The Maltese Archipelago

Malta is a small archipelago located in the middle of the Mediterranean sea approximately 92km south of Sicily and 230km north of Tripoli. Five islands form the archipelago: Malta; Gozo, Comino, Cominotto and Filfla. Three of the islands are inhabited. The largest of the three islands is Malta at 246 square km and is 27 km long and 14.5 km wide. Malta's population is 350,000. Gozo is 67 square km and is 14.54 km long and 7.2 km at it's widest point. 25,000 people live on Gozo. Comino is the smallest inhabited island at 2.7 square km. Only a handful of farmers live there. Malta's capital city is Valletta.

The National Flag

The national Flag of Malta consists of two equal vertical stripes, white in the hoist and red in the fly. A representation of the George Cross, awarded to Malta by His Majesty King George VI on the 15th April 1942, is carried, edged with red, in the canton of the white stripe. 

According to tradition, the National Colors were given to the Maltese by Count Roger in 1090. Roger the Norman had landed in Malta to oust the Arabs from the Island. Out of regard for their hospitality Roger gave the Maltese part of the pennant of the Hautevilles to serve as their colors.

Coat of Arms

The Maltese Coat-of-Arms consists of a shield showing a heraldic representation of the National Flag of Malta. Above the shield there is a mural crown in gold with sally port and eight turrets (five only being visible), representing the fortifications of Malta and denoting a City State. 

Around the shield there is a wreath of two branches, the left of olive, the right of palm, symbols of peace and traditionally associated with Malta, all in their proper colors, tied at the base with a white ribbon, backed with red and upon which are written the words "Repubblika ta' Malta" (Republic of Malta) in capital letters in black.

National Anthem (can be heared playing on this page)

In 1922, Dr. A.V. Laferla, Director of Primary Schools, obtained possession of a piece of music composed by Dr. R. Sammut. He handed it to Dun Karm, a well-known priest and poet, to write the lyrics for it as a school hymn. As Dun Karm began writing, he suddenly conceived the idea of writing a hymn in the form of a prayer to the Almighty. 

Dun Karm, who was later to become Malta's National Poet, wanted to bridge the gap existing between the political parties and to unite all with the strong ties of religion and patriotism. L-INNU MALTI was first played on the 3rd February 1923. In 1945 it was declared to be the official Anthem of Malta. 
Lil din l-art helwa, l-Omm li tatna isimha, Hares Mulej, kif dejjem Int harist:
Ftakar li lilha bl-ohla dawl libbist.
Aghti, kbir Alla, id-dehen lil min jahkimha, Rodd il-hniena lis-sid, sahha 'l-haddiem:
Seddaq il-ghaqda fil-Maltin u s-sliem. 

English Translation
Guard her, O Lord, as ever Thou hast guarded!
This Motherland so dear whose name we bear!
Keep her in mind, whom Thou hast made so fair!
May he who rules, for wisdom be regarded!
In master mercy, strength in man increase!
Confirm us all, in unity and peace! 


Malta has a very rich history, going back to pre-historic times. Many unique megalithic temples from the pre-historic age can still be found on the islands of Malta and Gozo. 

Prehistoric Malta

During this time, Malta is seen as part of a land-bridge connecting Europe to Africa. The part of the land-bridge connection Malta to Africa was the first to disappear. The land-bridge connecting Malta to Europe disappeared later. This is based on fossils of animals dating back to 250,000 B.C. found in a cave known as "Ghar Dalam" (the cave of darkness.) It is assumed that these animals traveled south during the Ice Age and settled in Malta until they became extinct. Fossils of animals found in the cave include those of dwarf elephants, bears, wolves, hippopotamus and hyenas 

The prehistory of Malta is divided into a number of phases named after the sites were archeological sites have been discovered.

Ghar Dalam Phase (3800 - 2600 B.C.) 

It is thought that Neolithic people crossed to Malta from Sicily during this period. These people, who were very primitive farmers lived in caves and grottos found around the island although evidence shows that they also lived in open settlements. This period is known by the name of the cave where their remains have been found. 

Skorba Phase (3600 - 3200 B.C.) 

During this phase changes in the way the early inhabitants of Malta lived became evident. During this period inhabitants started living in huts in small villages. The type of pottery used by the Maltese of this period altered greatly. 

Zebbug Phase (3200 - 3000 B.C.) 

A fresh influx of people arrived prior to 3200 B.C. This phase belongs to the Copper Age. During this phase, use of flint for tools, obsidian and red ochre used for decorating temples was common. 

Mgarr Phase (3000 - 2800 B.C.) 

During this phase another change in the way the inhabitants of the islands lived became evident. This is defined by a special type of pottery in use during this period.

Ggantija Phase (2800 - 2400 B.C.)

This phase is named after the huge and elaborate temple found on the island of Gozo. This temple is named Ggantija because of the huge blocks of limestone (some as high as twenty feet) used to form the walls of the temple. Temples built during this era tended to be very large and architecturally elaborate. They were mostly constructed of huge slabs of limestone rocks brought to the sites from nearby quarries. The Ggantija temples predate Stoneheng by over 1,000 years and are amongst the oldest free standing buildings in the world. These temples were already in existence at the time when the great pyramids of Giza were being built. 

Saflieni and Tarxien Phases (2400 - 1800 B.C.) 

The Ggantija Phase evolved into the Saflieni Phase, named after the unique subterranean temple known as the Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni. This temple is completely hewn out of the soft limestone rock found in Malta. It is about 1,600 square feet in area and consists of three layers reaching a depth of around forty feet. 

Tarxien Cemetery Phase (1800 - 1400 B.C.)

All traces of these temple builders was lost around 1800 B.C. Bronze Age people supplanted the previous inhabitants of the islands. The newcomer’s culture was more advanced since they used metal implements. This phased is named after the graves these people built on the site of the Tarxien temple. 

Borg in-Nadur Phase (1400 - 800 B.C.) 

This phase is named after the settlement were a new people arriving to the islands lived. There are eight known settlement from this period.

Modern History

Phoenician Period (800 - 218 B.C.) 

The history of Malta has been enriched by the various cultures brought to Malta by its occupiers throughout the centuries. The modern historical period of Malta starts with the Phoenicians. The Phoenicians are thought to have settled in Malta around 800 B.C. The Punic colony lasted until 218 B.C. 

Roman Period (218 B.C. - A.D. 870) 

During this period, Malta's value as a naval base was established by the Romans. The Romans considered the Maltese as their allies and granted the islands Roman municipality status. The most significant historical event of this period and one that changed the historical course of the islands, is the conversion of the Maltese people to Christianity after St. Paul and St. Luke were shipwrecked in Malta on their way to Rome. 

Arab Period (A.D. 870 - 1090) 

The Arabs conquered Malta around 870 A.D. The Arabs did not leave any monuments or any remains of significance behind them. 

Medieval Period (A.D. 1090 - 1282) 

Count Roger the Norman conquered Malta in 1090. Count Roger brought the Maltese back into the European fold. During this period, Malta became a fiefdom of a string of Sicilian kings. At one point, Malta was passed to Charles of Anjou, St. Louis' brother. The French continued to hold Malta until they were dislodged by Peter I of Aragon. 

Spanish Period (A.D. 1282 - 1530) 

During this period, the Maltese islands continued to be given in fief to absentee noblemen. During this time the population of Malta stood at around 9,000.

Knights of Malta Period (A.D. 1530 - 1798) 

The Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem came to Malta after they were pushed out of Rhodes by the Turks. Charles V suggested the move to the Maltese archipelago as an alternative. The knights were not impressed but they had no alternative. In March of 1530, the Order was given Malta and Tripoli, in perpetual fief for the annual rent of a falcon (hence the legend of the Maltese Falcon.) 

The Turks tried to capture Malta from the Knights. The Turks laid siege on Malta (the Great Siege - A.D. 1565) but abandoned the attempt to seize the islands after they lost over 320 ships and 30,000 killed, wounded or captured. The Knights, eventually became known as the Knights of Malta and gave Malta the heritage of the Maltese Cross, the eight-pointed cross which was a symbol used by the knights to denote the eight obligations or aspirations of the knights. 

The knights left behind many great palaces, bastions, fortifications and other historical buildings. The building of the city of Valletta came at a time when the Knights were considering abandoning Malta. However, Grand Master Jean de la Valette wanted to fortify the island. He asked the Pope of the time to help him build a city surrounded by fortifications. The pope sent Michelangelo's assistant, Francesco Laparelli in 1565 to help with the design of the city and fortifications. The City, now the capital of Malta, is named after the Grand Master. The City of Valletta has been declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations. Many of the palaces built by the Knights are now government offices and include the Prime Minister's residence and Parliament. 

The knights surrendered Malta to Napoleon's fleet on May 10th, 1798 and the knights left Malta for Italy. The French did not last long in Malta, surrendering in 1800 following a revolt by the Maltese people. Sir Alexander Ball, an agent of the King of Naples, administered the islands until the British occupied the islands around 1814. Malta was to remain a colony of the U.K. until it became independent in 1964. 

Malta played a pivotal role during the last World War and was granted the George Cross by King George for the bravery the Maltese people showed during numerous attempts by the Italians and the Germans to capture the islands.

Malta - An Island Republic

Malta became an independent country on September 21, 1964 and is a member of the Commonwealth. On the 13th of December of 1974, by an act of Parliament, Malta was declared a republic. The first president of the republic was appointed in December of 1974.