When standing in a remote valley surrounded by densely forested mountains, while looking up to the ruins of the Temple of Antas, to mind come the words spoken by William Faulkner ‘s personage Gavin Stevens:“The past is never dead; it’s not even past”. Here, the father of the Sardinians (Sardus Pater) was worshiped more than 3000 years ago. The oldest written records of this prehistoric cult are by Timaeus Tauromenium (fourth century BC) also found in remnants of the Histories of Sallust (86 – 35 BC) who wrote: “Sardus, son of Hercules (the Punic divinity Melqart), together with a large multitude of men, coming from Libya in North Africa, occupied the island known as Ichnusa and gave it his name Sardinia”.
The Greek geographer Pausanias (second century AD), mentions among the gifts consecrated to Apollo in the famous temple of Delphi, a bronze statue of Sardus Pater, placed at the white marble Omphalos that was regarded as the navel of the earth. He wrote: “a statue that had been sent by the barbarians who live on the island in the west, probably the Sardinians and not the later Carthaginians; the same Sardinians that had not driven out the natives but took them rather by strength than by goodwill and neither they nor the natives knew building cities, but lived in scattered huts and caves”.
During the following centuries, various scholars had been speculating on the cult of Sardus Pater but never found any evidence of its existence amongst the many ruins of Nuragic, Carthaginian or Roman sacred sites found on Sardinia. It took until 1838, when Alberto La Marmora in his wanderings through the island, intent on filling his “Voyage en Sardaigne”, came to a spot he described as follows: “A dark green forest of very picturesque oaks of which some were growing in the middle of the ruins of a temple, having accelerated its destruction. At first glance, one sees nothing but a mass of fragments of columns stacked with the remains of cornices and capitals, but examining these remnants with a little care, it is recognized that the base of the building is, so to speak, completely intact”.Excavations that started half a century ago revealed that the temple was erected by the Roman Emperor Caracalla (third century AD) on top of a Punic temple from the Carthaginians of the sixth century BC in honor of a divinity Sid’Addir Babay, the said son of Melkart, Sardus Pater, witnessed by an uncovered dedicated bronze plaque.
Nowadays, the Roman temple has been reconstructed, but mind you, in the end all shall return to the beginning that was the cause for the remote location of the temple of Antas near the Roman Metalla (Fluminimaggiore) situated along the 60 km long Roman road between and far away from the ancient Punic-Roman cities of Sulci (Sant’Antioco) and Neapolis (north of Guspini); as initially it was a sacred Nuragic site, dedicated to the great god of water and vegetation, the victor over all evil, which still shall be there when all that is human has fallen to ruins and is covered by a dense forest of oak trees again.