Malta History – Middle Ages and Modern Age

By | December 26, 2021

The Maltese Islands, attributed to ‘ Im but the East in sec. IV d. C., underwent the same events of Sicily; apparently submitted to the Vandals of Africa for a very short time from 454 to 464 and to the Goths after 464, they were reunited by Belisarius to the Empire in 533. There is no news on the Byzantine government in Malta. Of course, it was part of the theme of Sicily and it had Greek governors and a small Greek garrison. Meanwhile, the religious bond with Rome continued, at times interrupted by the jurisdiction of the patriarch of Constantinople. The population, like that of Sicily, must have been made up of ancient elements, Latinized by Rome. For Malta history, please check

The date of the Arab conquest is set, in various Arab sources, at the year 870. Aḥmad ibn ‛Umar ibn‛ Ubaidallāh al-Aghlabī, of the Aghlabite family dominating the Arab-Berber Muslims of lfrīqiyah (current Tripolitania and Tunisia), would occupied the year 869; but then, being besieged by the R ū m (i.e. the Greeks), the Aghlabite emir of Sicily, Moḥammed ibn Khafāgiah, intervened and submitted it to the Muslim government of Sicily. It should be noted, with regard to the date 870, that undoubtedly Malta already found itself surrounded by Arab-Muslim influence beforehand; already in the eighth century it had to suffer attacks and depredations of Muslims of Africa. Considering that the Aghlabites began the conquest of Sicily with the landing in Mazara in 827, we are led to believe that the Muslim conquest of Malta took place before 870.

Muslim rule in Malta lasted until 1091, although unsure hints speak of a Byzantine attack on Malta around 1050 or shortly before, at the time of the Maniace enterprise in Sicily. in 1091, Ruggiero the Norman, having already liberated Sicily from Saracen dominion, also occupied the Maltese islands. Malaterra (Hist. Sicula IV, 16) says that the q ā ‘id (gaytus), that is the political and military leader of Malta, and his followers obtained peaceful surrender from Ruggiero by handing over the Christian slaves “quorum plurimam multitudinem infra urbem tenebant “, of amni, livestock and money.

Malta was an important position for the Muslims, at the time when they had dominance in the central Mediterranean, given its geographical situation, the breadth and safety of ports, especially the one to the NE, now called the Great Harbor. In the absence of particular information on the Muslim government in Malta, we can believe, by analogy with what is known for Sicily, that there was a governor (ḥā kim or q ā ‘id) dependent on the aghlabite emir and then ‛ubaiditza (fatimita) of Sicily, with a small corps of troops (giund). The name of a q ā ‘id Yaḥyà is made. The population was left free to become Muslim or remain Christian, in the condition of dhimm ī, that is, of submissive people, paying the personal tax called gizyah and the tribute (khar ā g ???). It is also probable that the Christian population in Malta was, at that time, very small in number and that the majority were in slavery, especially since the island must have become in the century. XI a nest of Muslim corsairs. Arab writers give us little information about it. Al-Idrīsī, in the sec. XII, Norman period, defined it as a large and beautiful island, with safe harbors to the east, abundant with pastures, flocks and honey. The Maltese Arab poets ‛Abd ar-Raḥmān (Abū’l-Qāsim), ibn Ramaḍān and‛ Abdallāh as-Samṭī are remembered. No traces of this Arab-Berber rule have been found in Malta. It is said that the Muslims built or restored the castle, now called Castel Sant’Angelo, in the 14th-15th centuries called Castello a mare, to protect the Porto Grande, and that the walls were partly their work, Mdina, ar. al-Madīnah. Few, about twenty, are the Arabic epigraphs that have come to light up to now, all of which are tombstones; and they do not provide important news for local history. The only three certainly datable belong to the first century. XII, that is to say in the Norman period, proves, as we shall see, the permanence of a large number of Muslims in Malta, even after the conquest of Ruggiero. They come mostly from the Roman villa excavations at Rabato (pr. Rabato ; ar. Raba D “suburb”), a suburb of the Notable City, where there was a true Muslim cemetery; and the most important, dated 1174, comes from the island of Gozo. A few aghlabite, Fatimite and ḥafṣide coins, partly from local finds, are kept in the museum.

More important is the trace left by the Muslims in Malta with the imposition of the Arabic language. This is dealt with separately below, speaking of the Maltese dialect. Only a mention is made of a particular manifestation of the Arabization of Malta, namely toponymy. If the names of Malta and Gozo (Ghaudex; pr. AUDE š) date back to ancient date and location have many recent Italian names (Valletta, the suburbs, some villas, inland villages like Casal Attard, Casal Paola), the majority of place names are Arabic (i.e. expressed in Maltese Arabic, which does not mean that they all date back to Muslim-Arab-Berber rule); Arabic are the toponymic terms, still used to designate conformations of the land, such as ghar “cave”, uyed (wed) “valley” (where streams flow with rain), ‛ ayn ” source “, gudia ” hill “, jebel ” mountain “, nadur ” eminent place “, ghadir ” pond “etc. The prefix hal, which designates hamlets or villages, derives, for apheresis of the first syllable, from the Arabic rahal also used in Sicily at the time of the Muslims to indicate “farmhouse”. The local pronunciation of these Arabic words derives from the peculiarity of the Maltese dialect.

The permanence of Arabic-speaking Muslims in Malta even after the Norman conquest is ascertained, in addition to the aforementioned epigraphs, by historical information: it is not surprising, given that the same happened in Sicily and that at the court of the Normans and the Swabians, customs, language and culture of the Arabs. Bishop Burcardo, sent by Barbarossa ambassador to Saladin in 1175, reported that he had passed through Malta and found it “a sarracenis inhabitata” and subjected to the dominion of the king of Sicily. There were certainly also Christians, since the existence of Maltese bishops was ascertained from the beginning of the century. XII.

The Muslims were expelled from Malta in the first half of the century. XIII, at the time of Frederick II: but the date is not certain. It is known that in 1224 that sovereign had the residents of Celano (v.) In Abruzzo deported to Sicily and from there, after having destroyed their village as a punishment for a revolt. Riccardo di San Germano, who gives the news, adds that in 1227 the Celanesi of Sicily were set free; but it does not say whether the same happened to those allocated in Malta. Modern historians believe that and that the introduction of the Celanesi in Malta served to compensate for the void left by them. But a report sent around 1240 by Abbot Gilberto to Emperor Frederick II says that in Malta there were 47 Christian families (probably wrong figure), 681 Saracen, 25 Jewish families; and in Gozo there were 203 Christian families, the Saracens 150, the Jews 8. In total, out of 1119 families, 250 were Christian, 836 Saracens, 33 Jews. The Muslims thus formed three quarters of the population. The same report informs that there were 84 gerbini servants in Malta busy cultivating the possessions of the curia regia. It is also known that Frederick II kept camel farms in Malta and from Malta he brought hawks for hunting. The expulsion of the Muslims from Malta is therefore after 1240: perhaps it is to be referred to 1245, when other Muslims from Sicily were taken and sent to Lucera, perhaps also to 1249, a date handed down to us by the historian Ibn Khaldūn. In 1266, Malta, like Sicily, passed under the Angevin dominion and, in 1283, under the Aragonese one, after Ruggiero di Lauria (v.) Had defeated the Angevin ships in its waters.

The Angevin forces were led by Admiral Guilllaume Cornut who was killed in the battle. The Lauria was wounded while fighting. This naval battle, due especially to the maneuvering ability of Lauria and the prevalence of crossbowmen and almogaveri (v.) In the Sicilian-Aragonese army, had a considerable influence on the outcome of the war because it disanimated the Angevins and their Provençal navy and prepared that grandiose victory of Castellammare which the year after the collapse of the naval power of Anjou.

Malta History - Middle Ages and Modern Age