History

A History of over 7,000 years !

7,000 years of history in short.  Before visiting the various museums on the island, learn about the long history of Malta.


A big story to tell! 

The first man arrived in Malta over 7,000 years ago and from then Malta boasts a rich history which will leave any history lover enchanted.  About 1,500 years later came the temple period.  The oldest fee standing building in the world can be found here, in Gozo.  The temples which have the form of five semicircular rooms are known as The Ggantija Temples.  About 2,500 years later Mdina was first inhabited by the Phoenicians.  Afterwards, Malta came under the control of the Roman Empire where the island inherited many roman antiquities that still exist today. 


Malta was then majorly influenced by The Arab period, in which it also inherited many place names.  A European influence came under the kingdom of Sicily later on before being under the control of various feudal lords and barons until eventually falling under the Spanish empire.  Early 16th century, the king of Spain handed Malta to the knights of St. John and this was the period were Malta saw the building of several towns, gardens, fortifications, churches and palaces all implanted with several works of art.  The rule by this Military and Hospitaller Order lasted 268 years.  The Order did not want to settle in the old capital city Mdina, so they settled around the harbour area in Fort St Angelo in Birgu.  In 1551 a large piratical force unsuccessfully tried to attack Fort St Angelo and subsequently Mdina.  After this attempt they moved to Gozo and seized the island only fortification, the Citadel.  About 3,000 citizens were taken into slavery and only a few individuals ever made it back to Gozo.  Gozo was inhabited again between 1565 and 1580 by people from Malta under the Knights of St.John.


The 16th century saw Malta’s most important and documented period known as the Great Siege of Malta.  The knights which occupied the city of Birgu had also fortifications built in the city of Seanglea which lies on the opposite side of the city.  Forts St Elmo and St Michael were built.  In 1565, the knights army mostly comprising of Maltese men fought and defeated the Ottoman Empire despite the latter having a far bigger army.  This was a big moment in the history of Malta and pride to the Maltese citizens who fought bravely.


When the war ended, Valletta was built after Grand Master Jean Parisot de Valette, who led the Great Siege victory.  ON 28th March 1566 the first stone was ceremoniously laid of the new city.  The area was recognized by the knights as an excellent strategic site for a fortified city.  Valletta was built surrounded with fortifications and today remains one of the best fortifications of the period.  Valletta today is glorified with several architectural and artistic remains from this period.  The knights built an incredible array of buildings.  The Baroque was introduced in the 17th century, when it was brought to the attention of the knights by Caravaggio. 


When the knights left, the French leaded by Napoleon Bonaparte took over.  During his very short stay he revolutionized Malta.  The change included reforms in public education, the abolition of slavery and feudal privileges and judicial reforms.  However, the Maltese asked help to the British after the French were taking church treasures and eventually Malta was taken by the British Empire after the French conceded.  The island became a military base for the British Mediterranean fleet.   Malta became overpopulated and locals suffered poverty.  The British Fleet found the Grand Harbour and the nearby installations excellent for their needs.  Malta Drydocks became the largest employer on the islands.


During the World War 2, Malta was not easy to attack as the island was properly defended.  However being a British colony it was bombarded by the Italian and German air forces.  Malta was used by the British to launch their attacks towards the Italian navy.  The island’s aircraft responded well to the attacks and the Italians stopped attacking the island.  The surrender occurred on 8 Septemer, the same day of the Great Siege of 1565 and 154 days after continuous bombing.  On 15 April 1942, King George VI awarded the George Cross (the highest civilian award for gallantry) "to the island fortress of Malta — its people and defenders” as an official recognition of the island’s courage and bravery. 


On 21 September 1964, Malta became an independent state and a republic on 13 December 1974.  On 1 April 1979 the last British forces left the island and this is celebrated as Freedom Day on 31 March.  In 1989, American President George Bush and the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev met in Malta and agreed to dismantle the old post-Second World War political system, marking the official end of the Cold War.  Malta joined the EU on the 1st May 2004 and the eurozone on 1st January 2008.