The history of Menorca is rich and interesting. For the past two and a half thousand years the island has been attacked and conquered by many different peoples from throughout northern Europe. Every invading culture left its legacy and all over the island there is evidence of the past presence of the Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, Vandals, Moors, Aragonese, and of course the Spanish and British. |
One of the most fascinating periods in the history of Menorca is that known as the classical period. Beginning approximately 400BC and continuing to the end of the first century AD, this period saw many changes on the island.
Magón of Carthage
Menorca boasts a very attractive location, strategically speaking, and for many years it was a busy trading port for both the Phoenician and Greek merchants.
It wasn’t until the brother (Magón (or Mago) Barca) of the Carthaginian military commander arrived on the island that things started to change dramatically and have a huge effect on the local communities. He recognised the skills of the highly regarded honderos, or stone-slingers, and he wanted to make use of them in his quest to protect his army. The honderos were expert at slinging their stones and targeting enemies who were approaching from the sea. The accuracy at which they performed their skills meant that many an invading fleet was halted in its tracks.
These men were brave and they were particularly effective in the Battle of Himera, which took place in 350AD. There they provided protection to the Carthaginian army and kept it safe from the Agathocles, the tyrannical ruler of Syracuse.
Magón left his stamp on the history of Menorca by way of renaming the old town of Mago after himself, which is now the capital (Maó-Mahón).
Quintus Caecilius Metellus
When Quintus Caecilius Metellus conquered Menorca for the Romans, around 200 years later, the island was given the name it still has today. The word ‘menor’ is a Latin word meaning smaller, and indeed Menorca is the smallest of the three famous Balearic Islands and is just a fifth of the size of Majorca.
The Port of Sanitja is the location of the original Roman camp on Menorca, founded by Quintus Caecilius Metellus when he laid his claim to the island. Due to its high location, this spot was the ideal place to keep a look out for potential enemies and was easily defended.
The Romans remained in power on Menorca for another 50 years. It was then that, after ransacking Rome, the Vandals, who hailed from East Germany, made their move on Menorca and succeeded to conquer it.
Roman Sites to Visit
Many visitors to the island have a particular interest in the Roman history of Menorca. With so many ancient sites to visit, few leave disappointed. The Ecomuseu de Cap de Cavalleria has a museum dedicated to the relevant period and is a fascinating place to spend an hour or two. The Roman basilicas of Son Bou and Fornas de Torello are also worth a look.
Brenda Jaaback, Managing Director of Bartle Holidays, is a renowned Menorca expert. From its history to its people and from its wildlife to its cuisine - no secret of the island remains hidden to her. If you're coming to explore the history of Menorca or simply to enjoy the island's stunning natural surrounds, Brenda personally selects the finest properties for her clients and is the go-to person for anyone planning a relaxing break in the Balearics. Bartle Holidays makes no warranty as to the accuracy of information contained in this article and excludes any liability of any kind for the information.
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