With this article we begin a series of four texts that will bring you closer to Ibiza’s rich history. Our island keeps many vestiges of the passage of the great civilizations that have dominated the Mediterranean. We invite you to discover the historical and artistic heritage of the Balearic Islands, starting with the Classical Age. The first century BC Greek historian Diodorus Siculus gives the following description of the island: “Then there is the island designated Pitiusa, which carries this name because of the multitude of pines that grow on it. It is in the middle of the sea and far from the Pillars of Hercules three days and as many nights a sail; one day and one night suffice to reach Libya, and only a day’s journey separates it from Iberia. In extension it equals Corfu and is of medium fertility; it has a few vineyards and olive trees grafted into the wild olive trees. The wools there produced are reputable and beautiful for their softness. The island is scattered with cheerful fields and hills, and they have a city called Ebusus, which it is a Carthaginian colony. It also has harbours worthy of mention and great walls, and a considerable number of admirably built houses. It is inhabited by barbarians of all kinds, mainly Phoenicians”.
Eivissa (Ibiza), cited in this literary source in its Latinized form Ebusus, is the oldest town of all the Balearics and Pitiusas. Founded by Phoenician groups in the mid-seventh century B.C., it reached its maximum splendour between the V and IV centuries under Carthaginian rule. The Punics called it Iboshim, city of the worshipers of Bes, and turned it into a strategic enclave of its trade routes.
The first Phoenician footprints on the island predate the city since its first settlement was in Sa Caleta. The site, which merits a visit, is located in the cove of the same name in the municipality of Sant Josep and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. It was an industrial site dedicated to the extraction of argentiferous galena and salt exploitation. It was short-lived and probably its inhabitants left peacefully to settle in the beautiful bay of Ibiza, specifically in the Puig de Vila (the current Dalt Vila).
About 500 meters to the west of Puig de Vila, in Puig des Molins, is the largest and best preserved Phoenician and Carthaginian necropolis of the western Mediterranean. With the arrival of the Punics from Carthage, the population grew from 2,000 to 5,000 inhabitants and the cemetery grew as a result of the development of the city. Under the floor of this site are hidden 3,000 hypogea (caves carved into the rock), of which 340 are visible from the outside, following the marked trail. In summertime, we recommend the dramatized tours organized by the Cultural Association Iboshim. Alongside this area, also declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999, you can visit the Monographic Museum of Puig des Molins. Its permanent exhibition reveals the funeral rituals developed in the city of Ibiza for fourteen centuries, from the Phoenician era to the Byzantine domination.
Thanks to the Carthaginians, Ibiza became a major producing and exporting centre of own products: salt, wool, ceramic containers … In ancient times, it was believed that the land of Eivissa chased away the snakes and poisonous animals and perhaps this is the reason amphorae have been found in the main sites of this period scattered around the Mediterranean. Further evidence of this economic vitality is that Ebusitan coins were some of the first minted in Hispania (III century B.C.) and remained in circulation until Claudio I ordered the closure of the last mint (official coin making workshop) in order to impose the Roman coin.
During this period, Ibiza had two great sanctuaries: s’Illa Plana in the city, currently ruthlessly urbanized, and the cave of Es Culleram. The latter you can easily visit from the rural hotel Can Pujolet as it is located on the farm Can Quintals, a few kilometres from the bay of Sant Vicent. Es Culleram was an important place of worship until the second century B.C. The archaeological site of the temple has revealed over 600 undamaged polychrome statues – most of them consecrated to the goddess Tanit, symbol of life and protection and the main deity of the Carthaginian pantheon.
To end this tour of the age of Classical Antiquity we offer two last suggestions: a visit to the Archaeological Museum of Ibiza and Formentera, the main museum on the history of the island, next to the Cathedral of Ibiza; and the aqueduct of S’Argamassa in Santa Eulalia. The remains of this building are an example of Roman infrastructure that has endured on the island. The Romanization of Ibiza occurred slowly, not abruptly, and represented the joining of the Pitiusas’ destiny to that of the Balearics.