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Minorca or Menorca (Catalan and ; from Latin: Insula Minor, later Minorica "minor island") is one of the Balearic Islandsmarker located in the Mediterranean Seamarker belonging to Spainmarker. It takes its name from being smaller than the nearby island of Majorcamarker.

Minorca has a population of approximately 88,000. It is located 39°47' to 40°00'N, 3°52' to 4°24'E. Its highest point, called El Toromarker or Monte Toro, is 358 m/1174 ft above sea level.


The earliest stories from the islands speak of a people who went about their daily business nude, as evidenced by the original name for the group of islands which Minorca belongs - the Gymnesiae. Eventually the natives learnt the art of wearing clothes from sea traders, but remained naked in all but the coldest months. They were cave dwellers with no architecture. Early stories attest to their love of trading womenfolk. When dealing with outsiders, Minorcans would prefer to be paid in wine rather than coinage.

As with the the rest of the Balearics, the Minorcans were famous for their skill with the sling. They went into battle nude carrying up to three slings, with one round the head, one round the body, and one in the hand. The three slings were of different lengths, for stones of different sizes; the largest they hurled with as much force as if it were flung from a catapult; and they seldom missed their mark. To this exercise they were trained from infancy, in order to earn their livelihood as mercenary soldiers. It is said that the mothers only allowed their children to drink wine when they had knocked a piece of bread off a post with the sling.

Phoenicians took possession of the island in very early times and improved its level of civilisation.

The island is known for its collection of megalithic stone monuments: navetes, taules, and talaiots, which speak of a very early prehistoric human activity. Some of the earliest culture on Minorca was influenced by other Mediterraneanmarker cultures, including the Minoan of ancient Cretemarker. For example the use of inverted plastered timber columns at Knossosmarker is thought to have influenced early peoples of Minorca in imitating this practice.

The end of the Punic wars saw an increase in piracy in the western Mediterranean. The Roman occupation of Hispania had meant a growth of maritime trade between the Iberianmarker and Italian peninsulas. Pirates took advantage of the strategic location of the Balearic Islands to raid Roman commerce, using both Minorca and Majorca as bases. In reaction to this, the Romans invaded Minorca. By 121 BC both islands were fully under Roman control, later being incorporated into the province of Hispania Citerior.

In 13 BC Roman emperor Augustus reorganized the provincial system and the Balearic Islands became part of the Tarraconensis imperial province. The ancient town of Magomarker was transformed from a Carthaginianmarker town to a Roman town.

Jews of Minorca

The island had a large Jewish population. The Letter on the Conversion of the Jews by a fifth century bishop named Severus tells of the conversion of the island's Jewish community in AD 418. A number of Jews, including Theodore, a rich representative Jew who stood high in the estimation of his coreligionists and of Christians alike, underwent baptism. An act of conversion brought about, in fact, within a previously peaceful coexisting community by means of the expulsion of the ruling Jewish elite into the bleak hinterlands, the burning of synagogues, and the gradual reinstatement of certain Jewish families after the coerced acceptance of Christianity and its supremacy and rule in order to allow survival for those who had not already perished. Many Jews remained within the Jewish faith while outwardly professing Christian faith. Some of these Jews form part of the Xueta community.

When Minorca became an English possession in 1713, the English willingly proffered an asylum to thousands of Jews from African cities. A synagogue was soon erected in Mahon.

Vandals and Moors

The Vandals easily conquered the island in the 5th century. The Byzantine Empire recovered it in 534. Following the Moorish conquest of peninsular Spain, Minorca was annexed to the Caliphate of Córdoba in 903 and given the Arabicized name of Manûrqa, with many Moors emigrating to the island. In 1231, after Christian forces reconquered Majorca, Minorca chose to became an independent Islamic state, albeit one tributary to King James I of Aragon. The island was ruled first by Abû 'Uthmân Sa'îd Hakam al Qurashi (1234–1282), and following his death by his son, Abû 'Umar ibn Sa'îd (1282–1287). An Aragonese invasion, led by Alfonso III came on 17 January 1287, now celebrated as Minorca's national day. Some of the Muslim inhabitants of the island were enslaved and sold in the slave markets of Ibizamarker, Valenciamarker and Barcelonamarker, while others became Christians. Until 1344 the island was part of the Kingdom of Majorca, also an Aragonese vassal state, which was itself annexed to Aragon, and subsequently to the unified kingdom of Spain. During the 16th century, Turkishmarker naval attacks destroyed Maómarker, and the then capital, Ciutadellamarker, before Turkish settlement took place on some of the island.

British century

Captured by the British navy in 1708 during the War of the Spanish Succession, Minorca became a British possession. The transfer to Great Britain was confirmed under the terms of the Article XI of the Treaty of Utrecht. Under the governorship of General Richard Kane, this period saw the island's capital moved to Port Mahonmarker, and a naval base established in that town's harbour.

During the Seven Years' War, however, the failure of a British naval squadron to lift a French siege of Minorca on 20 May 1756 later led to the court-martial and execution of Admiral John Byng. This naval engagement, the Battle of Minorca, represented the outbreak of the Seven Years' War in Europe. Despite this defeat, British resistance persisted at Port Mahon, but the garrison was forced to capitulate under honourable terms, including free passage back to Britain, on 29 June of that same year. The Treaty of Paris , however, saw British rule restored following Britain's victory in the Seven Years War. During the American War of Independence, the British were defeated for a second time, in this instance by a combination of French and Spanish forces, which captured the island after a long siege of St. Philip's Castlemarker in Port Mahon on 5 February 1782. Minorca was recovered by the British once again in 1798, during the French Revolutionary Wars, but it was finally and permanently ceded to Spain by the Treaty of Amiens in 1802. The British influence can still be seen in local architecture with elements such as sash windows.

As the rest of the Balearic Islandsmarker, Minorca was not occupied by French during the Peninsular War, as it was successfully protected by the British Navy, this time allied to Spain.

Modern era

During the Spanish Civil War, Minorca stayed loyal to the Republican Spanish government, while the rest of the Balearic Islands supported the Nationalistsmarker. It did not see combat, except for aerial bombing by the Italians of Corpo Truppe Volontarie air force. Many Minorcans were also killed when taking part in a failed invasion of Majorca. Also some Majorcans and a Priest were excuted in Minorca during Pedro Marqués Barber era (July-December 1936) After the Nationalist victory in 1939, the British navy assisted in a peaceful transfer of power in Minorca and the evacuation of some political refugees aboard [HMS Devonshire][9460].

In October 1993, Minorca was designated by UNESCOmarker as a biosphere reserve. The Balearics Islands were the first legislature to give legal rights to apes. [9461]

In July 2005, the island's application to become the 25th member of the International Island Games Association was approved.


The location of Minorca in the middle of the western Mediterranean was a staging point for the different cultures since prehistoric times. This Balearic Island has a mix of colonial and local architecture.

The current population is an extremely ethnically diverse mix of Moors, Greeks, Jews, Turks, and Arabs.

Minorca is especially well known for its traditional summer fiestas, which intrigue many visitors. The 'Festes de Sant Joan' is held annually in Cuitadella. The festes lasts for three days. On the first day, a man bears a well-groomed sheep upon his shoulders and parades around the local streets. In the late evening, main streets are closed and bonfires held upon them.

On the second day, locally bred black horses are the star of the show. Dressed up for the occasion with ribbons and rosettes. The riders, or caixers, ride the horses through the streets and encourage them, along with a tumultuous crowd of people, to rear up on their hind legs. The brave can be found running underneath them as they do so.

The third day sees intense competition between the riders in a harmless form of jousting that involves spearing a suspended ring with a lance at considerable speed. The festes is brought to a close with a firework display.

The fiestas take place throughout the summer in different towns around the island, and have their origins in the early 14th century. The international opera week and international organ festival in Mahon and, the summer music festival and Capella Davidica concerts in Ciutadella are the main events of the island.

Minorca’s cuisine is dominated by the Mediterranean diet which is known to be very healthy. Whilst many of the locals have adopted modern attitudes they still uphold certain old traditions like chivalry, courtesy and of course hospitality.


Most locals are bilingual in Spanish and the variety of Catalan called Menorquí. Between Menorquí and Catalan proper, as with most Balearic dialects, the most distinctive difference is the different word used for the article "the", where Menorquí uses "es" for masculine and "sa" for feminine. Menorquí thus shares the source of its article with many Sardinian varieties (masc. sing. su, fem sing. sa), rather than the Catalan "el" and "la", common to other Romance languages (e.g. Spanish el, la, Italian il, la), corresponding to a form which was historically used along the Costa Brava of Cataloniamarker, from where the islands were repopulated after being conquered from the Moors. Menorquí also has a few English loan words dating back to the British occupation such as "grevi", "xumaquer", "boinder" and "xoc" taken from "gravy", "shoemaker", "bow window" and "chalk", respectively.

Food and drink

Lingering British influence is seen in the Minorcans' taste for gin, which during local festes honoring towns' patron saints is mixed with bitter lemon to make a golden liquid known as a Pomada. One common factor amongst in Minorca is a steady, and often extreme, imbibement of Pomada throughout the whole day. Also famous is Formatge de Maó, a cheese typical of the island.

It is thought that mayonnaise was brought back to France from Mahon, Minorca, after Louis-François-Armand du Plessis de Richelieu's victory over the British at the city's port in 1756.



Menorca is rich in wild flowers typical of the Mediterranean with a number of endemic species and many orchids. Most are in flower early in the year in late March, April and May.


30 species of butterflies have been recorded on Menorca and most are on the wing from March to late September. The species that occur include the Cleopatra, Lang's Short Tailed Blue and the spectacular Two-tailed Pasha.
Despite not having many large wetlands dragonflies abound on Menorca. Seventeen species have been recorded including the magnificent Emperor Dragonfly.

Reptiles and Amphibians

Menorca does not have many species of reptiles or amphibians. There are three species of amphibia; Green Toad, Marsh Frog and Stripeless Tree Frog.The common lizard seen all over the island is the Italian Wall Lizard although the Moroccan Rock Lizard also occurs. The Balearic endemic Lifords Wall Lizard can be found on many of the offshore islands. Two species of Gecko can be found on Menorca, the Moorish and the Turkish also called the Mediterranean House Gecko.Four species of snake occur: the Viperine Snake; Grass Snake; False Smooth Snake and the Ladder Snake.


The birdlife of Menorca is very well known, it is on the migration route of many species and good number of passage migrants can be seen in spring. Residents include Audouin's Gull, Blue Rock Thrush, Thekla Lark. Booted eagle and Red Kite are easy to see as is Egyptian Vulture in the right habitat. In summer you get Bee-eaters and Menorca has major colonies of Cory's Shearwater and Balearic Shearwater.


Menorca does not have any large mammals. There are some small mammals including Rabbits, Rats, Mice, Pine Marten and the North African sub-species of Hedgehog.


The major towns are Maómarker and Ciutadellamarker. The island is administratively divided into these municipalities:


Image:taula.jpg|This is a taula from the site of Talatì de Dalt about 4km west of Maó.Image:Cales Coves.jpg|Cales Coves of Minorca. Note the hand-hewn entrances to the caves.Image:Minorcancountryside.JPG|Minorcan countrysideImage:Alcaufar 2.jpg|Martello tower, Alcaufar with Illa de l´aire lighthouse in the distance.Image:cala-galdana.jpg|Cala GaldanaImage:Cleopatra_butterfly_menorca.jpg|Cleopatra, Algendar gorge.Image:Red veined darter 2.JPG|Sympetrum fonscolombii the red-veined darter, Algendar gorge.

See also


  1. C. Michael Hogan (2007) Knossos fieldnotes, The Modern Antiquarian
  2. Henry Christmas, The Shores and Islands of the Mediterranean, Published 1851, R. Bentley
  3. Website Oficial Menorca
  4. Minorca Culture Information


  • Burns, Robert I., (1990) "Muslims in the Thirteenth Century Realms of Aragon: Interaction and Reaction", p.67, In: Powell, J.M. (ed.) Muslims under Latin Rule, 1100–1300, p. 57–102, Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-6910-5586-6.
  • Hearl, G., (1996). A Birdwatchers guide to Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera. Arlequin Press. pp56. ISBN 1 900159 20 1
  • Pons, G., (2000). Les papallones diurnes de les balears., pp87. Edicions Documenta Balear, Palma de Mallorca.

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