Balearic Islands

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Balearic Islands (bălēăr´Ĭk), Span. Baleares (bälāä´rās), archipelago, off Spain, in the W Mediterranean, forming Baleares prov. (1990 pop. 767,918) of Spain; also an autonomous region since 1983. Palma is the capital. The chief islands are Majorca, Minorca, and Ibiza. Noted for their scenery and their mild climate, the Balearics are a major tourist destination. After tourism, agriculture and fishing are the chief economic activities; fruit, wine, olive oil, majolica ware, and silver filigree are exported. Both Catalan and Castilian Spanish are spoken. Inhabited since prehistoric times—there are numerous Cyclopean remains—the islands were occupied by Iberians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, and Byzantines. The Moors, who first came in the 8th cent., established (11th cent.) an independent kingdom, which became the seat of powerful pirates, harassing Mediterranean coastal cities and trade. James I of Aragón conquered (1229–35) the islands. They were included (1276–1343) in the independent kingdom of Majorca and reverted to the Aragonese crown under Peter IV. At the outbreak of the Spanish civil war (1936), Majorca and Ibiza were seized by Insurgent forces—Majorca becoming a base of the Italian fleet—while Minorca remained in the hands of the Loyalists until 1939.

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Balearic Islands Group of Spanish islands in the w Mediterranean, off the e coast of Spain; the capital is Palma. The Balearics were successively occupied by all the great Mediterranean civilizations of antiquity. A Moorish kingdom used them as a base for piracy in the 11th century. The chief islands are Majorca, Minorca, and Ibiza. Industries: tourism, silverworking, olive oil, wine, fruit. Area: 5014sq km (1936sq mi). Pop. (2001) 878,627.