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Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)


  Baleares (Balliareis, Diod. v. 17, Eustath. ad Dion. 457; Baliareis, Baliarides, Steph. B.; Balearides, Strab.; Balliarides, Ptol. ii. 6. § 78; Baleariai, Agathem.; Baleriai etoi hugieinai, the Iberian name, according to Dion Cass. ap. Tzetz. ad Lycoph. 633; Valeriae, Geog. Rav. v. 27: Eth. Baleareis, &c., Baleares, Balearici, sing. Balearis: Polybius expressly says that the islands and the people were called by the same name: the forms with e are generally used by the Romans, those with i by the Greeks, but Baliares also occurs on Latin inscriptions), or Gymnesiae (Gumnesiai: Eth. Gumnesios, fem. Gumnesia, Gumnesis, Steph. B.), a group of islands in the Mediterranean, lying off that part of the E. coast of Spain, which is between the rivers Sucro (Turia) and Iberus (Ebro), E. of the Pityusae and (roughly speaking) between 39° and 40° N. lat., and between 2 1/4° and 4 1/2° E. long. The number of islands in the group is stated differently: some make them seven (Eustath. l. c.); some mention only one (Steph. B. s. v.; Strab. ii. p. 123, he Gumnesia, where, however, Groskurd and Kramer read hai Gumnesiai), but nearly all the ancient writers used the term to include merely the two large islands called the Greater, Balearis Major (he meizon), and the Lesser, Balearis Minor (he elatton), or, as they were called in the Byzantine period, Majorica and Minorica (Maiorika te kai Minorika: Procop. B. V. i. 1, ii. 5; Zonar. Ann. ix. p. 435), whence the common modern names, Majorca and Minorca, or in Spanish Mallorca and Menorca.
  It should be remembered that the Balearic group, in the modern sense of the word, includes also the Pityusae of the ancients, namely Ebusus (Iviza), and Colubraria or Ophiusa (Formentera). Indeed, the passage in Strabo (iii. p. 167), tas men Rituoussas duo kai tas Gumnesias duo kalousi kai Baliapidas has been taken as if the words in the parenthesis referred to both groups: but that they only refer to the Gymnesiae is pretty clear, both from the consent of other writers, and from another passage of Strabo himself (xiv. p. 654). Lycophron calls the islands Choirades, from their rocky nature. (Cassand. 633; comp. Tzetz. ad loc.)
  There were various traditions respecting their population, some of a very fabulous complexion. The story, preserved by Lycophron (l. c., Eustath. ad Dion. Perieg. l. c.), that certain shipwrecked Boeotians were cast naked on the islands, which were therefore called Gymnesiae (dia to gumnous kai achlainous, ekei echenechthenai), is evidently invented to account for the name. There is also a tradition that the islands were colonized from Rhodes after the Trojan war (Strab. xiv. p. 654: the Rhodians, like the Baleares, were celebrated slingers: Sil. Ital. iii. 364, 365:
Jam cui Tlepolemus sator, et cui Lindus origo, Funda bella ferens Balearis et alite plumbo.)
At all events, they had a very mixed population, of whose habits several strange stories are told (Diod., Strab., Eustath.): that they went naked, or clothed only in sheep-skins (Tzetz. ad Lycophsr. l. c.) - whence the name of the islands (an instance of a fact made out of an etymology), - until the Phoenicians clothed them with broad-bordered tunics (Strab. p. 168: this seems the true sense of the passage; see Groskurd's note: it is usually understood to mean that the Baleares invented the latus clavus, and so it was understood by Eustathius, whose note is chiefly taken from Strabo; others make them naked only in the heat of summer, Tzetz. ad Lycophr. l. c.): that they lived in hollow rocks and artificial caves: that they were remarkable for their love of women, and, when any were taken captive by pirates, they would give three or four men as the ransom for one woman: that they had no gold or silver coin, and forbade the importation of the precious metals, so that those of them who served as mercenaries took their pay in wine and women instead of money. Their peculiar marriage and funeral customs are related by Diodorus (v. 18).
  The Baleares were, however, chiefly celebrated for their skill as slingers, in which capacity they served, as mercenaries, first under the Carthaginians, and afterwards under the Romans. They went into battle ungirt, with only a small buckler, and a javelin burnt at the end, and in some cases tipt with a small iron point; but their effective weapons were their slings, of which each man carried three, wound round his head (Strab. p. 168; Eustath. l. c.), or, as others tell us, one round the head, one round the body, and one in the hand. (Diod. l. c.; Tzetz. ad Lycophr. l. c.) 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 eat bread when they had struck it off a post with the sling. (Strab., Diod.,; Flor. iii. 8; Tzetz. ad Lycophr. l. c.)
  The Greek and Roman writers generally derive the name of the people from their skill as slingers (baleareis, from ballo); but Strabo assigns to the name a Phoenician origin, observing that it was the Phoenician equivalent for the Greek gumnetas, that is, light-armed soldiers. (Strab. xiv. p. 654.) Though his explanation be wrong, his main fact is probably right. The root Bal points to a Phoenician origin; perhaps the islands were sacred to the deity of that name; and the accidental resemblance to the Greek root BAL (in ballo), coupled with the occupation of the people, would be quite a sufficient foundation for the usual Greek practice of assimilating the name to their own language. That it was not, however, Greek at first, may be inferred with great probability from the fact that the common Greek name of the islands is not baleareis, but Gumnesiai, the former being the name used by the natives, as well as by the Carthaginians and Romans. (Plin.; Agathem.; Dion Cass. ap. Tzetz. ad Lycophr. 533; Eustath. l. c.) The latter name, of which two fancied etymologies have been already referred to, is probably derived from the light equipment of the Balearic troops (gumnetas). (Strab. xiv. p. 654; Plin. l. c.)
  The islands were taken possession of in very early times by the Phoenicians (Strab. iii. pp. 167, 168); a remarkable trace of whose colonization is preserved in the town of Mago (Mahon in Minorca), which still gives the name of a princely family of Carthage to a noble house of England. After the fall of Carthage, the islands seem to have been virtually independent. Notwithstanding their celebrity in war, the people were generally very quiet and inoffensive. (Strab.; but Florus gives them a worse character, iii. 8.) The Romans, however, easily found a pretext for charging them with complicity with the Mediterranean pirates, and they were conquered by Q. Caecilius Metellus, thence surnamed Balearicus, B.C. 123. (Liv. Epit. Ix.; Freinsh. Supp. lx. 37; Florus, Strab. ll. cc.) Metellus settled 3,000 Roman and Spanish colonists on the larger island, and founded the cities of Palma and Pollentia. (Strab., Mel., Plin.) The islands belonged, under the empire, to the conventus of Carthago Nova, in the province of Hispania Tarraconensis, of which province they formed, with the Pityusae, the fourth district, under the government of a praefectus pro legato. An inscription of the time of Nero mentions the Praef. Prae Legato Insular. Baliarum. (Orelli, No. 732, who, with Muratori, reads pro for prae.) They were afterwards made a separate province, probably in the division of the empire under Constantine. (Not. Dig. Occid. c. xx. vol. ii. p. 466, Bocking.)
  The ancient writers describe the Balearic islands sometimes as off the coast of Tyrrhenia (peri ten Tursenida, Steph. B.), sometimes as the first islands, except the Pityusae, to one entering the Mediterranean from Gades. (Plin. l. c.) The larger island, Balearis Major (Mallorca), or Columba (Itin. Ant. p. 511) was a day's sail from the coast of Spain: it is, in fact, 43 miles NE. of Iviza, which is 50 miles E. of C. St. Martin. Pliny makes the distance from Dianium Pr. (C. S. Martin), on the coast of Spain to the Pityusae (Iviza, &c.), 700 stadia, and the Baleares the same distance further out at sea. The Antonine Itinerary places the Baleares 300 stadia from Ebusus (Iviza). The smaller island, Balearis Minor (Menorca), or Nura (Itin. Ant. p. 512), lies to the E. of the larger, from which it is separated by a strait 22 miles wide. The little island of Cabrera, S. of Mallorca, is the Capraria of the ancients. In magnitude the islands were described by Timaeus (ap. Diod. l. c.; Strab. xiv. p. 654) as the largest in the world, except seven - namely, Sardinia, Sicily, Cyprus, Crete, Euboea, Corsica, and Lesbos; but Strabo rightly observes that there are others larger. Strabo makes the larger island nearly 600 stadia long by 200 wide (iii. p. 167); Artemidorus gave it twice that size (Agathem. i. 5); and Pliny makes its length 100 M. P. and its circuit 375: its area is 1,430 square miles. Besides the colonies of Palma (Palma) and Pollentia (Pollenza), already mentioned, of which the former lay on the SW., and the latter on the NE., it had the smaller towns of Cinium (Sineu), near the centre of the island, with the Jus Latii (Plin. l. c.); Cunici (Alcudia?), also a civitas Latina (Plin. l. c., where Sillig now reads Tucim); and Gujunta (Inscr. ap. Gruter. p. 378. No. 1.)
  The smaller island Minor (Menorca) is described by Strabo as lying 270 stadia E. of Pollentia on the larger: the Antonine Itinerary assigns 600 stadia for the interval between the islands, which is more than twice the real space: Pliny makes the distance 30 M. P. (240 stadia), the length of the island 40 M. P, and its circuit 150. Its true length is 32 miles, average breadth 8, area about 260 square miles. Besides Mago (Port Mahon), and Jamno or Jamna (Ciudadela), at the E. and W. ends respectively, both Phoenician settlements, it had the inland town of Sanisera (Alajor, Plin. l. c.).
  Both islands had numerous excellent harbours, though rocky at their mouth, and requiring care in entering them (Strab., Eustath. ll. cc.: Port Mahon is one of the finest harbours in the world). Both were extremely fertile in all produce, except wine and olive oil. (Aristot. de Mir. Ausc. 89; Diod., but Pliny praises their wine as well as their corn, xiv. 6. s. 8, xviii. 7. s. 12: the two writers are speaking, in fact, of different periods.) They were celebrated for their cattle, especially for the mules of the lesser island; they had an immense number of rabbits, and were free from all venomous reptiles. (Strab., Mel., l.c.; Plin. l. c., viii. 58. s. 83, xxxv. 19. s. 59; Varro, R. R. iii. 12; Aelian, H. A. xiii. 15; Solin. 26.) Among the snails valued by the Romans as a diet, was a species from the Balearic isles, called cavaticae, from their being bred in caves. (Plin. xxx. 6. s. 15.) Their chief mineral product was the red earth, called sinope, which was used by painters. (Plin. xxxv. 6. s. 13; Vitruv. vii. 7.) Their resin and pitch are mentioned by Dioscorides (Mat. Med. i. 92). The population of the two islands is stated by Diodorus at 30,000.
  Twelve Roman miles S. of the larger island (9 miles English) in the open sea (xii. M. P. in altum) lay the little island of Capraria (Cabrera), a treacherous cause of shipwrecks (insidiosa naufragiis, Plin. l. c. naufragalis, Mart. Cap. de Nupt. Phil. vi.); and opposite to Palma the islets called Marmariae, Tiquadra, and parva Hannibalis. (Plin.).
  The part of the Mediterranean E. of Spain, around the Balearic isles, was called Mare Balearicum (to Ballearikon pelagos, Ptol. ii 4. § 3), or Sinus Balearicus. (Flor. iii. 6. § 9.)
  The islands still contain some monuments of their original inhabitants, in the shape of tumuli, such as those which Diodorus describes them as raising over their dead. These tumuli consist of large unhewn stones, and are surrounded by a fence of flat stones set up on end; and a spiral path on the outside leads to the summit of the mound. From this arrangement, and from their being generally erected on elevated spots, they are supposed to have been used as watch-towers. The Roman remains have been almost destroyed by the Vandal conquerors; the principal ruin is that of an aqueduct near Pollentia. (Wernsdorf, Antiq. Balear.; Dameto, Hist. of the Balearic Kingdom; Armstrong's Minorca.)

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited July 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities


The modern Iviza; the largest of the Pityusae Insulae, off the east coast of Spain.

Perseus Project index


Total results on 23/5/2001: 74

The Catholic Encyclopedia

Balearic Isles


The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites


Ophioyssa (Formentera) Baleares, Spain. The name used for this island in several ancient sources (Avienus 148; Strab. 3.5.1; Ptol. 2.6.73; Mela 2.125; Plin. 3.78). A little Greek material has been found.


  One of the Balearic islands. It has yielded Greek material. It is probably the island mentioned by Stephanos of Byzantium (Jacoby, frag. 52), who cites a reference in Hecateus.

L. G. Iglesias, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.


Pollentia (Alcudia de Pollensa) Majorca, Spain.
Town 8 km from Pollensa on the bay of that name. Like Palma, according to Strabo (3.5.1), it was founded in 123-122 B.C. by Caecilius Metellus Balearicus with 3000 Roman colonists. It was a colonia with some sort of special status, since Pollentia and Palma were the only colonies outside of Italy ascribed to the tribus Vellina. It flourished in the heyday of the Empire, was partially destroyed in the second half of the 3d c., and totally obliterated ca. A.D. 435.
  Excavation began in the NW sector close to the city wall, and nothing is known as yet of the central area where the forum, temples, and main public buildings must have been. The chief remains now uncovered are the W city wall, a small theater, and a series of buildings which have helped in reconstructing the city's history. The numerous small finds--sculpture, inscriptions, ceramics, and coins--are in the local museum, in Palma, and in the National Museum in Madrid. The city must have been of considerable importance, extending from the open fields of Alcudia to the sea. Four phases can be recognized.
  In Phase I circular structures of roughly hewn stone and plentiful native pottery marked the pre-Roman Talayot settlement. Phase II was on the level of the foundation of the Roman town of the end of the 2d c. B.C. and included house walls beneath the so-called House of the Bronze Head, as well as Campanian, Iberian, and pre-Arretine pottery. Phase III, ca. 100-60 B.C., is attested by a construction of squared blocks in the same location. Phase IV, lasting from the Augustan period to the destruction ca. A.D. 435, included the House of the Bronze Head (34 x 8 m). The N section and part of the E area are preserved, comprising a central peristyle 15 m long, with five aligned columns and a covered portico, adjoined by living rooms. The House of the Two Treasures (23 x 20 m), also of the Augustan period, has a small peristyle, 7 by 4 m. The rooms grouped around the peristyle are either paved or floored with heavily tamped earth. Between the two houses runs a street with a portico 3 m high. Among minor finds now dispersed, was some excellent sculpture, such as a veiled head of Augustus.

J.M. Roldan, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Jan 2006 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.

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