The Maltese islands were first settled by Stone Age hunters in 5200 BC, who migrated from the island of Sicily, and by 700 BC ancient Greeks had arrived, followed by the Phoenicians.
The islands fell under Roman rule during the first century AD, following Malta's loyalty towards Rome during the First and Second Punic Wars.
Then, when the Roman Empire was divided into eastern and western regions, the Maltese islands fell into the hands of the Byzantine Empire for the next four hundred years.
After the Byzantine rule came to end, the Kingdom of Sicily took over, and it was during the era of count Roger II of Sicily in 1127 that saw the Maltese islands move from a mostly Arab culture to a European one.
The Maltese islands remained under Sicily's rule until the beginning of the 16th century when the Ottoman Empire began to spread.
Fearing the end of Christian Europe was upon them, Spanish King Charles V handed over the islands to the Knight Hospitallers of St. John for their protection.
These knights eventually became known as the famous "Knights of Malta" and spent the next 275 years building new towns, and enhancing the cultural heritage.
In 1565, the Ottoman Empire invaded the island, in what has become known as the Great Siege of Malta.
For the Ottoman's it was all in vain, as the Knights were more than prepared for an attack, and were relatively quick in claiming a victory against the Ottoman Empire.
The reign of the Knights ended in 1798 when Napoleon seized Malta during the French Revolutionary Wars.
The Maltese were less than thrilled with the French invasion, and rebelled against the new financial and religious policies set forth.
Great Britain, the Kingdom of Naples and the Kingdom of Sicily all sent Malta ammunition and aid, and helped push France into surrendering in 1800.
It was because of British support that prompted Malta requested that the islands become a British Dominion, and following the Treaty of Paris in 1814, that became official.
Initially, the British placed very little importance on the Maltese islands, but after the opening of the Suez Canal in Egypt the islands became an important halfway point within the trade-route to India.
As a British colony during World War II, and being extremely close to the Axis shipping lanes, Malta was shoved right into the middle of frequent attacks by Italian and German forces. Not to mention the British used the islands as a launching pad for attacks against the Italian navy fleet.
Because of the bravery of the Maltese people during World War II, King George VI awarded Malta the George Cross on April 15, 1942 (and to date, Malta is only one of two to receive that honor).
After intense negotiations with the United Kingdom, Malta was granted independence on September 21, 1964, and by 1980 had adopted a policy of neutrality.
The country hit a rough patch between between 1976 and 1981, as shortages of essential items (water and electricity) occurred, and political tensions increased following an assassination attempt of the current Prime Minister.
Although tourism has declined slightly in the past couple of years, the rich history and prehistoric temples of Malta continue to make it a favorite destination, especially for crusie ships.
The influence of the Byzantines, Carthaginians, Phoenicians and Romans has transformed the islands into an eclectic mix of beautiful architecture and stunning historical landmarks; and all of that with the shimmering blue-green waters of the Mediterranean Sea serving as a vibrant backdrop.
This page was last updated on April 7, 2017.
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