Malta is commonly known as a heavenly island that lies right in the heart of The Mediterranean Sea, with two more breathtaking islands Gozo and Comino.
Having a total area of 316 sq.km, Malta's coastline is measured to be 252.81 km having important strategic importance. Furthermore, Malta has sea routes for both Europe and Africa, increasing its significance to a greater level.
All these things made Malta a center of attention throughout history, which also left its marks on Maltese culture.
A Brief History Of Malta
Walking down the history lane of Maltese culture, dating back to about 7000 years, the island of Malta is filled with infrastructure that depicts the history of this island. From its medieval fortress city of Mdina built in the Bronze Age to its forts and citadel constructed by the Knights of St. John, Malta streets are filled with venues constructed during various reigns.
Looking at the history of Malta, you will come to realize how the language, culture, and way of living of other foreign societies become a part of Maltese culture.
Foreign Influence On The Culture Of Malta
As discussed before, the culture of Malta can be defined as a total blend of varying cultures and civilizations, thanks to the historical foreign influences. The influence can be seen in their language, customs and traditions, food, music, and even daily lives.
Here is a quick recap of foreign influences on the culture of Malta:
The Phoenician Period (500-700BC)
Ruling Malta around two hundred years, Phoenicians were merely interested in Malta due to various harbors and ports that could ease trading through the sea routes. For this reason, they made Malta a Punic colony.
The Phoenician period still has a deep-rooted impact on the language, traditions, and culture of Malta.
The Roman Period (218 BC-395 CE)
Next came the Romans. The Roman regime is particularly famous for the incident of St. Paul shipwreck and the introduction of Catholicism to the Maltese people, and the establishment of the Church of Malta. This made religion an essential part of the Maltese culture. During this time, Malta was given the right to introduce its own currency and control its domestic affairs.
With the Roman Empire gone, Malta was given to the Eastern Roman Empire, which allowed several Greek families to enter Malta. This brought various Greek traditions, sayings, and superstitions that you can still find popular among Malta people.
The Arab Invasion (870 CE-1090)
Many historians consider this period to be the worst for Maltese people. They speculate this period to be a time of killing and slavery. People fled to Sicily or other places to save their lives. The impact of Arabs can be seen on the names of various towns and villages named in an Arabic fashion, such as the famous town of Mdina, which means "the city" in Arabic.
In 1090, Norman intrusion put an end to the Arab rule. At that time, only 1200 households were left in Malta, and the majority belonged to the Arab families.
The Knights of St. John (1535-1798)
This is considered “The Golden Period” for Malta. During this period, there was a rapid increase in the population from 25000 to 114000 along with development in health, education, architectural and artistic sectors of the Maltese culture.
You can see many buildings and architectural designs of this era in the town of Valletta and The Grand Harbour of Valletta. The oldest university of Europe, “The University of Malta” was also constructed during this period.
French Rule (1798-1800)
Many French customs and expressions that Malta culture still enjoys were introduced in this period. Napolean rule ended slavery, laid the foundation of a secondary school system, and revised the university system.
A Constitution was given within six days, and improvements were made in Malta's legal system under a new Civil Code of law.
However, all was not well with this rule. Napoleon's rule saw churches being ransacked, stripped of gold, silver, and precious art. The worst was, however, in the execution of several of Maltese patriots.
Influence Of The British In Malta (1800 to 1964)
British rule introduced drastic changes in Maltese culture, language, and politics. It was a conscious and voluntary effort by the Maltese people to get rid of the French rule.
On the other hand, Malta’s strategic location made the island a brilliant station for British forces. The Suez Canal opening further improved the island’s importance as a naval base and supply station. Even after the end of British rule, a strong influence on Maltese culture can still be seen.
So, as you can see, Malta cultural heritage is rich. If you want to experience all this, you have got to visit the beautiful island bursting with natural beauty and history.