The History of Formentera

Formentera provides an interesting example of Balearic Islands History. It has a number of prehistoric sites evidencing that the island was inhabited as long ago as 4,000 years. The Phoenicians, Carthaginians and the Romans were all attracted to the island despite its lack of natural water. One of the first references in literature comes from the Greek geographer Strabo (63BC-24AD) who name the island Ophiusa, which means land of reptiles. This is an indication that the indigenous lizards have always been plentiful.

A Megalithic Burial Ground

The Romans farmed it, and gave it the name Frumentaria, meaning Island of Wheat, although their main export was actually dried figs. They built a port in Es Calo, and behind it at Castell Roma de Can Blai is a camp that was used to watch over the harbor.

Remains of a Roman Fort



After the Romans came the Vandals, followed by Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, and finally the Catalans. It was in 1235 that the island was conquered by the Catalan-Aragonese crown, and the majority of the Muslim population was exterminated. The Catalans set up four administrative sections, but they couldn’t maintain an organized island in the face of persistent pirate attacks and illness. Thus in the 14th Century Formentera was abandoned and became a base for the Barbary and Turkish pirates.

Megalithic Remains in Cap de Barbaria



In 1697 Carlos II of Spain decided to resettle the island. Under Carlos II’s instruction sea captain Marc Ferrer came built the defense towers the remains of which can be visited to this day. It was in 1889 that Formentera formed an independent municipality which remains today, ‘Consell Insular d’Eivissa i Formentera.’

Graveyard in Sant Francesc



The manufacture of salt and the farming of dry fruit trees, such as figs, olives and almonds, were the island’s main industries up until a tourism boom in the 1950s. The unspoiled nature of the island attracted a wave of hippies, and the island retains the hippy culture to this day. This is not unique in Balearic Islands history, as the hippies also took a shine to Ibiza the 1960s.

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