Mahón (the Catalan name Maó is the official form, and often known as Port Mahon in English) is a municipality and the capital city of the Balearic Island of Minorca (the Balearic Islands form an autonomous Spanish community), located in the eastern part of the island. Mahon has the second deepest natural harbour in the world, 5 km long and up to 900m. wide. The water is deep but it remains very clear.
Its population in 2009 was estimated to be 29,495 inhabitants.
The name's origin is attributed to the Carthaginian general Mago Barca, brother to Hannibal, who is thought to have taken refuge there in 205 BC. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, it was part of the Byzantine Empire; it suffered raids from Viking and Arabs, until the Islamic Caliphate of Córdoba conquered it in 903.
Mahon was captured in 1287 from the Moors by Alfonso III of Aragon and incorporated into the Kingdom of Majorca, a vassal kingdom of the Kingdom of Aragon. Its harbour, one of the most strategically important in the western Mediterranean, was re-fortified.
In 1535, the Ottomans under Hayreddin Barbarossa attacked Mahon and took 6,000 captives as slaves back to Algiers, in the Sack of Mahon.
Minorca was captured by the British during the War of the Spanish Succession in 1708, and its status as a British possession was confirmed by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. During the island's years as a British dependency in the 18th century, Mahon served as its capital and residence for the governor, the most famous being General Richard Kane.
The island changed hands several times during the eighteenth century, with France and Spain both capturing it. In 1783 the Peace of Paris returned the town to control of the Spanish but it was occupied for a final time by the British during the Capture of Minorca in 1798 before being returned to Spain for good in 1802.
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