Some 7200 years ago they came in their rafts, and they built huts in which to live. Other peoples brought other knowledge in bronze and iron. Also building Menhirs and Fortified villages. But none equalled the temple builders.
The merchant Phoenicians came from the east from Lebanon across North Africa and peacefully settled here finding it a safe port of call, bringing their spices, language and negotiating talents.
But when a new power came forth out of Rome, overcoming all the Mediterranean shoreline, Malta became a Municipium, enjoying protection and privileges and prospering under Roman rule. It was at this time that Saint Paul stayed three months on this island teaching the word of love kindness and forgiveness.
With the fall of the Roman Empire the Vandals and Byzantines ruled the island until the Arabs came and influenced Malta’s language, agriculture, architecture and customs.
The Normans took over Malta from the Arabs. Sold and bartered, from Lord to Baron, Rulers changed and Maltese suffered. Used and misused they struggled to survive until a brief period of respite came under the Aragonese when these joined up with Castile forming the Spanish Empire.
Tranquillity did not last long because Malta was once again given to the Knights of Saint John.
On the 18 th day of May in 1565, Suleiman the Magnificent laid siege on Malta. First the Ottomans attacked the newly built fort of St. Elmo. After a whole month of battle the fort was reduced to a pile of rubble and the defenders kept fighting till the very end. The Ottoman Empire conceded defeat as the approaching winter storms threatened to prevent them from leaving. The siege ended on 8 September of the same year, and became known in history as Malta’s Great Siege.
The gentlemen of Europe were aware that never again should they allow their enemies to subdue them into another atrocious near defeat. So they planned to build a new city on the mount that gave the Ottomans advantage. They built a city the like of which is undreamt of even today.
Their reign ended in 1798 when Napoleon Bonaparte's French fleet stopped off the Maltese coast on his way to his Egyptian expedition. Napoleon asked for safe harbour to resupply his ships, and when he was refused, Napoleon Bonaparte sent a division to scale the hills of Valletta. Grand Master Hompesch capitulated on June 11.
During his very short six day stay, Napoleon accomplished quite a number of reforms. This illusion did not last long. The Maltese people rebelled, and the French garrison of General Vaubois retreated into Valletta. After several failed attempts by the locals to retake Valletta, the British were asked for their assistance. Rear Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson decided on a total blockade in 1799 and the French garrison surrendered in 1800.
By time Malta’s excellent harbours became a prized asset for the British Navy, especially after the opening of the Suez Canal. The island became a military and naval fortress, the headquarters of the British Mediterranean fleet. During World War I, Malta became known as the Nurse of the Mediterranean a reputation which has been embraced on many an occasion in it’s colourful history.
In the late 1930s the political scenario of nearby Europe was experiencing a similar upheaval. Extreme Nationalism in Germany, Italy and Spain was exerting a strain on the continent’s stability until Germany’s sudden break of promise not to invade Poland fast fused into a World war that was to last for years of mass destruction and involving virtually all major countries in all parts of the world.
At the time of the Italian declaration of war, Malta's air defence consisted of four obsolete 1930 Gloster Gladiators, for which three pilots were available. The first air raids against Malta occurred in of June 1940. Till the end of ‘43 over One Thousand Five Hundred civilians were killed. While Italian and German bombers brought havoc to the Maltese islands, the problem of supplies was soon felt. However, the people's heroism withstood every attack. On 15 April 1942 King George VI awarded the highest civilian award for gallantry, the George Cross, to all the people of Malta in appreciation of their heroism. On August the 15 th 1942, on the feast of Santa Maria, a convoy of Royal and Merchant Navy ships made port at Valletta's Grand Harbour, after completing one of the most heroic maritime episodes in recent history. To-date, this event remains commemorated in Malta.
Emerging triumphant from such an ordeal the march towards an Independent Republic started a new reborn generation of courageous people who have identified themselves throughout the world. Gaining Independence in 1964 and becoming a Republic ten years later, we have proven that although one of the smallest nations, we are a resilient people who do not fear challenges. Now as part of the European Union we live in a thriving solidarity and warm hospitality and stand up with pride in inheriting the story of our Island.