A short history of Malta

Malta is in a very strategic location, right in the middle of the Mediterranean. Being at the cross-roads has greatly influenced Malta. Commerce, language, religion, customs, and war passed through Malta producing rich history, complex language, unique culture, and a tremendously resilient people.

The combined size of the islands (Malta, Gozo, Comino...followed by much smaller Cominotto and Filfla) comprise only 198.8 square miles (320 km). Of the two main inhabited islands, Gozo is roughly one third the size of Malta. During the Ice Ages, the Maltese Islands were joined to Sicily, and Sicily to Italy. Human presence in Malta can be dated to the Neolithic period (5200BC to 4100BC). The population of Malta is almost 400,000 people with only 30,000 of that number living in Gozo.


 


Malta's jewel in the crown of ancient archaeology is its 'Temple Period' (4100BC to 2500BC) from which there are major architectural structures. The world's oldest freestanding architecture is the Ggantija temple in Gozo which is over one thousand years older than the Egyptian Pyramids. The incredible number of these temples include Skorba, Hagar Qim, Mnajdra, Tarxien, and the awe-inspiring underground temple of Hal Saflieni, Hypogeum.


If more modern history is your pleasure, there is plenty to hold your interest, with Phoenician, Roman, Medieval, Crusades, French, and British influences all weaving textures of life which are close to undescribable but immensely interesting and appealing to the eye, the mind, and the heart.


The 'Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta' - Knights of Malta moved to Malta after being defeated at Rhodes by Suleiman the Magnificent. The Order's original duties were to care for sick and wounded Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land and to help the poor, but they were destined to become players in one of the most dramatic battles in history. Suleiman set out to destroy the Knights and use Malta as a staging area for an attack on Southern Europe. In 1565 the much feared and dreaded naval commander of the Ottoman Turks, Dragut the 'Great Turkish pirate' set out with his enormous fleet to overtake the heavily outnumbered Knights of Malta. In one of the dramatic stories of all history, the heavily outnumbered Knights of Malta stood their ground and forced the Turks to abandon their plans. The Knights of St. John had successfully protected Southern Europe.


The fortress city, Valletta, was built and named in honour of the Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Valette, the courageous leader of the Knights. Valletta is one of the earliest examples of a planned city built on the grid system. The Knights of Malta came from the richest aristocratic families in Europe and proceeded to hire the best engineers and artists of the day to craft "The city built by gentlemen for gentlemen" as described by Sir Walter Scott. The massive fortifications, museums, palaces, churches of Valletta still stand in testimony to the style and culture of those who built this 'modern' city. Valletta's harbor and fortifications can be seen in many movies, lending atmosphere and historic character that is distinctive to Valletta, Malta.


Napoleon also took his turn at dominating the Maltese islands. In 1800 the British helped oust the French and remained until 1964, when the Maltese Islands achieved their independence. During World War II, Malta sustained more intense air attacks than the well-publicized blitz of London. The Maltese came within days of starvation from this second great siege and were saved by a dramatic supply convoy on the feast day of Santa Marija, 15 August 1942.


Malta and Gozo are of the same political and cultural cloth and yet are places of two very distinct ambiances. The island of Malta is the modern-day business center with lots of hustle and bustle, all taking place against the backdrop of the architecture and history of medieval walled cities and the social structure of gentry and European hierarchy of the Knights, with its attendant protocols and etiquette. The sister island of Gozo, on the other hand, is the smaller, informal, greener, farming island. Gozo functions more on the principle of who you are, rather than who you know. It is a very down to earth place...with a delicious array of vegetables, hills, sheep, goats, horses, donkeys, and church bells. It is the place where many Maltese come to spend weekends, to get away from the clock and the schedules, to relax and unwind...and it is the place where a small number of other, wiser folk from far-away lands come quietly to live!

The result of all these various cultures and influences on the Maltese Islands and people is a combination of richness to the textures of life which is close to undescribable but immensely interesting and appealing to the eye, the mind, and the heart.


Where is Malta?


 

THE MALTESE ISLANDS AS SEEN BY SPACE SHUTTLE

 
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PICTURES OF MALTA & GOZO
 
A stroll below the cliffs by Paolo Meitre Liberatini
Comino - Blue Lagoon Aerial View by Clive Vella
Gozo - Citadel Aerial View by Clive Vella
Gozo - Cliffs by Clive Vella
A stroll below the cliffs by
Paolo Meitre Liberatini
Comino - Blue Lagoon Aerial
view by Clive Vella
Gozo - Citadel Aerial View
by Clive Vella
Gozo - Cliffs by Clive Vella
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Gozo - Dwejra Inland Sea Aerial View by Clive Vella
Malta - Gnejna Bay Aerial View by Clive Vella
Malta - Marsamxett Harbour Aerial View by Clive Vella
Malta - St Julian's Aerial View by Clive Vella
Gozo - Dwejra Inland Sea
Aerial View by Clive Vella
Malta - Gnejna Bay Aerial
View by Clive Vella
Malta - Marsamxett Harbour
Aerial View by Clive Vella
Malta - St Julian's Aerial
by Clive Vella
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Malta - St Julians St Georges Bay by Jurgen Scicluna
Malta - Valletta Aerial View 01 by Clive Vella
Malta - St Julians St Georges Bay
by Jurgen Scicluna
Malta - Valletta Aerial View
by Clive Vella
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All photos on this page © www.visitmalta.com
 

 

 

 
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