History of beautiful Ibiza
Ibiza is the largest of a group of the western Balearic islands, called the Pityûssai or “Pine covered Islands”. The Greeks gave the name Pityûssai to the island. The Balearic Islands include over fifty islands, most of them are uninhabited. Ibiza has a very rich history and many tribes saw the beauty of the island, its minerals and its strategic position. Here is a brief summary of the island’s history from the first settlers to the cosmopolitan island that it is today.
One of the first settlers who came to the island were the Phoenicians. They came to Ibiza in 654 BCE. The Phoenicians where an enterprising maritime trading culture which spread across the Mediterranean from 1550 BC to 300 BC. The Phoenicians first settled in the area of Sa Caleta where you still can find some remains of a Phoenician settlement. The main source of income was the production of dye, salt, fish sauce (Garmun) and wool. Until today the people of Ibiza have been exporting salt also known as “the white gold”. Around 600 BC they left the Sa Calata area to establish Ibiza Town (Eivissa).
After the decline of the Phoenicians, Ibiza came under the control of the Carthaginians. These people were a former colony of the Phoenicians. One of the things the Carthaginians established was a shrine for the goddess Tanit located in a cave at Es Culleram. You can still visit the cave today. Tanit is the goddess of fertility and that is why a lot of people claim that Ibiza has a feminine energy. They exploited the salt beds in Las Salinas and made the island’s economy flourish. Ibiza was one of the major trading routes of this period. One of the biggest findings of this time was the Puig des Molins, a large cemetery that measured almost 50.000 square meters. The site is the biggest and best preserved necropolis of the Phoenician-Punic culture with over 3.000 Punic tombs.
The Roman empire was at that time very powerful and they expanded their borders far into the Mediterranean. During the second Punic war, (for those who did not pay a lot of attention during history class myself included….The Punic war is the war between the Romans and the Carthaginians), the Romans wanted to conquer the capital of the Carthaginians named Carthage. The Romans succeeded in this in 123 BC. They took Ibiza naming it Ebusus. You still can see the influence of the Romans in the city of Santa Eulalia. The bridge that leads to this fantastic city was built by the Romans. Therefore, next time you enter Santa Eulalia you are literally trodding along a piece of Roman history. During the Roman empire Ibiza was a quiet Roman outpost and was excluded from the Roman main trading routes.
After the fall of the Roman empire the vandals, Byzantines and later the Moors, ruled Ibiza for a brief period of time. In 707, however, the Arabs occupied Ibiza and they remained for almost 5 centuries.
They named the island Yehbisa, doesn’t it sound familiar…? You can see a lot of Arab influences in some of the local instruments and costumes of Ibiza. Especially in the Ibizan architecture you can see a lot of Arab imprint . Some people even claim that the Ibicenco dialect has some Arab influences. The Arabs established the trade connection between Ibiza and Denia, a town on the Spanish mainland. This made the economy of Ibiza flourish. The Arabs were also responsible for the first big impressive walls bulwarking Dalt Vila.
As history has always shown us, every great nation will eventually fall, and exactly this happened to the Arabs when they were driven off by the Catalans around 1200. The region quickly lost its importance. Things changed however, when the Spanish reclaimed their lost regions and Ibiza was one of them. The Spanish restored Ibiza as one of of their main trading routes and that attracted pirates from North Africa. The magnificent cathedral, Santa Marisa d’Eivissa, was built in the 13th century on top of the old walls of the Dalt Vila.The fortifications of the city of Ibiza were declared World heritage site by Unesco in 1999.
The Ibicenc population was depleted by many wars, but they where determent to defend their villages against the pirates so they built the watch towers. You can still see pirate watchtowers around the island. They were restored but in the old days every tower could see the next tower and so on for the entire island. If one of the towers spotted a pirate ship they warned the other towers with flame signals. The typical white fincas that you can find all over the island weren’t always white. In the days the pirates were a threat to the Ibicencs, the houses were brown-coloured to blend in with the countryside.
The pirates were always looking for small settlements and that’s why most of the fincas were built far away from each other.
Ibiza was known for its free thinking, long before the hippies arrived in the late 1950s. A fantastic era saw the first light of dawn. Writers, artist and musicians, the so-called hippies, were known to the locals as peluts (hairies). Since they were liberal thinkers, they fled from the Spanish mainland during the fascist rule of general Franco. I really start to sound like my old history teacher in the second grade but hang in there with me…They brought fantastic things to the island, that still attract millions of people to Ibiza today. In the 1960s when tourism started to bloom, Ibiza attracted a lot of hippies from all over the world. The tribe of free thinkers settled in areas like Ibiza Town, San Carlos, San Juan and La Mola. The Hippies gave birth to big clubs like Pacha and Amnesia which at that time still had a vibrant hippie character… There is of course the hippie market Las Dalias in San Carlos but that is another story.
So as you can see, Ibiza has always attracted different tribes that walked the earth. Nowadays we know Ibiza as the party capital of the world. I guess that the Phoenicians, the islands first inhabitants, were not so wrong after all to name Ibiza at that time Ibossim….after their god of music and dance.