Mallorca History Facts and Timeline

(Mallorca, Balearic Islands, Spain)

Mallorca is the largest of Spain's Balearic Islands and has long been a popular tourist destination, particularly among British and German families. There are also plenty of sites which appeal to those interested in the island's history and legacy, some dating back as far as prehistoric times.

Evidence of habitation dating back some 8,000 years has been found on the island. However, the recorded history of Mallorca officially dates from the year of 123 BC, when it became part of the Roman Empire.

Roman Times on the Island

The early Romans developed two settlements which remain important commercial centres to this day, namely Pollensa in the north and Palma in the south. The mining of salt and the growing of olives proved to be the mainstays of Mallorca's economy during this era, while the island's soldiers became legendary in the Roman ranks.

Roman rule lasted until 426 AD, when Mallorca was overthrown by the Vandals. The island was conquered by the Byzantine Empire in the second quarter of the 6th century AD, which promoted Christianity and funded church construction. By the 8th century, Mallorca was coming under increasing attacks from North African Muslims and by the 10th century, it had been completely swallowed up by the powerful Caliphate of Córdoba.

Moorish Rule

The Caliphate was at the peak of its powers when it conquered the island in 902 AD, and the next century was a golden era in the history of Mallorca. The capital, Palma, was known as Madina Mayurqa at this time. The island later came under the independent Taifa of Dénia until Palma was occupied by the Catalans and the Pisans in an early 12th-century siege. These invaders were eventually driven off by the Almoravides. Modern Mallorca has few remnants dating back to the Moors, although the ancient Arab Baths in Palma still remain open to visitors.

The Crown of Aragon

In the summer of 1229, King James I the Conqueror (James I of Aragon) landed at Santa Ponsa with a huge army comprising of at least 15,000 troops. During the course of the next year, the reigning Almohad dynasty was replaced and the island was then came under into the Crown of Aragon. The construction of Palma's imposing cathedral also began in 1229, but it wasn't until 1601, some 372 years later, that this famous piece of architecture was eventually completed.

The island had a brief period as the Kingdom of Mallorca under King James II, after his father's death in 1276. He resided in his 14th-century Bellver Castle (Castell de Bellver), now one of the most popular tourist destinations in Palma. His rule lasted until 1344, when King Peter IV (el Cerimoniós) invaded and brought the island back into the Crown of Aragon.

Many of the island's watchtowers and fortifications were built during this period, as it came under continued attack from North Africa's persistent Barbary pirates. Mallorca remained under the Crown of Aragon until the early years of the 18th century, when it became part of a unified Spain at the end of the War of the Spanish Succession.

History of the 20th Century

In 1936, the island was the site of the Battle of Mallorca, as Republican forces were driven off the island by Nationalist troops and the Italian Air Force. The island then remained a Nationalist base for the remainder of the Spanish Civil War.

From 1950 onwards, Mallorca has been much more peaceful and it has established itself as one of the Mediterranean's best-known holiday destinations. Nowadays, more than 20 million visitors pour through the Palma de Mallorca Airport each year.