Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Some History...aka Airplane Reading

Ready for a little Maltese history?  A bit dry but fascinating: 
"Malta is one of Europe’s smallest and most densely populated countries...a group of seven islands in the Mediterranean Sea, about 97km south of the southeast tip of Sicily.  Only the three largest islands - Malta, Gozo and Comino - are inhabited. The terrain is low and rocky with coastal cliffs.

"Malta, in the heart of the Mediterranean, is a melting pot of civilizations with a history stretching back thousands of years. The country has been inhabited since around 5200 BC and a significant prehistoric civiliation existed on the islands prior to the arrival of the Phoenicians who named the main island Malat, meaning safe haven. Later the islands were for centuries the seat of the Order of Knights of the Hospital of St John and then part of the British Empire.

"The strategic importance of Malta was recognized by the Phoenicians, who occupied it as did, in turn, the Greeks, Carthaginians, and Romans. The apostle Paul was shipwrecked there in A.D. 60. Malta's position in the Mediterranean, midway between Europe and Africa, has made it a strategic prize. Here, in the 16th century, the Knights of St. John repelled 30,000 soldiers of Süleyman the Magnificent's Ottoman Empire. It withstood Axis bombs during World War II. In 1964, after almost 150 years as a British colony, the Maltese islands won independence. Tourism is the cornerstone of the nation's economy, and it joined the EU in 2004. 

Throughout history, Malta's location has given it great strategic importance and a sequence of powers, including the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Fatimids, Sicilians, Knights of St. John, French and British, have all ruled the islands. Malta gained independence from Great Britain in 1964 and became a Republic in 1974, whilst retaining membership in the Commonwealth of Nations. It is a member of the United Nations (since 1964) and the European Union (since 2004)."

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