Brief history of Malta summarized
A short tour of the history of Malta, a country with an ancient link to Great Britain.
During the last Ice Age, Malta was a high mountain linked to Italy by land. However, when the Ice Age ended about 10,000 years ago, the sea level rose and Malta became a group of islands. However, some 5,200 stone age farmers came to Malta from Sicily and began to farm the land.
Early farmers in Malta made simple tools from stone and wood. They also made pottery. Despite their primitive tools, Stone Age farmers created an advanced society. From 3,600 BC to 2,500 BC they built great temples in Malta, including those at Tarxien.
They also carved the Hypogeum, a series of underground chambers, into the rock. The temple-building culture in Malta ended around 2,500 BC, and it is not yet known why.
On the other hand, the Maltese began to use bronze tools and weapons. It is not clear whether a new race migrated to Malta at this time or whether Stone Age farmers learned to use bronze from other Mediterranean peoples.
Around 800 BC the Phoenicians sailed to Malta. The Phoenicians were a highly civilized people of what is now Lebanon. They were great sailors and merchants and gave Malta its name. They called him Malet, which means refuge or shelter. Around 480 BC the Phoenicians founded a city called Carthage on the north coast of Africa.
From about 400 BC the Carthaginians ruled over Malta. They ruled for about 250 years until 218 BC, when the Romans conquered Malta. Malta flourished under Roman rule and was known for its honey and sailcloth.
Meanwhile, around AD 60, Paul was shipwrecked on Malta while sailing for Rome. He converted Publius, the Roman ruler, to Christianity. Little by little, the rest of the Maltese followed one another. In the third century AD the majority of Maltese were Christians.
However, in the year 870 AD Malta was conquered by the Arabs. The Arabs ruled Malta for over 200 years and at that time the Maltese were heavily influenced by the Arab civilization. In particular, the Maltese language was largely shaped by the Arabic language.
Arab rule was ended by the Normans. In 1090 a Norman named Count Roger captured Malta. In 1091 he too had expelled the Arabs from Sicily. For a time, Malta became part of the Kingdom of Sicily.
However, the Sicilian kings took little interest in Malta and left the Maltese to mind their own business. Then in 1266 Malta and Sicily were captured by the French. However, in 1283 Malta was captured by the Aragonese (Aragon was part of Spain).
In 1412 Malta passed to the kings of Castile (another part of Spain), but made no difference to the common Maltese. For them, life was normal. Finally Castile and Aragon were united and Malta became part of the powerful Spanish Empire.
However, Malta changed hands again in 1530. The Spanish king granted Malta to the Knights of Saint John. Who were they? In the 11th century, Europeans undertook journeys called pilgrimages to Jerusalem. In 1048 some Italian merchants founded an order of monks called the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem.
They took care of sick pilgrims. In 1113 the order was formally recognized by the Pope. However, at that time the Christians were fighting in the Crusades against the Muslims. The Order of Saint John began to fight against the Muslims and take care of sick pilgrims. So they became the Knights of Saint John.
However, in 1291 the Muslims expelled the Christians from Israel. The Knights of Saint John went to Cyprus first, but in 1310 they moved to Rhodes. However, in 1523 the Turks captured Rhodes and the Knights were left homeless until the Spanish king gave them Malta in 1530.
It was not a great prize. Malta was arid and infertile and fresh water was scarce. The people were poor. However, the Knights of St. John made Malta their home.
In 1562 the Inquisition was established in Malta. The job of this evil organization was to hunt down and punish ‘heretics’ (anyone who disagreed with the teachings of the Catholic Church). The Maltese Inquisition was not abolished until 1798.
The siege of Malta
The Knights of Saint John continued to fight the Turks, so finally in 1565 the Turks decided to try to capture Malta. They sent a fleet of 81 ships with more than 30,000 soldiers on board. The Turkish navy reached Malta on May 18, 1565 and sailed for Marsaxlokk Bay. His soldiers landed and camped on the plain of Marsa.
In 1565 the Grand Master of the Knights of Saint John was a Frenchman named Jean Parisot de la Valette (1494-1568). He was 70 years old, but he was brave. However, the Maltese could only muster a force of about 9,000 men. All of them fled to the shelter of walled cities, Birgu (Vittoriosa), L’Isla (Senglea) and Mdina. They took their pets with them.
First of all, the Turks decided to capture Fort St. Elmo, which stood alone on the Sciberras Peninsula, at the site of Valletta. They bombarded the fort, which bravely resisted until June 23, 1565.
Although the Turks eventually captured the fort, it was a Pyrrhic victory. They lost 8,000 men, about a quarter of their entire army in the siege. Their commander, Dragut Rais, was among the dead.
The Turks then beheaded 4 Knights they had captured and nailed them to the crosses. They were floated across the harbor to Fort San Angelo. Grand Master La Valette beheaded the Turkish prisoners and shot their heads from the cannons.
The Turks then attempted to capture Birgu (Vittoriosa) and L’Isla (Senglea), but failed and suffered heavy losses. A relief force of 8,000 Sicilians arrived in northeast Malta on 7 September, and soon after the Turks abandoned the siege and withdrew.
The Knights of Saint John in Malta
In 1565, the Sciberras peninsula, where Valletta is located, was uninhabited, except for Fort St Elmo. After the siege, fearing another Turkish attack, la Valette decided to build new fortifications and a new town on the peninsula. The foundation stone of Valletta was laid on March 28, 1566.
The streets were laid out in the form of a grid. Walls were built to protect the city and a huge ditch was dug across the entire peninsula. La Valette died in 1568 at the age of 73, but the new town is named after him.
After 1634, Grand Master Antoine de Paule built new fortifications along the peninsula south of Valletta. They were designed by an Italian named Pietro Paolo Floriani. In the 18th century a suburb of Valletta was built between the two fortification lines and named Floriana in his honor. The Turkish threat to Malta continued throughout the 17th century, but by the end of the century the Ottoman Empire was in decline.
Meanwhile, the knights continued to care for the sick. In 1574 they began to build a hospital, the Sacra Infermeria de Valletta. In 1676 Grand Master Cottoner founded the School of Anatomy and Surgery.
In 1693 Malta was devastated by an earthquake but soon recovered.
However, during the 18th century the Knights of Saint John became corrupt. They spent their time dueling, drinking and chasing women. When the Knights became decadent, they fell out of favor with the Maltese people. The rule of the Knights was finally ended by Napoleon Bonaparte.
While sailing to Egypt, French ships anchored off Malta. Napoleon asked for fresh water for his ships, but the Knights refused. On June 11, 1798 the French landed and the Knights quickly surrendered – they had lost their fighting spirit.
French knights were allowed to stay in Malta, but those from other nations were forced to leave. Napoleon left Malta after 6 days, but left 4,000 men to guard the island. The French took treasures from the churches, but they did a good thing: they abolished the inquisition.
However, on September 2, 1798, the Maltese rebelled against the French in Mdina. The French withdrew to Valletta and the Maltese asked the British for help. They imposed a naval blockade on the island. However, the French held out in Valletta for two years. They did not finally surrender until September 5, 1800.
In 1802 the British and the French made a temporary peace through the Treaty of Amiens. They agreed that the Knights of St. John should return to Malta. However, the Maltese did not want the Knights back and asked the British to stay.
In any case, war between Britain and France began in 1803, before the Knights could return. As a result, the British stayed. In 1814 the other European powers recognized Malta as a British colony by the Treaty of Paris.
The early years of the 19th century were quiet and uneventful for Malta. However, the Crimean War (1853-1856) brought prosperity, as Malta was on the route between Great Britain and the soldiers serving in the Crimea.
The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 also brought prosperity as it meant that more ships sailed through the Mediterranean and stopped in Malta. In 1883 a railway was opened from Valletta to Mdina.
Meanwhile, the British allowed the Maltese a limited role in government. From 1835 a Governing Council consisting of leading Maltese was formed to advise the British Governor. From 1849 the Maltese were allowed to elect some representatives. Beginning in 1887 most representatives were elected.
However, the Maltese were dissatisfied and on June 7, 1919, they mutinied. British soldiers shot and killed 4 Maltese. However, in 1921, the British gave Malta a new constitution, and Joseph Howard became the first prime minister.
However, political unrest continued in Malta. As a result, the Constitution was revoked in 1930. It was reinstated in 1932, but finally revoked in 1933.
Meanwhile, in the early 20th century, many dissatisfied Maltese emigrated to Britain and to English-speaking countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia. This migration continued after World War II.
On June 10, 1940, Italy declared war on Great Britain. The next day, June 11, the Italians bombed Malta. At first, Malta was defended by only three Gloster gladiators, called Faith, Hope and Charity (Faith, Hope and Charity). However, the British soon sent hurricanes to Malta. However, the Italian bombing continued.
The raids worsened when German Luftwaffe planes were sent to Malta. In addition, the rations in Malta have fallen very short. However, on April 15, 1942, King George VI awarded the Cross to the entire population of Malta. Fortunately, a relief convoy arrived in Malta on August 15, 1942.
The situation improved after November 1942, when the British won the Battle of El Alamein in Egypt. The Germans and Italians in North Africa surrendered in May 1943, and in July 1943 the Allies invaded Sicily.
In 1947, the British granted Malta another constitution along with 30 million pounds to help repair war damage. However, the Maltese pushed for independence, which they gained on September 21, 1964. At first the Queen was the head of state, but in 1974 Malta became a republic.
Meanwhile Dominic (Dom) Mintoff of the Labor Party became prime minister in 1971. He weakened ties with Britain and the US and the last British soldiers left Malta in 1979. In 1982 Agatha Barbara became the first female president of Malta. In 1987 the Nationalist Party took power and Eddie Fenech Adami became Prime Minister.
Malta joined the EU in 2004 and in 2008 it joined the euro. Today, the main industry in Malta is tourism, although there is also an electronics industry and a pharmaceutical industry. Malta suffered in the economic recession of 2008-2009. However, Malta soon recovered.
Today Malta is flourishing and its economy is growing strongly. Today, the population of Malta is 415,000.
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