Official name

Republic of Malta






35°52' N, 14°30' E


Malta is an archipelago (The Maltese Islands) situated in the central Mediterranean Sea, 93 km south of the Sicily. The Maltese Islands include Malta, Gozo, Comino, Filfla, Cominotto and Islands of St. Paul.



Total area: 316 sq km

Land area: 316 sq km

Water area: 0 sq km


Land boundaries

0 km



252 km (including Gozo)


Administrative division

Malta is divided into 68 local councils (54 in Malta, 14 in Gozo).


Political system

Malta is a parliamentary republic. The House of Representatives is elected every five years and is made up of 65 MPs (Members of Parliament). The President is elected every five years by the House of Representatives.



401 880


Ethnic groups

Maltese 96%, British 2%, other 2%



Roman Catholics 98%, Anglicans 2%




The name of the island was given by the Phoenicians – Malat, meaning “safe heaven”. But the history of Malta dates back to around 5200 BC when the very first settlers arrived on Malta. The settlers were Neolithic people, probably from Sicily.


Temple Period

The next important period in Malta’s history was the temple period (3600 BC-2500 BC). It started with the construction of Ġgantija temple complex in Gozo which are known as the oldest free-standing buildings in the world.


Bronze Age

The Bronze Age (2500 BC-700 BC) was also a period of the temples but the most important part was the colonisation. Phoenicians started colonization of the Maltese Islands around 1000 BC and used the place to expand further explorations and trade in the Mediterranean. Around 720 BC a Greek colony was founded on Malta.


Punic/Roman Period

The Roman period (700 BC-395) begun with the construction of a Punic temple. In 480 BC Malta came under control of Carthage and in 218 BC of Rome when Titus Sempronius Longus invaded Malta. The Maltese Islands were incorporated into the Roman Republic. During the reign of Hadrian (117-138) Malta became a municipulum – the high class Roman city. In AD 60 Apostles Paul and Luke were shipwrecked in Malta. St. Paul is believed to have brought the Christianity to the Maltese people.


Byzantine Period

The Byzantine Period (395-870) was mainly the period of occupation. It begun with Byzantine rule but then Malta was occupied by the Vandals (454) and a decade later by the Goths. In 533 Malta returned under the rules of the Byzantine Empire.


Arab Period

In 870 Malta was conquered by Sicilian Arabs and remained under their rules for following 260 years. The Arabs strongly influenced the Maltese civilization including the names of the places, the architecture and techniques in agriculture. In 1048 the Byzantine Empire tried to recapture Malta. In the late 11th century Malta came under the Norman rule. In 1122 there was an Arab uprising against the Norman rule in Malta.


Norman Rule

During this period (1127-1194) Malta remained under the Norman rule and was gradually changing into an European country.


County of Malta, Kingdom of Aragon

Malta remained part of Sicily for 440 years and was sold and resold to numerous rulers (Swabians, Angevins, Aragons). In 1479 Malta became part of the Spanish Empire. In 1522 Military Hospitaller Knights of St. John of Jerusalem (Knights of Malta) was established in Malta.


Knights of Malta

King Charles V of Spain gave the Maltese Islands in perpetual fiefdom to the Knights of St. John to protect Rome from Islamic invasion. For the next 275 Malta remained the domain of the Knights of Malta. They built towns, fortifications and churches. One of them was Fort St Elmo, today’s Valletta. The Knights were to provide medical assistance to the pilgrims on their route to the Holy Land. The Kinghts of Malta had to defend the Islands against the Ottomans and their numerous attempts to capture Malta. Because of that, the Knights’ priorities (hospitallers first and military second) reversed.

1565 was the year of the Great Siege. The Ottomans made the last attempt to conquer Malta with 40.000 men prepared to fight against 9.000 of the Knights (both soldiers and simple citizens). The Ottoman Empire was defeated.


French Conquest

The reign of the Knights ended in 1798 with the arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte’s fleet. Napoleon and his nominees introduced a liberal law system, freed the Muslim slaves who were kept on the island, closed the convents, abolished slavery and the Holy Inquisition. After a decade of French rules, the Maltese people rebelled but all their attempts failed. They asked Britain for help and in 1799 came under British protection.


British Malta

Malta became part of the British Empire in 1800 and gradually the British military and naval fortress (the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet’s Headquarters). In 1814, under the Treaty of Paris, Malta became a British Crown Colony. During the Crimean War 1853-1856 (between Imperial Russia and an alliance of France, the UK, The Kingdom of Sardinia and the Ottoman Empire) Malta was a hospital base for wounded combatants and became known as the Nurse of the Mediterranean.

In 1860s Gozo finally, after three petitions, got the approval for a separate Roman Catholic diocese and the first Bishop of Gozo was elected.


World War I

During WWI (1914-1918) Malta again served as the Nurse of the Mediterranean. In 1919 there were riots over increases in the price of bread. Four Maltese protesters were killed by the British soldiers. The attempts to greater autonomy for the locals succeeded and Malta obtained a bicameral parliament.

In 1934 English and Maltese were declared the official languages of Malta. After 800 years, Italian stopped to be the primary language.


World War II

Malta played and important role during WWII (1939-1945) due to its strategic position – key fortress of Britain. Due to the intensive raids of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany on Malta, WWII is called the Siege of Malta.

First air raids on Malta begun in June 1940, a day after Italy declared war on Britain and France .The Islands managed to endure the heaviest bombing attacks with almost no resources – less than 4.000 soldiers, about 42 anti-aircraft guns and 4 Gloster Gladiators (biplane fighters) with only 3 pilots. When Britain found out how effective Malta’s defence had been, it decided to reinforce and resupply the Islands. Malta strengthened with Hawker Hurricanes (fighter aircrafts) was very well defended. The crisis came in December 1941 when the German renewed bombing on Malta. The island suffered from the shortage of fuel, food and munitions and was almost cut off. The situation started to improve in February 1942 with new aircrafts.

In April 1942 Malta was awarded the George Cross by King George VI, the highest civilian award for courage (usually awarded to individuals), which can be seen  on the Maltese flag.

However, during the first six months of 1942 Malta was attacked constantly with only one 24-hour “break”. Fortunately, the supplies started reaching Malta in late summer. The siege of Malta ended on 8 September 1943.

Siege of Malta in numbers means 3.000 raids within two years, 1.493 civilians killed and 3.674 civilians injured.


Post-War Reconstruction

In 1947 Maltese Self-Government was restored. Malta received 30 for the post-War reconstruction.


Towards Independence

In 1955 a Round Table Conference was held in London to discuss the future of Malta. A year later a referendum was held on the integration of Malta into the UK. In 1958 Britain imposed direct colonial rule over the Islands. Finally, Malta became an independent state on 21 September 1964.


European Union Membership

Malta became an Associate member of the European Community in 1970 and joined the European Union in May 2004 and on 16 May 2007 adopted the euro as the national currency.


Other important dates on Malta

1535 – first celebration of Carnival

1561 – establishment of the Holy Inquisition

1566 – founding of Malta’s new capital - Valletta

1732 – first performance in the Teatro Pubblico in Valletta (now, the Manoel Theatre)

1798 – abolishment of slavery, the Holy Inquisition and the titles of nobility

1883 – inauguration of the Malta Railway

1964 – Malta joins the UN

1965 – Malta joins the Council of Europe

1971 – abolishment of capital punishment

1973 – decriminalization of homosexuality