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History of the Islands

ABOUT MALTA

Facts about Malta

Malta is an island located in the Mediterranean Sea, 93km south of Sicily and 230km from the nearest point of the North African mainland. It is an idyllic holiday destination for families, couples and single travellers with a wealth of history and cultural activities for all. Alternatively, the are multiple beaches, bars, restaurants and world class shopping available for a relaxing time in the sun.

  • The capital city is Valletta
  • There are approximately 417,608 inhabitants living on the island
  • The currency is Euro
  • Malta is part of the European Union
  • Malta’s sister islands are Gozo and Comino
  • There are two official languages, Maltese and English

 

HISTORY OF MALTA

Malta’s first inhabitants came from Sicily, and they were mainly fishermen, farmers and hunters. The first villages formed in 5,000 BC and the villagers mostly lived in caves.

In 4,000 BC the most distinguished period in the Maltese history began, when it is believed that the first temples were built. To this day, temples built during that time can be found around the island, such as the Ggantija temples. These are believed to be older than the Stonehenge temples, and they form part of the UNESCO world heritage.

In 1,000 BC Malta was invaded by the Phoenicians, who used the islands for the market trading due to its strategic position in the Mediterranean sea.

Following the Phoenicians, other cultures have come to Malta and influenced the island, such as the Carthaginians, the Romans and the Byzantines.

The Arabs ruled Malta for 220 years in 870 AD and they had a major influence on the Maltese language, making it the only Semitic based language written in Latin.

The medieval years began when the Normans conquered the island in 1090, after expelling the Arabs. After the Normans other invasions followed until the Knights of St. John conquered Malta in 1530 and lasted for 268 years. The main influence of the knights was the change of the capital city from Mdina to Birgu and then to Valletta. Both Birgu and Valletta were built thanks to their strategic position, as they are close to the sea and therefore were used as harbours. When the Turks tried to invade Malta in 1565, the Knights of St. John defended the island and built fortifications around Valletta, Birgu and Senglea. On the 8th September the war ended as the Turks retreated, and to this day the date is celebrated and remembered as the victory of The Great Siege.

In 1798 Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Malta and his rule lasted only two years, as the Maltese rebelled with the help of the British, who then conquered the island in 1800. Malta became the headquarters of the British navy because of its excellent position and harbours.

During World War II, in 1942, Malta received the English George Cross for their bravery and it has been part of the Maltese flag ever since. In 1964 Malta requested independence through a referendum, and on the 21st September of that year they gained it, with Queen Elizabeth II still head of state. Ten years later, on the 13th December 1974, Malta became a republic. In 2004 the island joined the European Union, and is today the smallest member state.