previous next


Eth. BALEA´RES (Βαλλιαρεῖς, Diod. 5.17, Eustath. ad Dion. 457; Βαλιαρεῖς, Βαλιαρίδες, Steph. B. sub voce Βαλεαρίδες, Strab.; Βαλλιαρίδες, Ptol. 2.6.78; Βαλεαρίαι, Agathem.; Βαλερίαι ἤτοι ὑγιειναί, the Iberian name, according to Dio Cass. ap. Tzetz. ad Lycoph. 633; Valeriae, Geog. Rav. 5.27: Eth. Βαλεαρεῖς, &c., Baleares, Balearici, sing. Balearis: Polybius expressly says that the islands and the people were called by the same name [3.33]: the forms with e are generally used by the Romans, those with i by the Greeks, but Baliares also occurs on Latin inscriptions [Gruter, p. 298. 3; Gori, iii. p. 173, No. 214, and in some MSS.]), or GYMNE´SIAE (Γυμνησίαι: Eth. Γυμνήσιος, fem. Γυμνησία, Γυμνησίς, Steph. B. sub voce 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. sub voce Strab. ii. p.123, Γυμνησία, where, however, Groskurd and Kramer read αἱ Γυμνησίαι), but nearly all the ancient writers used the term to include merely the two large islands called the Greater, BALEARIS MAJOR ( μείζων), and the Lesser, BALEARIS MINOR ( ἐλάττων), or, as they were called in the Byzantine period, MAJORICA and MINORICA (Μαιόρικά τε καὶ Μινόρικα: Procop. B. V. 1.1, 2.5; 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), τὰς μὲν Ριτυούσσας δύο καὶ τὰς Γυμνησίας δύο ῾καλοῦσι καὶ Βαλιαπίδας 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 Χοιράδες, 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 (διὰ τὸ γυμνοὺς καὶ ἀχλαίνους, ἐκεῖ ἐχενεχθῆναι), 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. 3.364, 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., ll. cc.): 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 (5.18).

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. 3.8; Tzetz. ad Lycophr. l.c.

The Greek and Roman writers generally derive the name of the people from their skill as slingers (βαλεαρεῖς, from βάλλω); but Strabo assigns to the name a Phoenician origin, observing that it was the Phoenician equivalent for the Greek γυμνῆτας, that is, light-armed soldiers. (Strab. xiv. p.654.) Though his explanation be wrong, his main fact is [p. 1.374]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 ΒΑΛ (in βάλλω), 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 βαλεαρεῖς, but Γυμνησίαι, the former being the name used by the natives, as well as by the Carthaginians and Romans. (Plin.; Agathem.; Dio 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 (γυμνῆτας). (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, 3.8.) 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. 60.37; 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, Böcking.)

The ancient writers describe the Balearic islands sometimes as off the coast of Tyrrhenia (περὶ τὴν Τυρσηνίδα, Steph. B. sub voce 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 (l.c.) 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. 1.5); and Pliny (l.c.) 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 (p. 512) 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, 14.6. s. 8, 18.7. 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., 8.58. s. 83, 35.19. s. 59; Varro, R. R. 3.12; Aelian, Ael. NA 13.15; 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. Nat. 30.6. s. 15.) Their chief mineral product was the red earth, called sinope, which was used by painters. (Plin. Nat. 35.6. s. 13; Vitr. 7.7.) Their resin and pitch are mentioned by Dioscorides (Mat. Med. 1.92). The population of the two islands is stated by Diodorus (l.c.) 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 (τὸ Βαλλεαρικὸν πέλαγος, Ptol. ii 4.3), or Sinus Balearicus. (Flor. 3.6.9.)

For further information respecting the islands and the people, see the following passages, in addition to those already quoted. (Plb. 1.67, 3.113; Diod. 9.106; Liv. 21.21, 55, 22.37, 28.37; Hirt. B. A. 23; Lucan 1.229, 3.710; Suet. Galb. 10; Oros. 1.2; Serv. ad Virg. Aen. 7.661.)

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 [p. 1.375]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.)


hide References (15 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (15):
    • Polybius, Histories, 3.113
    • Polybius, Histories, 1.67
    • Vitruvius, On Architecture, 7.7
    • Lucan, Civil War, 3.710
    • Lucan, Civil War, 1.229
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 30.6
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 35.6
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 21, 21
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 22, 37
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 28, 37
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 21, 55
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 5.17
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 5.18
    • Aelian, De Natura Animalium, 13.15
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 2.6
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: