Ibiza is known for its clubs, parties, beaches and hippie markets. Very few tourists, however, know the centuries-old history of this beautiful Balearic island. In this article, we want to take you on a journey into the past of Ibiza and Dalt Vila – from the Carthaginians, to the Moors and to the tourists. Each era shaped the face of the island as we know it today.
Situated on a hill right at the sea front and overlooking Ibiza city, lies the historic old town of Dalt Vila. Inside the city’s ramparts, a labyrinth of streets winds its way between the white houses typical of Ibiza. This mighty Mediterranean citadel was a strategically and geographically important location in the past, looking back on over 2600 years of history.
As early as the 7th century BC, the Carthaginians came to Ibiza and founded Dalt Vila under the name Ibosim, in honor of the god Bes Ibosim. However, recent excavations show that the island was already inhabited before the arrival of the Carthaginians. Some finds have been dated back to the year 3000 BC. But, the economic development of Ibiza and especially Dalt Vila began with the settlement of the Carthaginians. From then on, the island developed into an important trading centre for delicacies, fish, salt, silver and gold. For the Carthaginians, however, the island had an additional meaning – a location for the largest and most important gravesites of their empire. One of the most famous tombs, Puig des Molins, can still be visited in Eivissa today.
The 9th century was the beginning of Ibiza’s golden age with the Moorish reign, which was marked by economic and cultural boom. The Moors brought their knowledge, innovations and culture to Ibiza, which is still reflected in traditions today. In the 13th century the Catalans invaded Ibiza and conquered Ibiza town. The official end of the Moorish reign then came in the 15th century. From then on the Catalans ruled and shaped the history and face of Ibiza. For example, the massive city walls of Dalt Vila were built in the 16th century. Construction work began in 1555 at the behest of King Philip II and Emperor Charles V, to build a defense against the French and Ottomans. However, the wall only helped for a limited time. When the Catalans lost interest in Ibiza, pirates entered the island. As a countermeasure, the inhabitants strengthened the city walls and built fortified towers and fortified churches that can still be visited today. In the 18th century, under the Spanish King Carlos III, Ibiza experienced an economic upswing again, although it did not last very long. Especially in the 19th century, the inhabitants suffered great hardship, as there was a lack of jobs and therefore many people emigrated, for example to the USA.
In the 20th century, tourism gradually developed, which in turn brought many changes and again attracted inhabitants to the island. The first hotels were opened, artists came to Ibiza and people from all over the world migrated to the island. Tourism experienced an enormous boom, especially after the end of the Franco dictatorship in Spain. More and more shops, restaurants and hotels opened up at this time. In the course of this, the mighty city walls of Dalt Vila were also restored in the 90s. In 1999 the old town was then declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
No matter where you look, in Ibiza and in Dalt Vila the traces of the past are still visible today, for example the mighty entrance gates and statues, the city walls, the tombs or the craft and art shops. Every culture has left its footprint, what enables us to kind of travel back in time.
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