Mon - Fri: 9:00 - 17:30
Sat-Sun Closed
+356 21244895
Phone
55/1 Giuseppe Calì Street XBX1425 Ta' Xbiex Malta

History

Pin It

Prehistory

Prehistoric pygmy elephant, discovered in Għar Dalam

Prehistoric pygmy elephant, discovered in Għar Dalam

Pottery found by archeologists at Skorba resembles that found in Italy, and suggests that the Maltese islands were first settled in 5200 BC mainly by stone age hunters or farmers who had arrived from the larger island of Sicily, possibly the Sicani. The extinction of the dwarf hippos and dwarf elephants has been linked to the earliest arrival of humans on Malta. The most probable means by which people came to Malta was by using rafts. When they came to Malta they first settled in caves, such as Għar Dalam, and later built huts.

The Sicani were the only tribe known to have inhabited the island at this time and are generally regarded as related to the Iberians. The population on Malta grew cereals, raised domestic livestock and, in common with other ancient Mediterranean cultures, worshiped a fertility figure represented in Maltese prehistoric artifacts as exhibiting the large proportions seen in similar statuettes, including the Venus of Willendorf.

Ġgantija megalithic temple complex

Ġgantija megalithic temple complex

Pottery from the Għar Dalam phase is similar to pottery found in Agrigento, Sicily. A culture of megalithic temple builders then either supplanted or arose from this early period. During 3500 BC, these people built some of the oldest existing, free-standing structures in the world in the form of the megalithic Ġgantija temples on Gozo; other early temples include those at Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra.

The temples have a distinctive architecture, typically a complex trefoil design, and were used from 4000–2500 BC. Animal bones and a knife found behind a removable altar stone suggest that temple rituals included animal sacrifice. Tentative information suggests that the sacrifices were made to the goddess of fertility, whose statue is now in the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta. The culture apparently disappeared from the Maltese Islands around 2500 BC. Archeologists speculate that the temple builders fell victim to famine or disease. Others have speculated on the links between this event and Plato’s account of the disappearance of Atlantis.

Another interesting archeological feature of the Maltese islands often attributed to these ancient builders, are equidistant uniform grooves dubbed “cart tracks” or “cart ruts” which can be found in several locations throughout the islands with the most prominent being those found in an area of Malta named “Clapham Junction”. These may have been caused by wooden-wheeled carts eroding soft limestone.

After 2500 BC, the Maltese Islands were depopulated for several decades until the arrival of a new influx of Bronze Age immigrants, a culture that cremated its dead and introduced smaller megalithic structures called dolmens to Malta.

The temple complex of Mnajdra

The temple complex of Mnajdra

Greeks, Phoenicians and Romans

Around 700 BC, the Ancient Greeks settled on Malta, especially around the area where Valletta now stands. A century later, Phoenician traders, who used the islands as a stop on their trade routes from the eastern Mediterranean to Cornwall, joined the natives on the island. The Phoenicians inhabited the area now known as Mdina, and its surrounding town of Rabat, which they called Maleth. The Romans, who also lived in Mdina, referred to it (and the island) as Melita.

Roman mosaic from Rabat, Malta.

Roman mosaic from Rabat, Malta.

After the fall of Phoenicia, in 400 BC the area came under the control of Carthage, a former Phoenician colony. During this time the people on Malta mainly cultivated olives and carobs, and produced textiles.

During the First Punic War of 264 BC, tensions led the Maltese people to rebel against Carthage and turn control of their garrison over to the Roman consul Sempronius. Malta remained loyal to Rome during the Second Punic War and the Romans rewarded it with the title Foederata Civitas, a designation that meant it was exempt from paying tribute or the rule of Roman law, although at this time it fell within the jurisdiction of the province of Sicily.

By 117 AD, the Maltese Islands were a thriving part of the Roman Empire, being promoted to the status of Municipium under Hadrian. Catacombs in Rabat testify to an early Christian community on the islands, and the Acts of the Apostles recount the shipwreck of St Paul and his ministry on the island (see Religion).

When the Roman Empire split into Eastern and Western divisions in the 4th century, Malta fell under the control of the Greek speaking Byzantine Empire from 395 to 870, which ruled from Constantinople. Although Malta was under Byzantine rule for four centuries, not much is known from this period. There is evidence that Germanic tribes, including the Goths and Vandals, briefly took control of the islands before the Byzantines launched a counter attack and retook Malta.

Middle Ages

Roger I of Sicily returned Malta to Christian rule.

Roger I of Sicily returned Malta to Christian rule.

Malta was involved in the Byzantine-Arab Wars, and the conquest of Malta is closely linked with that of Sicily due to admiral Euphemius’ betrayal of his fellow Byzantines, requesting that the Aghlabid dynasty invade the area. As part of the Emirate of Sicily, rule switched to the Fatimids in 909. The Arabs introduced new irrigation, some fruits and cotton and the Siculo-Arabic language was adopted on the island from Sicily: it would eventually evolve into the Maltese language.

The native Christians were allowed freedom of religion but had to pay jizya, as Muslims were paying zakat. The Normans, as part of their conqu

est of Sicily, took Malta in 1091.

Ottoman map of Malta, by Piri Reis

Ottoman map of Malta, by Piri Reis

The local Christians warmly welcomed the arrival of Roger I and offered to fight for him; in response to this, Roger reportedly tore off a portion of his checkered red-and-white banner and presented it to the Maltese, forming the basis of the present-day Maltese flag.

Jean Parisot de La Valette, the founder of Valletta

Jean Parisot de La Valette, the founder of Valletta

For a brief period the kingdom passed to the Capetian House of Anjou, however high taxes made the dynasty unpopular in Malta, due in part to Charles of Anjou’s war against the Republic of Genoa and the island of Gozo was sacked in 1275. A large revolt on Sicily known as the Sicilian Vespers followed these attacks, that saw the Peninsula separating into the Kingdom of Naples; the Kingdom of Sicily, including Malta, then fell under the rule of the Aragonese.

Relatives of the kings of Aragon ruled the island until 1409, when it passed to the Crown of Aragon. Early on in the Aragonese reign the sons of the monarchy received the title, “Count of Malta”. It was also during this time that much of the local nobility was created. However by 1397 the bearing of the title “Count of Malta” reverted to a feudal basis with two families fighting over the distinction, which caused much distress. This led the king to abolish the title. Dispute over the title returned when the title was reinstated a few years later and the Maltese, led by the local nobility, rose up against Count Gonsalvo Monroy. Although they opposed the Count, the Maltese voiced their loyalty to the Sicilian Crown, which so impressed Alfonso IV that he did not punish the people for their rebellion but promised never to grant the title to a third party, instead incorporating it back into the crown. The city of Mdina was given the title of Città Notabile as a result of this sequence of events.

Knights of Malta and Napoleon

St. Paul's Cathedral, Mdina built in the Baroque style.

St. Paul's Cathedral, Mdina built in the Baroque style.

In 1530 Charles I of Spain gave the islands to the Order of Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in perpetual lease. These knights, a military religious order now known as the Knights of Malta, had been driven out of Rhodes by the Ottoman Empire in 1522.

In 1551, Barbary corsairs enslaved the entire population of the Maltese island Gozo, about 5,000, sending them to Libya.

The knights withstood a full-blown siege by the Ottomans in 1565, at the time the greatest naval power in the Mediterranean. The knights, fighting alongside the Maltese, were victorious and speaking of the battle Voltaire said, “Nothing is more well known than the siege of Malta.” After the siege they decided to increase Malta’s fortifications, particularly in the inner-harbour area, where the new city of Valletta, named in honour of Grand Master Jean de la Valette, was built. They also established watchtowers along the coasts – the Wignacourt, Lascaris, and de Redin towers – named after the Grand Masters who ordered the work. The Knights’ presence on the island saw the completion of many architectural and cultural projects, including the embellishment of Città Vittoriosa, the construction of new cities including Città Rohan and Città Hompesch and the introduction of new academic and social resources.

Approximately 11,000 people out of a population of 60,000 died of plague in 1675.

The Beheading of Saint John, by Caravaggio. Oil on canvas, Template:Convert/361. Oratory of the Co-Cathedral.

The Beheading of Saint John, by Caravaggio. Oil on canvas, Template:Convert/361. Oratory of the Co-Cathedral.

The Knights’ reign ended when Napoleon captured Malta on his way to Egypt during the French Revolutionary Wars in 1798. As a ruse, Napoleon asked for safe harbour to resupply his ships. Once safely inside Valletta’s harbour he turned his guns against his hosts. Grand Master Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim capitulated and Napoleon stayed in Malta for a few days, during which time he systematically looted many movable assets of the island and established an administration controlled by his nominees. He then sailed for Egypt, leaving behind a substantial garrison.

The occupying French forces were deeply unpopular with the Maltese, due particularly to the French forces’ hostility towards Catholicism. The French financial and religious policies angered the Maltese who rebelled, forcing the French to retreat within the city fortifications. Great Britain, along with the Kingdom of Naples and the Kingdom of Sicily, sent ammunition and aid to the Maltese and Britain also sent her navy, which blockaded the islands.

General Claude-Henri Belgrand de Vaubois surrendered his French forces in 1800. Maltese leaders presented the island to Sir Alexander Ball, asking that the island become a British Dominion. The Maltese people created a Declaration of Rights in which they agreed to come “under the protection and sovereignty of the King of the free people, His Majesty the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland”. The Declaration also stated that “his Majesty has no right to cede these Islands to any power…if he chooses to withdraw his protection, and abandon his sovereignty, the right of electing another sovereign, or of the governing of these Islands, belongs to us, the inhabitants and aborigines alone, and without control.

British Empire and World War II

The heavily bomb-damaged Republic Street in Valletta during the Siege of Malta, 1942.

The heavily bomb-damaged Republic Street in Valletta during the Siege of Malta, 1942.

In 1814, as part of the Treaty of Paris, Malta officially became a part of the British Empire and was used as a shipping way-station and fleet headquarters. Malta’s position half-way between the Strait of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal proved to be its main asset during these years and it was considered an important stop on the way to India. In 1919 British troops fired on a rally protesting against new taxes, killing four Maltese men. This led to increased resistance and support for the pro-Italian parties that had challenged the British presence on the island. The event, known as Sette Giugno (Italian for 7 June), is commemorated every year and is one of five National Days.

In the early 1930s the British Mediterranean Fleet, which was at that time the main contributor to commerce on the island, moved to Alexandria as an economic measure and to be out of range of Italian bombers.

During World War II, Malta played an important role owing to its proximity to Axis shipping lanes. The bravery of the Maltese people during the second Siege of Malta moved HM King George VI to award the George Cross to Malta on a collective basis on 15 April 1942 “to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history”. Some historians argue that the award caused Britain to incur disproportionate losses in defending Malta, as British credibility would have suffered if Malta surrendered, as Singapore had. A replica of the George Cross now appears in the upper hoist corner of the Flag of Malta. The collective award remained unique until April 1999, when the Royal Ulster Constabulary became the second – and, to date, the only other – recipient of a collective George Cross.

Independence and Republic

Malta achieved its independence on 21 September 1964 (Independence Day) after intense negotiations with the United Kingdom, led by Prime Minister George Borg Olivier. Under its 1964 constitution, Malta initially retained Queen Elizabeth II as Queen of Malta and thus Head of State, with a Governor-General exercising executive authority on her behalf. In 1971, the Malta Labour Party led by Dom Mintoff won the General Elections, resulting in Malta declaring itself a republic on 13 December 1974 (Republic Day) within the Commonwealth, with the President as head of state. A defence agreement signed soon after independence (and re-negotiated in 1972) expired on 31 March 1979.

Malta adopted a policy of neutrality in 1980. In 1989, Malta was the venue of a summit between US President George H.W. Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, their first face-to-face encounter, which signaled the end of the Cold War.

On July 16, 1990, Malta, through its foreign minister, Guido de Marco, applied to join the European Union. After tough negotiations, a referendum was held on March 8, 2003, which resulted in a favourable vote. General Elections held on April 12, 2003, gave a clear mandate to the Prime Minister, Eddie Fenech Adami, to sign the Treaty of accession to the European Union on April 16, 2003 in Athens, Greece. Malta joined the European Union on May 1, 2004. Following the European Council of June 21–22, 2007, Malta joined the Eurozone on January 1, 2008.

Etymology | History | Languages | Population | Geography | Religion | Government and politics | Economy |Transportation infrastructure

Source: wikipedia.org

EVENTI MICC

There are no up-coming events
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
© Copyright 2022 MALTESE ITALIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE. All Rights Reserved.