Malta is a small yet powerful and important island in the center of the Mediterranean Sea. Situated 50 miles south of Sicily and 207 miles north of Libya, Malta has been an integral part of the "Middle Sea" history. The island is no more than 122 square miles making it one of the world's smallest states and yet is known as one of the most densely populated countries in the world.
The list of invaders and occupiers reads like this: Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Aragonese, Habsburg Spain, Knights of St. John, French and the British all share a part of Maltese history. In reading The Middle Sea and The Holy Wars this small island played such a pivotal role in shaping histories of every country bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
The name Malta appears to be a derivative of the Greek word "melti" which means "land of honey". Another potential name "Maleth" comes from the Phoenicians which means "haven" due to the many bays and coves on the island. Prehistoric fossils are also being found including pygmy hippos and elephants.
The island dotted with megalithic temples of a design dating back between 4,000 -- 2,500 B.C. The island was soon occupied by many foreign interests, often resulting in massacres and bloody battles up until 870 A.D. in which the Byzantines invaded the island and held on to it for nearly 200 years when the Normans ousted the Arabs in 1091, returning the island to Christianity. For the next 700+ years the island was conquered and re-conquered by multiple forces and left nearly devastated by one plague in 1675. With the Treaty of Paris in 1814, the island officially became a part of the British Empire. During World War II, the British heavily defended the island from heavy Italian bombardments. Often called the "second siege of Malta", the British recognized the important strategic location of the island in thwarting Axis nation shipping in the Mediterranean. Due to the bravery of the residents of Malta during WWII, the King of England awarded the "George Cross" to the citizens for their acts of bravery heroism. This was only the second time in British history that this honor was bestowed. The George Cross remains a part of Malta's flag to this day. Now a part of the European Union, Malta gained its independence from Britain on September 21, 1964 and has vowed to remain a neutral country.
For Malta we took a very expensive but very private tour to multiple locations on the island. If you've not read, The Siege of Malta, The Middle Sea, or The Holy Wars, The significance of these sites may be insignificant.
The Bible also tells of the Apostle Paul's shipwreck on this island and his subsequent incarceration in the catacombs on the island. The actual catacombs are open for public viewing. I think we were both moved as to what we had seen.
We've also decided that the is no way to describe the majesty of this island or how nice people were everywhere we went. When people ask us our favorite cruise port it will now be Valletta, Malta.
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