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Bartolo Farmhouses

Maltese History in Short

Malta has a number of natural harbours which have given the island strategic importance in the Mediterranean. In effect, the power controlling Malta has always been in a position to influence events in the Mediterranean.

For this reason, the islands were occupied by the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Normans, the Swabians, the Angevins, the Aragonese, the Castillians, the Order of St. John, the French and the British. In 1964 Malta finally gained its Independence.

English had replaced Italian as the language of culture, with Maltese becoming the national language of the reborn Island State which became a Republic in 1974. In May 2004, Malta became a member of the European Union, and in January 2008 a member of the Euro zone.

As a result, the Maltese society has been molded by centuries of foreign rule, and through the ages have developed their own unique character and culture.

Older than any of us

The Maltese Time Line

As you can see from the chart, the Maltese Islands go a long way back in history, with many marks through time showing its passing of time, people, and cultures, making up today what is a rich and varied cultural exsistence.

Let’s start from

The Very Beginning

Turn back the clock and you’ll find the first Stone Age farmers arriving on these shores at around 5,200 BC. However, hundreds of thousands of years before that, Malta was home to dwarf elephants, hippopotami, and other now extinct animals.

Roll on the


The Romans took over in 218 BC, after the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians time, making Malta an outpost of Sicily. Agriculturally fertile and prosperous, the island became a major producer of olive oil. Around this time in AD 60 apostle Paul was shipwrecked in a storm off the coast of Malta. He introduced Christianity to the Maltese while enjoying their “unusual kindness”.

Our development through the


Malta dropped off the radar during the Byzantine period, after the lights went out on the Roman Empire, only to re-emerge 375 years later when the Arabs took over the island… and in many ways they never left. Our language, town names, terraced fields, agricultural crops, even our cooking today all derive from the clever Arabs. They introduced us to figs, almonds, sweet pastries, spices, citrus fruits and cotton, and we are very thankful! They even taught us how to irrigate the fields.

Then came the


The Maltese were doing well until the Normans won Sicily from the Arabs and took over Malta too in 1090. Enter Count Roger. Apparently, he gave us our flag. Maltese nobility prospered and built their palaces in the walled city of Mdina. However, for common mortals these were hard times. Most of the people of Gozo were carted off into slavery. The fate of the islands laid in the hands of European royalty until the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V made Malta part of the Spanish Empire.

Enter the


For the princely sum of one Maltese falcon a year, Charles V famously granted the Maltese Islands to the Knights of the Order of St John. Their 250-year rule changed the face of the island forever. No other era in Maltese history left such an indelible imprint on our psyche. the Knights gave Malta an invaluable cultural wealth, from the eight-pointed cross to their architectural heritage and rich patrimony of artworks, They built the Sacra Infermeria, then Europe’s foremost hospital, placing Malta on the medical map.

Oh là là!

Les Français

As part of his strategy to conquer Egypt, Monsieur Napoleon set his sights on Malta The Maltese welcomed Napoleon in 1789 as by then they had had enough of the Knights and their aristocratic style of government. However, within three months the locals quickly found the Frenchman’s radical reforms too much to bear and they revolted, pushing the occupiers behind the walls of Valletta and the Three Cities. They remained there until the British forces were called upon help Malta regain its freedom in 1800.



Malta, a part of the British empire for 150 years, maintains a certain Maltese brand of Britishness with English the joint official language along with Maltese. The British era had war and peace. During WWI, Malta served as the “nurse of the Mediterranean” but took centre stage during WWII, suffering more sustained bombing than anywhere else. So impressed with the bravery of the Maltese, King George V awarded the entire island his George Cross in 1942. Malta gained independence in 1964, becoming a Republic within the British Commonwealth in 1974.
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