Malta Island state in southern Europe. Its territory, an archipelago extending for about 50 km from NW to SE and made up of two major islands (Malta, 245.7 km 2 and Gozo, 67.1 km 2) and three other islets (Comino, Cominotto and Filfola), is located in the center of the Mediterranean, on the Sicilian continental shelf.
Geologically, the islands consist of a basement of tertiary marine sediments which constitute the summit portion of a carbonate succession (since the Triassic), outcropping on the faulty flank of the Sicilian-Maltese underwater escarpment, which limits the Sicilian Channel to E. The south-western shore of the island of Malta is steep, steep, devoid of real landings, from whose high edge the valley furrows branch off forming, on the opposite north-eastern shore, a series of inlets, more or less wide and deep, including the bays of Mellieha and San Paolo, Marsamuscetto, the Porto Grande (between these two lies Valletta) and the wide Marsa Scirocco. The coastal perimeter of Gozo is also mostly steep, but with less marked contrasts between the two maritime facades. While retaining, in general features, the characteristics of the other island, Gozo shows a much more varied morphology and a more harsh physiognomy in its landscapes. The karst phenomena in the form of sinkholes, caves, and tracked fields are noteworthy; the surface hydrography is represented only by short rivers, that flow in narrow and steep furrows dug in the calcareous soils and carry water only on the occasion of copious rains. The climate of the archipelago is typically Mediterranean, with mild winters and hot, dry summers; the rains are scarce, around 700 mm per year.
is a country in transformation, in which some archaic aspects, albeit fewer and fewer, coexist with strong impulses for modernization. The population continues to grow, albeit at a slower pace than in the past; the numerous returns of emigrants also contribute to its increase. The population density, 94% urban (2008), reaches the highest index in the south-eastern part of the island of Malta. Significantly lower densities (444 residents /km 2) occur in Gozo. The prevalent religion is Catholic (92.7%).
Despite the belated affirmation of the industry, the progress in the economic field has been surprising: industry, tourism (1,124,000 entries in 2006) and international trade now represent the archipelago’s fundamental activities. Agriculture, a traditional sector, employs 2.4% of assets, contributing around 3% to the formation of the gross domestic product; cereals, vegetables, potatoes, grapes and flowers are produced in greenhouses. Lacking mineral resources and energy sources, Malta depends on imported fuels for electricity production. In the industrial sector, the electronic, IT, pharmaceutical and precision instruments sectors are growing. The University of Malta, which has gained considerable prestige, is a renowned center of Mediterranean studies.
Maltese, a common language in use and, together with English, the official language (since 1934, replacing Italian), belongs to the Arabic-Maghrebi dialectal group, from which however it differs due to the long influence exerted by Italian. The use in writing is recent: the documents are very rare for the 17th century, rare for the 18th century. (important are the grammars of GPF Agius de Soldanis, in Italian, 1750, and of MA Vassalli, in Latin, 1791, the latter also author of a Lexicon Melitense-Latinum-Italum, 1796), much more numerous for the 19th century. The characters of the alphabet are Latin and the spelling, until the first postwar period, was based on the Italian one, according to a proposal made in 1843 by the Maltese Philological Academy; later, for political rather than practical or scientific reasons, it was partially modified. For Malta religion and languages, please check ezinereligion.com.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
In particular, the remains of Tas Silg document the Phoenician presence; on the site, already occupied by the structures of a megalithic temple (Tarxien), a Phoenician sanctuary dedicated to Astarte-Tanit was superimposed, a Roman sanctuary that partly uses the previous structures and is in turn divided into various phases, a church of 5th century. Among the Punic testimonies, a sanctuary on the islet of Gozo and burials in various locations. There are also numerous Roman remains: a villa with a peristyle in Rabat (museum), and remains of other villas in various locations. In S. Paolo Milqi there are precious Christian testimonies, of the Pauline tradition (Paul was shipwrecked on the north-eastern coast of the island around 58 AD and remained there for three months); in the same locality are also the remains of a 3rd-2nd century farm.
The main monuments are in the city of Valletta, with a characteristic seventeenth-eighteenth century appearance: the most important is the convent church of the Order of St. John, the work of G. Cassar (1577), partly decorated by Malta Preti; there are two paintings by Caravaggio. Also noteworthy is the church of Gesù (paintings by Malta Preti, GB Caracciolo etc.), of S. Giacomo (1710), of the Victory. Cassar’s work is also the palace of the Grand Masters. The cathedral, in Mdina, was rebuilt by L. Gafa (1697). Relevant, in the sec. 17th-18th, the relationship with the Roman artistic environment. During the 18th century. Valletta is characterized by a classical architecture (G. Bonici); in the 19th century. Malta is equipped with numerous fortifications by English architects. Among the personalities of artists (formed in relationship with the Roman environment), are S. Busuttil, PP Caruana (close to T. Minardi), G. and V. Hyzler (active with the Nazarenes), G. Cali. In the 20th century. modern architecture, with local roots, is represented in the work of R. England; the example of the sculptor A. Sciortino had a sequel in G. Borg and V. Apap; in painting A. Inglott, G. Preca, W. Apap stimulated the formation of a contemporary Maltese art.
Important institutions are the Archaeological Museum in Victoria (Gozo), the National Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts in Valletta.