invasion, romans, seaside towns
Feb 28 2018

Who Built Mallorca ?

Invasion from Would-be Conquistadors & Pirates

Seaside Towns

So, who built Mallorca ?  Almost 2,500 years of invasion from would-be conquistadors and pirates have taught the people along the coast of Mallorca not to parade their wealth, or lack of it.  Therefore, seaside towns normally have Ports containing small marina’s.  The name of the port normally starts ‘Port de’ i.e. ‘Port of” followed by the town it is nearest to e.g. Port of Palma (puerto Palma).  The Port of Palma consists of many small marinas such as the Marina Port de Mallorca and Marina Palma Quarantine

The Island will Provide

During the island’s history on invasion, immigrants have imported their customs and cultures with them.  As a result Mallorca has developed a culture uniquely different to mainland Spain.  The first settlers to arrive here certainly did not come as conquerors; the modern version of Mallorca’s early history suggests that they were drove here by hunger and poverty. It is thought that in the sixth millennium BC. they came from the South of France to the island in simple boats.  These settlers found caves they could live in and a multitude of animals and plants ensured they lived a well nourished and comfortable life.

Archeologist Joan Ramis from the neighbouring island of Menorca called this the Talayotic period.   The names inspiration comes from the striking, mysterious towers the first inhabitants built.  From 3,000 BC. onwards builders were building the towers in or near their villages.  The term comes from the Arabic word for tower, ‘atalaya’.  Remains of two of these early settlements still exist on the island.  They are located to the south near Capocorp Vell and in the Northeast at Arta.

Word Spreads Fast and the Romans Invade

Historians assume that the settlers were left in peace until 300 BC.  However, news of the island’s plentiful natural resources and subliminal pastoral beauty began to spread around the ancient mediterranean.  The Greeks called Mallorca the ‘archipelago gimnasius’.  The name is due to the islander’s tendency to go around almost naked like the athletes in the Greek gymnasion.  From 300 BC the Phoenicians began erecting trading posts here, yet did not settle.  Both civilisations valued the ancient Mallorcans as mercenaries for their method of fighting which gave the group of islands the name still used today, ‘Balearides’.  The word comes from the Greek ‘Ballein’, to ‘throw in a sling’, the weapons the Mallorcans were famous for using.

The impertinent piracy of the Mallorcans finally disturbed the ‘pax romana’ significantly forcing the Romans in 123 BC to take the island. The Romans gave Mallorca its first streets, theatres, market places, temples and country villas. Romans tired of life in the city at the heart of the empire came here.  The island also became home to those banished from the ‘imperium’, as Diodorus reports in the 1st Century AD.  Compared to other Roman provinces, Mallorca was undoubtedly not the worst of places to be exiled to.  The Romans were the first to make systematic use of the island’s natural resources; vineyards, grain fields and olive groves were created, causing the economy to flourish.  In Roman Pollentia, now Alcudia, the avant-garde of the roman fashion world wove up and sewed togas which were so chic that they eagerly snapped up by the style-conscious all across the empire.

The Vandals Invade

In the 5th Century the vandals invaded Mallorca, lead by Gesoric.  They demolished much of the Roman infrastructure within a very short space of time.  Some towns, such as Manacor, were raised to the ground.  The vandals pillaged Mallorca for almost a hundred years until Byzantine emperor Justinian I annexed the island in 534.  The Byzantine basilicas of Son Pereto and Sa Carrotxa near Manacor are however, not the earliest records of Christianity on the island.  The Cova de Sant Marti, a church in a nearby cave near Alcudia, documents the fact that there were Christians on the island as early as the 2nd Century.

The legacies of the Arabs, Muslims, Jews and Christians

After a number of overtures the Arabs finally settled in Mallorca in 902.  If you look around and take in the views carefully, you will still find plenty of signs of their presence.  Even from 1229 onwards the Victorian Catalans did their best to extinguish all traces of the Moors’ existence.  The Muslims, Jews and a small Christian minority – coexisted on the island.  They left behind them carefully thought-out agricultural irrigation systems.   These systems made the best use of the island’s precious water supply.  The systems were built of terraces, channels and wells serviced by donkeys.  In addition there are also extensive areas where apricots, grapes, figs and olives are cultivated.  Another legacy is a partiality in Mallorca cooking for a pinch of cumin, sultanas and almonds in spicy stews.  As a result the taste of the East was distinguished from that of the West.

A New Island of Land Owners

The tide changed in Mallorca in 1229.  Those not willing to recounce Judaism or Islam could chose between exile – if they were lucky enough – and being burnt at the stake.  The island bacame a country of big landowners where before farmers had worked their land autonomously.  Jaume I, the Conqueror, divided the land up between his followers and the church in an act of ‘repartiment’ and recruited new settlers from Catalonia, Italy, Rousillon and the Provence.  The new island melting pot produced a mode of speech which has survived the ravages of time, ‘Mallorqui’, a Catalan dialect spiked with elements of Old French and Old Italian.

Mallorca Falls to Aragon

What also remained almost until the dawn of the modern age was hereditary leasehold or feudalism which brought centuries of poverty and oppression to much of the population, despite the fact that the kingdom which introduced the system perished in the Battle Llucmajor 1349 when Mallorca fell to Aragon and thus the future kingdom of Spain.

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