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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Balearic Islands
Illes Balears
Islas Baleares
—  Autonomous Community  —
Center of Palma de Mallorca.
Flag of the Balearic Island
Coat-of-arms of the Balearic Island
Coat of arms
Location of the Balearic Islands
Coordinates: 39°30′N 3°00′E / 39.5°N 3°E / 39.5; 3Coordinates: 39°30′N 3°00′E / 39.5°N 3°E / 39.5; 3
Country Spain Spain
Capital Palma
 - President Francesc Antich Oliver
Area (1.0% of Spain; Ranked 17th)
 - Total 4,992 km2 (1,927.4 sq mi)
Population (2008)
 - Total 1,071,221
 Density 214.6/km2 (555.8/sq mi)
 - Pop. rank 14th
 - Ethnic groups 79.2% Spanish, 20.8% foreign nationals
ISO 3166-2 IB
Parliament Cortes Generales
Congress seats 8
Senate seats 6 (5 elected and 1 appointed)
Website Govern de les Illes Balears

The Balearic Islands (Catalan and official:[1] Illes Balears; Spanish: Islas Baleares) are an archipelago in the western Mediterranean Sea, near the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula.

The four largest islands are (from largest to smallest): Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza, and Formentera. The archipelago forms an autonomous community and a province of Spain, of which the capital city is Palma. The co-official languages in the Balearic Islands are Spanish and Catalan (i.e. Mallorquí, Menorquí and Eivissenc, as Catalan is known by its speakers in this territory).


Geography, politics and culture

The main islands of the autonomous community are Majorca (Mallorca), Minorca (Menorca), Ibiza (Eivissa) and Formentera, all of which are popular tourist destinations. Among the minor islands is Cabrera, which is the location of the Parc Nacional de l'Arxipèlag de Cabrera. The islands can be further grouped, with Majorca, Minorca, and Cabrera as the Gymnesian Islands, and Ibiza and Formentera as the Pine Islands.


The Balearic islands (pronounced /bælɪˈærɨk ˈaɪləndz/) have two names in different languages: Catalan: Illes Balears, pronounced [ˈiʎəz bəɫeˈaː(r)s]; Spanish: Islas Baleares, [ˈislas βaleˈaɾes]; Greek: Gymnesiae Γυμνησίαι and Balliareis Βαλλιαρεῖς;[2] Latin: Baleares.

There are various theories on the origins of the two ancient Greek and Latin names for the islands – Gymnasiae and Baleares. Two survive in classical sources.

According to the Lycophron's Alexandra verses, the islands were called Gymnesiae (gymnos - γυμνός means naked in Greek) because its inhabitants were often nude, probably because of the year-long benevolent climate.

The Greek and Roman writers generally derive the name of the people from their skill as slingers (baleareis, βαλεαρεῖς, from ballo, βάλλω:ancient Greek meaning for to launch), although Strabo considered the name to be of Phoenician origin. He observed that it was the Phoenician equivalent for the Greek word for lightly-armoured soldiers (γυμνῆτας) (gymnetas) [3]

The root bal does point to a Phoenician origin; perhaps the islands were sacred to the god Baal; and the accidental resemblance to the Greek root ΒΑΛ (in βάλλω - ballo), coupled with the occupation of the people, would be quite a sufficient foundation for the usual Greek practice of assimilating the name to their own language. That it was not, however, Greek at first, may be inferred with great probability from the fact that the common Greek name of the islands is not Βαλεαρεῖς (Baleareis), but Γυμνησίαι (Gymnesiai), the former being the name used by the natives, as well as by the Carthaginians and Romans.[4] The latter name, of which two fancied etymologies have been already referred to, is probably derived from the light equipment of the Balearic troops (γυμνῆται- gymnetae).[3]



Ancient history

There is little history on the earliest inhabitants of the islands, though many legends exist. The story, preserved by Lycophron, that certain shipwrecked Boeotians were cast nude on the islands, was evidently invented to account for the name Gymnesiae. There is also a tradition that the islands were colonized from Rhodes after the Trojan war.[3]

The islands had a very mixed population, of whose name of the islands (an instance of folk etymology) — until the Phoenicians clothed them with broad-bordered tunics. In other stories they were naked only in the heat of summer.

Other legends hold that the inhabitants lived in hollow rocks and artificial caves, that they were remarkable for their love of women and would give three or four men as the ransom for one woman, that they had no gold or silver coin, and forbade the importation of the precious metals, so that those of them who served as mercenaries took their pay in wine and women instead of money. Their marriage and funeral customs, peculiar to Roman observers, are related by Diodorus Siculus (v. 18).

Map of the Balearic Islands

In ancient times, the islanders of the Gymnesian Islands constructed talayots, and were famous for their skill with the sling. As slingers they served, as mercenaries, first under the Carthaginians, and afterwards under the Romans. They went into battle ungirt, with only a small buckler, and a javelin burnt at the end, and in some cases tipped with a small iron point; but their effective weapons were their slings, of which each man carried three, wound round his head (Strabo p. 168; Eustath.), or, as seen in other sources, one round the head, one round the body, and one in the hand. (Diodorus) The three slings were of different lengths, for stones of different sizes; the largest they hurled with as much force as if it were flung from a catapult; and they seldom missed their mark. To this exercise they were trained from infancy, in order to earn their livelihood as mercenary soldiers. It is said that the mothers allowed their children to eat bread only when they had struck it off a post with the sling.[5]

The Phoenicians took possession of the islands in very early times;[6] a remarkable trace of their colonization is preserved in the town of Mago (Mahon in Minorca). After the fall of Carthage, the islands seem to have been virtually independent. Notwithstanding their celebrity in war, the people were generally very quiet and inoffensive.[7] The Romans, however, easily found a pretext for charging them with complicity with the Mediterranean pirates, and they were conquered by Q. Caecilius Metellus, thence surnamed Balearicus, in 123 BC.[8] Metellus settled 3,000 Roman and Spanish colonists on the larger island, and founded the cities of Palma and Pollentia.[9] The islands belonged, under the Roman Empire, to the conventus of Carthago Nova (modern Cartagena), in the province of Hispania Tarraconensis, of which province they formed, the fourth district, under the government of a praefectus pro legato. An inscription of the time of Nero mentions the PRAEF. PRAE LEGATO INSULAR. BALIARUM. (Orelli, No. 732, who, with Muratori, reads pro for prae.) They were afterwards made a separate province, probably in the division of the empire under Constantine.[10]

The two largest islands (the Balearic Islands, in their historical sense) had numerous excellent harbours, though rocky at their mouth, and requiring care in entering them (Strabo, Eustath.; Port Mahon is one of the finest harbours in the world). Both were extremely fertile in all produce, except wine and olive oil.[11] They were celebrated for their cattle, especially for the mules of the lesser island; they had an immense number of rabbits, and were free from all venomous reptiles. [12] Among the snails valued by the Romans as a diet, was a species from the Balearic isles, called cavaticae, from their being bred in caves.[13] Their chief mineral product was the red earth, called sinope, which was used by painters.[14] Their resin and pitch are mentioned by Dioscorides[15] The population of the two islands is stated by Diodorus at 30,000.

The part of the Mediterranean east of Spain, around the Balearic Isles, was called "Mare Balearicum", [16] or "Sinus Balearicus".[17]

Post Roman Empire and Aragonese conquest

In the chaos surrounding the fall of the Roman Empire, the islands were conquered by the Vandals. They were subsequently reconquered by the Byzantine Empire, but soon fell to the Moors after the their conquest of Iberia. The emirate of Cordoba captured them in 903. After its dissolution, they depended from the taifa of Dénia (1013-1067), later becoming an independent taifa.

Between 1113 and 1115, a fleet, led by Ugo da Parlascio Ebriaco and Archbishop Pietro Moriconi of the Republic of Pisa, made a successful expedition against the Balearic Islands. The expedition was launched with the support of Constantine I of Logudoro and his base of Porto Torres.

In the 13th century (1239), king James I of Aragon conquered the islands, annexing them to the Crown of Aragon. After his death, he gave the Balearic islands (and other counties as Roussillon or Montpellier) as a new kingdom, the Kingdom of Mallorca, to his son James II. However, according to this king's will, even though his son would gain the title of King, he and his descendants were always to be vassals to the king of Aragon. In this case, this would mean James would be a vassal of Peter, the oldest son of James I. However, after a turbulent and difficult period of existence, the Kingdom of Mallorca was definitely reincorporated into the Crown of Aragon with the Battle of Llucmajor (1349).

In 1476, Ferdinand II (king of Aragon) and Isabella I (queen of Castile) were married. And, as a result to their death, their respective territories (until then governed separately) were governed jointly, in the person of his grandson: Charles V. This can be considered the foundation of the modern Spanish state, albeit a decentralized one where the various component territories within the two uniting crowns retained the historic laws and privileges.

The Balearic Islands were frequently attacked by Barbary pirates from North Africa, the Formentera was even temporarily left by its population. In 1514, 1515 and 1521 coasts of the Balearic Islands and the Spanish mainland were raided by Turkish privateer and Ottoman admiral Hayreddin Barbarossa.

The island of Minorca was a British dependency for most of the 18th century as a result of the Treaty of Utrecht. This treaty, signed by the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Portugal as well as the Kingdom of Spain to end the conflict caused by the War of the Spanish Succession, gave Gibraltar and Minorca to the Kingdom of Great Britain, Sardinia to Austria (both territories were part of the Crown of Aragon for over almost 5 centuries), and Sicily to the House of Savoy. In addition, Flanders and other European territories of the Spanish Crown were given to Austria.

Minorca was finally ceded to Spain by the Treaty of Amiens in 1802 during the French Revolutionary Wars.

View of the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range, Majorca.

See also


  1. ^ Ley 3/1986, de 19 de abril, de normalización linguística. Ley 13/1997, de 25 de abril, por la que pasa a denominarse oficialmente Illes Balears la Provincia de Baleares. Ley Orgánica 1/2007, de 28 de febrero, de reforma del Estatuto de Autonomía de las Illes Balears.
  2. ^ Diod. v. 17, Eustath. ad Dion. 457; Baliareis - Βαλιαρεῖς, Baliarides - Βαλιαρίδες, Steph. B.; Balearides - Βαλεαρίδες, Strabo; Balliarides - Βαλλιαρίδες, Ptol. ii. 6. § 78; Baleariae - Βαλεαρίαι Agathem.
  3. ^ a b c Strab. xiv. p. 654; Plin. l. c "The Rhodians, like the Baleares, were celebrated slingers"
    Sil. Ital. iii. 364, 365: "Jam cui Tlepolemus sator, et cui Lindus origo, Funda bella ferens Balearis et alite plumbo."
  4. ^ Plin.; Agathem.; Dion Cass. ap. Tzetz. ad Lycophr. 533; Eustath.
  5. ^ Strabo; Diod.; Flor. iii. 8; Tzetzes ad Lycophron.
  6. ^ Strabo iii. pp. 167, 168.
  7. ^ Strabo; but Florus gives them a worse character, iii. 8.
  8. ^ Livy Epit. Ix.; Freinsh. Supp. lx. 37; Florus, Strabo ll. cc.
  9. ^ Strabo, Pomponius Mela, Pliny the Elder.
  10. ^ Notitia Dignitatum Occid. c. xx. vol. ii. p. 466, Böcking.
  11. ^ Aristot. de Mir. Ausc. 89; Diodorus, but Pliny praises their wine as well as their corn, xiv. 6. s. 8, xviii. 7. s. 12: the two writers are speaking, in fact, of different periods.
  12. ^ Strabo, Mela; Pliny l. c., viii. 58. s. 83, xxxv. 19. s. 59; Varro, R. R. iii. 12; Aelian, H. A. xiii. 15; Gaius Julius Solinus 26.
  13. ^ Pliny xxx. 6. s. 15.
  14. ^ Pliny xxxv. 6. s. 13; Vitruv. vii. 7.
  15. ^ Materia Medica i. 92.
  16. ^ τὸ Βαλλεαρικὸν πέλαγος, Ptol. ii 4. § 3.
  17. ^ Flor. iii. 6. § 9.

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Europe : Iberia : Spain : Non-Iberian Spain : Balearic Islands

The Balearic Islands (Catalan: Illes Balears, Spanish: Islas Baleares) [1] are an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Spain.


Palma de Mallorca, capital of the Balearic Islands, not only offers its visitors sunshine, numerous bars, restaurants and shops but also a beautiful harbour and a historical centre.

Get in

The Balearic Islands have the airports of Palma de Majorca, Ibiza and Mahón, making any journey extremely easy.

It is also possible to reach them by ship, since Barcelona is only a night-crossing away aboard the most modern vessels. The journey takes just eight hours. By air the flight from Barcelona, Valencia, and Madrid takes less than an hour, while from París and London it takes under two. It is also possible to take vehicles to the islands aboard ferries specially designed for the purpose. Both air and sea services have extra flights and crossing during the "high season" (July 1st-September 30th),

Get around

If you are visiting the centre of Palma your best bet is to go on foot. You can also hire scooters and bicycles if you prefer. If you decide to drive into the city from another part of the island, leave your car in one of the municipal car parks. You will be offered a bicycle (free of charge) to use to explore the city until you return to pick up your car. There is one railway line in Majorca, departing from Palma which will take the traveller to a number of villages on the island. A special "tourist" train departing from the main station in the Plaza de España will take you on a beautiful journey through the mountain range to the quaint village of Soller. If you prefer, you can hire a car.


The local cooking of the islands is exotic, exquisite and at the same time imaginatively presented.

The official Majorcan foodstuff should be a type of red pork pate called sobrasada in Majorcan, sobrasada in Spanish. Highly popular in parts of the mainland too. The red colour comes from hefty amounts of sweet paprika. It is good. There is also an official Majorcan cake, called ensaimada. It contains pumpkin jam and lard (obviously the Majorcans do keep some pigs) and it is delicious. The locals are very proud of their centuries-old olive trees, so while visiting the island it would be worth trying Majorcan extra virgin olive oil, which is otherwise hard to find.


Palo and Hierbas are two of the most popular local liquors among local residents. Palo is made from the fruit of the carob tree. It is often drunk mixed with soda water and sometimes even taken for medicinal purposes. Sweet, mixed and dry "Hierbas" are available. The ingredients include assorted herbs.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BALEARIC ISLANDS (Baleares), an archipelago of four large and eleven small islands in the Mediterranean Sea, off the east coast of Spain, of which country it forms a province. Pop. (1900) 311,649; area, 1 935 sq. m. The archipelago, which lies between 38° 40' and 40° 5' N., and between 1° and 5° E., comprises two distinct groups. The eastern and larger group, corresponding with the ancient Insulae Baleares, comprises the two principal members of the archipelago, Majorca (Spanish, Mallorca) and Minorca (Spanish, Menorca), with seven islets: Aire, Aucanada, Botafoch, Cabrera, Dragonera, Pinto and El Rey. The western group, corresponding with the ancient Pityusae or Pine Islands, also comprises two relatively large islands, Iviza (Spanish, Ibiza or, formerly, Ivica) and Formentera, with the islets of Ahorcados, Conejera, Pou and Espalmador. Majorca, Minorca and Iviza are described in separate articles. Formentera is described with Iviza. The total population of the eleven islets only amounted to 171 in 1900, but all were inhabited. None of them is of any importance except Cabrera, which is full of caverns, and was formerly used as a place of banishment. In 1808 a large body of Frenchmen were landed here by their Spanish captors, and allowed almost to perish of starvation.

The origin of the name Baleares is a mere matter of conjecture; it is obvious, however, that the modern Majorca and Minorca are obtained from the Latin Major and Minor, through the Byzantine forms Macoptac and Mcvopuca; while Iviza is plainly the older Ebusus, a name probably of Carthaginian origin. The Ophiusa of the Greeks (Colubraria of the Romans) is now known as Formentera.

Table of contents


The strata which form the Balearic Isles fall naturally into two divisions. There is an older series, ranging from the Devonian to the Cretaceous, which is folded and faulted and forms all the higher hills, and there is a newer series of Tertiary age, which lies nearly horizontal and rests unconformably upon the older beds. The direction of the folds in the older series is in Iviza nearly west to east, in Majorca south-west to north-east, and in Minorca south to north, thus forming an arc convex towards the south-east. The Devonian is visible only in Minorca, the Trias being the oldest system represented in the other islands. The higher part of the Cretaceous is absent, and it appears to have been during this period that the principal folding of the older beds took place. The Eocene beds are nummulitic. There is a lacustrine group which has usually been placed in the Lower Eocene, but the discovery of Anthracotherium magnum in the interbedded lignites proves it to be Oligocene, in part at least. The Miocene included a limestone with Clypeaster. Pliocene beds also occur.

Climate, Fauna, Flora

The climate of the archipelago, though generally mild, healthy and favourable to plant life, is by no means uniform, owing to the differences of altitude and shelter from wind in different islands. The fauna and flora resemble those of the Mediterranean coasts of Spain or France.


The islanders are a Spanish race, very closely akin to the Catalans; but the long period of Moorish rule has left its mark on their physical type and customs. In character they are industrious and hospitable, and pique themselves on their loyalty and orthodoxy. Crime is rare. There are higher schools in the principal towns, and the standard of primary education is well up to the average of Spain. Vaccination is common except in the cities, - the women often performing the operation themselves when medical assistance cannot be got. Castilian is spoken by the upper and commercial classes; the lower and agricultural employ a dialect resembling that of the Catalans.


Fruit, grain, wine and oil are produced in the islands, and there is an active trade with Barcelona in fresh fish, including large quantities of lobsters. Shoemaking is one of the most prosperous industries. There is not a very active trade direct with foreign countries, as the principal imports - cotton, leather, petroleum, sugar, coal and timber - are introduced through Barcelona. The export trade is chiefly with the Peninsula, France, Italy, Algeria and with Cuba and Porto Rico. Most of the agricultural products are sent to the Peninsula; wine, figs, marble, almonds, lemons and rice to Europe and Africa.


The administration of the Balearic Islands differs in no respect from that of the other Spanish provinces on the mainland. There are five judicial districts (partidos judiciales), named after their chief towns - Inca, Iviza, Manacor, Palma and Port Mahon.


Of the origin of the early inhabitants of the Balearic Islands nothing is certainly known, though Greek and Roman writers refer to the Boeotian and Rhodian settlements. There are numerous sepulchral and other monuments, which are generally believed to be of prehistoric origin. According to general tradition the natives, from whatever quarter derived, were a strange and savage people till they received some tincture of civilization from the Carthaginians, who early took possession of the islands and built themselves cities on their coasts. Of these cities, Port Mahon, the most important, still retains the name which is derived from the family of Mago. About twentythree years after the destruction of Carthage the Romans accused the islanders of piracy, and sent against them Q. Caecilius Metellus, who soon reduced them to obedience, settled amongst them 3000 Roman and Spanish colonists, founded the cities of Palma and Pollentia (Pollensa), and introduced the cultivation of the olive. Besides valuable contingents of the celebrated Balearic slingers, the Romans derived from their new conquest mules (from Minorca), edible snails, sinope and pitch. Of their occupation numerous traces still exist, - the most remarkable being the aqueduct at Pollensa. In A.D. 423 the islands were seized by the Vandals and in 798 by the Moors. They became a separate Moorish kingdom in 1009, which, becoming extremely obnoxious for piracy, was the object of a crusade directed against it by Pope Paschal II., in which the Catalans took the lead. This expedition was frustrated at the time, but was resumed by James I. of Aragon, and the Moors were expelled in 1232. During their occupation the island was populous and productive, and an active commerce was carried on with Spain and Africa. King James conferred the sovereignty of the isles on his third son, under whom and his successor they formed an independent kingdom up to 1349, from which time their history merges in that of Spain. In 1521 an insurrection of the peasantry against the nobility, whom they massacred, took place in Majorca, and was not suppressed without much bloodshed. In the War of the Spanish Succession all the islands declared for Charles; the duke of Anjou had no footing anywhere save in the citadel of Mahon. Minorca was reduced by Count Villars in 1707; but it was not till June 1715 that Majorca was subjugated, and meanwhile Port Mahon was captured by the English under General Stanhope in 1708. In 1713 the island was secured to them by the peace of Utrecht; but in 1756 it was invaded by a force of 12,000 French, who, after defeating the British under Admiral Byng, captured Port Mahon. Restored to England in 1763, the island remained in possession of the British till 1782, when it was retaken by the Spaniards. Again seized by the British in 1798, it was finally ceded to Spain by the peace of Amiens in 1803. When the French invaded Spain in 1808, the Mallorquins did not remain indifferent; the governor, D. Juan Miguel de Vives, announced, amid universal acclamation, his resolution to support Ferdinand VII. At first the Junta would take no active part in the war, retaining the corps of volunteers that was formed for the defence of the island; but finding it quite secure, they transferred a succession of them to the Peninsula to reinforce the allies. Such was the animosity excited against the French when their excesses were known to the Mallorquins, that some of the French prisoners, conducted thither in 1810, had to be transferred with all speed to the island of Cabrera, a transference which was not effected before some of them had been killed.

Bibliography. - For a general account of the islands, the most valuable books are Die Balearen geschildert in Wort and Bild, by the archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria (Leipzig, 1896); Les lies oubliees, by G. Vuillier (Paris, 1904), the first edition of which has been translated under the title of The Forgotten Isles(London, 1896) - and Islas Baleares, an illustrated volume of 1423 pages, by P. Pifferrer, in the series "Espana" (Barcelona, 1888). An article by George Sand in the Revue des deux mondes (1841) also deserves notice. The following are monographs on special subjects : - The Story of Majorca and Minorca, by Sir C. R. Markham (London, 1908); Illustrationes florae insularum Balearium, by M. Willkomm (Stuttgart, 1881-1892); Monuments primitifs des Iles baleares, by E. Cartailhac (Mission scientifique du ministere de l'instruction publique, Toulouse, 1892). The British Foreign Office Reports for the Consular District of Barcelona give some account of the movement of commerce (London, annual). Much of the material available for a scientific history will be found in La Historia general del regno baledrico, by J. Dameto and V. Mut (Majorca, 1632-1650). For the period of Moorish rule, see Bosquejo historico de la domination islamita en las islas Baleares, by A. Campaner y Fuertes (Palma, 1888). See also the elaborate treatise Les Relations de la France avec le royaume de Majorque, by A. Lecoy de la Marche (Paris, 1892).

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



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Proper noun

Balearic Islands


Balearic Islands

  1. A group of Mediterranean islands off the east coast of Spain. The population speaks Catalan.


  • Balearics


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Simple English

File:Localització de les Illes
The Balearic Islands together with parts of Spain

The Balearic Islands (officially and in catalan Illes Balears) are an autonomous community of Spain, formed by the Balearic Islands province. The main Balearic islands are Mallorca (also called in English Majorca), Minorca, Eivissa or Ibiza, and Formentera. The capital is Palma de Mallorca, and other cities are Mahon, Ibiza, Inca, Ciutadella, and Calvia.krc:Балеар айрымканла


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