Another historic one; The port of Sanitja, the empire of Rome arrived on our beautiful island!
In the Cape of Cavallería, the most northern point of Menorca, is the natural port of Sanitja. used by the Romans for the construction of a Roman "castrum" (fortification or military camp) from which they could dominate the whole north of the island. Later it would become the "city" of Sanissera.
A little bit of military history of this strategic enclave:
Approximately in 123 B.C. Roman legions commanded by Quintus Caecilius Metellus possibly reached this corner of northern Minorca. It is the best natural harbour in the north of Menorca, sheltered from all winds, even from the dreaded Tramontana. At that time, the port was further inland and therefore had more draft, which allowed for the anchoring of larger and larger vessels. It was the only place in the north that provided shelter when the Tramontana blew, as the bay of Fornells did not allow access to this type of old vessels with bad sea conditions. The Roman settlement was located on a plateau to the south of the port, some 20 metres above sea level. This castrum of approximately 7,500 m2 served as a refuge for a small garrison possibly formed by Roman soldiers and Balearic slingers, the latter being very much appreciated as an auxiliary unit of the regular army.
The Roman "castrum", located in the southeast of the bay, was built after the arrival of the Romans to the island in 123 B.C. and would have been in operation until approximately 45 B.C. Around 75 B.C. a series of reforms were carried out in the fort, possibly linked to the civil war between Sertorius and the Senate of Rome. Another civil war, the one between Julius Caesar and Pompey must have also had its influence in this area, which was probably part of Pompey's side. It is possible that the slingers were used by Cneus Pompey, son of Pompey the Great, in his attempt to recover Hispania, after his father's defeat in Pharsalia. The camp must have been abandoned after the military reorganisation carried out by Julius Caesar following his victory at the battle of Munda in 45 B.C.
This camp, it seems, was used for the recruitment and training of the mythical Balearic Slingers. According to the Greek geographer and historian, Strabo, they were the best combatants in the use of this weapon. A multitude of lead projectiles for slingshot (glandes plumbeae) have been found during the excavations carried out in the Roman barracks.
We continue with some civil history of this beautiful place:
The Roman city of Sanisera One of the three Roman cities that Menorca had at this time. The Other Mago and Iamo, are located under the towns of Mahon and Ciutadella. Part of the old city of Sanisera is under the waters of the place, where a high number of amphorae have been found, which shows us the important commercial activity of the area. Of the results of the excavations carried out to date, the discovery of what is known as Building C and the necropolis deserve special mention. The building, on the western side of the site, is dated to the 4th century AD and would have been in operation at least until the 6th century AD. It must have been linked to a farm, because of the eight rooms discovered, most of them were used as a warehouse or corral. About 20 metres from this building is the necropolis, where at least 21 burials have been found and it is dated between the 5th and 7th centuries AD.
The last historical building in this enclave is built at the entrance of the port on the left hand side, you can see a defense tower in quite poor condition, built during the last British domination, more or less in the year 1800 and served to detect the possible arrival of French or Spanish ships.
To reach this "port" still in use today (for small boats), you must go to the Cavalleria Lighthouse, this historical enclave is located at the beginning of the cape where you can see the archaeological remains of what were rooms or warehouses.
As always, we invite you to come to Ca s'Arader - www.casarader.com - where, if you are interested, we will explain how to reach this place and you will be able to imagine how these first Romans were able to live in this spectacular place with incredible views.
Pedro Pons Casasnovas
Ca s’Arader is named after Menorca’s artisan carpenters that used the wood from the indigenous wild olive tree to make all kinds of farming tools. In the olden days it was an essential role for the islands economy that was passed on from fathers to sons. Today, the few artisan carpenters or araders that are left, mostly make gates, tables, benches or stalls amongst other items.