Ibiza Old Town: A Brief History

Ibiza Old Town: A Brief History

Posted on December 21, 2021 in General Ibiza Tourist Information, Things to do, Winter in Ibiza

Take a walk around Ibiza town today, and you will find it bustling and thriving, cosmopolitan and quirky, full of history and crackling with colour and energy.

Photo courtesy of Ben30 https://www.flickr.com/photos/ben30/

Ibossim, Ebusus, Yehbisa, Eivissa, Ibiza!

Through the ages it has obviously not always been the place it is today. It has a long and rich history interwoven into its people and its architecture.

The town (and of course the island!) was discovered by the Carthaginians in 654 BC, making it one of the earliest towns in Europe. They named it Ibossim. Curiously, this means ‘City of Bes’. Bes was the Egyptian God of music and dance. Perhaps they were onto something there!

The town was renamed Ebusus in 123 BC by the conquering Romans. You can see evidence of this where the Roman statues guard the gates to the entrance of Ibiza old town.

The fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century saw the town fall into neglect. Indeed, it was conquered by the Vandals and the Byzantines in the years up until the 9th century when the Arabs arrived. They called it Yehbisa.

Relics of Arab rule, like the fortified walls and watchtowers, remain. Although their influence is perhaps best depicted in the island dialect ‘Ibicenco’, and the style of dress still worn by Ibicencan traditionalists today.

In 1235 the Catalans arrived, bringing Christianity with them. They replaced the mosques with churches and built the stunning cathedral in Dalt Vila. They also gave the town its current Catalan name, Eivissa.

The walls surrounding Dalt Vila are the result of fortification from the Italian architect Calvi in the 16th century. They were built on to defend the town against the more frequent and brutal pirate attacks blighting the town.

These walls and the town enclosed within were named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999, and are a great example of the town as a whole. With each change of rule, each change of culture, each change of religion, the new phase has not deleted the previous, only incorporated it into the present.

A general opinion of Ibiza town today is of freedom, enterprise and relaxation. As the liberalists fled Franco’s mainland Spain to the island in the late 1950’s, Ibiza town became a haven for writers, poets, artists and musicians. This was the birth of the town as it is known today as the nightclubs were built in the mid 60’s on the back of hippy culture.