In the Mediterranean Sea there were never traumatic linguistic breaks and imperialist pressures could never decree the death of a language. This is clear especially in Sardinia. Demonstrations abound. For example:
1) In the II-I sec. BCE, over a century after the Roman invasion, Cleone felt the need to write a dedication in Greek-Latin-Punic (bronze column of S.Nicolò Gerréi), to be sure that the Sardinians understood it at least through the Punic language.
2) Two hundred years after the invasion, Cicero denounces (Pro Scauro) that Sardinia does not even have a city friendly to the Roman people. If the cities were still hostile to the invader, what should we say about the countryside and the rugged mountains (which make up 70% of the Sardinian territory)?
3) The census takings and the distribution of Italian people in the time of Caesar Augustus show a peninsula made up of 32 peoples, who, until proved otherwise, used 32 languages. That number increases if we add the languages of Sicily and those spoken in Sardinia by the tribal macro-division of the Balares, Corsi, Iliensens.
4) The affirmation of Saul of Tarsus is famous, who, being shipwrecked on the island of Malta, was saved by the residents who spoke a barbarian language (that is, neither Greek nor Latin). It was a Semitic language that lasted in purity among that thousand of sailors and farmers despite the fact that Malta had become Roman for hundreds of years. Melitenses refused, perhaps even unconsciously, to adopt the language of Rome, despite the fact that they were so few and so exposed that it would have been very easy for the Romans to impose it on them. Even today, the Malta’s language is recognized as Semitic.
5) Another episode is that of De Magia 98, in which Apuleius, defending himself from the accusation of having induced the widow Pudentilla of Oea (the current Tripoli) to marry him with magical arts, opens an impressive gash on the African society of the time (we are in 159 ev). In fact, he places on one side Pudentilla, a rich and cultured woman, who writes and speaks fluently not only the Latin language but also the Greek one; on the other hand he puts her son Sicinius Pudens, who not only does not know Greek language despite having been brought up in culture, but who even stutters constantly in the attempt to express, during the process, a few sentences in Latin: he is unable to simple reason that has neglected the study of Latin letters, preferring to live like the rest of the population, who speaks exclusively Punic. From Apuleius’ statement, we learn that in Latin Africa, occupied by Rome in 202 B.C.E. after the battle of Zama (Naraggara), still 360 years later, Punic was spoken almost exclusively, despite the fact that Africa had been fully Romanized. Augustine, a Berber citizen, had learned his excellent Latin, but he was an urbanized man, he belonged to the cives minority to whom Christian preaching was addressed, also expressed in Latin.
6) Another testimony: in the 6th century C.E. the Barbaricìni still worshiped ligna et lapides (Letters of Pope Gregory): only the cities had begun to receive the word of Jesus, and yet many citizens paid the tax to continue to freely worship the God of their ancestors. Mind you, 3 centuries had passed since the liberalization of Christianity, 5 and a half centuries since its inception. Someone should reflect on the fact that the Barbaricini of Ospitone (i.e. the ¾ of the Sardinians, all residing in the immense mountain territory), were still pagans, and even more reason they had not permanently entered into contact with the Latin preachers. Only religion is able to operate, with a slow process of centuries, where political power fails. Religion needs to be preached with great circumspection, as subjects accept the new verb only if it is transmitted in the mother-tongue. So did Wulfila in the fourth century C.E., who transcribed the Bible and the Gospels into the Gothic language, of which he also invented the alphabet. So did Cyril and Methodius, who in order to evangelize Ruš even needed to create a special national alphabet. Martin Luther worked similarly, who imposed his own Reform by translating the Bible into German, after correcting numerous passages.
If these episodes are translated into a large and harsh island like Sardinia, then the example of Malta, even more the example of Roman Africa, but also the example of Ospitone, can well render the linguistic processes that can establish among a people of losers. The key to understanding the problem lies precisely in the conquest of cities and in the clear fracture that in the history of the world has always been created between city and countryside, between city and mountain. In fact, the Sardinian mountains remained free from Roman occupation.
Of course, a religion can take root quickly too: it is enough to carry out a genocide (as Cortez did). Survivors join, all right! But the mountainous territories of Sardinia were never conquered with weapons, at least until the sixth century, when the example of Cortez had a “bright” precedent in Byzantine weapons. Ospitone had to save his own people: he joined Christianity. On the other hand, the Sardinian language remained unscathed. Why would a people have to erase their own language for the benefit of that of invader, an invader who, however, at the time of Ospitone began to express himself with the Greek-Byzantine language and not with the Latin one?