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Formentera History

The History of Formentera

Talking about the history of Formentera is to highlight the large number of people and visitors have passed throughout its history. In spite of being an island that's not very big in extension, illustrious people have passed by over the course of the years.

Until not too long ago hardly anybody knew anything of the prehistory in Formentera. Nevertheless in the year 1974 the biggest archaeological find was discovered on the island, until the date, which puts a starting point to its origin. This is thanks to the megalithic tomb of Ca Na Costa. Although this tomb is not the only one, it is the most spectacular and well know on the island. It dates back to between the years 1900 to 1600 B.C., in the middle of the Bronze Age and possibly indicates that there was an autochthonous population that could go back years. The tomb has a huge and heavy dolmen, with stones placed in a perfect geometry possibly used to measure astronomical phenomena like the equinoxes, lunar phases, etc. In the style of other megalithic monuments. This building is located in the town of Es Pujols and can be visited.

Ophiusa and Pines of Formentera

Unlike Ibiza, in Formentera there are no remains of the passage of the Phoenicians. The Greeks named her (Formentera), although they did not leave remains, as Ophiussa (serpentaria or snake), something that calls the attention because the island did not inhabit snakes. They called the islands of Formentera and Ibiza; Pitiusas because of the presence of many pines. Mallorca and Menorca did not get the same name, eventhough it had the same vegetation of pines, a fact that attracts attention. The reason is unknown.

Later the Phoenicians would appear in Ibiza, Ibosim, but there is no evidence that they were in Formentera. Perhaps the Carthaginians remained for some time, from which they have found some evidence of their visits, but really nothing of importance. Until the arrival of the Romans in the year 200 B.C., who built a fort near the current town of Es Caló. Apparently they had a detachment there that together with the necessary stewardship and possibly families formed a stable settlement for years. It is at that time that the Romans baptize the island as Frumentaria, which means "island of wheat" or "Granary" in Latin. And from there the name evolved to Formentera. Apparently the production of wheat was the main agricultural crop, giving the land a good yield with a quality cereal, hence the name.

The Roman dominion ended with the decline of the empire and the invasion by the Vandals of the islands in the fifth century A.C. There is no clear evidence that the Vandals came to settle in Formentera, or that with the reconquest of the islands by the Byzantine Empire by order of the Emperor Justinian Belisarius populated Formentera, but it does seem that there was a monastery in the area Of La Mola. Regardless of that, the island had practically disappeared from history until the arrival of the Muslims in 902 A.C.

salt of formentera

The Salt of Life

As in the rest of the Balearic Islands, Formentera took advantage of the advances in agriculture and construction brought by the Arabs. There are numerous waterwheels, cisterns, irrigation canals, salinas ... along the length and width of the island. Especially the techniques to make the precious salt would give a lot of economic life, a seasoning very valuable in those times. The Muslims called the island Koluyunka, sheep island, so we assume that it was one of the economic activities that also occurred in an important way.

The reconquest and depopulation

In 1014 Formentera belonged to the taifa of Denia. The peace due to the Saracen control of the waters and the territory propitiated a time of advance and progress. However, the reconquest would soon arrive. Jaime I the Conqueror would enter the Pitiusas in 1235 and would give them to Guillem de Montgrí, archbishop of Tarragona. In turn Montgrí will give land in Formentera to Berenguer Renart, as long as he would repopulate the island. So Renart is dedicated to bringing people who would build, in 1336, the Romanesque chapel of Sa Tranca Vella, on the outskirts of San Francisco Javier The events that occurred in the rest of the islands also affected Formentera. Finally in the fifteenth century the depopulation of the island takes place. Possibly the motives are similar to what happened in the rest of the Balearics: abusive taxation, plague, hunger, presence of looting pirates ... although the inhabitants tried to defend themselves from the latter (there are four towers of defense on the island), finally the Set of misfortunes ended with complete abandonment. Formentera thus became a haven for pirates, who made stopovers and provided on the island. Only very occasionally people from Ibiza visited her.

peix sec formentera

Marc Ferrer y Toni Blanc

Until the year 1695 the island would not be repopulated. It was not until the arrival of an Ibizan captain named Marc Ferrer and Antoni Blanc (his son-in-law). The story is certainly curious. Marc Ferrer was commissioned to buy wheat, and he left for various ports in the Mediterranean in order to buy it. But wherever he went he found that no one trusted in an ibicenco, that they had a reputation for being defaulters, and without the money ahead they did not give him the merchandise. In Valencia he finally managed to convince the merchants, load it and take it to Ibiza. In this way Marc Ferrer made his commission, but at the time of paying, the Universitat de Ibiza had no money and wanted to pay with salt. Valencian traders who owned the wheat that Ferrer took did not accept the deal and finally Marc Ferrer paid the for his debt by going to jail. For a year and a half he remained imprisoned and only left after paying the fine with all his money and mortgaged all his assets. The captain, seeing himself in misery, decided to appeal to King Charles II, who took pity on his situation and understood that his misery was a product of misfortune and wanted to do good by taking the wheat, thereby granting royal grace Of a league of land in Formentera, and later he would receive another one and another for his son-in-law, Antoni Blanc. They began to donate land to Ibizans who moved to Formentera in exchange for working the land. Little by little the number of inhabitants of the island grew until arriving to 1000 inhabitants in the year 1800, many of them would be descendants of these first settlers and of Marc Ferrer. They also built the first church in Formentera and as such prepared it to shelter in case of pirate attacks. They dedicated it to San Francisco Javier and they also used the defence towers that already existed in the island.

Modern times

Arriving in the 19th century, Formentera gradually became a seafaring village, where most of its population ended up migrating to America or enlisting in large merchant transatlantic ships, where they could spend months, leaving an island full of women. Thus the ibicencos called to the island S'illa of ses dones (island of the women).

In the civil war Formentera suffered like the rest of the islands the battle of the war. Almost from the outset in Falangist hands, it would sadly be the site of a prison camp for political dissidents who were to be executed.

After the bitter episode, Formentera grew thanks to the tourism of all parts of the world, being the motor almost exclusive today of the island.