Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V03, Page 250 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: it!
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, 1935 sq. m. The archipelago, which lies between 380 40' and 40° 5' N., and between r° 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 MatopiKa and MwopLKa; 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. Geology.—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. Inhabitants.—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. Commerce.—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. Administration.—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. History.—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 twenty-three 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.
End of Article: BALEARIC ISLANDS (Baleares)
JOHN BALE (1495-1563)

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.