|Official Language||Maltese, English, standard Italian and Sicilian, Aragonese|
|Other Languages||Arabic (Judaeo-Arabic, Libyan, Syrian, & Tunisian), French, German, Greek, Russian|
|Main Religion||Latin Rite Catholicism|
|Other religions||Byzantine Rite Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox Church (Ecumenical Patriarchate), Mizrahi Judaism, Sunni Islam|
|Important Cities||Birkirkara (largest), Birgu, Senglea, Cospicua (Three Cities), Melitti (former Byzantine capital)|
|Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta||Gerardo (Gerhardt) von Hammerstein-Farrugia|
|Area||316 km2 (122 sq mi)|
|Independence||1798 (From France)|
|Currency||1 pound=20 shillings=240 pence|
|Organizations||Aragonese League, Commonwealth of Nations, League of Nations|
Malta is a small island in the Mediterranean, long administered by the Knights Hospitallers of St. John. In the mid-19th century, external matters were assumed by the Federated Kingdoms, leaving internal governance to the Knights. Malta is known for its ancient ruins and is a thriving tourist destination. It served honorably during the Second Great War as an airbase for Royal Navy dirigible fleets that harassed Europe from the south and Africa from the north.
Classical and Medieval History
It is unknown whether Malta was first colonized by Greeks or Carthaginians. The main island's name "Malta" comes from the Greek «Μελίτη» ("Melíti"), which is presumed to come from the Greek word for honey, «μέλι» ("méli"). Certainly by the full Christianization of the island, the island was fully hellenized. After the introduction of the theme system by Emperor Irakleios ("Heraclius") in the 640's, the island was ruled from Sicily. Southern Italy was a battleground for Romans and Arabs during the early medieval era. There was a close call of conquest with a Fatimid raid on the island in 870, but the raid was repulsed by the Roman navy that was nearby to protect the Res Publica's Italianate holdings. However, this protection was not destined to last. In the year 1015, the island fell to Fatimid forces. The island quickly surrendered and although the main cathedral in the city of Melitti was forcibly turned into a mosque, Shia rule on the island was rather light as a counterbalance to protect Muslims living in the Roman Empire. Some Berber prisoners from the Zenatta tribe were dumped off in exile as well as an Arab garrison, but much to the chagrin of Cairo, islamization was slow and arabization was even slower. Ismaili Shiism did attract converts (perhaps they wanted to pay lower taxes, perhaps they wanted a spot in the island's administration or the army, or they married Muslim spouses), but not many. Islam was relegated to a hyper-elite minority of people. The islanders began mixing Arabic with Greek (with some Berber words thrown in) until the urban elite spoke something that unintelligible to both parent languages. This is the basis of the Maltese language spoken today. After the forceful taking of the cathedral in Melitti by the conquering victors, the headquarters of the Orthodox Church on Malta to the sub-island of Gozo.
In 1171, the Fatimid caliphate would fall, and the first occupational forces to swoop in and take full advantage of the chaos would be the Norman rulers of Sicily, not the Romans who scarcely noticed as they were in the midst of an Anatolian reconquest yet again. The Normans freed all slaves on the island (as they were Christians and the East-West schism was not truly fully-formed yet) and indeed began the island's Muslims. Greeks from Sicily and the Italian mainland began moving in, bringing the native Melittans into contact with the outside world for the first in centuries. The Normans rewarded the Greeks in their navy with lands in Malta for their service and brought in Arabic-speaking Jews from Syrakousai (Syracuse). Muslims were even allowed to practice their religion freely and elect a leader as an intermediary between the local community and the administration in Sicily called an "emir" who paid Palermo an annual tribute of horses, mules, and arrows every year, but his tolerance was not to last. Throughout the centuries, more and more rights would be taken away from the Shia Muslim, Jewish, and eventually Orthodox Romans still loyal to Constantinople and not Rome. Islam was completely outlawed in 1494. Most, but not all, Muslims would convert to Latin Rite Catholicism so as to be on the "winning side" with their Norman overlords, but some would join their ethnic kin in loyalty to Constantinople and the other four ancient patriarchates. Starting in the year 1224, Frederick Hohenstaufen II, King of Sicily, would flood the island with Sicilians and southern Italians, but only males. A garrison manned only by (Catholic) Sicilians was founded on the island in 1235, and the Hohenstaufens tended to exile any noble families from Sicily they didn't like to the main island. By the year 1241, the royal governor for the Hohenstaufens reported 627 Greek Christian families, 250 Muslim families, 209 Latin Christian families, and 33 Jewish families. In the year 1266, the island was given to Charles d'Anjou, brother of King Louis IX of France, as his own personal fief. Charles had a personal dislike of non-Catholics, and this marks the beginning of the end for Islam on the island, as well as legal restrictions on the native Orthodox and localized Jews.
In the year 1412, the Aragonese king became the king of Sicily after the so-called "War of the Sicilian Vespers" kicked the intolerant and unpopular French out. It was not however until the third of January, 1427, Malta was incorporated into the Crown of Aragon by King Alfonso the Magnanimous. Twenty six years prior, the Crown of Aragon passed a rule that mandated the release of all Greek, Circassian, Albanian, Ruthenian, Bulgarian and Vlach slaves (as Christian ethnicities) in their realm, and this now included Malta. Prisoners-of-war working on Ottoman ships were frequently picked up, and Malta became a safe haven for them to stay and settle after their release. Like the Swabian Hohenstaufens before them, the Aragonese chose Malta as a primary destination to exile troublesome nobles, both native Italians and Aragonese Iberians. This 'Spanish Period' of Maltese history marks the entrance of Aragonese loanwords, surnames, architectural styles, cuisine, and ofher cultural tidbits as well as a contribution to the local gene pool.
Fearing an Ottoman invasion, Charles V of Aragon handed the island over the the Knights Hospitaller (formerly of Catholic-occupied Rhodes) as a vassal state within the greater Kingdom of Sicily administration on the condition they protect Aragonese shipping lanes and the Iberian mainland from Ottoman attack. In 1522, Suleiman I had driven the Knights Hospitaller of St. John out of Rhodes. They dispersed to fellows commanderies all over Western Europe. They were delighted to take over Malta as a new base to fulfil their duty to protect the Catholic heartland at all costs. That same year, they summoned a great deal of native loyal Rhodian Romans (Greeks) to join them in their new home and out from exile in Western Europe. The lion's share of Rhodians who fled with the militant organization were actually still Orthodox, although some were Latin Rite Catholics and even fewer still were converts to Catholicism who kept their native liturgical rite of Constantinople, known as Uniates. This was the third and biggest wave of Christian Greeks (but not the last) and they got to work revitalizing agriculture and nautical trade, venturing as far away as Tripoli in Libya on behalf of the Order. Five thousand Rhodians came, twenty percent of the island's population at the time.
While their Greek underlings fished, farmed, and traded, these famous "Knights of Malta" as they began calling themselves thereafter made their island domain home. They declared the Aragonese and the Italian language made popular by Dante Alighieri the two official administrative languages. They built towns, palaces, churches, gardens and fortifications and embellished the island with numerous works of art and enhanced the cultural heritage of the isle. The knights also resumed their seaborne attacks on Ottoman ships nearly right away, and before long, Sultan Suleyman II ordered a final attack on the Order to finish it off once and for all. The order turned the city of Birgu, which had an excellent natural-harbor into their primary naval where they docked their fleet. Birgu was one of the two major urban places at that time, the other most urban place being Melitta (the old capital city during Fatimid through Aragonese times). Their new defenses around Birgu greatly bolstered the island's defenses, although they still built new fortifications on the other point of Senglea from scratch. A small fort was also built at the tip of the peninsula where the capital city of Valletta now stands, dedicated to Saint Elmo.
Colonization of the Americas
On the twenty-first of May 1651 (the feastday of Sts. Constantine and Helen), the Sovereign Military Order procured four islands in the Caribbean from the French Compagnie des Îles de l'Amérique which had just been dissolved after years of diminishing funds from the French government under Cardinal Mazarin and financial mismanagement: Saint Barthélemy, Saint Christopher, Saint Croix and Saint Martin. The Order gave control over the islands to Phillippe de Longvilliers de Poincy, a nobleman and Bailiff Grand Cross of the Knights of Malta until his death in 1660. However, the Hospitallers' direct rule in the Americas was not to last. In the year 1665, only fourteen years after initially acquiring them, the Order sold the four islands to the French West India Company. The Hospitallers would however go on to help the French Crown colonize its vast territory on the Gulf Coast Louisianne and a century and a half later, the head of the French Langue of the Order would send its excess population to settle the inhospitable coast of French Guiana. Against all odds, those hardy island colonists survived in Guyane and Louisianne and went on to be founding members of these respective colonies, melding seamlessly into the French population but forever leaving their mark on the local culture.
Early 18th century: Led by the Langues of England and Germany, members of the order start agitating for certain changes.
1798: Napoleon conquers Malta. Grand Master Hompesch flees to Trieste. Hospitaller sisters continue to serve at the hospital in Valetta and protect the archives of the Order. The priory of Russia chooses to depose the current grand master and elects Tsar Paul I as grand master.
1800: England conquers Malta. Included in the expedition are a few Kemrese, English, and Scottish knights of the Order. The Hospital of Valetta is turned over to these knights under the authority of the King of England. The English reject both Grand Masters' claims to Malta.
1800-????: The great schism. One faction of the Order (predominantly English) controls the hospital in Valetta. One faction controls the Order's holy relics (predominantly Italian). One faction (predominantly Russian) enjoys great military and economic power.
1811: England and the Holy See agree on a set of terms which will permit the Order to return to Malta.
1812: In grand council the Order rewrites its articles and properly elects a new grand master.
1814: Among its actions, the Congress of Vienna [?], with the consent of the Federated Kingdoms, returns the rule of Malta to the Order to St. John. Additionally, the signatory nations agree upon certain rules concerning the Order's properties throughout Europe.
Liberation and English Vassalage
Present Day and Politics
|This article is source material
Jefferson (Conculture 29574, Mar 23, 2008):
For all their complaints and troubles, the people of Malta are very cautious about changing the political balance of power that governs them. It is much like the water rights situation in our American West. It is complicated, cumbersome, and could undoubtedly be improved, but it works, and people are afraid of what might happen if it was changed too suddenly.
29575, Mar 23, 2008):
Internally, [the Knights of Malta] would like to think that they stand neutral in inter-state disputes. They cannot give unbiased aid or stand as unbiased aides if they are known to be specifically allied to one group or another, so they try to avoid alliances. Leadership struggles over the past 20 years have even questioned the basic principle of favoring Christian over non-Christian nations. While the question has not been fully resolved (mainly because it would require a ruling from the pope, which is not likely to happen anytime in the foreseeable future), there is a tendency to say that as all humanity is God's creation, the order has a responsibility to humanity that is greater than its responsibility to the community of Christ which, after all, is more a construct of man than of God.
The overwhelming character of the island is defined by its Catholicism. Malta, is afterall, run by a Latin Catholic military order and is thus officially a theocracy on paper. Church attendance is some of the highest in Europe at 93%. The Latin Rite is not the only Catholic liturgical rite present on the island. The Maronite Catholic populace (only 4,320 people) is descended from refugees who fled the Ottoman conquest of Cyprus sometime between the mid 17th and 18th Centuries. The largest religion after Catholicism is the Eastern Orthodox Church, followed by 90,500 (16.8%) people in the country. The vast majority are natives and are descended from a melange of pre-Greek Semites, Byzantine-era transplants, Italiote Greeks from what is now the Two Sicilies, Constantinopolitan nobles who were exiled to the island from Valencia when they chose not to partake in the colonial venture that led to the foundation of Riu d'Archent, loyalist Rhodians who fled with the Knights who occupied their homeland until the Ottoman conquest in 1522, Cypriots, and people from all of Eastern Europe fleeing Ottoman persecution. Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians have been immigrating to the island since the 19th Century, and now Serbian and Romanian immigrants come to the island to work in the service industry as unskilled laborers. Jews make up 2.6% of the island (14,040) and follow the Mizrahi liturgy of the Maghreb. There are a couple hundred Muslims on the island, but all relatively recent immigrants from Carthage and Libya who have nothing to do with the island's Fatimid history. The British citizens who've moved to this fellow commonwealth member country have also brought Protestantism to the island, although they only make up about 8,640 people split up amongst Calvinist, Congregationalist, Methodist, Baptist, and Mormon churches.
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