Eleanor’s Falcon, Kritarchs, & the Crown of Aragon

Among the least-known political entities of medieval Europe—forget Livonia,Wallachia and Great Moravia!—are the Crown of Aragon and the Sardinian Judicatures (Giudicati in Italian).

The Crown of Aragon was a sea-faring confederation united by allegiance to the King of Aragon; at its greatest expanse (in the 1400s), it included a large portion of eastern Spain, the Balearic islands, the islands of Corsica and Sardinia, the Kingdom of Naples (including Sicily) and part of Greece (map, right).

The Sardinian Judicatures (or kritarchies) were four independent states that divided the island ofSardinia among them between the 800s and the 1400s. (A kritarchy is rule by judges; it is, for example, the word used to refer to the rule in ancient Israel by Biblical judges such as Samson, Gideon and the judge/prophetess, Deborah.) The origins of the Guidicati are not exactly clear except that they were apparently residual Byzantine political districts on Sardinia, units that then became independent as Byzantine power faded from that area in the face of Islamic expansion in the Mediterranean in the 800s. Nor is it clear just how the Sardinian judge-rulers were chosen. Depending on the period and judicature you are talking about, at least some were chosen by a council of law and even if a particular choice then developed into a hereditary kritarchy, the judges still ruled at the pleasure of a council. At no time could you say that the judges were “kings,” at least not in the absolute sense of “divine right,” nor was the territory their personal property as it was in the case of many European monarchies.

These two strange entities were linked when the Judicatures were eventually conquered by the Crown of Aragon in the same wave of Aragonese expansion that also took the Kingdom of Naplesin the mid-1400s. (The Crown of Aragon had made an early move on Italy at the time of the Sicilian Vespers in 1282 when it took over the island of Sicily from the Angevin French, relegating the French to the mainland. The Aragonese then followed onto the mainland where they took over the entire Kingdom of Naples in 1442.)

One of the Sardinian judicatures was Arborea, in the southwestern portion of the island, with the capital at Oristano. The most interesting judge-ruler in the history of Sardinia was Eleonora d’Arborea (1347-1404) who ruled from 1383 until her death.  She was one of the last and most powerful of the Sardinian judges before most of the island was gobbled up by the Aragonese. She is connected to Naples in that her land was conquered and incorporated into the Aragon kingdom of Naples and then, with the rest of the island, into the Spanish vice-realm of Naples.

       Statue of Eleonora in Oristano

Eleanor was born in Catalonia; she was the daughter of the judge/ruler of Arborea. Her brother became the new hereditary judge in 1376 but was killed in 1383, at which time Eleanor took over as regent for her infant son. For the next four years she led Arborea in battles with the Crown of Aragon, which claimed the island. She was very successful for a time and retook much of the entire island; she had aims at uniting all of Sardinia.

After her death, the decline of the Judicature of Arborea was inexorable. A mere five years after Eleanor died, Arborea lost a major battle to the Aragonese at Sanluri (in southwestern Sardinia). Arborean rulers failed to organise a successful resistance and then simply sold the judicature to the Crown of Aragon in 1420. Subsequent resistance to the Crown of Aragon and its successor state, Spain (after the union of Aragon and Castille in 1469), was unsuccessful. The last Sardinian rebellion against the new rulers was at the Battle of Macomer (modern Magomadas), near the west coast in north-central Sardinia, in 1478. The rebellion failed and, thereafter, all of Sardinia was part of the new Spanish Empire.

Eleanor wrote a constitution, the Carta de Logu (Charter of Law), which came into force in April 1395. Historians of jurisprudence consider the charter significant in the history of constitutional law, certainly more enlightened than the laws of other countries at the time; it covered both civil and criminal matters and was progressive in that the penalty for most civil violations was simply a fine. As well, the property rights of women were preserved.

Like an earlier ruler, Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, Eleanor, too, was interested in ornithology, and she legislated protection of a species of falcon. That bird, Falco eleonorae, was named after her.

Eleonora d’Arborea is remembered in Sardinia as the island “heroine,” who fought the good fight—but lost. She is mentioned in nostalgic verses in the Sardinian language when they talk about lost Sardinian independence. If the game of history had played out differently, she would have been the “mother of her nation.”

Demographics & Time-line of Sardinian history

—Sardinia is a “semi-autonomous” region of Italy; a statute of autonomy grants special administrative powers to Sardinia and four other Italian regions;
—area: 24,090 km2 (9,301.2 sq mi) (marginally smaller than Sicily); for comparison, that is larger than the US state of New Jersey and larger than the state of Israel;
—the regional capital is Cagilari, the most populous city on Sardinia with 157,780 inhabitants (as of 2008);
—after Cagliari, the two largest cities are Sassari (pop. 120,000) and Olbia (pop. 45,000);
—there are eight (8) provinces in the region of Sardinia: Cagliari, Carbonia-Iglesias, Nuoro, Ogliastra, Olbia-Tempio, Oristano, Sassari, and Medio Campidano;
—total population (as of 2008): 1,670,219;
—population density:69.3/km2 (179.6/sq mi);
—number of incorporated comuni  (villages, towns and cities): 377;
—there are three international airports: Cagliari, Olbia, and Alghero;
—Sardinia has a very low birth rate: 8.1 per 1,000 population per year (yearly average from 2002-2005); that is the second lowest regional birth rate in Italy (Italy, itself, as a nation, is near the bottom of the list on most rankings of birth rate);
—Average life expectancy in Sardinia is 81.1 years (84.5 for women and 77.7 for men), marginally higher than the national average;
—Sardinia has one of the highest rates of centenarians in the world: (22 centenarians per 100,000 inhabitants).
In simplified form, this is a time-line of Sardinian history.

Before 6000 BC—some traces of human habitation.After 6000 BC— Humans settle in Gallura and northern Sardinia.
4th centuty BC—presence of the Ozieri culture, late Neolithic and Copper Age communities in the north of Sardinia. Their implements, caves dwellings and rock-cut tombs are well-known in archaeology.
1800 BC— The beginning of the Nuraghic civilization, the builders of the still iconic structures found throughout the island.

1000 BC— The Phoenicians start to colonize the island.500 BC—The Carthaginians conquer and replace the Phoenicians as the main settlers on the island.

238 BC—The Carthaginians surrender the island to the Romans.456 AD—The end of the Roman occupation of Sardinia.456-534 AD—The island is subjected to raids by the Vandals.

534-710 AD—Sardinia is ruled by the Byzantine empire.700-900—The island is subjected to increasing raids by Saracens and native inhabitants largely desert the coasts for the rugged interior.900-1400—An independent Sardinia is ruled by a loose collection of judicatures.1297—Sardinia briefly forms part of the regnum Sardiniae et Corsicae (“kingdom of Sardinia and Corsica”), a largely fictitious entity proclaimed by Pope Boniface VIII that was meant to be a gift by the Pope to James II, King of Aragon.

1400-1497—The island is taken over by the Aragonese and forms part of the co-called “Crown of Aragon,” a confederation of sea-faring entities owing allegiance to the king of Aragon.1497—With the formation of the nation state of Spain (through the union of the Castillian and Aragonese dynasties), Sardinian becomes part of the Spanish Empire.1700—The break-up of the Spanish Empire cause the Wars of the Spanish Succession, as a result of which Sardinia passes to Austrian rule (as part of the now Austrian vice-realm of Naples).1718—The Treaty of London gives Sardinia to the Italian house of Savoy, whose domain had been limited to the Piedmont in Northwestern Italy. With that, the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia is born, the nucleus of the modern nation state of Italy.

1814—After the Napoleonic Wars, the Congress of Vienna joins Piedmont-Sardinia with the Kingdom of Liguria (the capital of which is Genoa).

1861—After the conquest of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (Naples) by Garibaldi, Victor Emmanuel II , the king of Piedmont-Sardinia proclaims the new nation of Italy, including Sardinia, and becomes the first King of Italy.

1948—Sardinia becomes one of the five special autonomous regions of Italy. This means that while the Italian constitution is the law of the land, a special statute of automy grants administrative powers to these regions, powers that the other regions of Italy do not possess.



About sooteris kyritsis

Job title: (f)PHELLOW OF SOPHIA Profession: RESEARCHER Company: ANTHROOPISMOS Favorite quote: "ITS TIME FOR KOSMOPOLITANS(=HELLINES) TO FLY IN SPACE." Interested in: Activity Partners, Friends Fashion: Classic Humor: Friendly Places lived: EN THE HIGHLANDS OF KOSMOS THROUGH THE DARKNESS OF AMENTHE
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