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The Westin Dragonara Resort, Malta
Dragonara Road · St. JuliansSTJ 3143 · Malta  • Phone: (356) 2138 1000
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History of Malta

Malta, at the centre of the Mediterranean was always coveted by the powers that be simply because whosoever possessed her natural harbours controlled the vital sea trade routes of the Mediterranean.

The first important link to its pure European character began as early as the Three Punic Wars between Carthage (Tunisia) and Rome, whereby the Maltese islands as well as all the Mediterranean islands were bitterly contested between the two superpowers of the time. The Maltese fortunately took the part of Rome and this lead to them being accorded special Roman privileges. In the final battle Rome destroyed Carthage so thoroughly that the chilling message sent back to the Senate in Rome was Carthago delenda est- Carthage is deleted. Malta from that moment became the most southern tip of Europe and part of the Western Roman Empire.

About 400 years after the final decline of Rome in AD 870 Malta fell under the Arabs together with Sicily and was finally liberated by Count Roger of Normandy in 1090 AD who gave us part of his chequered red and white flag to make our own red and white National flag. After 1090AD no Arab power (there were several) ever conquered Malta again.
Malta was then owned by various Spanish families most notably the Moncada family. Again to put it mildly, the island was again viciously contested between the Argevins and the Aragonese, the latter being successful after a terrible battle in Grand Harbour.
In this way when Ferdinand of Aragon married Isabella of Castille, Malta became part of a unified Spanish crown and when their daughter Goanna the Mad married the Habsburg Philip the Beautiful-it became part of the Habsburg inheritance. Their son Charles the V donated Malta very reluctantly to the Order of St John after they lost Rhodes in 1530 simply because the Ottoman Turks were at the gates of Vienna and he did not have the military assets to also defend Malta and southern Italy. It was in Malta during the greatest victory for Europe after the defeat of the Ottomans at the Great Siege of 1565 and later that of Lepanto of 1571 that southern Europe could safely call itself European and Christian.

It is not us really as a people that can claim to be 7000 years old (perhaps it is more like 5000BC) but what could well be the earliest civilization (older than Stone Henge) was discovered on these islands at Hagar Qim. It is the Neolithic civilization lost in time but one whereby the sun or the moon were worshipped and where a labyrinth of temples of extraordinary mathematical precision were created.

Whosoever were these peoples that lived on the Maltese island-they had an extraordinary knowledge of the stars much like the Pharaonic and later civilazations in Egypt and the Aztecs in South America. It is possible they were all part of the universal soul. So we cannot count ourselves as a Neolithic people but one of a very ancient lineage.
Our language is Semitic. It is siculo-arab and  our tongue was heavily influenced by the arab conquest of 870AD to 1090AD-but we are not an arab people mostly because of our Christian religion. We are a Mediterranean people whose principal sticks come from Sicily, Greece, Italy and southern France. In the 17th and 18th century these islands were practically French even though under the Order of Malta.

Remember one thing only - Around 870AD Malta and Sicily and the Mediterranean islands were northern satellites of African Carthage, as was southern Spain  to become arab territory of the Syrians until much later, and were under Arab conquest but they were already a fiercely Roman and European people from the time of the Roman destruction of Carthage. At that point Malta became the southern tip of Europe and the demarcation line between Islam and Christianity was drawn  here yet again in 1565 with the Great siege of 1565. This was commemorated with the building of Valletta which was the most European city of all time.

Now that we had a look at the general picture it is better to look again and more closely at these three Punic wars as it is really within this period and the events of the centuries preceding them that Malta became Roman i.e. European.

As far back as 509BC Rome and Carthage had a friendship treaty and were mainly rival trading nations. By 306BC Rome had conquered all the Italian peninsula leaving Sicily and Malta under the influence of Carthage-both powers recognizing two
spheres of influence. However Rome was loath to allow Sicily to remain under Carthaginian dominance as Sicily had been part of Ancient Greece known as Magna Graecia.
The  first two Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage spanned the years 264-146 BC with no clear-cut winner as the the two opposing forces were equally strong and well matched. Suffice it to say that Rome in the first Punic war took control of most of Sicily but she lacked naval power. The second Punic war was that of Hannibal crossing the Alps wth his elephants to destroy Rome which nearly succeeded. The 3rd Punic war was entirely different and earth shattering. Rome built a fantastic fleet (there had ben 3 attempts to build a fleet) and destroyed Carthage so Malta and Sicily became Roman.

Article courtesy of "The Politics of Art" by Dr Mark Anthony Micallef