Ibiza is the westernmost of the Balearic
Islands and few islands can have changed hands more often
because since the beginning of time Ibiza has constantly been
invaded or visited by whoever travelled through the Mediterranean
Sea. Therefore, I think it only necessary to explain briefly
the tolerance of the local people of this ancient island.
The island of Ibiza has been a coveted possession
throughout its history and a valuable prize to all those who
effected its capture. This is not to be wondered at when one
considers its fine strategic position in the western Mediterranean,
its two large natural harbours, one on either side of the
island, its high vantage points from which to counter would
be invaders, its fertility and obviously its favourable climate.
There has always been two fundamental commodities
here on this island that are essential to preserve and maintain
life - salt and fresh water - which were originally the foremost
attraction for the bold seafaring Phoenicians to stop off
here and stock up with these two key reserves.
During this period that the Phoenicians
came over from the east intent on setting up trading posts
in and around the Mediterranean coast of Spain, Ibiza was
an obvious line of communication which was consequently occupied,
but they were not to hold permanence. In turn the Greeks and
then the Carthaginians successively overcame the occupants
and established themselves in control. Each race in its turn
contributed to the development of the island in a number of
ways. It was the Carthaginians who, in 645 BC, built the Acropolis
of Ereso on the hill on which the town of Ibiza now stands
and who named the island Ibosim. Although there is no conclusive
evidence, it is generally believed that the great Hannibal
was born on Conejera, the small island guarding the entrance
to the Bay of San Antonio and a main street in Ibiza now honours
him with his name.
One of the earliest known names of the island,
Gimnesia, indicates that the inhabitants of that time, in
common with those on the island of Mallorca, were nudists.
Now it is only the holidaymakers who try to emulate that ancient
Successive names were attached by the island's
conquerors. Ebysos was attributed to the Greeks, who called
the southern group of the Balearics Islands Pityusas (pine
covered). Ibiza became known as Ebusus during the Roman domination
while the Arabs later called the island Yebisah.
Towards the end of the 2nd century BC, after
an occupation lasting more than five hundred years, the Carthaginians
gave way to the Romans. They too remained in control of the
island for several centuries and added further to its development.
Their most noteworthy contributions, still in current use,
are the salt pans at Las Salinas and some of the island's
main roads. Roman domination of the western Mediterranean
started to decline before the close of the 3rd century AD
with the Visigoth invasion of Spain from the north. Shortly
afterwards, in 426 AD, Ibiza was taken by the Vandals. Little
more than a century later it was recaptured by the Byzantine
armies. This was in 535 AD and another comparatively short
period of development and reorganisation ensured.
By the turn of the 7th century the Moors
led by Tariq stood poised in North Africa for the invasion
of Southern Spain. Simultaneously, in 711 AD they landed not
only in Spain but made the first of several successive invasions
of Ibiza. Their first occupancy lasted for less than a century.
Then followed the most dreadful period of fighting and devastation
in the island's history. Between 798 AD and 909 AD the island
changed hands four more times - a period of siege and counter
siege - during which first the French and later the Normans
successfully contested the Moors for occupancy and control.
It was during this time that Christianity was restored to
There was no lasting peace, however. In
900 AD after several attempts to recapture Yebisah, the Moors
eventually re-established themselves in command. Their next
settlement was to last for some three hundred years, broken
only by a short period when, after a fierce and bitter war,
a crusade under the Archbishop of Pisa achieved victory over
the defenders. There is no doubt that Ibiza was a valuable
prize to the Moors who quickly again regained control. Their
long period of occupation too has left many marks still in
evidence today, some seven hundred years later, both in the
customs and characteristics of the Ibicencans, their dialect
and in the whitewashed Moorish style houses.
On 8th August 1235 a force of Catalans under
the Archbishop of Tarragona, Guillermo de Montgrí finally
drove out the Moors. Since that time, and indeed, until early
in the 19th century repeated attempts were made to capture
the island both by Moors and the Turks but all without success.
Christianity was quickly restored to the
island immediately after the Moors had been finally vanquished.
One of the first tasks of Guillermo de Montgrí was
to establish a church in Ibiza. The Moslem mosque, previously
the site of the old Roman church, and possibly before that
the location of the original Carthaginian Acropolis, was chosen
on which to build the church of Santa Maria which was then
of Gothic construction and this is now the cathedral. Little
of the original structure remains however as the church was
almost entirely rebuilt during the middle of the 18th century.
During the 15th century Ibiza was made into
an island fortress. Watch towers, many of which you can still
see, were built in prominent positions around the coast. These
acted as vantage points from which to scour the sea and give
warning of the approach of invading fleets. In 1585 the construction
of the stone wall around the old city of Ibiza was completed.
This replaced the old Arab wall. Its ruggedness, even today,
testifies to the skill of its builders. Leading into the main
entrance was a draw-bridge which, when raised, sealed off
the gateway. This then was the citadel into which the defending
warriors of Ibiza could go to withstand a long and sustained
attack. Most of the village churches, too, had fortifications
built into their towers.
It was during the 17th century that the
famed Corsairs of Ibiza first became known. Renowned for their
courage and daring they were formed to seek out and repel
the Moorish pirates. An obelisk in their honour now stands
on the waterfront in Ibiza.
The language or rather dialect of the Ibicencans
is peculiar to the island. It is basically Catalan with traces
of Moorish, French and Italian. Like most rural dialects it
is clipped and limited in vocabulary and rarely is it committed
to print. Although the children are taught Spanish at school
and this is constantly heard on the radio and television the
locals still lapse into Ibicencan in their homes and daily
lives. Nor does the local newspaper, the Diarío de
Ibiza, which is written in Spanish, appear to influence their
speaking habits. There still are however many of the peasants
who are unable to read or write, although most of them can
make themselves understood when speaking to foreigners from
the mainland of Spain.
The tourism trade was the last of the invaders
to this beautiful island and therefore I've never known such
a place like Ibiza where the local folk have this unique tolerance
towards holidaymakers who descend in the thousands here on
their island each summer.
Closure: after what the inhabitants of this
very old island of Ibiza have had to experience over the centuries
of time the meaning of the word tolerance "tis too starved
an argument for my sword" and besides Café del
Mar opens today.