An eclectic and exciting past that colours our present

Malta enjoys a rich past, and history is one of the many things tourists enjoy during their stay here. The islands’ strategic importance was first realised by the Phoenicians, who settled here. It was later occupied in turn by the Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans.

Between 870 and 1090AD Malta (then called Melita) came under Arab rule. In 1091, the Norman noble Roger I, then ruler of Sicily, came to Malta with a small entourage and defeated the Arabs. The Knights of St. John, who obtained the three Maltese islands of Malta, Gozo, and Comino from Charles V in 1530, left their biggest mark when they withstood an attack by superior Turkish forces in the Great Siege of 1565. Napoleon seized Malta in 1798, but the French forces were ousted by British troops the following year, and British rule was confirmed by the Treaty of Paris in 1814.

Malta was heavily attacked by German and Italian aircraft during World War II but was never invaded by the Axis powers. It became an independent nation on 21 September 1964 and a republic on 13 December 1974, but to date has remained part of the British Commonwealth. In 1979, when its alliance with Great Britain came to an end, Malta sought to guarantee its neutrality through agreements with other countries. Although the islands then applied for membership to the European Union, when the Labour Party were elected to power in 1996, it froze Malta's EU application and withdrew from the NATO Partnership for Peace programme in an effort to maintain its neutrality. When the Nationalist Party won the 1998 elections, however, they revived the EU accession bid, and in May 2004 Malta joined the EU, later adopting the Euro in 2008.