The Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Moors, Aragonese, British and Spanish have all left their mark on the culture and architecture of the island.
When in Menorca, Do as the Romans Do
The island of Menorca has been conquered by literally dozens of invaders from all over the northern hemisphere in the past two and a half millennia.
An interesting chapter of Menorca’s history is the classical period, stretching from around 400 BC to the end of the first century AD.
Magón of Carthage
As it sits in a prime location in the middle of the Mediterranean, Menorca was long used as a trade base by Phoenician and Greek merchants in ancient times. It was Magón (or Mago) Barca, the brother of the famous Carthaginian military commander Hannibal, whose arrival in Menorca really shook up the locals.
He had his eye on the island’s famous Balearic stone-slingers, or honderos, whose skill was known throughout the Mediterranean. The honderos fired stones at invaders attacking from the sea with such speed and accuracy that they could damage enemy ships from a remarkable distance. Their bravery and expertise was particularly beneficial to Magón at the Battle of Himera in 350 AD, when they protected the Carthaginian army from Agathocles, the tyrant of Syracuse.
Magón left his legacy on the island by renaming the ancient town of Mago (now the capital, Maó-Mahón)after himself.
Quintus Caecilius Metellus
Over 200 years later, the island was conquered by Quintus Caecilius Metellus on behalf of the Roman Empire. It was at this point that Menorca got the name we recognise today: “menor” means smaller in Latin, so-called because the island is a fifth of the size of its neighbour, Majorca.
The Roman military camp that Quintus Caecilius Metellus established on his arrival was located at what we now know as the Port of Sanitja. This site is easy to defend, being the highest point in the area, as well as providing the perfect vantage point for looking out over the northern coast.
Menorca remained under Roman rule for another half a century, until the Vandals – the East Germanic tribe that sacked Rome – invaded in the fifth century AD.
Roman Sites to Visit
If you’re interested in the island’s Roman past, our villas in Fornells are a perfect base from which to explore the Roman town of Cap de Cavalleria, which has a small outdoor museum with a wealth of archaeological finds. You could also take a look at the ruins of two Roman basilicas on the island, one of which is in Son Bou and the other is in Fornas de Torello.
Menorca has a fascinating history. Though much of the Castillo has been destroyed in the past, its ruins are still of major historic interest today.
In Menorca, the operatic tradition has been flourishing since the early nineteenth century. Take a look for yourself.
You might be most familiar with Menorca as a place of endless sand and sunshine, a tiny slice of heaven in the middle of the Mediterranean.