Country Briefs: In the middle of the Mediterranean Sea lies a small and densely populated island, Malta that features Megaliths, medieval dungeons and Calypso's Cave and is positively mythic in nature.
Physically Malta is a part of North Africa for it lies on the continental plate directly south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya. But geo-politically the island is a part of southern Europe.
Covering a mere area of 316 square kilometers the narrow cobblestone streets of Malta towns are crowded with Norman cathedrals and baroque palaces. The countryside is beleaguered with world's archaic human structures.
The total population of Malta is around thirty-nine thousand people out of which 7650 people live in its capital Valletta.
People settled in Malta around 5200 BC. Near 1000 BC Phoenicians came and occupied the region. They used it as an outpost from which they expounded sea explorations and trade in Mediterranean. In 736 BC Greeks came to Malta and named the place as "Melita".
In 400 BC Carthage ruled over the islands while the Romans came to power in 218 BC. Romans led to development of the island. Till date numerous artifacts in Malta exhibit the flourishing roman rule over the island.
In AD 60 Malta was obliged with the visit of St. Paul. The St. Pauls's Bay, situated in north east of Malta, 16 km to its capital Valetta refers to the shipwreck of Saint Paul.
The Arabs invaded the island in AD 870. The Arabs made Arabic as the national language of Malta and Islam as the official religion. This is precisely the reason that the current Maltese language has originated from Arabic.
In 1090 the Sicilian Normans conquered the island and so Christianity re-entered the place. During this time the Maltese nobility, the titles of nobility recognized by the British, was established. The Royal Comision did not recognize these historically relevant titles. However about 32 noble titles are in use till date in Malta.
In 1530 Malta was given to Spain to the Order of Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in perpetual lease. These Knights were chucked out of the Rhodes and Ottoman Empire in 1522.
The siege of Malta took place in 1565 when the Ottoman Empire invaded the island, held by the Knights Hospitaller. This siege is marked as historical because it was fought by the unparalleled forces on the small island of Malta, which commands sea-routes at the center of the Mediterranean.
Ottomans, the greatest non-European military power at that time then built the city of Valetta after Jean Parisot de la Valette.
The Turkish rule came to an end when Napoleon occupied Malta in 1798 while he was on his route to Egypt's expedition. Napoleon plundered great wealth from the island till the time he stayed there. He then sailed for Egypt leaving a substantial garrison in Malta.
Malta officially became a part of the British Empire in 1814 when the Treaty of Pairs was signed. Malta was used as a shipping way station and fleet headquarters at that time.
Malta served as the most important stop on the way to India due to its closeness to the Suez Canal. Malta was also prominent during the Second World War because of its vicinity to Axis shipping lanes.
On 21st September 1964 Malta became independent and so the island celebrates it as its independence day. Malta became a republic within the commonwealth in 1974 with president as the head of the state.
At present Malta is the smallest European Union country that is also a famous vacation destination.
- HASC: Hierarchical administrative subdivision codes.
- Population: Census 1995-11-26.
- Area: Derived by adding areas of component local councils.