But Menorca and its neighbouring islands haven’t always been the oases of calm that they are now. Over the centuries, these islands and the surrounding seas have been the tumultuous setting for the swashbuckling vagabonds of lore: pirates.
The Roman and Early Islamic Ages
Evidence of piracy in the Balearics goes back at least as far as ancient Roman times. Around 120 BCE, Quintus Caecilius Metellus was appointed to lead the campaign against the Mediterranean pirates operating in the Balearics. Having defeated them, Metellus conquered both Mallorca and Menorca for Rome.
In later centuries, the islands were passed back and forth among regional powers. From the Vandals to the Byzantines, from the Umayyads to the Swedish Vikings, many groups attempted to control this corner of the Mediterranean. But through it all, Balearic pirates remained the masters of the Western Mediterranean, and continued to use Menorca and Mallorca as their base.
Crusade in the Balearics
During the twelfth century, the balance of power in the Iberian Peninsula began to shift from the Muslims to the Christians. The increasingly powerful Italian republics launched a crusade to conquer the Balearics and suppress Muslim piracy. Though it was successful in reducing the considerable sea power of the island, the conquest didn’t last long. Within a year, the Balearics were conquered again.
The Holy Roman Empire
Piracy continued to roil the western Mediterranean well into the medieval period. In the early 1500s, under the rule of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Barbary pirates from North Africa frequently attacked the Balearics. Around the same time, Turkish privateers were raiding both the islands and the Spanish mainland.
Over the centuries, countless nations and peoples have tried to conquer the Balearics and control the piracy that thrived there. However, time and again, Menorca and its cousins proved difficult to subdue.
Though bandits and brigands no longer prowl the seas around Menorca, there are plenty of ways to celebrate the island’s swashbuckling past. During your stay in one of our villas, why not rent a boat and spend the day cruising the waters like the pirates of old? Alternatively, try snorkelling or scuba diving near one of the island’s many shipwrecks offshore. If you look closely, you might just find treasure.