It is hard to pick a departure point to begin an entry about Malta. The tour books begin, “7000 years ago, Malta….” With a history beginning before history was recorded, it is a daunting task to try to capture in a paragraph anything meaningful and not totally distorted about a country with such a long chronicled past. So I will leave it to you, gentle reader, to look it up yourself to the extent that you have interest. But in the tiniest possible nutshell, it looks something like this:
7000-1800 B.C. – Prehistory. Some humanoid form settled here, built temples with pretty elaborate engravings (before the bronze age, thus, using other stones to carve stones). These temples were built in honor of Gods unknown, or to people unknown, and the people who built them seem to have up and skedaddled around 1800 B.C. to parts unknown. That’s the coolest thing in the world to me, having walked around two of these temples. They are pretty amazing in their construction, given that they were built before humans were assumed to be able to do more than grunt, point and reproduce.
That they are a mystery fascinates me. I’m sure some scientists have a pretty good idea about who they were, where they went, but they disagree to the point that MYSTERY is still the published answer to “Who built these temples (hospitals? museums? strip clubs?) and for what purpose?”
They are the temples of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra. Here is what they looked like.
800 B.C.- 60 A.D- The Phoenicians and Romans and Carthaginians.
zzzzzz. Enough said- Google it. Lots of ruins, etc. that I didn’t have time to visit. Except for the city of Mdina- gorgeous old Roman era town, some photo below. Water management was a Roman thing (aqueducts) whose importance can’t be overstressed. Water, it’s what’s for drinking.
60 A.D.- big year for future tourism because St Paul, the fisherman apostle, was shipwrecked on Malta during this time (read Acts (it is in the Bible)) and manage in a few short months to convert the whole island to Christianity, to which it still clings, or at least, about 85% of the population does. Here is the cave where he was believed to have stayed, in Rabat, called St. Paul’s grotto.
400 A.D.- 650 A.D. more Roman and this time Byzantine domination.
870 A.D.- The Arabs conqured Malta. Soe architecture remains, but the mose evident remains of Arab domination is in the Maltese language, which is written in Arabic letters, but the words sound well, Arabic. It sounds more like you are in Jordan than Sicily, just 60 miles away.
1090- Arab domination ended with Roger the Norman’s conquest of the Arabs and delivery of Malta to its people. Various noble families ruled and Malta was attacked won and lost again by pirates, etc.
1530- Knights of St. John- made the Maltese cross. Ruled and built and generally left the island nation in great shape, plump for picking by Pirates…
1565- The great Siege- get a book…
1566- Foundation of Valetta (great name, no?).
1570s until 1798-The decline of the order of the Knights of St John.
1798- Napolean conquered Malta.
6 weeks later the people of Malta ran the French off the island and begged the protection of the British Empire.
1814-1979- British Protectorate
1979- now- Independent Malta. 2004- Malta joins EU as a nation.
How cool is all that in one small set of 3 tiny islands?!?
Now modern Malta is one of the most densely populated nations in the world, and while they have maintained Valetta as a beautiful historic fortified city on a peninsula, the area surrounding it is filled with high-rise, high-density ugliness, and it remains a popular summer home for many Europeans, mostly English.
The Grand Harbor marina is lovely (if you ignore the shipping port next door) and well protected, making Malta a popular winter home for many yachts.