Malta’s History Explained: 10 Historical Periods That Shaped Malta

By January 4, 2017 July 11th, 2018 Intercontinental Malta
The History of Malta

Malta has a deep, rich history, in fact; many historians record Malta had inhabitants living on it sometime around 7400BC.

In this post today, we’re going to be talking about Malta’s history along with some of the foreign conquests of Malta and eras that have shaped and moulded what Malta is today.

Most of these historical periods listed below also have attractions that you can go see to get a real feel of that part of history. If you’re interested in visiting one of these locations, be sure to let us know in the comment section below.

Malta’s History Explained

Malta’s history


Ghar Dalam (The Dark Cave) in Birzebbuga

This cave proves to historians that humans have been living on the island for thousands of years thanks to the remains found in this cave.

It was formed when large rivers of water, probably cause by the last ice age and in it were found skeletons and fossils from wildlife creatures that are not usually associated with Malta including dwarf elephants, deer, wolves and yes; even bears.

This “cave of darkness” is open for all to see and you can find out how to visit on this website.

Phoenician Era

Phoenician Sarcophagus

The Phoenicians often buried their dead by first placing the body in a sarcophagus made of terracotta or stone.

A terracotta sarcophagus was found at Ghar Barka, in the limits of Rabat, in 1797. It dates from the 6th century BC, and it is now at the National Musem Of Archeology.


The Greek Cippus

This cippus is a marble candelabrum discovered in the southern fishing village of Marsaxlokk.

It’s an ex-voto to a god. It’s also a vital discovery because it has a dedication written in both Greek and Punic which helped scholars understand the Punic alphabet in more detail.

A similar cippus, also discovered in Malta, is now ar the Louvre museum in Paris.

Roman Empire Era

St Pauls Catacombs

Having enjoyed a reign of over 200 years, the Roman empire did leave a lot of history and beauty behind on the Maltese Islands.

The most famous of these relics is, of course, St Pauls Catacombs which can be found (and visited) in Rabat, Malta.

With elaborate paintings and artwork inside these caves from that Roman era, it’s the earliest archaeological evidence of Christianity being practised in Malta.

You can still visit these Catacombs today. You can find more info about that on this page.


The Greek’s Gate In Mdina

This old “Greek’s Gate” is to be found inside the walls of the ancient capital of Malta, Mdina.

It’s a little known historical place in Malta that doesn’t get much attention, but it carries with it one of the biggest contributions the Byzantines did while ruling over Malta.

Arabic Rule

The Islamic Cemetery

Down the road from the previously mentioned Greek’s Gate, you will find another important relic from Malta’s history but this time from the era when Arabian rules conquered and ruled the island.

Discovered first in the year 1881, this important site shows that Islam was still being practised after the Christian Nomads invaded the island around 1091.

Today you can still visit this Cemetry and explore all it’s magical wonders and mysteries when visiting Mdina.

For more information about our old capital city, check out our intro guide to Mdina here.

Late Medieval Era

The “Bir Miftuh” Chapel

Bir Miftuh” chapel has a typical medieval rectangular plan, but it was enlarged (and modified) in the early 16th century.

This is a beautiful, lesser known chapel in Malta that you may want to explore while on holiday since it does give great insights into what life (and way of life) must have been like in those medieval times.

Knights Of St John

Various Buildings & Fortifications

With their rule spanning well over 200 years, the Knights of St John surely has contributed the most to the islands and most of their efforts still stand today.

From building forts (St Angelo Fort), to the fantastic cathedrals, the bastions of Valletta and even the city of Valletta itself can be traced back to the Knights of St John and the work that they did.

There is much to be explored from this area, and it’s safe to say that wherever you look, especially when in the city of Valletta, you will find memories of this once great empire that ruled Malta till the time the French conquered started arriving;

French Period

French Citizenship

The French empire didn’t leave much behind, mainly because they only ruled the islands for a short period of 2 years.

However, one thing that they did do is giving all Maltese locals on the islands a French citizenship which (some experts say) led to Malta being considered more part “Europe” than Africa.

Their rule didn’t last long mainly due to an uprising by the Maltese people, a fascinating story that you can read on Wikipedia about the Siege Of Malta

British Era

The Last Rulers

The last remaining rulers of the Maltese islands before gaining our independence in 1964 is the mighty British Empire who ruled these islands (and used it strategically for both world wars) for 164 years.

To this day, most contributions done by the Britsh remain to be seen (and visited) including; Fort Rinella in Kalkara and The Victoria lines (defence walls).

Malta finally gained its independence on the 21st of September on 1964 and had been independent ever since.

Closing Words

Thank you for reading this mini-guide about Malta’s history and its past along with the many events that have made Malta what it is today.

If you’d like to visit Malta on holiday, please visit our website for more information on how we can make sure you have the holiday of a lifetime here in the Maltese islands.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.


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