Trade and the new economy
Greek, Phoenician and Roman merchants sailed past the islands on their trade routes to the Iberian Peninsula. Their stopovers gave the indigenous population their first contact with foreigners.
When the Romans conquered the Baliares islands in 123 BC, they settled in the natural ports in order to control the maritime routes between the Italian and Iberian peninsulas. In this way, Roman culture and economy were introduced to Majorca and Minorca. This process, known as Romanisation, was slow, and both the Roman and the indigenous types of economy coexisted on the islands for many centuries.
The indigenous economy was based on cultivation to meet their own needs and on cattle grazing. Since there was no currency, products were exchanged.
The Roman economy, on the other hand, was based on agricultural production and trade throughout the Mediterranean. It would have therefore occupied the best areas of the islands.
The Roman ship which sank off Porto Cristo in the 1st century AD indicates that the natural harbour of Manacor was on some Roman commercial routes. Its cargo of decorated lamps also indicates that there was a demand for manufactured objects by Roman settlers or natives who had adopted Roman customs.
The three amphoras on display were used to transport the three basic products: wine, oil and garum.
Grain, which was another important product, was transported in sacks.
You can also see a Roman anchor on display. The part made of lead, the stock, is original and the wooden part is a reproduction.
We can discover a lot about the domestic life of the Romans from the common objects in the display case: mortars and pestles, pots, cups, and lamps. These pieces came from the Italian peninsula to Majorca by boat.
The Roman conquest brought a significant number of new people to the islands for the first time, and the local population were introduced to their customs. One of the most significant customs that was adopted was writing. Previously, the islanders had not had any need to record their history or legends in writing, since they had passed them on orally.
The Romans, however, had developed writing centuries earlier, and used it to communicate and to leave testimonies that have great historical value today.
In this hall, you can see the remains of Latin writing on stone and ceramic. Roman culture is also expressed by the decorations on the lamps in the display cases and in the sculpture of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and the vine.
Settler: A person who moves to live in a new place far from their country of origin. The place where these people settle is known as a colony and it is governed by their country of origin.
Phoenicians: An ancient civilisation that was established around 3,000 BC on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, in present-day Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Israel.
Carthaginians: An ancient civilisation that had first been a Phoenician colony, but eventually became independent. The capital city was Carthage, located in North Africa in present-day Tunisia.
Gymnesiae: The name which the Greeks gave to the islands of Majorca and Minorca.
Settlement: A place which a person or a community inhabits permanently or temporarily.
Garum: A sauce made with fermented fish and salt.