Home / History & Culture / Menorca’s Age of Piracy

Menorca’s Age of Piracy

When you’re stretched out on one of Menorca’s sparkling beaches with a cool drink in hand, gazing out at the turquoise Mediterranean, it’s hard to imagine a more peaceful scene. This tiny island is a true slice of heaven, and if you’ve stayed in one of our villas before you can certainly understand why.

Piracy has a long history in Menorca

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.

Over the centuries, Menorca and its surrounding seas has been the tumultuous setting for the swashbuckling vagabonds of lore: pirates

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.


Fiesta Season in Alaior

For a small town, Alaior knows how to throw a big party! Find out more about the fiesta season.

Traces of Menorca’s Ancient History

The island of Menorca holds a secret. Find out about the ancient structures that have the key to the island's past.

Catalan: Menorca’s Mother Tongue

Catalan, the co-official language of Menorca, is alive and well on the island – proof that although it may belong to Spain, its culture is entirely its own.