The Arabs on the Maltese Islands
What role did the Arabs play in Malta History? And what remains of that era today?
Before one answers these questions, one must first try to picture what was going on in Malta during those times.
Very little is known of what life was like in Malta during the Dark Ages. The Maltese islands had suddenly lost their importance, and they were probably invaded by the Goths or the Vandals. Since the Vandals had no serious rivals during those times, the islands also lost their strategic interest.
Although no real evidence was found on the Maltese islands to indicate a Byzantine occupation, it is widely assumed that since the Byzantine Empire during that period was very powerful and was widespread all over the Mediterranean, researchers say that Malta must have been under their rule as well. The Byzantines were Greek-speaking romans who’s capital was Constantinople.
Realizing the uniqueness and strategic importance of Malta, the Arabs set out to invade the islands in A.D. 870.
The Bishop of Malta was immediately imprisoned to prevent any form of resistance from the Maltese people.
It is believed that they were quite tolerant towards Christians, although many islanders converted to Muslim during those times. During their occupation, they introduced irrigation systems to the islands that are still practiced to this day.
The Arab era was not one of the best in Malta history. No monuments remain to show for the Arab occupation, except for some inscriptions and coins that were excavated in Rabat.
However, the Maltese language is the lasting legacy that was the result of years of Arab occupation. Maltese (Malti) is the only Semitic language that is written in the Latin alphabet. It has many words that were taken from the languages of the countries that occupied ancient Malta.
The language was developed from a dialect of Arabic during the Arab occupation and with time has evolved to have a very strong influence of the Italian dialect spoken in Sicily.
The Maltese alphabet is made up of 30 letters. The letter "y" is not in the Maltese alphabet.
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