10 Fabulous (historical) Facts about Mallorca

Mallorca History with Mallorca HikingThe history of Mallorca is fairly well documented and of course taught to all the resident children at school on the island. To the visiting tourist and “newer” residents (depending on your level of interest), here are some interesting facts about the history of Mallorca, which uncover some of the myths and legends and equip you with some information to impress your friends and (we hope) the locals too!

Fact Nº1:    Majorca or Mallorca? For the British in Mallorca the island is known and referred to as Majorca (the “j” being silent or hard, usually depending on which end of the UK you come from). The island was originally named by the Romans, who referred to its size compared to the other Balearic islands – Major (i.e. large). “Major” in Latin is pronounced as MAH-yor – so the English spelling of Mallorca is correct to its roots, but the pronunciation is won by the locals. The obvious spelling to follow the pronunciation in Castellano is with “ll”. So the name Majorca/Mallorca can still be justified by both arguments!

Fact Nº2: The first human settlement of Mallorca is recorded as 3000BC (although there are records of burial chambers that could date as far back as 6000BC). The Greeks and Phoenicians established trading ports here and the Balearic Islands formed part of the Carthaginian Trading Empire from North Africa.

palma-cathedral mallorca hikingFact Nº3: The Romans conquered Mallorca in 123 BC and their occupation lasted until 5th century AD. The Romans were responsible for naming the capital city Palmeria (now abbreviated to Palma – meaning Palm of Victory) and Alcudia (Pollentia).

Fact Nº4: The 5th century AD also sees the first records of vandalism in Mallorca! The Roman’s were defeated by the Vandal kingdom of Africa.

Fact Nº5: The island was then conquered again and became part of the Byzantine Empire from 523 AD to the 8th century.

Fact Nº6: Yet another conquest of Mallorca in 902 by the Moors started the Arab occupation of the island, which lasted some 300 years. The Moors had ruled mainland Spain since the early 8th century but came to Mallorca much later.

Fact Nº7: Many of us have seen the well-enacted fiestas of the battles between the Moors and the Christians, but the real conquest by the Christian armies of King James I of Aragon were in 1229. This is also when the Catalan language became the island’s official language. (Did you know Catalan is a derivative of Latin, so it’s really been around since Roman times!)

Bellver Castle with Mallorca HikingFact Nº8: King James II succeeded his father James I on his death in 1276, and it was during his reign that Palma Cathedral and Bellver castle were started.

Fact Nº9: The design and early construction of Palma Cathedral were started in 1229 but it wasn’t finished until 1601 – so don’t complain about delays on your building works – at least today it’s mañana – not next century!!

Pirates Mallorca Hiking

Fact Nº10: In the mid-14th century Mallorca became part of the Kingdom of Aragon and was aligned to mainland Spain. But Spain’s New World campaigns and the fateful Armada attack on Britain in 1588 saw the island’s defences weakened and exposed to attack from pirates. Some are still holding out in Magaluf to this day…!

We’ve covered four and a half thousand years here – next week we’ll slow down the pace and travel just 400 years from 1600 to the modern day, so see you then for our next installment!


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