History of Malta
On the south end of the island of Malta stand the temple ruins of Tarxien, Mnajdra and Hagar Qim. These ancient stones date back 1000 years before the construction of the Great Pyramids of Egypt. At 8000 years old, these temples very well may be the oldest standing structures on Earth. The Neolithic inhabitants have left behind their remnants for archeologists to study as a legacy worthy of such a historical nation. As the Neolithic culture died off the island was conquered many times; first by the Phoenicians followed by the Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs and ultimately the Sicilian Kingdom under Norman Rule.
The approach of the Middle Ages brought the Byzantine-Arab Wars. While the Arabs brought more agriculture and infrastructure, the native Christian people were discriminated against with a tax. The Siculo-Arab language evolved into Maltese. When Roger the 1st of Sicily attempted to establish Norman rule in 1091, it was welcomed with open arms by the Christian populous. It would be his son, Roger the 2nd who completed the transformation in 1127. The natural transposition from Arab culture to European culture took place and left Malta under Sicilian rule for nearly 440 years.
One of Malta’s most romanticized eras of history was brought on by the Knights of St. John, who ruled the island from 1530 until 1798. The crusading knights brought the island out of the dark ages and into the light with the construction of hospitals, economic power through trade and commerce. They built great fortifications where they holed up to ward off the invading Ottomans. In 1565 the Great Siege arrived with 40,000 Ottomans expecting a quick defeat against the small numbers of the Knights of St John. The 8,000 men, many native Maltese, fought the Ottomans and defeated them.
Progress continued as the times were changing. Napoleon’s forces quickly defeated the Knights of St John in 1798. Political change took place immediately. All Turkish slaves were set free, and Malta was brought into the age of science. Napoleon instituted an educational system that included primary and secondary education.
The French conquest was short lived. Napoleon began a systematic closure of convents and pillaging church treasures. Outraged the Maltese tried to gain control of Valetta. Out manned they asked for British assistance and voluntarily came under British rule only two years after the French conquest.
Against the terms of the 1802 Treaty of Amiens, Britain was supposed to leave the island, but failed to keep the promise. It was not until 1921 that Home Rule was instigated and gained their independence from the British in 1964. For centuries the official language was Italian which changed because of the heavy British Influence. In 1934, English and Maltese were declared the sole official languages.
In May 2003, Malta became a member of the European Union and a much loved holiday destination for Europeans, Americans, Australians and countless others around the world.