The islands of Malta are on an underwater ridge which extends from North Africa via Sicily to Italy and Europe. In prehistoric times the ridge was completely submerged below water, before geological activity raised the whole ridge above the surface, as evidence of the bones of both African and European animals reveals.
The first Neolithic cave dwellers arrived in Malta, probably from Sicily, around 5200 BCE. Malta’s Temple Period started around 3600 BCE, possibly influenced by another culture which arrived at the islands, and ended abruptly about 2500 BCE when the people responsible “disappeared.”
Once again during the Bronze Age it is thought that a new migration from Sicily occurred, who left remains of villages, dolmens and the so called Cart Tracks, parallel tracks cut into rocks which suggest they were used to guide carts. By the 8th century BCE Phoenician traders were using the ports on Malta as they traded around the Mediterranean.
By the 7th century BCE Phoenicians invaded and colonised the islands during the building of their maritime empire, based at Carthage in North Africa. They named the island Malat, Safe Haven, and established their capital at Maleth, Rabat. During the Punic Wars Malta was to fall to the now expanding Roman Republic in 218 BCE.
The Romans established their walled city at Rabat, now named Melita. The main Roman site now on Malta, a Domus, fell out of use in the 2nd century CE. As the Western Roman Empire declined in the 5th century, Vandals from the north moved through Roman Europe and North Africa, before they finally captured Rome in 455. Malta fell to them in 440 and was not recaptured until 533, this time by the Eastern Roman Byzantines who held possession of the islands until 870 CE.
When the Fatimid Muslims arrived from North Africa they strengthened the capital, called Mdina, Walled City, by them. They introduced many new farming methods including irrigation and water wheels, along with new crops of lemons, oranges, and cotton.
At the beginning of the 11th century, Norman expansionism was in full flow, and in 1091 the Count of Sicily, Roger I, made a failed attempt at invading Malta, but his son, Roger II, was successful in 1127. They were to drastically change the islands from Islam to Christianity, although a large Muslim community still lived there. In 1429 there was a failed attempt by Muslims, this time Hafsid Saracens, to capture Malta, but although they pillaged the islands and took 3,000 slaves, it was unsuccessful.
Malta remained part of the Kingdom of Sicily for over four centuries, during which time several immigrations of Norman military and aristocracy, from both Sicily and Italy, took place. Malta was granted to feudal lords and barons from Germany, France and Spain, until in 1479 the combined resources of the Crowns of Aragon and Castile, managed to bring the islands under the control of the Spanish Empire.
The Ottoman Empire had spread from Anatolia through the Middle East and across North Africa. Their advance into Europe had only been halted by Vlad the Impaler at the gates of Vienna, and when Suleiman I drove the Knights Hospitallers of St John from Rhodes in 1522, Christian Europe panicked.
The Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, gave the island of Malta to the Knights of St John to prevent an invasion of Europe from the south. They made their base at Birgu, modern Vittoriosa, but following the Great Siege by the Ottoman Turks they relocated to their newly built city of Valletta. By the end of the 18th century the Knight’s power had declined, and although they refused safe anchorage and supplies to the forces of Napoleon in 1798, a division of troops approaching Valletta quickly changed their minds, and they handed over sovereignty of the island to him.
Bonaparte only stayed on Malta for six days, just long enough for him to completely reorganise the government, the education system, abolished all feudal rights, and freed 2,000 Turkish slaves. He repeated this act during his Egyptian Campaign, when he purchased 2,000 Mamluks from their Syrian masters to form a corp in his army. Mamaluks were used as his personal body guard in the Republican Guard.
The garrison left on Malta grew unpopular due to vandalism and robbery of churches, and the islanders asked the British for help. Nelson blockaded the port and the French soon surrendered, and the British took over from 1800. Home rule was given to Malta in 1921, but because of difficulties forming an effective government it reverted back to a British Crown Colony.
It served as a hospital base during WWI, and Valletta became the location for the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet. It was heavily bombed during WWII, and the whole island was awarded the highest award for gallantry, the George Cross. In 1943 the southern invasion of Europe was launched from Malta, and on the conclusion of hostilities, in 1947, Malta finally achieved self government.
St George's Bay
The Marquis Scicluna's Summer Residence
(Now a Casino)
Park and Hilton Tower, St Julian's
Senglea from Birgu, Vittoriosa
Buggy Ride, Mdina
Mater Boni Consil School, Paola
The Prison Paola