Yes you read right. 7000 years! The history of Malta is so fascinating that the whole island was dubbed an open-air museum. Visitors often express their astonishment as to why such an incredible history is not touted worldwide day in day out.
If Malta’s history is captivating, the same can be said for its Prehistoric treasures at Tarxien, Hagar Qim, Mnajdra, and Gozo. The world’s oldest free standing structures were thought to have been constructed during the copper age and it is said that they are 1000 years older than the Pyramids in Giza.
Some say that Malta’s important geographical position was both its blessing and its curse over the years. This is because this tiny island, situated right at the centre of the Mediterranean, 93km south of Sicily and 288km north of Africa, has seen invader after invader trying to besiege it for 7000 years!
But as you will see, the Maltese people were never ones to surrender all too easily. Often fighting David-and-Goliath like battles, the locals were (and still are) simply too stubborn to let anyone get their way. As soon as you start wandering in the narrow streets of some towns and villages, you will immediately sense and become engulfed in the Maltese islands’ intriguing history.
The Phoenicians were first to conquer these islands, after the Neolithic period. The ancient Phoenicians were enigmatic people and their influence on Malta is not to be underestimated. After the Phoenicians, came the Carthaginians. It did not take long for the Romans to realize that Malta was the perfect naval base.
In AD60, St Paul was shipwrecked here. During his stay on the Maltese islands he converted the whole population of Malta to the Christian faith. In AD870, Malta was invaded by the Arabs . The islands remained under their rule until 1090. Most of the related stories about that period indicate that the Arab rule was not a very prosperous one in Malta history.
After the Arab era, came the Medieval period. During the Medieval time period, the Norman Sicilians took over Malta from the Arabs and remained here until 1282. The era between 1282 and 1530 is known as the Spanish Period. Under the Spanish throne, Malta continued to be given in fief to various noblemen.
The only interest in the island, that these people had, was that Malta should be a source of revenue to them.
An important incident that led to one of the most important periods in the history of Malta occurred, when the Order of Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem became “homeless” and subsequently in 1530, Charles V handed over Malta to the Knights. The Knights of St John (also known as the Knights of Malta) ruled the Maltese Islands for 268 years.
The Knights of St John played a crucial role during the Siege of Malta. It was with their skill and bravery, together with the help of the Maltese people that they won over the ferocious Ottoman force in the Great Siege of Malta.
However, when Napoleon Bonaparte attacked, they were taken by surprise and thus he conquered Malta in 1798. Compared to previous invasions, the French Period was a short one in the history of Malta. With the assistance of the British Navy, the Maltese forces drove the French out.
In 1800, the British took possession of Malta. British Rule lasted for 160 years.
In 1964, Malta finally gained its independence, never to be invaded again.
Independent at last.
Of course, that was just a very brief overview of the history of Malta. For a more detailed look at each period, follow the respective links within the text of this page.