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Ibiza through its names   

If it is history that lends its character to people this is what happened to Ibiza, that has forged its character from many different people that passed by.

The first traces of native settlements in Ibiza, we still do not know if they were Iberians or Celts, etc., date back to year 1600 BC according to archaeological discoveries of ceramic rests in the COVA DES CUIERAM, between San Juan and San Vicente; the cave drawings of SA COVA DES VI DE SES FONTANELLES, near to San Antonio, as well as the stone tombs of CAN SARGENT in Ses Salines.

Thus Ibiza became a strategic point in the commercial crossroads of people that even today would be considered economic powers: Greeks and Phoenicians arrived to the coasts of this small island in the East of the Mediterranean Sea for their supply.
We owe the Greeks the first name known: PITIUSAS, name of the two minor islands of the Balearics Islands, Ibiza and Formentera, land of pines.

But it was the Phoenicians who considered Ibiza the right place for stopping for their supply during their journeys to the most important commercial destinies; they even built their own factories, for example they manufactured garun, a pastry made of remains of fish, to feed the crew.
When Cartagena was an independent kingdom from the Phoenicians of Tiro, founded Ibosim (Ibiza) around the year 654 BC.

Founding Ibiza as a city was justified for two reasons: it was port and fortress. Port because it was a stopping point for all goods from the Tartessus, the North of Africa and England and fortress because it had an important military presence, which assured the exclusive right of the goods that the island supplied to the Carthaginian ships with.
From all the goods from the island (lead, food, ceramics, wood…) the most precious was the salt, which they used to preserve foods during the long maritime journeys.
Although the Carthaginians take material advantage of the colony, they also contributed to the economy and cultural life of the metropolis. They grafted the olive tree with a plant from Ibiza and created also the naval industry.
The Punic language (Phoenician-Carthaginian dialect) and the religion and all gods and rituals linked to it were established. For instance, the God Bees and the goddess Astarté, gods of love and happiness. The goddess Astarté changed her name to Tanit, for which we know her nowadays. Ibiza owes its name to the God Bees.

The struggle for power arrived with the expansion of the Roman Empire when the Carthaginian Empire was defeated and disappeared after the Punic War. About the year 146 BC Cornelio Escipión defeated the general Hannibal. The new Roman Empire realised then that they were in an advantageous territorial position in the Mediterranean, in the Pitiusas Islands, which, besides, were considered rich and fertile. The adhesion of these islands to the new metropolis was carried out pacifically through agreements. None of the islands sent their men to the legion although the people in Ibiza formed their own troops in defence of their territories. They also escaped from having to pay tributes to Rome.

Ibiza continued with the mining development of lead and salt, apart from fishing and food industries in order to supply the Empire. After six centuries under the Roman power though, the structure of the city remained in essence the same. We keep samples of coins from the Roman time minted in the first century. They have the images of Augustus, Caligula and Claudius on the heads and the god Cabiro Eshmun, Roman version of Phoenician god Bees, on the tails. The bridge of Sta. Eulalia is also Roman. Ibiza was declared an independent province of Rome about the year 70 and became municipality of Hispania (Spain). In the 3rd century, in the time of the increasing weakening of the Roman Empire, other people became stronger and more powerful. Ebesus, prosperous and tranquil, was attractive for the Vandals, barbarians from the north of Europe that invaded it in the year 425. Meanwhile the Iberian peninsula was reigned by the Byzantine.

The Middle Ages take their first steps in Ibiza during the general Genserico's reign whose dominance extended to a great part of the Mediterranean territories. In this time, year 425, it was established the diocese in Ibiza, though the evangelisation took place probably two centuries before. Although Ibiza was under the Vandal power until VI century there are no traces visible from that time in the society in Ibiza. After the Vandal invasion, it came the Byzantine occupation since the islands belonged to the Empire of Justinian I in the year 535. Ibiza experienced an economic recovery with the improvement of the irrigation systems and the reforestation; the administration remained independent but tributes had yet to be paid to the Empire.


The first Arab incursions in the Iberian territory took place in the VIII century when they defeated the Visigoth Empire. Islam started to expand across great part of the country.
Meanwhile, in Ibiza remained the Byzantine dominance although there was still some clandestine commercial contact with Arabs in its ports. It wasn't after 200 years, in the year 902, when the islands were under the caliphate of Córdoba but it lasted until the year 1031 since it dismembered and Ebesus changed its name to Yebisah once it became part of the Arab reign of Denia.
This was a glorious time for Ibiza. The Arabs turned the city into a fortress with three concentric walled enclosures.
Trade was on the increase thanks to the transactions with the north of Africa to where Ibiza exported wood, salt, etc. Ibiza maintained its contact with Barcelona and pirates from Ibiza were seen on its coasts.

Concerning the development in the interior we should stand out the creation of feixas (irrigation channels) that boosted agriculture.
There are toponyms in the language (Benimussa, Benirras, etc.), folklore, architecture (the tower of the tribute, Sa Portella) left by the Arabs after 300 years of domination. The culture in Ibiza enriched. Marines and warriors lived together with artists, poets and musicians that fill with joy the life of the most rich ones.


In the 13th century James I decided that the Balearics Islands would not be a nest of Saracen pirates but would be annexed to the reign of Cataluña and Aragón. Ibiza was conquered by the archbishop of Tarragona Guillen of Mongrí in 1235. The new conquerors imposed their language (catalán), their laws and institutions. People from all catalan cities moved to Ibiza increasing thus the population of the island. The Crown of Aragón granted those who repopulate the island and the people from Ibiza the rights to trade freely in all the Mediterranean Sea and they also escaped from paying taxes, which made life easier in the island.
In 1276 Ibiza became dependent on Majorca.
In 1299, in order to control the unbalance between the capital, where the majority of the population lived, and the poor towns, the king from Majorca James II set up the Universitat (Town Council) as a self-government system. It was embodied by the General Council, which met once a year or in case of serious matters, and the Secret Council in charge of everyday problems which was made up by delegates from different local social groups: Mano Mayor (nobles and gentlemen), Mano Menor (marines, traders and artisans) and Mano Foránea (peasants).

In 1392 the population was reduced to 500 families due to the abusive exploitation of the natural resources, in addition, the oppression from the Turkish people provoked the creation of an armed body, the Milicia Ibicenca, the Ibiza Militia, for which the marines turned their boats into corsairs boats. In 1353 Jaime III of Majorca gave carte blanche to a squadron in charge of capturing the unfaithful on the African coasts for working as slaves in the country of Ibiza.

The 14th and 15th centuries were disastrous for Ibiza, specially the for the peasants; taxes from the owners, drought, African incursions and finally the plague in 1652 put paid to the buoyant economy of the island. In the 18th century, after the American Civil War, Castilla won over Cataluña and Aragón. Ibiza lost its charter.
Around 1828 it was established by law that there should be no more carte blanche and the boats' owners spent their new life trading and transporting people regularly.
Ibiza lost Las Salinas as communal property when the State sold it to an individual in 1871 for a total amount of 7.442 sterling pounds, which meant an important source of income. It came then the times when the rural society emigrated to the cities in search of opportunities that the island couldn't provide. In1930 it started, at a lower scale, the tourist phenomenon. The first hotels in Ibiza could be seen on the coasts, which brought the first rich, also intellectual, clients. This brings some hope to the economy of Ibiza but then it started the Spanish Civil War provoking hates and bitterness kept during centuries. The anarchy of the oppressed is followed by the methodical massacre of the winners.
In the 50's of the 20th century Ibiza re-emerged, first as a hippy shelterand then as the most important tourist resort in the Mediterranean.
Today, almost in the first decade of 2000, people travelling in search of sun and light find their perfect destination in Ibiza.
Even though it is a place of tradition and customs, it developed a great practical sense throughout the history.
If you have read this story you will then understand the saying of "One candle to God and another to Devil".

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