Balearic Islands, a group of islands in the Mediterranean, the principal of which are Majorca, Minorca, and the penal settlement of Cabrera, forming a province of Spain, situated opposite that of Valencia, between lat. 39° 6' and 40° 5' N. and lon. 2° 20' and 4° 21' E.; area, 1,860 sq. m.; pop. in 1867, 284,398. Formerly the islands of Iviza and Formente-ra, lying between Majorca and the mainland, were generally considered a part of this group. Both Majorca and Minorca are mountainous, the highest mountain rising over 5,000 feet above the sea. The climate is delightful, and the soil extremely fertile, but agriculture and cattle-breeding are neglected, despite of fine pasture. Sheep and hogs are very large, however, and mules and asses are reared for exportation. The principal products are olives, oranges, figs, and other fruits, red and white wine, and saffron. The exports comprise these articles as well as oil, brandy, home-made palm brooms, baskets, and wooden wares. The trade is chiefly carried on in Majorca and Minorca. The inhabitants resemble the Catalans. The language of the common people is a corrupt Catalan dialect mixed with words from various eastern languages.

The islands were known to the Greeks and Romans under their present name, which they derived fromBalearic Islands 0200126 to throw, in reference to the great skill of the inhabitants as slingers. Early settlements were made by the Phoenicians and Carthaginians. During the Punic wars the islanders served as slingers in the armies of both Carthage and Rome. Subsequently their piracies caused them to be subdued by the Romans under Q. C. Metellus (123 B. C), hence surnamed Balearicus. They successively fell into the hands of the Vandals, the Visigoths, and the Moors; were held by Charlemagne six years, and retaken by the Moors, who were not expelled till the 13th century. Conquered by James I. of Aragon in 1229, they formed after his death, for about 70 years, a part of the kingdom of Majorca, and in 1343 reverted to Aragon.