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The island of Majorca in the Balearic Islands - The History

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The position of Mallorca in the western Mediterranean was - at the time - a key element in the machinations of power, but the island was rarely at the heart of major European business. However, the island has had its share of invasions, wars, famine and prosperity.
The talayotic Epoch
Hypothetical drawing of a Balearic slinger (author Johnny Shumate). Click to enlarge the image.Around 1200 BC, people, probably from Minor Asia, settled in Majorca and Menorca. These people are now known as Talayotic people, because of the buildings shaped like watchtowers they left, and that is called talaiot (talaiot in Catalan), from the Arabic word "Talâ’i" meaning "watchtower".

The most common were circular talayots, which could reach a height of 6 m and had two floors. Their purpose is uncertain symbol of the power of a local chief, burial place, warehouse, tower defense, religious building? There were at least 200 Talayotic villages across the island of Majorca, the largest of which were in the south and southeast of the island. Simple ceramic and bronze objects (swords, axes, necklaces), have been found on these sites.

The contacts of the Talayotic people with the outside world came from the Greek and Phoenician traders. The Carthaginians tried to settle in Mallorca but failed, but they managed to enlist Talayotic peoples as mercenaries. These warriors were gifted to the use of the sling: they were named Balears (an ancient Greek word meaning "to throw"), and therefore their islands of origin took the name of the Balearic Islands.

In the Carthaginian armies, Balearic fighters threw the enemy bursts of shots from 4 cm to 6 cm, oval, before the Carthaginian infantry went on the attack. The Balearic also used short swords to fight in hand-to-hand combat, but wore virtually no protection. They were present at the Carthaginian victory over the Greeks in Sicily in the fifth century BC and also in the Punic Wars against Rome.

The Romans settled in Spain and the Carthaginians were defeated at the far end of the Second Punic War. Undisputed masters of the western Mediterranean, the Romans could ignore Mallorca and Menorca, but the two islands became bases of piracy against merchant ships of the Empire. Rome could not allow that.

The Roman Conquest of the Balearic
In the year 123 BC, the Roman general Quintus Caecilius Metellus conquered the Balearic Islands. Cognizant that island warriors were capable of launching heavy stones against the waterline of his ships and sink them, Metellus had covered his ships heavy leather skins, inventing the first ironclads. Forsaken by their inability to inflict serious damage, Balearic warriors had fled inland before the advancing men Metellus. It is believed that the Romans landed on the island of Mallorca in the area of Platja dEs Trenc in the south of the island.

Metellus brought to Iberia 3000 veterans and founded two military camps in the usual Roman style, with the intersection of two main streets: the cardo maximus and decumanus maximus. These camps were known as Palmeria or Palma and Pollentia, which quickly became the main cities of Mallorca. Pollentia, perfectly located in the north-east of the island, between two bays of Pollença and Alcúdia was the older of the two colonies.

These settlers lived together - apparently in a peaceful manner - with the population growing talayotic declining because no uprising of the indigenous population against the domination of Rome has been reported. With the introduction of Latin as the language of administration, Mallorca Romanized over the years until the Christian era. Incorporated into the Roman Empire, and thus its culture and its infrastructure, and taking advantage of the ideal location of the Balearic Islands on several trade routes, the Majorcan economy prospered.

When the Roman Empire collapsed, Mallorca was occupied by the Vandals and the Byzantines.

The Moorish conquest of the Balearic
From 707 AD, Mallorca had suffered a first landing and pillaging by the eldest son of Musa ibn Nusair, the governor of the Umayyad caliphate in North Africa.

In 711, after the battle of Guadalete, the Visigothic kingdom in Spain succumbed to the onslaught of the Moors, led by the Berber General Tarik, who continued the conquest of the Iberian Peninsula on behalf of the Umayyad Caliphate of Damascus, Syria. Whole peninsula came under Moorish domination under the name Al Andalus, except a narrow region along the Atlantic coast (north-west), the Balearic Islands were isolated and fell into an economic and demographic crisis.

However the island of Majorca was not conquered by the Moors before the tenth century: the governor of the Umayyad caliphate in North Africa, Hicham El Khaoulani, arrived for the first time in Mallorca when his ships were diverted to the island by a storm on his way to Mecca. After that, he harassed the island by many incursions to persuade the emir of Cordoba conquer; emir named captain of an invasion fleet that took the Balearic archipelago at the end of the year 903. Hicham El Khaoulani was elected by the people as governor of Majorca and the Balearic Islands, and his election was approved by the caliph Abd al-Rahman III shortly after. Hicham El Khaoulani was the first wali Muslim Umayyad dynasty of the Balearic Islands, which became part of the Emirate of Córdoba in the Al-Andalus.

The city was named Medina de Mallorca Mayurca, the Moors built there the Almudaina Palace, mosques and public baths, the realization that took the most time was the port, which became an important commercial center of the western Mediterranean. The Balearic became a haven for pirates who attacked brash Christian ships in the Western Mediterranean, which hindered trade between commercial ports Pisa, Genoa, Barcelona and Marseille. The main financial resources of the Moors came Majorca loot raids against Christian lands, control of maritime trade and tribute that farming communities of Mallorca had to pay to the emir.

History of Majorca - Mallorca Administrative division under Moorish domination (author Lliura). Click to enlarge the image.The Moors introduced in the Balearic Islands a series of new crops: artichoke, rice and saffron, while terraces (marjada) were built into the mountains to increase the area of arable land, irrigation systems, called qanats were created.

In 1116 a new era began in Majorca, when the Almoravids - a Berber tribe in Morocco - took control of the island from mainland Spain. The Balearic reached new heights in prosperity, especially under the reign of Ishaq Wali, who reigned from 1152 to 1185. But the troubles were not far: Moroccan warlike tribe Almohad landed in Spain, overturning everything in its path. A tussle for the Balearic Islands was inevitable and, in 1203, the Almohads took full control of the archipelago.

No doubt all these struggles between Muslim factions, had not gone unnoticed in Christian Spain, where the Reconquista had gained momentum after the rout of the Almohad army at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212. In 1250 the Christian armies of Ferdinand III of Castile (canonized as St. Ferdinand) resumed Valencia, Extremadura, Cordoba and Seville on behalf of Castile, the last Muslims were expelled from Portugal. In such a context, it is hardly surprising that the plan should be designed to also take the Balearic Islands, Mallorca all that continues to be an important basis of piracy which seriously hindered the Christian maritime commerce.

Catalan reconquest of Mallorca
In 1114 a Pisan-Catalan crusade had conquered Mallorca, but the following year, the island was taken over by the Moors.

History of Mallorca - Map conquest of Mallorca by Jaume I. Click to enlarge the image.Jaume I (1208-1276), the powerful king of Aragon and Catalonia, aged just 21, had promised to take the Balearic Islands and end the Moorish pirates. On September 5, 1229, 155 ships, carrying 1,500 knights and 15,000 infantry, set sail in the Catalan ports of Barcelona, ​​Tarragona and Salou and set sail Mallorca. James I - later known as the Conqueror (Jaume I el Conqueridor) - landed in Santa Ponça and after two quick skirmishes, marched on Medina Mayurka, to which he laid siege. Finally, on December 31, the Christian troops broke through the defenses and rushed into the city, plundering without mercy. During the following months, Jaume I pursued the enemy across the island, but the resistance was low. The rest of the Balearic Islands fell later: Ibiza in 1235 and Minorca in 1287, during a fierce campaign, during the reign of Alfonso III of Aragon.

History of Majorca - Majorca Map after the Reconquest. Click to enlarge the image.Once completed the conquest of Mallorca, Jaume I proceeded to the distribution of land among his lieutenants and allies. The alquerias (farms) Moors, the rafals (hamlets) and villages were handed over to their new masters (senyors). Many names were changed, but many communities retained their Arabic name. Many places took the name of their new lord, preceded by the possessive particle "Son" or "Sa". Jaume I wrote down the distribution of land in the "Llibre del Repartiment" the Book of Distribution.

Priorities Jaume there was a rapid construction program of churches, the Christianization of the local population and sending settlers from Catalonia - especially near the city of Girona. During the first century after the conquest, the Ciutat (City), Palma, housed the majority of the population of the island. The Part Forana ("part outside" of the Ciutat) was divided into 14 districts, but the power was concentrated in Mallorca la Ciutat. Under the authority of the king, the government daily was provided by six Jurats, or "judges". In 1382 (some sources say in 1447) a new system of government of the island was introduced, named "Sac i Sort" (Bag and Fate). In other words, the names of six candidates to be appointed Jurats for the next 12 months were randomly selected four bags. This system will remain more or less in use until 1715.

Christians Catalan settlers imposed their religion, their language and customs to the island, and most of the Muslim population was enslaved. Those who had not fled or accepted this fate, had only one real choice: abandon Islam.

In the Part Forana farms were designated as possessions (possessió) and were the basis for the agricultural economy which the island was largely depend. The fields were managed by "amos" true to their noble masters managers - often absent - and were often themselves wealthy farmers. They used missatges (permanent agricultural labor) and jornalers (day laborers), which, like the other one, usually living on the edge of poverty. Often, small farmers were unable to make ends meet, surrendered their property to the most important areas and became jornalers.

The Kingdom of Majorca
History of Majorca - Coronation of James II. Click to enlarge the image.At the death of King Jaume I in 1276, the Kingdom of Aragon was divided between his two surviving son, the eldest son, Pere II became king of Aragon and Valencia and Count of Barcelona in Catalonia, while the youngest, Jaume II became king of an independent Majorca, Count of Roussillon (Rosselló), Count of Cerdanya (Cerdanya) and Lord of Montpellier (Montpeller), its capital was at Perpignan (Perpinyà) in Roussillon.

History of Majorca - Tomb of King Sancho I of Majorca in Perpignan Cathedral (author Josep Relalias). Click to enlarge the image.However, Pere II saw himself as the legitimate heir of the whole kingdom of Jaume I. In 1285, the son of Pere II, Alphonse, took Majorca - before succeeding his father as King of Aragon in 1291, under the name of Alfons II el Franc. In 1295, Jaume II of Aragon, called Jaume II el Just, brother and successor of Alfonso II, gave the island to his uncle Jaume II of Majorca, which could rule again on Mallorca, until his death in 1311.

Jaume II’s successors were his younger son Sanç I, then, in 1324, the nephew of Sancho, Jaume III. James III de Mallorca was ousted by Pere III of Aragon in 1343 and was forced into exile in Perpignan. Six years later, he tried to recover his kingdom by landing in Majorca, but was defeated and killed by his brother King Peter IV of Aragon, at the Battle of Llucmajor, October 25, 1349. The kingdom of Majorca was now linked to the Crown of Aragon, but retained a high degree of autonomy.

Mallorca under the Crown of Aragon
The fate of Mallorca, and in particular that of Palma, so closely followed that of Barcelona, ​​Catalan seat of the Crown of Aragon and hub of maritime commerce. In the middle of the fifteenth century, the two cities were among the most prosperous in the Mediterranean. Palma was some 35 consulates and trade shows scattered around the Mediterranean. The merchant community of the city had a merchant fleet of 400 ships and medieval houses of the merchants, Sa Llotja was a bustling business center.

But all was not rosy: the plague struck several times (in 1348, 1375, 1384, 1388, 1396, 1400, 1439, 1475, 1483 and 1503), decimating the population. In Part Forana, agricultural workers lived on the edge of starvation and crops were poor to the point that in 1374 people were falling in the streets, dead of starvation. Frequent localized revolts, such as the one in 1391 (the same year of furious workers sacked the Jewish Quarter Call in the Ciutat), were ruthlessly suppressed by the army.

With the marriage in 1469 of the Catholic kings Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, the two major kingdoms of the Iberian peninsula were united. Mallorca was now part of a united Spain.

Under the reign of the Emperor Charles V, a much greater shock to the ruling classes was the revolt of the Germanies in 1521, an uprising of the urban working class caused largely by crushing taxes required of the lower classes. They forced the viceroy to flee. In October 1522 Charles V (Carlos V) sent the army, which took control of the island until March next.

History of Mallorca - Map of watchtowers and defense. Click to enlarge the image.Meanwhile commercial star Mallorca had declined and the coast was the constant target of attacks by North African pirates. The construction of watchtowers around the island - many of which are still standing - is a testament to this problem. The system of signals and codes consisted of linking a series of signs transmitted from tower to tower, from the point of observation of the enemy and to the city of Palma de Mallorca to organize defense and send help to any point where the island was attacked. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the optical signals were performed with smoke by day and fire by night.

Some of the most colorful traditional festivals Mallorca as "Moros i Cristians" to Pollença and "Es Firo" to Sóller date from this period. When the fate of Spain also declined, from the seventeenth century, Mallorca slipped into the provincial oblivion. The fact support the House of Habsburg in the War of the Spanish Succession (1703-1715) did not love Mallorca by the monarch of the House of Bourbon, Felipe V, finally victorious: in 1716 it did abolish all privileges and autonomy of the island.

Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the fate of Mallorca followed the rest of Spain.

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