The History of Malta Is Unique
Malta may be a mere spec in the middle of the Mediterranean but the history of Malta is unique and guaranteed to fascinate you!
Malta was first settled around 5200 BC probably by the Neolithic people from Sicily, with the
beginning around 3600 BC.
You'll find the oldest free standing building in the world from this period, the Ggantia Prehistoric Temple, in Gozo.
Early Maltese History
Around 1000 BC the Phoenicians tracked inland to the centre of the island and built the medieval walled town of Mdina as an outpost to expand sea exploration and trade in the Mediterranean.
Mdina is also known as The Silent City and was the first capital of Malta
In 60 AD St Paul, Malta's patron saint, was shipwrecked on the island for 3 months.
Apparently St Paul was bitten by a viper one night while around the camp fire and when he didn't die, the Maltese people regarded him as a god. It's also rumoured that this is why Malta has no venomous snakes or spiders.
The Church of St Paul's Shipwreck dates back to the 1570's and is one of Valletta's oldest churches -- well worth a visit.
In 1530 the island became home to the famous "Knights of Malta".
Over the next 275 years they built fortifications, towns, palaces, churches and gardens.
St John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta was built for the Knights of St John and is a masterpiece of art and baroque architecture.
Only the best works of art and gifts of high artistic value were donated by the Grand Masters and several knights. This is definitely a must see for everyone!
The order of the Knights of St John was set up to provide medical assistance to pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land and the eight-pointed cross is still in use in first aid and on ambulances today.
Maltese History And The Great Siege
The Great Siege of Malta took place on 18 May 1565 when the Ottomans attacked
Fort St Elmo.
The Ottomans estimated a 2-week victory with their 40,000 men against 9,000 of the Knights, most of them Maltese soldiers and people bearing arms.
This was the bloodiest battle in the history of Malta but after a whole month of fighting the Knights won the siege.
About a year after the war, fortifications began on a new city which was named Valletta after the Grand Master, Jean Parisot de Valette.
It's one of the best preserved fortifications of Maltese history of this period.
The reign of the Knights ended with the arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte's fleet in 1798.
Napoleon looted any moveable assets of the Order during his brief few days on the island and within a few months the French that remained closed convents and seized the church treasures.
The French retreated to Valletta when the Maltese people rebelled but when the locals failed to retake Valletta they asked the British for assistance and in 1800 the French surrendered.
Malta History And British Rule
Grand Harbour features a lot in the history of Malta. Malta's harbours were a prized asset for the British, and became a military and naval fortress, and the headquarters of the British Mediterranean fleet.
During World War II the strategically important island of Malta was under siege again, this time by Italy and Germany
It was one of the most intensively bombed areas during the war with a total of 3,000 bombing raids over 2 years.
You can see a number of those old bomb shelters around Valletta.
Malta became an independent state on 21 September 1964 and a republic on 13 December 1974.
On 1 May 2004 Malta joined the EU.
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