Beautiful Africa

Balearic Islands

The Balearic Islands (English /?b?lir?k ?a?l?ndz/; Catalan: Illes Balears [?iz ?as]; Spanish: Islas Baleares [?izlaz ?ale?a?es])[1][2][3] are an archipelago of Spain in the western Mediterranean Sea, near the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. The four largest islands are: Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera. The archipelago forms an autonomous community and a province of Spain, with Palma as the capital city. The co-official languages in the Balearic Islands are Catalan and Castilian Spanish. The current Statute of Autonomy declares the Balearic Islands as one nationality of Spain. The official name of the Balearic Islands in Catalan is Illes Balears, while in Spanish they are known as the Islas Baleares. The term "Balearic" derives from Greek (?/Gymnesiae and /Balliareis)[4] and Latin (Baleares). Of the various theories on the origins of the two ancient Greek and Latin names for the islands Gymnasiae and Baleares classical sources provide two. According to the Lycophron's Alexandra verses, the islands were called Gymnesiae ? (gymnos , meaning naked in Greek) because its inhabitants were often nude, probably because of the year-round benevolent climate. The Greek and Roman writers generally derive the name of the people from their skill as slingers (baleareis ?, from ballo ?: ancient Greek meaning "to launch"), although Strabo regards the name as of Phoenician origin. He observed it was the Phoenician equivalent for lightly armoured soldiers the Greeks would have called gymnetas .[5] The root bal does point to a Phoenician origin; perhaps[original research?] the islands were sacred to the god Baal; and the accid ntal resemblance to the Greek root ? (in ? ballo), coupled with the occupation of the people, would provide sufficient foundation for the usual Greek practice of assimilating names to their own language. That it was not, however, Greek at first, one may infer with great probability from the fact that the common Greek name of the islands is not ? (Baleareis), but ? (Gymnesiai), the former being the name used by the natives, as well as by the Carthaginians and Romans.[6] The latter name, for which two fancied etymologies have already been mentioned, probably derives from the light equipment of the Balearic troops (gymnetae ). Little is recorded on the earliest inhabitants of the islands, though many legends exist. The story, preserved by Lycophron, that certain shipwrecked Boeotians were cast nude on the islands, was evidently invented to account for the name Gymnesiae. There is also a tradition that the islands were colonized by Rhodes after the Trojan War.[5] The islands had a very mixed population, of whose name of the islands (an instance of folk etymology) until the Phoenicians clothed them with broad-bordered tunics. In other stories, they were naked only in the heat of summer. Other legends hold that the inhabitants lived in hollow rocks and artificial caves, that they were remarkable for their love of women and 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 marriage and funeral customs, peculiar to Roman observers, are related by Diodorus Siculus