprisingly well preserved, could seat an audience of over three thousand…” (translated from F. Fresi, “L’orma del Dio: introduzione alla Sardegna”, Guida, Naples 2006).

Let’s venture into the myth.

Photos via: ©Mara Lasi, ©vecchio_lupo

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Nora: myth and mystery in Sardinia

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