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Your Guide to Malta and Gozo - Ancient History

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Phoenician and Carthaginian Rule

The Phoenicians originated from what is modern-day Lebanon. These sea-faring traders flourished between 1200-700 BC  and by the 9th century BC  they were to be found all over the Mediterranean. Their wares consisted largely of textiles — items that lack durablity. This explains the relative scarcity of artifacts from the Phoenician era. The Phoenicians took over the islands around the 8th Century BC

The Carthaginian empire started off as a Phoenician city state in present day Tunisia. The empire expanded to occupy an extensive area in northern Africa, the Iberian peninsula, and also engulfed Corsica, Sardinia, the Balearics and large swathes of Sicily. Malta was occupied around 480 B.

 

Malta Under the Romans and the Post-Roman Period.

Detail from Moosaic at Domus RomanaMeanwhile, the Romans took over over the Italian peninsula. The First Punic War resulted in the Roman occupation of Sicily. Around the year 257 BCE, Malta suffered devastation at the hands of the Romans. During the Second Punic War, Malta was captured by the Romans- under Titus Sempronius Longus and annexed to the province of Sicily in 218 BCE.

The Romans imposed their language and religion on the Maltese. Malta and Gozo became semi-autonomous regions, minting their own coins bearing the inscriptions: Melitaion and Gayliton until 15 BCE. By the Second Century BCE, Malta was emancipated to a municipium and the inhabitants become full citizens of Rome in CE 212.

The Maltese islands were captured briefly by the Vandals around the year CE 456, and by the Ostrogths a few years later.

In  533AD  Malta was conquered by the Byzantine commander Belisarus. Information about Byzantine Malta is scant. In the year 632, the Partiarch of Constantinople struck a deal with the Muslim leader Amr Ibn Asi to allow Byzantine citizens to flee Pentapolis — a group of cities in northern Africa that he had conquered. Many of these Byzantines found refuge in Malta.

In the year 731, Leo III was at loggerheads with the Pope regarding the iconoclastic issue, denouncing the long—held tradition of venerating religious images. Pope Gregory II declared him anathaema, to which Leo retaliated by transferring the regions of Illyria and Southern Italy — Malta included — to the Diocese of the Patriarch of Constantinople.

Artifacts from the Byzantine period are somewhat scarce. These mainly include a collection of coins and pottery dug up in the Tas-Silg area, and famously the "Greek Gate" serving as the side entrance to Mdina, Malta's ancient capital.