Malta Modern History

By | December 26, 2021

Starting from the second half of the 13th century, Malta was ethnographically renewed by external and especially Italian contributions, which merged into a distinctly Sicilian complex. What remained was the Arabic dialect that the subsequent immigrants had to learn and contributed to modify, as will be said, in the phonetics, in the syntax and, moreover, in the lexicon. The onomastics of Maltese families, where surnames are mostly Italian, sometimes adapted to Maltese use (Gatt “Gatto “, Muscat” Moscato “etc.), and those with an Arabic sound are not, in almost all, oriental, but they derive from nicknames (which later became family surnames) derived from the Maltese dialect and attributed to people of neo-Latin descent. Even folklore reveals, under some local disguise, the Latin and Italian derivation. In a higher order of ideas and feelings, the solid Christian-Catholic religion, the moral conscience, the law, in short, the whole spiritual heritage of the Maltese people attest to its belonging to the Italian civilization, always affirmed by the Maltese and admitted by others, but recently misunderstood for political purposes. For Malta 2006, please check

A true communal freedom perhaps did not have the islands of Malta neither under the Normans nor under the Swabians. Abbot Gilberto, in his report to Frederick II (1240), informed the emperor that the population of those islands lived according to constitutions and customs different from those of the population of Sicily. From this it should be deduced that the legislative systems issued by Frederick II were not extended to Malta, perhaps in consideration of the prevalence of the Muslim element. During the Muslim and Swabian rule, Malta was often given as a county to the most eminent families of Sicily. Two well-known admirals of Sicily, Margarit (around 1192) and, later, Enrico Pescatore, from Genoa, were counts of Malta. Under the Aragonese, then, Malta had the same regulations as those of Sicily. King Martin the Younger, with privilege from Catania of 27 November 1397, it perpetually aggregated the islands of Malta and Gozo to the royal state property, with the faculty of the population to resist in court against any act of concession of the islands in fief to counts or barons. Nevertheless, in 1420 King Alfonso granted the islands in barony to Antonio Cardona and then to Gonsalvo Monroi for 30,000 gold florins. The Maltese provided for themselves to redeem themselves, offering the price to the king who accepted and confirmed to the Maltese community, on January 3, 1428, privileges identical to those of the communities of Palermo, Messina and Catania.

The municipal system of Malta, as it was formed in the XIV-XV centuries, was centralized in the University or Municipality, administered by a popular council through municipal magistrates: the captain, later called captain of rod, who was the first executioner; the jurors who reviewed the captain’s work and presided over the people’s council; the secret, which administered the taxes and revenues of the treasury; the portulan, the farmer or customs officer, the credenziere, the Deputy Admiral. The island of Gozo in the sec. XV had its own municipal university, which acted together with the Council of Malta for general affairs. Under the aegis of municipal freedoms, the Maltese experienced a period of civil, commercial and cultural development, closely linked to that of Italy.

In 1530 Malta passed under the Order of St. John, who, having lost Rhodes in December 1522, had wandered from Rome to Viterbo and Nice. The concession, requested by the Order and favored by the Pope, was granted by the Emperor Charles V with a diploma from Castelfranco on 24 March 1530. With it the Maltese islands were ceded to the Order as a “noble, free and free fief”; the Order would have kept them as a fiefdom of the emperor in his capacity as king of Sicily and his successors in that kingdom, with the sole obligation to present a falcon every year, for the feast of All Saints, as a sign of recognition to the king or to whom ruled in his name. In the diploma, it was also established that the Order could not give the islands to other powers or introduce foreign troops, under penalty of forfeiture of the concession. The right of patronage over the bishopric of Malta was also reserved to the kings of Sicily. In particular, sanctioning the use already in force, it was established that the admiral of religion (the Order) belonged to the Language of Italy. The Grand Master F. Villiers de l’Isle Adam, who was with the ships in Syracuse and had been preceded by commissarî, landed in Malta on 26 October 1530. With the bull issued in Syracuse on 16 July 1530, the Grand Master, at the conclusion of negotiations between the Maltese people’s deputies and the delegates of the Order, he had undertaken to respect the privileges, rights and customs in force. The long dominion of the Order, which lasted until 1798, is the one that left the deepest trace in Malta and that most colored the history of the island. sometimes bringing it to the center of world events and giving its name a fame still linked to that of the Order (see below). By embellishing it, strengthening it, increasing its cultural level, the Order gave Malta the physiognomy it still retains in part.

In the 268 years of knightly dominion in Malta, the war at sea against Turks and Barbareschi lasted incessantly. The navy of the Order, already fierce in Rhodes, found in Malta suitable ports and very audacious local crews who, integrated with elements of the peninsula, greatly contributed to the success of the knights. Pilots, shipwrights, Maltese gunners distinguished themselves in the preparation and maneuvering of the Order’s teams. In 1565 (May 25-September 7), in the “Great Siege” placed by the Turks, the Maltese worked alongside the Knights with heroism that justifies the pride with which they celebrate the commemorative feast of September 8, which has been declared a national holiday since 1924.

The Turkish naval force was under the orders of Piale Pascià with the help of the pirates of Egypt and Tripoli (the Pasciȧ of Tripoli, Darghūt, died in June in the attack on Sant’Elmo); the expedition was under the orders of Muṣṭafà Pasha. The Christian army tried to rescue the island; but, far fewer in number of ships, he could not accomplish great things. However, it should be remembered the attempt made by Andrea Provana, commander of the galleys of the Duke of Savoy, to break the enemy blockade and bring the aid of militias and ammunition to the Grand Master J. de la Valette, heroic defender of the island. He really managed to break the blockade in July, but was unable to disembark because the Grand Master let him know that he would be ambushed. After the failed assault of 2 August another attempt was made with a large team (the “Gran Soccorso”) made up of galleys from the Viceroy of Sicily, the Viceroyalty of Naples, the Grand Duke Cosimo of Tuscany, the Duke of Savoy, the Genoese shipowners. in the pay of Spain, under the orders of Don García of Toledo, viceroy of Sicily. On 6 September, escaping the Turks’ vigilance with the favor of the night, the team managed to land a considerable reinforcement of men, ammunition and provisions in the bay of Melleha. The lucky arrival of this reinforcement is mainly due to the abandonment of the siege of Malta by Muṣṭafà Pascià, after, in a fight in Pietranera, the landed infantry had turned the enemy in flight.

Malta Modern History