Aviva Directory » Local & Global » Europe » Malta

The Republic of Malta, frequently known as Malta, is an archipelago in the eastern basin of the Mediterranean Sea and covers 122 square miles. The capital is Valletta, and the largest city is Birkirkara. Because of its location in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, its history contains a long succession of powers. At various times, it was ruled by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, France, and British. Maltese is the national language and English is the official language.

Malta's national flag is adorned with the George Cross due to the fact that in 1942, they were awarded the highest award for gallantry because of their bravery during World War II when it was still a British colony.

The Archdiocese of Malta is considered an apostolic see, which is the designation of any ecclesiastical jurisdiction whose origin is attributed to any of Jesus Christ's apostles. This designation is due to the fact that, according to the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul was shipwrecked on Melita, which is the word from which Malta is derived.

People have lived on the archipelago since the prehistoric time that the settlers arrived from the nearby island of Sicily.

The Phonecians first colonized and brought their Semitic culture and language to Malta between 800 and 700 BC. The Phoenicians used the region as an outpost for trading and explorations until the Carthaginians took the archipelago over. The Romans conquered the Carthaginians in 216 BC.

In 60 AD, it is said that the Apostle Paul was shipwrecked on the island on his way to Rome, and proselytized while he was there, converting most of the island. The Christian faith persisted in many quarters throughout even the Muslim occupation and even up until today, according to Giovanni Francesco Abela, a Maltese noble who chronicled the country and its faith in the early 17th century.

Meanwhile, Malta remained inhabited by a large number of Muslims a very long time after the days of Arab rule. Those Muslims who had been in administrative roles remained in those positions, even all this time later. They were legally allowed to practice their faith until sometime in the thirteenth century. Because of this favorable treatment, the Muslims dominated Malta economically and demographically for at least 150 years. Yet in 1122, the Muslims rebelled, and Roger II returned in 1127 to reconquer Malta.

In 1240, a sort of census of the islands of Malta and Gozo showed that there were 836 Muslim families, 250 Christian families, and 33 Jewish families. In 1249, many of Malta's Muslims were sent to Lucera, a colony of Italy which was created specifically for Sicilian of the Muslim faith.

By the end of the century, all Maltese Muslims were forced to convert to Christianity or leave. They also had to Latinize or change their last names. From 1530 to 1687, Malta was ruled by the Order of St. John as a vassal state of the Kingdom of Sicily.

In 1530, the Knights of the Order of Saint John, later known as the Knights of Malta, were driven out of Rhodes by Ottoman sultan Suleiman I. Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor traded Malta, Gozo, and Tripoli to the Knights in feudal perpetuity in return for a single Maltese falcon each year.

The Knights of Malta experienced a decline in their power, and in 1798, Napoleon and his expeditionary fleet stopped at Malta on the way to Egypt. Napoleon himself asked for safe harbor so he could restock his ships and his 30,000 men could rest. The Knights, citing the concept that their neutrality could only be retained if they allowed no more than two ships entry at a time, refused to allow him or his men entry to Valetta.

An unhappy Napoleon ordered his fleet to bombard the area. Several thousand soldiers landed at seven strategic pints around the island. The Knights were unable to hold up their resistance, and after about 24 hours, the 2,000 or so Maltese militia retreated. Napoleon negotiated a surrender, and Grandmaster Ferdinand Hompesch, who turned Malta and its resources over to the French in exchange for pensions and estates in France for the Knights. Napoleon stayed a total of six days after the surrender, and during that short time, he reformed much. He abolished feudalism, and slavery, freeing about 2,000 Turkish slaves in the process. He also created a new administration with a Government Commission, as well as twelve municipalities, and set up a public finance administration as well as an education system, and a judicial system.

Malta became a republic in 1974, though it still a member of the Commonwealth of nations.



Recommended Resources

Search for Malta on Google or Bing