On our recent long weekend trip to Palma we barely scratched the surface of the island. However, I like to understand a bit about the history of places we visit as it provides some context to its architecture. Although the island has long been a top tourist destination, it appears to have enjoyed quite a colourful and tumultuous history and been the holiday destination of choice for many invaders.
It’s thought humans have lived on Mallorca since 7000 BC, but little is known of these early inhabitants. After the Phoenicians and Greeks started using Mallorca as a pivotal trading post, the Romans took over the area in 123 BC although Mallorca’s famous sling throwers made that feat much more challenging than the Romans anticipated.
In 426, Mallorca was sacked and annexed by the Vandals. In 534, the Byzantine Empire conquered it and administered it along with Sardinia. During this period, Christianity boomed and many churches were built. North African raiders regularly attacked the region from 707 until the Emirate of Cordoba annexed it in 902.
The Caliphate’s rule ushered in a new period of prosperity. Many local industries were developed and agriculture was improved by irrigation. In 1015, Mallorca came under the ruling of the Taifa of Denia, and was an independent Taifa from 1087 – 1114. Thereafter, the Pisans and Catalans laid siege to Palma for eight months. After the fall of the city, the invaders gave way and were replaced by the Almoravides from North Africa, followed by the Almohads in 1203. In 1229 King James I of Aragon attacked with 15,000 men and 1,500 horses, finally taking possession of Mallorca after a bloody three-month war and Jaume II started overseeing the region.
In 1276, after the death of James I, the kingdom was divided between his sons with James II became the king of Mallorca. In 1344, King Peter IV of Aragon marched into the kingdom and re-incorporated the island into the crown. From 1479 onwards, the Crowns of Aragon and Castile were united. Then, in 18th century, after the war of the Spanish succession, Mallorca became part of the Spanish province of Baleares in 1716 by the Decretos de Nueva Planta.
The island was a Nationalist stronghold at the start of the Spanish Civil War and consequently the subject of an amphibious landing in August 1936, intent on driving out the Nationalists and reclaiming the island. Fascist Italy occupied the region until its withdrawal from the island in1939 following the Battle of Mallorca.
Since the 1950s, the advent of mass tourism has transformed the island into a destination for foreign visitors and attracted many service workers from all over Europe, South America and Africa.
Aside from visiting the capital Palma, we also drove along the Island’s south-west coast visiting Port Andratx which is now quite an exclusive area though in the past it too was occupied by the Romans and subject to attacks from Barbary pirates. In the 16th century a system of observation towers was erected on the island as a means of protection against pirates many of which still exist here along the coast. We also visited Port Soller which presumably suffered from similar attacks. Now the only things the two ports have to worry about is the influx of tourists