Ibiza - the history of Spain's best known Balearic Island

Ibiza, Spain's most notorious tourist location, has not always enjoyed so infamous a status. The island only came to the world's attention in the mid-twentieth century, with the dawn of mass tourism and the development of commercial air travel, not to mention the advent of popular music as we know it today.

But the island is by no means a new discovery. The earliest known settlement on Ibiza was in around 4500 BC, when Neolithic settlers crossed from the mainland to tend their animals on Ibiza's fertile terrain. The first settlers to make a real impact, however, were the Phoenicians in around 650 BC. With what can only be described as a tremendous sense of foresight, they named their settlement - modern-day Ibiza Town - Ibosim, after Bes, their god of dance. Ibosim's ideal location on the trade route between Europe and North Africa had attracted the Phoenicians, and, after them, the Carthaginians. The main product they traded was salt, which remained the main source of income until tourism took over.

Ibosim became Ebesus when the Roman Empire superseded the Carthaginian Empire in 146 BC, and later Yebisah under the Moors, who came to the island in the tenth century AD and brought with them Arabic and Islam. In 1235, when the Catholic King Jaume I of Catalunya conquered what he called Eivissa (today still the Catalan name for Ibiza), Spain finally staked its claim on the island. This claim was enforced far more ruthlessly after the War of the Spanish Succession in the early eighteenth century, when Castilian customs were forced upon the island, and it was renamed for the final time, to Ibiza. Spain, in commandeering this tiny island, had unwittingly acquired one of its greatest assets.

But all of this pales almost into insignificance in comparison to what may well become known as Ibiza's most revolutionary historical period: the tourist age. Regular ferries had been shuttling between Ibiza and the mainland since the end of the nineteenth century, but it was not until the 1950s that mass tourism really started to take off. Ibiza was seen as rather an exotic honeymoon location. The development of beaches, hotels and resorts continued through the 1960s, by which time Ibiza had earned a reputation as a hangout for hippies and those travelling on a tight budget. By the 1970s, many of today's larger clubs had already established themselves as hippie venues; Pacha is one notable example, hosting wild parties that attracted travellers from all over the world.

The influx of visitors and developers shows no sign of abating, especially now that last-minute holiday bookings have made the island so affordable and accessible, and the commercial power of Ibiza shows no sign of diminishing.

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