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Saturday, 12 March 2016


Malta is a small island nation in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. It actually is a group of seven islands. The largest is Malta itself, followed by Gozo (about 4 miles or 6 kilometres away from Gozo). In between Malta and Gozo is the tiny island of Comino. The other four Maltese islands are uninhabited.

Malta was the place where Saint Paul was shipwrecked. The Apostle gathered a pile of brushwood and as he put it on the fire, a poisonous viper driven out by he heat, bit him on the hand. Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. When the superstitious local population saw that Paul was unhurt, they decided that he was a god.

Paul remained there for three months, preaching the Christian faith, which has since thrived on Malta. February 8, 58, may be the day that Paul sailed from the island. Pliny tells us in his Natural History (an early encyclopedic work) that February 8 was the date Spring opened its seas to voyagers.

Malta has changed hands many times over the centuries. In 533 AD it became part of the Byzantine Empire and then, in 870, it was taken over by the Arabs.

In 1091, Roger I of Sicily drove out the Arabs and the Normans took control as part of .the Norman conquest of Sicily.

The Maltese language, the only dialect of Arabic written in the Latin alphabet, originated in this period. This was because the Sicilian settlers spoke an Arabic dialect as a result of the Arab conquest of Sicily at the end of the ninth century.

In 1530 Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, gave the island to the Knights of St. John. They became known as the Knights of Malta. The Knights of Malta built up the island including towns, forts, and churches.

Re-enactment of 16th-century military drills conducted by the Knights. Fort Saint Elmo, Valletta. By User:Briangotts/w:User:Briangotts - Wikipedia Commons

The Great Siege of Malta  took place in 1565 when the Ottoman Empire tried to invade the island. The Knights, led by Frenchman Jean Parisot de Valette, Grand Master of the Order, with approximately 2,000 foot soldiers and 400 Maltese men, women and children, withstood the siege.
On September 11, 1565 the Ottoman forces retreated ending the Great Siege of Malta. This victory was one of the most celebrated events in sixteenth-century Europe.

The foundation stone of Valletta, Malta's capital city, was laid on March 28, 1566 by Jean Parisot de Valette, Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. He described it as "a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen."

St. Paul's Cathedral (see below) was built in the city of Mdina between 1697 and 1702 on the site where governor Publius was reported to have met Saint Paul following his shipwreck off the Maltese coast.

The Knights of Malta maintained control until Napoleon and the French arrived in 1798. The French rule was not popular and Maltese rebels invited the English Royal Navy to send her navy, which blockaded the island. General Claude-Henri Belgrand de Vaubois was forced to surrender his French forces on September 4, 1800. The islands of Malta and Gozo become the Malta Protectorate.

In 1814, as part of the Treaty of Paris, Malta officially became a part of the British Empire and was used as a shipping way-station and fleet headquarters. The island played an important role as a naval and military base during both world wars.

In the First World War Malta was a base for wounded soldiers and was known as the Nurse of the Mediterranean.

During the Second World War, Malta was attacked by the Axis forces. The bravery of the Maltese people during the second Siege of Malta moved King George VI to award the George Cross to Malta on a collective basis on April 14, 1942. The George Cross continues to appear on Malta's national flag.

Malta achieved its independence on September 21, 1964 (Independence Day) after intense negotiations with the United Kingdom, led by Maltese Prime Minister George Borġ Olivier.

A defence agreement signed soon after independence (and re-negotiated in 1972) expired on March 31, 1979. The last British soldier left the island on that day. For the first time in a millennium, Malta was no longer a military base of a foreign power. Freedom Day (Maltese: Jum il-Ħelsien) is a Maltese national holiday celebrated annually on March 31st.

Freedom Monument in Birgu Malta

Malta had its own currency, called the Maltese Lira until 2008. The Maltese Lira was better known as the Maltese Pound because of the strong links to the United Kingdom. In 2008 Malta joined the Euro countries in adopting the Euro as the National Currency.

Malta is one of only two island nations in the Mediterranean (the other is Cyprus).

The official languages of Malta are English and Maltese which was once an Arabic dialect.

Malta is a republic whose parliamentary system and public administration are closely modeled on the UK Westminster system. Malta had the highest voter turnout in the world (for nations without mandatory voting), based on election turnout in national lower house elections from 1960 to 1995.

Malta is the smallest country in the European Union by both area and population but it is the most densely populated.

The megalithic temples of Malta are even older than the Pyramids or Stonehenge. They are the oldest free-standing structures in the world.

Sources Daily

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