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History of Malta

HISTORY 

  The strategic position of Malta, Gozo and Comino has made these Mediterranean islands a crossroad of history and a bone of contention. The powers of Europe's past knew it well as a stepping-stone between Europe and North Africa. Involved in Malta's history are the Stone-Age and Bronze-Age people, Romans and Phoenicians, Arabs, Normans and Carthaginians, Castilians, French and British; from whom Malta became independent in 1964. Napoleon Bonaparte did unutterable damage in an only six-day occupation; and Malta stood firm against Hitler despite massive bombing during World War II, deservedly earning the nation the George Cross medal from King George VI (April 1942) and depicting it on the left hand corner of the flag.

THE KNIGHTS

  The Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, a religious and multinational order of soldiers and hospitallers, have had a significant influence in the history of Malta. You might recognise the Maltese Cross, which is the insignia of the Knights of Malta. And you've heard of the Maltese falcon-the Mediterranean peregrine falcon-which was the annual rent required by Roman Emperor Charles V when he donated the Island to the Knights in 1530.
  The Knights were not altogether pleased with the gift of these little islands, which were no kind of natural paradise. The Knight found the land is rugged, dry and rocky, though these days barely in evidence in its natural form because Malta is one of the world's most densely populated countries in the world (population - 366 000). It takes no more than approximately an hour to drive between any two points on the main island and that is achieved without ever breaking out into wide-open spaces; the island is virtually solid with jumbles of buildings built of native white limestone.
The Knights of St John of Jerusalem, however, left the most physical mark on Malta, after successfully defended it from the power-hungry Turkish Ottoman Empire in 1565. The Knights were in charge of the island for 270 years, building magnificent churches and lavish monuments to themselves-each nationality had its own palace (AUBERGES) -before losing power to the Napoleon Bonaparte and the French empire in 1889.