1902 Encyclopedia > Malta

Malta




MALTA is the chief island of the Maltese group, consisting of Malta, 35° 50' N. lat. and 14° 30' E. long., Gozo, 36° 5' N. lat. and 14° 10' E. long., Comino, which lies between them, and the two islets Cominotto and Filfla, a crown colony, and one of the Mediterranean possessions of Great Britain. Malta is 17J miles long by 9J broad, con-taining an area of about 95 square miles (about two-thirds the size of the Isle of Wight), and Gozo is 9 miles long by 5 wide, with an area of 20 square miles. The islands lie directly south of Sicily, distant from 55 to GO miles, near the centro of tho Mediterranean basin, where they appear as the remains of an ancient chain of islands, much worn and still wearing away by the sea. Gozo, which has the same general character as Malta, possesses more moisture and richer soil, and therefore more verdure. A cluster of single hills, remarkable for their steeply conical shape, on one of which stands Rabato, the principal village, is near the middle of the island. Along the northern and eastern shores of Malta the coast-line is frequently broken by deep indentations and bays (St Paul's, St George's, and St Julian's Bays); on the peninsulas in and round the most remarkable of these Valetta and its fortifications are built. The geological formation is late Eocene, the prevailing rocks being white, grey, reddish, or yellow sandstone, with some beds of marl and coral limestone, in many parts abounding in fossils. The surface of the country is diversified by valleys and steep hills; there is little water, and no river, brook, or lake exists on any of the islands. The highest point of Malta is near Casal Dingli, about 750 feet above the sea to the south; a little farther north lies the ancient capital, Citta Vecchia, upon another steep height; west of these lies the range of Bingemma Hills running north-east to south-west; from this higher ground the island slopes somewhat towards the north-west. On the west and south the cliffs rise sheer from the sea to a height of 300 or 400 feet; on the north the rock in many places shelves to the water's edge, though the har-bours of Valetta and the rocks where the apostle Paul was wrecked are an exception to this. At the east end is the large harbour Marsa Scirocco, into which the south-east sirocco blows with full force. The general appearance of the land is bare, owing to the want of woodland, and also to the use of stone walls as enclosures for the fields, which in the east of the island are smaller than in the west. The dark foliage of the carob and the singular masses of the prickly pear are, however, very marked in the landscape, which with its contrasts of blue sea running into the brown and yellow land, heightened by whatever of green may be, is of fascinating beauty under the effects of morning light and setting sun. The land is closely cul-tivated ; often the soil is terraced on the sides of the hills as a safeguard against the winter rains. The soil is in many places extremely thin; it is, however, so fertile that it produces two and sometimes three crops in a year. Large quantities of early potatoes grown for the English market, corn sufficient to supply the island for four months of the year, cotton, principally for home use, and a fine red-flowering clover, called sulla, are the chief crops; excellent honey is obtained from Gozo; oranges and figs come to great perfection. Goats abound, but few cows are kept; the mules and asses are fine ; cattle and sheep for butcher meat are imported from Barbary. Fish is good and abundant. The flowers of Malta are famous; Cicero mentions the cushions stuffed with roses used by Verres, and many a lovely garden is hidden behind the high stone walls. The interesting flora of the islands approaches that of Africa (to which continent the old geographers considered them to belong, as the French do still), including the palm, cactus, and other sub-tropical plants. The scanty fauna is for the most part European; the Maltese dog is mentioned by Strabo and other old writers; a few still remain, though not wild. Of birds there are about ten or twelve indigenous species, but a large number of migratory birds pass or rest here. The marine plants and animals also offer a rich fund of material to the student.

The winter climate is temperate and healthy, the ther-mometer ranging from 51° to 71°Fahr. between October and May. In the summer months the heat is almost tropical; from July to the end of October it ranges be-tween 80° and 90°. Snow is unknown, but hail occurs in winter, and much rain usually falls between December and February. The northerly winds are bracing, but the south-east wind, called the sirocco, which brings the warm air from the African deserts, and then takes up the salt sea mists, is very deleterious ; it occurs suddenly, chiefly in August and September, occasionally in the spring, and fortunately lasts usually but a few hours. The " gregale " (" eurokylon" of Acts xxvii. 14) is a strong north-east wind which occasionally blows in the winter months with great fury and force for two or three days together, espe-cially in November and February, rendering it dangerous to cross the harbour, sometimes tearing up stone walls and landing-steps, and otherwise doing much damage.

The Maltese are a strong well-formed race, the men. dark, handsome, and lithe, the women with black eyes and. fine hair and an easy carriage ; as in other Eastern nations, the working classes grow old at a comparatively early age. They are a cheerful, good-humoured, and industrious people, sober and abstemious, though quick-tempered and addicted to the use of the knife. Bread or pasta, with a few olives, a little oil, or milk cheese, forms the chief support of the poor, who seldom or never eat meat, and drink but little of the light wine of the country. The gentry have a large admixture of Spanish, Italian, and French, but among the people in general the Arab race and character predominate, influenced by contact with Sicily. Of the native language 70 per cent, consists of Arabic words, the rest being chiefly a corrupt Italian ; that spoken in Gozo is the purest Maltese. The festivals and ceremonials of the Boman Church are kept up to an extra-ordinary degree, together with a few that seem to be derived from the Greek Church. The perpetual ringing of mono-tonous church bells, and the peculiar method of striking time, are relics of South Italian customs.

Malta is divided into twenty-six casals or village districts, Gozo into nine; some of the villages are large and populous, each having its church, often large and handsome. Near the middle of the island, on sharply rising ground, stands the ancient capital, called Civitas Melita by the Romans and oldest writers, Medina (i.e., the city) by the Saracens, Notabile ("jocale notabile, et insigne coronas regias," as it is called in a charter by Alphonso, 1428) under the Sicilian rule, and Citta Vecchia (old city) by the knights. The cathedral, overthrown by an earthquake in 1693, but rebuilt, stands on the reputed site of the house of Publius, Paul's friend; many Maltese gentry live in this town, and the English utilize some of the buildings. The Roman remains and catacombs of Citta Vecchia must not be forgotten. Since 1570 the chief town has been Valetta, •—a city built on a ridge of rock (Mount Sceberras)-which runs like a tongue into the middle of a bay, which it thus divides into two great harbours, subdivided again by three other peninsulas into creeks. On two of these peninsulas, and at ,their base, are built the aggre-gate of towns called the Three Cities, part of which (grown up under the old Fort St Angelo) is much older than the coming of the knights, and is called Vittoriosa in commemoration of the siege of 1565. Valetta, includ-ing the suburb Florian, is about 2 miles long and f mile wide; Fort St Elmo, with a lighthouse, stands on the point; the summer suburb Sliema lies on the point which encloses the west or Marsamusceit harbour;. Fort Ricasoli on the opposite point enclosing the east or grand harbour. The streets of Valetta, paved with stone, run along and across the ridge, and end on each side towards the water in steep flights of steps. Many of the houses, which are of stone throughout, with flat roofs, are large and luxuriously built; wooden covered balconies project from the windows and give a peculiar aspect to the streets. There are several fine public buildings, as the governor's palace, the new opera-house, the public library, the auberges or lodges of the knights, especially the Auberge de Castile, the English church built by Queen Adelaide and others. Roman Catholic churches in Valetta are very numerous : the cathedral of St John is famous for its rich inlaid marbles, its Brussels tapestries, its roof painted by Matteo Preti (1661-99), and the picture by Caravaggio, the Decollation of John the Baptist. The hospital of the knights contains one of the longest rooms in Europe, 503 feet in length, without a central support. The extensive bagnios under the rock, formerly occupied by the slaves of the knights, are now used for naval stores. The knights strengthened Valetta and its harbours by bastions, curtain-walls, lines, and forts, towards the sea, towards the land, and on every available point, taking advantage in every particular of the natural rock and of the marvellous advantages of situation, rendering it then almost impregnable. The work of fortify-ing the place with modern armament is carried on by the British Government, which possesses there the finest naval hospital in Europe, a military prison, and other necessary institutions, including immense subterranean stores of grain. New sanitary and water works and dwellings for the over-crowded poor have lately been undertaken by the local authorities. The city is clean and well-regulated, gay with the motley throng of all nations that continually come and go, and presenting many features common to the East; the influx of winter visitors attracted by the mild climate and social gaieties has of late years proved a source of wealth to the inhabitants. A railroad from Valetta to Citta Vecehia.the first in the island, is now nearly completed.





The importance of Malta lies, as of old, in its harbours, which render it a splendid port of call, repair, or refuge, as well as a fine naval station, in its capabilities as a depot for coals and stores, in its hospitals, and in its strength as a military station. Its position in the Mediterranean is of the utmost value towards keeping a clear highway to the East and to India. During the eighty-two years of British occupation the population, trade, and produce have largely increased. The government, created by royal letters patent of 11th May 1849, consists of a council of eighteen members, eight elected by the Maltese (about two thousand three hundred electors), nine chosen by the crown, and the governor, with a salary of £5000, who is usually a military officer. To these were added by letters patent of May 1881 an executive council of three members to advise and assist the governor. The council have powers to make laws and to vote money; this last was restricted by the British Government in 1875, leading to a protest in the following year by the elected eight. The government of the islands presents peculiarities owing to the combina-tion of military and civil duties. Several recent inquiries on taxation, education, &c, have led to important changes during the last two years. The consolidated revenue is at the disposal of the crown througli the governor and council; Malta is self-supporting, costing the imperial exchequer little beyond the military and naval establishments, and even contributing ¿£5000 annually towards the former. The revenue arises chiefly from import duties (of which a large proportion accrues from a tax of 10s. a quarter upon grain) and tonnage dues.

Revenue. Expenditure.
1879 £183,794 £185,946
1880 190,661 169,318

The tonnage of vessels entering and clearing equals that at Gibraltar; in 1878it amounted to 6,503,859 (5,669,046 of which was for British vessels), and in 18S0 it was 6,147,234. In 1879 the value of imports actually landed was £794,565, and of exports £216,050,—a value of about £18,700,000 merely touching at the port. The figures fluctuate ; in the following year they fell considerably. In 1837 the revenue was but £95,600, while but one steam-ship, of 137 tons, entered the harbour; in 1879 2894 steamers, with a tonnage of 2,781,806 entered. In the naval yard numerous vessels are repaired yearly; in 1876-77 these amounted to 39 ironclad and other ships and 43 smaller vessels. One arm of the harbour is devoted to a coaling station, where enormous quantities of coal are annually imported and sold (384,272 tons in 1880). The British Mediterranean fleet is stationed there for six months of the year, the strength of the naval forces being usually about 5000 men. The strength of the military in the island is usually about 6500, the largest garrison in any British colony.

The population, which in 1837 was 115,570, was 154,892 in 1880, exclusive of British troops and their families, about 24,000 being English and foreigners; it is rapidly increasing, and is unequally distributed, the greater part being settled in the large casals or villages on the eastern half of Malta, including the densely populated Valetta; large tracts to the west are bare and but sparsely inhabited ; about one-third of the island is rocky and uncultivated. Malta has now 1510 inhabitants to the square mile, Gozo 962. In 1879 there were 9868 children (about two-fifths of these at school age) attending elementary schools, in-cluding 768 students at the university and two lyceums; in 1880 the total was 9595. All the casals of Malta and Gozo (with but one or two exceptions), besides Valetta and the Cities, have schools, which are now placed on the same system as the board schools in England; great efforts are being made to extend the acquisition of the English language, which till recently was neglected in favour of Italian. The director of public education, besides the elementary, has under his care several secondary schools, two lyceums in Vittoriosa and in Valetta, and the university (founded by the knights in 1768), with faculties of philosophy and arts, law, medicine, and theology. In Valetta is a large public library founded by the knights in 1760, containing 48,000 volumes, open free daily ; in Gozo is a smaller one.

History and Antiquities.—Malta (Melita), with its sister Gozo (Gaulus or Gaudus), has from time immemorial been a place of importance to whatever race wished to hold the highway of the Mediterranean, whether Phoenician, Punic, Roman, or Arab. Thus even the stories of Homer have a semblance of truth, for the Ogygian isle where Ulysses took refuge has been supposed to be 'Malta or Gozo, in both of which tradition (born of the poem) yet points out the grottoes of Calypso. The earliest inhabitants of whose presence we have any actual trace are the Phoenicians, from whom we have several important inscriptions which tell of them and their temples, several curious images believed to belong to their worship, and many specimens of their pottery and glass, chiefly found in tombs, some bearing Phoenician characters and potters' marks. Sepulchral caves and clusters of rock-hewn tombs, especially those in the hills of Bingemma, in several of which terra cotta sarcophagi have been found, are referred with reason to a Phoenician or a Punic origin ; Caruana's Report gives a list of these in eight places, dis-tinguishing them from numerous Greek and Christian catacombs which also exist in the islands. The most remarkable remains are three rough stone erections, one in Gozo (Torre dei Giganti), and two in Malta, about a mile apart (HagiarKim and Mnaidra), which mainly consist of several apsidal chambers side by side, the walls of which are built of enormous horizontal and upright stones. In Malta the ruins show evidence of much skill in stone-cutting; the entrances to the chambers consist of three large slabs of stone in place of doorpost, each smaller than and at a little distance from the one outside it; several have well-shaped holes for ropes or other fastening ; other slabs have sharply-squared holes and shelves cut in the solid stone; others again are ornamented with "pit-markings " or little depressions cut evenly all over the surface of the stone. A table or altar is also found in some of the rooms, a massive slab of stone supported on an upright formed like the trunk of a tree ; in one case the two ends of the slab are carefully mortised into the walls at each side, the chamber being very small, and apparently intended specially for its reception. Hagiar Kim was excavated by the Government in 1840, when considerable traces of the action of fire were found on some of the walls, as well as buried ashes. In other rooms were found quantities of bones, many fragments of pottery, lamps, bowls, &c, nine images, and a small ornamented altar (Arehmol., vol. xxix. p. 227). The ruins in Gozo were excav-ated about 1827 (Archeeol., vol. xxii. p. 294). All these buildings stand on commanding positions, high on the side or the shoulder of steep hills. They have been usually considered Phoenician temples ; and, on comparison of them with what is known of the great temple of Melkart at the south-east corner of Malta, the presumption is strong that these too were built by the same race, at some very early period. The bilingual inscription found there belongs to a later age, the Gra;co-Punic time, to which Greek coins found in both islands and a few other remains bear evidence. It is probable that the islands shared in some degree the varying fortunes that followed on the wars in Sicily, which took place as Greek drove out Phoeni-cian, as Carthaginian drove out Greek and tried to regain the ancient possession of the mother-land, as finally Pome conquered all. During the First Puuic War (264-241 B. c.) Malta seems to have been conquered and reconquered more than once (Orosius, iv. c. 8). In the Second Punic War the Carthaginians, under Hamilcar, son of Gisco, gave it up to Titus Sempronius, 218 B.C. (Livy, xxi. 51).

In the pursuit of manufactures and commerce Malta had attained a high degree of prosperity under the Phoenicians, which still existed under the Romans of the Augustan age. It was especially famous for its textile fabrics (probably of cotton, which is grown and spun there to this day); the Sicilian praetor Verres sent there for women's woven garments. The inhabitants were rich, and there were many artificers of all kinds. Ovid speaks of it as a fertile island (Fast., iii. 567). The remains formerly existed (unfortunately now for the most part dispersed or destroyed) of several fine Graeo-Roman temples, such as the temple of Juno spoken of by Cicero and Valerius Maximus, whose ornaments and line ivories and carved figures of Victory tempted more than one sacrilegious robber ; the temple of Proserpine, which we learn from an inscription was re-paired by Chrestion, a f'reedman of Augustus, procurator of Malta ; and the temple of Apollo at the chief town Melita, which with a theatre shared the munificence of a wealthy Maltese under the Antonine rule ; these and the ruins of a princely Roman dwelling with mosaics, system of water supply, &c, at the same place, are but a few signs of the luxury enjoyed in the islands. Diodorus noticed the beauty and adornment of the houses in Malta in his time, a few years after the shipwreck of St Paul. One of the islanders was a friend of Cicero, who had thoughts of retiring there himself. A mole and important harbour works, discovered a few years ago, show that the Romans were not behind in strengthening the natural advantages of the islands for shelter. Inscriptions re-cording municipal institutions there date from the time of Hadrian ; how much earlier they possessed them is unknown. Before then we hear of Chrestion the procurator mentioned above, and a Roman governor under Augustus, Lucius Castricius, styled vpuros MeTu-ra'wv , "chief man of the Maltese " (Caruana, 1882, p. 134 ; 1881, pp. 20, 21), just as, half a century later, Publius was vpuros rrjs vinaov, "chief man of the island" (Acts xxviii. 7); all these were probably concerned in the local government. The Romans retained the Maltese group for many centuries. At the division of the empire in 337 A.D. it passed with Italy, Ulyria, and Africa to Con-stans ; after the reunion, and the final division after the death of Theodosius in 395, Malta, as one of the isles of the Mediterranean, remained with the empire of the East. History has but little to mention regarding it during those early times, except that event of ever-living interest, the shipwreck of St Paul, 58 A.D., which it is now well-ascertained took place in a bay on the north side of Malta. The alleged conversion of the Maltese to Christianity following the three months' stay of the apostle and his companions may be a fact; Chrysostom refers to it (Horn. 54 on Acts). Many Christian monograms and inscriptions have been found, ranging from the 2d to the 9th century; and the tombs and subterranean cemeteries near Citta Vecchia are said to be arranged like the Christian ceme-teries of subterranean Rome (Caruana, 1881, p. 18). Tradition says these were used as hiding-places in times of persecution ; it is certain that Ptolemy at the end of the 2d century notes the famous temples of Hercules and Juno as still in existence ; the old religion and the new must have gone on side by side for a longtime. After a time Malta was made a bishopric ; according to R. Pirrus (Sicilia Sacra, Melitensis Eccl. Not. vii., s.v. "Lucillo ") it was, though considered part of Africa, subject to the bishop of Palermo (in 6th century primate of Africa) ; we find Gregory the Great dealing with a contu-macious bishop of Malta and directing the bishop of Syracuse and others to depose him, and to aid the successor appointed in his place (Greg., Epist., ii. 44 ; ix. 63 ; x. 1).





The Saracens did not gain possession of Malta without a struggle of many years ; they invaded it three times, in 828, 836 (when it appears to have been chiefly Gozo that suffered), and finally in 870, when the inhabitants of Melita, having massacred the Greek (Byzantine) garrison of 3000, opened their gates to the invaders. The Arabs are said to have destroyed part of the city so as to bring the fortifications within smaller compass, rendering it more easy to defend, and to have changed its name to Medina (great or chief city). In a suburb just outside the present walls there was discovered in 1881 a burial-place containing numerous Arab coffins, overlying the remains of the Roman palace mentioned above, which was thus finally ruined and concealed by the conquerors. It is known that they built a fortress in 973, at the point of Mount Sceberras where Fort St Elmo now stands. A few coins are pre-served, but otherwise very little record remains of the Arab dominion, which lasted about two hundred and twenty years; no more Christian bishops are known until after that time, but tradi-tion asserts, not without probability, that some of the original natives remained in certain villages and some Greeks in the capital, among whom were Christians.
The Norman knights, who brought their conquering arms into Apulia, Calabria, and Sicily, and even sent ships to Byzantium, were probably the first to bring a Teutonic race and influence into Malta. Through somewhat uncertain dates it appears that Roger I, (youngest son of Tancred, and brother of Guiscard) about 1090 landed in the island and levied tribute, and that about 1127' Roger II., this not being paid, set sail with a fleet, took Medina, then governed by a gaito, Maimono, and after setting free all the: Christians and exacting a large sum in money, mules, and horses, completed the conquest of Malta and Gozo. Walter, bishop of Malta, whose name is found as witness to a document of 1090, is believed to have been now appointed by Roger I., and consecrated by the pope. A succession of Christian bishops, endowments and buildings made, tithes granted, &c, testify to the restoration of the church in the islands, while they shared with Sicily the feudal laws and administration newly established under the Norman rule. In 1193 Malta as a county gave a title to Margarito Brundusio, grand-admiral of Sicily, and three successive counts of Malta followed. After the Norman princes had possessed the islands about a century, the kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and the Maltese islands with it, passed in 1194 to the emperor Henry VI., in pro-fessed right of his wife Constance, daughter and heiress of Roger II. In 1223 a Maltese named Henry or Arrigo is stated to have been grand-admiral of Sicily (Pirrus, p. 906 ; Miège, ii. 38). He is probably the same as the distinguished Henry, count of Malta, who with three hundred Maltese youths in 1205 earned the favours of the Genoese by brilliantly taking two forts in Tripoli (Caffarus, Ann. Genuenses, in Muratori, t. vi.), and who took part also in the fourth crusade. No traces of the crusades, however, have been found in these islands, although it is probable that their leaders would not neglect the advantages ot Maltese ports and sailors.

Henceforward Malta, as a fief of Sicily, followed the fortunes of that country. The Maltese seem to have taken no part in the Sicilian Vespers (1282), but to have held out for Charles of Anjou until Peter of Aragon, crowned king of Sicily, August 1282, won a battle at sea against the French, attacked Notabile and the forts, and thus obtained possession of the islands. For nearly two hundred and fifty years the Spanish house, through fourteen kings of Aragon, bore rule over Sicily and Malta. In 1391 the countship was erected into a marquisate, which lasted two years only. In 1427 a swarm of Moors (18,000) ravaged Malta and Gozo, but were not able to take the city Notabile ; yet the people, though afflicted by the plague in 1431—as not unfrequently at other times—were able to sally forth to conquer Gerbi on the coast of Africa in the following year. The king at this time (1432) authorized the demolition of the old castle at Notabile, built three hundred and fifty years before, and gave the ground on which it stood to the town ; but the fortifica-tions of the island were strengthened (1466), the chief stronghold in the 15th century being the fortress of St Angelo. The inhabitants, addicted to fighting at sea, were forbidden from 1448 to 1494 to send out armed corsair ships, in order it is said to retain those capable of defence in the islands, the population of which was at the beginning of that period very scant. The Jews were expelled from Malta by the same edict of Ferdinand, in 1492, which turned them out of Spain. By 1514 the population of Malta had doubled ; the two islands together contained 22,000 inhabitants (Miège, ii. 81). They frequently attacked the Moors on the mainland, and suffered reprisals themselves as late as 1526. Their last king of the Spanish house, the emperor Charles V., in 1530 granted Malta and Gozo (with the city of Tripoli) as a noble and free fief to the knights of St John of Jerusalem, still retaining, however, the suzerainty, by the homage of a falcon annually to be given by the knights.

Malta thus during many centuries occupied the position of a feudal fief of Sicily ; her laws and her church date from the times of the Normans, and both developed as in other feudal governments. The progress of her political independence in the 15th century, especially under Alphonso I. and John I., has been shown by the historian Miège ; the history of the relations between Malta and the monarchs of Sicily affords an interesting example of feudal obligations with their attendant difficulties. That these fostered a spirit of liberty and independence in the people, and must have tended largely to the prosperity of the islands, is shown by numerous diplomas of the Aragonese suzerains preserved in the archives at Malta (Eton's Authentic Materials, 1803, p. 108 sq.), where it is. seen that the inhabitants acquired many privileges and were also 'able to pay on emergency considerable sums of money to increase and preserve their privileges. Thus in 1428, only a century before the knights came, they paid 30,000 florins of gold to King Alphonso. in order to secure their tenure by the crown of Sicily without any middle-lords, being the second time they thus bought back their island rights (Eton, p. 84). These things are to be noticed, because, as has been complained, the knights unjustly depreciated the value and advantages of the islands, in order the more readily to obtain the grant from Charles V. Under the kings of Sicily, Notabile was a università or commune, with its popular council and jurats, a captain-justiciar representing the rights of the crown ; in other words, Malta was a republic governed by its own laws ; the principal magistrate was named by the king out of three persons proposed by the Consilio popolare, and was liable to dismissal on complaint by the people. The king protected the island, and in return the Maltese took a share in his wars. When the knights took possession the Maltese stipulated that each grand master on entering office should take oath to maintain their ancient riglits and liberties (Eton, pp. 38, 85, 101). The knights began by deceiv-ing the Maltese candidates for admission into their ranks. Their rule, at first conciliatory, soon became despotic ; in time the over-shadowing power of a rich military organization encroached upon the constitutional government, corruption brought the officials under the control of the knights, and the people lost their liberties, though the material prosperity of the islands was in many ways heightened.

For the history of the order of St John see ST JOHN (KNIGHTS OF). Twenty-eight successive grand masters, from Lisle d'Adam to Hom-pesch (1530 to 1798), held the islands. Lisle d'Adam established his convent and hospital in the Borgo, a city that had grown up on the coast near the castle St Angelo, opposite the ancient fort St Elmo. In 1541 was made the first survey for the fortification of Valetta. Ten years later the Turks, led by their famous naval commander Dragut, ravaged Gozo, and made an attempt upon Malta which failed. The knights, already famous for their power at sea, were soon engaged in much skirmishing warfare against the pirates and Turks, winning success and riches, and the gratitude of Christian nations. In 1565, after eight yearsof threatening prepara-tions, during which the knights hail been strengthening and forti-fying their island, the Turks besieged them with an immense force ; they defended themselves with such valour that it took a month to reduce Fort St Elmo, and in rather over two months more the Turks, whose further advance was successfully resisted, were forced to retire, leaving the knights free to build their new city Valetta and its fortifications. The admiration and gratitude of Catholic countries for this service to Christendom showed itself in liberal donations towards these works ; large sums were also raised from the possessions of the order ; and Valetta, the first stone of which was laid on 26th March 1566, in four years rose upon the ridge of rock, "a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen," as it has been well describe!,—the original design of which, the cutting down the rock to a level platform, had only suffered from the continual fear of molestation by the Turks while building.

The order, now firmly established in their island, continued to carry out their mission, that of keeping the Mediterranean clear from Turkish and Moorish pirates, and of protecting Christendom against the infidels. Numerous sea-fights took place during the 16th and 17th centuries, many of them undertaken more to make up for the neglect of some of the grand masters to supply the islands with corn, by seizing upon Turkish stores, than for any better reason. Valetta became in consequence " a vast slave mart." In 1614, under G. M. Vignacourt, an aqueduct was constructed at a cost of £13,000 to bring water to Valetta from springs near Citta Vecchia, a work of immense value, and still in use. But the work of fortifying Malta occupied a large share of money ami attention, and was carried on without relaxation by many of the grand masters, down as late as the building of Fort Tigne in 1793. Besides the great lines and forts in and round Valetta, the knights have left their mark all over the islands: they made good roads, improved Citta Vecchia, built watch-towers round the coasts, and erected towers, country palaces, and gardens. They also established and continually carried on, at Notabile and Valetta, their hospitals for the sick and wounded. In 1768 the Jesuits, having given much trouble, were expelled and their property confiscated. Danger from rebellion twice threatened the knights—in 1722, when the slaves were believed to be in com-munication with the Turks, and from 1773 to 1775, when both people and priests were wrought upon by oppression and mis-government, which, only mitigated for a time by the better mea-sures of G. M. Rohan, led to the weak and disorganized condition of the order that ended in its overthrow. In June 1798, the pos-sessions of the order in France having already been seized by the republicans, Bonaparte on his way to Egypt landed with a large force in a bay behind Valetta; no resistance was made, and in a few hours the French were in possession of the whole of Gozo and Malta except the town of Valetta and one little fort. In four clays more, without bombardment, the order had surrendered Valetta and practically ceased to exist. Bonaparte stayed six days, laying' down laws and regulations with a high hand, and collecting plunder from churches, &c. He left Vaubois in charge, but in less than three months the Maltese had revolted from the tyranny of their new masters, and Vaubois inside Valetta with 6000 men sustained a siege and blockade lasting two years, during which time Portuguese, Neapolitans, and a small force of English assisted the Maltese. Sir Alexander Ball commanded in the name of the Sicilian king, and was put at the head of their National Council by the Maltese. On 4th September 1800 Vaubois surrendered, and the Maltese (who lost 20,000 men) put themselves and their islands under the pro-tection of the English,—reunion to the crown of Sicily, which they had sought, being no longer thought of. The treaty of Amiens (1802) provided that the islands should be restored to the order of St John, obviously to the advantage of France, but repugnant to the Maltese. War breaking out again, the islands remained in the hands of England till ill 1814 they were secured to her by the treaty of Paris (Art. 7), under which she still holds them.

See Kenrick's Phoenicia, 1855 ; A. A. Caruana's Reports on Phoenician and Roman Antiquities in Malta, 1881 and 1882 ; James Smith, Voyage and Shipwreck of St Paul, 1866 ; K. Pirrus, Sicilia Sacra ; T. Fazello, Storia di Sicilia, 1833 ; O. de Bazancourt, Histoire de la Sicile, 1846 ; G. F. Abela, Malta lilustrata, 1772; J. Quintin, Insulae Melitae descriptio, 1536 ; G. W. von Streitburg, Reyse nach der Insel Malta. 1632; R. Gregorio, Considerazioni sopra la Storia di Sicilia, 1839; F. A. C. Davalos, Tableau historique de Malte, 1816 ; W. Eton, Authentic Materials for History of Malta, 1802 ; Houel, Voyage Pittoresque, vol. iv., 1787 ; G. P. Badger, Description of Malta and Gozo, 1858 ; G. N. Godwin, Guide to and Natural History of Maltese Islands, 1880; Whitworth Porter, History of Knights of Malta, 1858 ; A. Bigelow, Travels in Malta and Sicily, 1831 ; M. Miege, Histoire de Malte, 1840; Parliamentary Papers—reports by Mr Rowsell on "Taxation and Expenditure of Malta," 1878, by Sir P. Julyan on "Civil Establishments," 1880, and Mr Keenan on the " Educational System," 1880 (the last two deal with the question of language) ; F. Veila, Maltese Grammar for the use of the English, 1831 ; Malta Penny Magazine, 1839-41 ; J. T. Mifsud, Biblioteca Maltese, 1764. Brydone, Teo ge, John Dryden, jun., W. Tallack, Rev. H. Seddall, Boisgelin, Rev. W. K. R. Bedford, W. H. Bartlett, St Priest, Msgr. Bres, and F. Lacroix have also written on Malta. For natural science, see the works of Dr A. L. Adams, Professor E. Forbes, Captain Spratt, Dr G. Gulia, C. A. Wright, and Wood's Tourist's Flora. (L. T. S.)



The above article was written by: Miss L. Toulmin Smith.



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