Dear Wikiwand AI, let's keep it short by simply answering these key questions:
Can you list the top facts and stats about Malta?
Summarize this article for a 10 year old
Malta (// ⓘ MOL-tə, // MAWL-tə, Maltese: [ˈmɐːltɐ]), officially the Republic of Malta (Maltese: Repubblika ta' Malta [rɛˈpʊbːlɪkɐ tɐ ˈmɐːltɐ]), is an island country in southern Europe, located in the Mediterranean Sea. It consists of an archipelago between Italy, Tunisia and Libya. It lies 80 km (50 mi) south of Sicily, Italy, 284 km (176 mi) east of Tunisia, and 333 km (207 mi) north of Libya. The official languages are Maltese, the only Semitic language in the European Union, and English. The nation's capital is Valletta.
Republic of Malta
Repubblika ta' Malta (Maltese)
|Motto: Virtute et constantia (Latin)
"Strength and persistence"
|Anthem: L-Innu Malti (Maltese)
"The Maltese Hymn"
|Largest administrative unit
|St. Paul's Bay
|Maltese Sign Language
|Unitary parliamentary republic
|Parliament of Malta
from the United Kingdom
|21 September 1964
|13 December 1974
• Joined the EU
|1 May 2004
|316 km2 (122 sq mi) (186th)
• Water (%)
• 2021 census
|1,649/km2 (4,270.9/sq mi) (8th)
|$33.303 billion (148th)
• Per capita
|$20.311 billion (131st)
• Per capita
very high (23rd)
|Euro (€) (EUR)
|UTC+1 (Central European Time)
• Summer (DST)
|UTC+2 (Central European Summer Time)
|ISO 3166 code
With a population of about 519,000 over an area of 316 km2 (122 sq mi), Malta is the tenth-smallest country by area and fifth most densely populated sovereign country. Its capital is Valletta, the smallest national capital in the European Union by area and population. According to 2020 data by Eurostat, the Functional Urban Area and metropolitan region covered the whole island and has a population of 480,134. According to the United Nations, ESPON and EU Commission, "the whole territory of Malta constitutes a single urban region". Malta increasingly is referred to as a city-state.
Malta has been inhabited since approximately 5900 BC. Its location in the centre of the Mediterranean has historically given it great strategic importance as a naval base, with a succession of powers having contested and ruled the islands, including the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Aragonese, Knights of St. John, French, and British. While Christianity has been present since the time of the early Christians, Malta was predominantly a Muslim country under Arab rule in the Middle Ages. Muslim rule ended with the Norman invasion of Malta by Roger I in 1091. Malta became a British colony in 1813, serving as the headquarters for the British Mediterranean Fleet. It was besieged by the Axis powers during World War II and was an important Allied base for operations in North Africa and the Mediterranean. The British parliament passed the Malta Independence Act in 1964, giving Malta independence, with Elizabeth II as its queen. The country became a republic in 1974. It has been a member state of the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations since independence, and joined the European Union in 2004; it became part of the eurozone monetary union in 2008. Malta is also closely tied historically and culturally to Italy and specifically Sicily, with between 62 to 66 percent of Maltese people speaking or having significant knowledge of the Italian language, which was one of the official languages of Malta until 1934.
Catholicism is the state religion, but the Constitution of Malta guarantees freedom of conscience and religious worship. The economy of Malta is heavily reliant on tourism, and the country promotes itself as a Mediterranean tourist destination with its warmer climate compared to the rest of Europe, numerous recreational areas, and architectural and historical monuments, including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, Valletta, and seven megalithic temples which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.
The origin of the name Malta is uncertain. The modern-day variation is derived from the Maltese language. The most common etymology is that Malta is derived from the Greek word μέλι, meli, meaning "honey". The ancient Greeks called the island Μελίτη (Melitē) meaning 'honey-sweet', possibly for Malta's unique production of honey by an endemic subspecies of bees. The Romans called the island Melita, which can be considered either a Latinisation of the Greek or an adaptation of the Doric Greek pronunciation. In 1525, William Tyndale used the transliteration Melite in his translation of The New Testament that relied on Greek texts instead of Latin. Melita is the spelling used in the Authorized (King James) Version of 1611. Malta is widely used in more recent versions.
Another conjecture suggests that the word Malta comes from the Phoenician word Maleth, "a haven", or 'port'. Few other etymological mentions appear in classical literature, with the term Malta appearing in its present form in the Antonine Itinerary.
Malta has been inhabited from circa 5900 BC, since the arrival of settlers originating from European Neolithic agriculturalists. Pottery found by archaeologists at the Skorba Temples resembles that found in Italy, and suggests that the Maltese islands were first settled in 5200 BC by Stone Age hunters or farmers who had arrived from Sicily, possibly the Sicani. The extinction of the dwarf hippos, giant swans and dwarf elephants has been linked to the earliest arrival of humans on Malta. Prehistoric farming settlements dating to the Early Neolithic include Għar Dalam. The population on Malta grew cereals, raised livestock and, in common with other ancient Mediterranean cultures, worshipped a fertility figure.
A culture of megalithic temple builders then either supplanted or arose from this early period. Around 3500 BC, these people built some of the oldest existing free-standing structures in the world in the form of the megalithic Ġgantija temples on Gozo; other early temples include those at Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra. The temples have distinctive architecture, typically a complex trefoil design, and were used from 4000 to 2500 BC. Tentative information suggests that animal sacrifices were made to the goddess of fertility, whose statue is now in the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta. Another archaeological feature of the Maltese Islands often attributed to these ancient builders is equidistant uniform grooves dubbed "cart tracks" or "cart ruts" which can be found in several locations throughout the islands, with the most prominent being those found in Misraħ Għar il-Kbir. These may have been caused by wooden-wheeled carts eroding soft limestone. The culture apparently disappeared from the islands around 2500 BC, possibly due to famine or disease.
After 2500 BC, the Maltese Islands were depopulated for several decades until an influx of Bronze Age immigrants, a culture that cremated its dead and introduced smaller megalithic structures called dolmens. They are claimed to belong to a population certainly different from that which built the previous megalithic temples. It is presumed the population arrived from Sicily because of the similarity of Maltese dolmens to some small constructions found there.
Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Romans
Phoenician traders colonised the islands sometime after 1000 BC as a stop on their trade routes from the eastern Mediterranean to Cornwall. The Phoenicians inhabited the area now known as Mdina, and its surrounding town of Rabat, which they called Maleth. After the fall of Phoenicia in 332 BC, the area came under the control of Carthage. During this time, the people on Malta mainly cultivated olives and carob and produced textiles.
During the First Punic War, the island was conquered after harsh fighting by Marcus Atilius Regulus. After the failure of his expedition, the island fell back in the hands of Carthage, only to be conquered again in 218 BC, during the Second Punic War, by Roman Consul Tiberius Sempronius Longus. After that, Malta became Foederata Civitas, a designation that meant it was exempt from paying tribute or the rule of Roman law, and fell within the jurisdiction of the province of Sicily. Punic influence, however, remained vibrant on the islands with the famous Cippi of Melqart, pivotal in deciphering the Punic language, dedicated in the second century BC. Local Roman coinage, which ceased in the first century BC, indicates the slow pace of the island's Romanization: the last locally minted coins still bear inscriptions in Ancient Greek and Punic motifs, showing the resistance of the Greek and Punic cultures.
In the second century, Emperor Hadrian (r. 117–38) upgraded the status of Malta to municipium or free town: the island local affairs were administered by four quattuorviri iuri dicundo and a municipal senate, while a Roman procurator, living in Mdina, represented the proconsul of Sicily. In 58 AD, Paul the Apostle and Luke the Evangelist were shipwrecked on the islands. Paul remained for three months, preaching the Christian faith. The island is mentioned at the Acts of the Apostles as Melitene (Greek: Μελιτήνη).
In 395, when the Roman Empire was divided for the last time at the death of Theodosius I, Malta, following Sicily, fell under the control of the Western Roman Empire. During the Migration Period as the Western Roman Empire declined, Malta was conquered or occupied a number of times. From 454 to 464 the islands were subdued by the Vandals, and after 464 by the Ostrogoths. In 533, Belisarius, on his way to conquer the Vandal Kingdom in North Africa, reunited the islands under Imperial (Eastern) rule. Little is known about the Byzantine rule in Malta: the island depended on the theme of Sicily and had Greek Governors and a small Greek garrison. While the bulk of population continued to be constituted by the old, Latinized dwellers, during this period its religious allegiance oscillated between the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Byzantine rule introduced Greek families to the Maltese collective. Malta remained under the Byzantine Empire until 870, when it was conquered by the Arabs.
Arab period and the Middle Ages
Malta became involved in the Arab–Byzantine wars, and the conquest of Malta is closely linked with that of Sicily that began in 827 after Admiral Euphemius' betrayal of his fellow Byzantines, requesting that the Aghlabids invade the island. The Muslim chronicler and geographer al-Himyari recounts that in 870, following a violent struggle against the defending Byzantines, the Arab invaders, first led by Halaf al-Hadim, and later by Sawada ibn Muhammad, pillaged the island, destroying the most important buildings, and leaving it practically uninhabited until it was recolonised by the Arabs from Sicily in 1048–1049. It is uncertain whether this new settlement resulted from demographic expansion in Sicily, a higher standard of living in Sicily (in which case the recolonisation may have taken place a few decades earlier), or a civil war which broke out among the Arab rulers of Sicily in 1038. The Arab Agricultural Revolution introduced new irrigation, some fruits and cotton, and the Siculo-Arabic language was adopted on the island from Sicily; it would eventually evolve into the Maltese language.
The Normans attacked Malta in 1091, as part of their conquest of Sicily. The Norman leader, Roger I of Sicily, was welcomed by Christian captives. The notion that Count Roger I reportedly tore off a portion of his checkered red-and-white banner and presented it to the Maltese in gratitude for having fought on his behalf, forming the basis of the modern flag of Malta, is founded in myth.
Malta became part of the newly formed Kingdom of Sicily, which also covered the island of Sicily and the southern half of the Italian Peninsula. The Catholic Church was reinstated as the state religion, with Malta under the See of Palermo, and some Norman architecture sprang up around Malta, especially in its ancient capital Mdina. King Tancred made Malta a fief of the kingdom and installed a count of Malta in 1192. As the islands were much desired due to their strategic importance, it was during this time that the men of Malta were militarised to fend off attempted conquest; early Counts were skilled Genoese privateers.
The kingdom passed on to the Hohenstaufen dynasty from 1194 until 1266. As Emperor Frederick II began to reorganise his Sicilian kingdom, Western culture and religion began to exert their influence more intensely. Malta was declared a county and a marquisate, but its trade was totally ruined. For a long time it remained solely a fortified garrison.
A mass expulsion of Arabs occurred in 1224, and the entire Christian male population of Celano in Abruzzo was deported to Malta in the same year. In 1249 Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, decreed that all remaining Muslims be expelled from Malta or compelled to convert.
For a brief period, the kingdom passed to the Capetian House of Anjou, but high taxes made the dynasty unpopular in Malta, due in part to Charles of Anjou's war against the Republic of Genoa, and the island of Gozo was sacked in 1275.
Crown of Aragon rule and the Knights of Malta
Malta was ruled by the House of Barcelona, the ruling dynasty of the Crown of Aragon, from 1282 to 1409, with the Aragonese aiding the Maltese insurgents in the Sicilian Vespers in the naval battle in Grand Harbour in 1283.
Relatives of the Kings of Aragon ruled the island until 1409 when it formally passed to the Crown of Aragon. Early on in the Aragonese ascendancy, the sons of the monarchs received the title Count of Malta. During this time much of the local nobility was created. By 1397, however, the bearing of the comital title reverted to a feudal basis, with two families fighting over the distinction. This led King Martin I of Sicily to abolish the title. The dispute over the title returned when the title was reinstated a few years later and the Maltese, led by the local nobility, rose up against Count Gonsalvo Monroy. Although they opposed the Count, the Maltese voiced their loyalty to the Sicilian Crown, which so impressed King Alfonso that he did not punish the people for their rebellion. Instead, he promised never to grant the title to a third party and incorporated it back into the crown. The city of Mdina was given the title of Città Notabile.
On 23 March 1530, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, gave the islands to the Knights Hospitaller under the leadership of Frenchman Philippe Villiers de L'Isle-Adam, in perpetual lease for which they had to pay an annual tribute of a single Maltese Falcon. These knights, a military religious order also known as the Order of St John and later as the Knights of Malta, had been driven out of Rhodes by the Ottoman Empire in 1522.
The Knights Hospitaller ruled Malta and Gozo between 1530 and 1798. During this period, the strategic and military importance of the island grew greatly as the small yet efficient fleet of the Order of Saint John launched their attacks from this new base targeting the shipping lanes of the Ottoman territories around the Mediterranean Sea.
The knights, led by Frenchman Jean Parisot de Valette, withstood the Great Siege of Malta by the Ottomans in 1565. The knights, with the help of Spanish and Maltese forces, repelled the attack. After the siege they decided to increase Malta's fortifications, particularly in the inner-harbour area, where the new city of Valletta, named in honour of Valette, was built. They also established watchtowers along the coasts – the Wignacourt, Lascaris and De Redin towers – named after the Grand Masters who ordered the work. The Knights' presence on the island saw the completion of many architectural and cultural projects, including the embellishment of Città Vittoriosa (modern Birgu) and the construction of new cities including Città Rohan (modern Ħaż-Żebbuġ). However, by the late 1700s the power of the Knights had declined and the Order had become unpopular.
French period and British conquest
The Knights' reign ended when Napoleon captured Malta on his way to Egypt during the French Revolutionary Wars in 1798. During 12–18 June 1798, Napoleon resided at the Palazzo Parisio in Valletta. He reformed national administration with the creation of a Government Commission, twelve municipalities, a public finance administration, the abolition of all feudal rights and privileges, the abolition of slavery and the granting of freedom to all Turkish and Jewish slaves. On the judicial level, a family code was framed and twelve judges were nominated. Public education was organised along principles laid down by Bonaparte himself, providing for primary and secondary education. He then sailed for Egypt leaving a substantial garrison in Malta.
The French forces left behind became unpopular with the Maltese, due particularly to the French forces' hostility towards Catholicism and pillaging of local churches to fund war efforts. French financial and religious policies so angered the Maltese that they rebelled, forcing the French to depart. Great Britain, along with the Kingdom of Naples and the Kingdom of Sicily, sent ammunition and aid to the Maltese, and Britain also sent its navy, which blockaded the islands.
On 28 October 1798, Captain Sir Alexander Ball successfully completed negotiations with the French garrison on Gozo for a surrender and transfer of the island to the British. The British transferred the island to the locals that day, and it was administered by Archpriest Saverio Cassar on behalf of Ferdinand III of Sicily. Gozo remained independent until Cassar was removed by the British in 1801.
General Claude-Henri Belgrand de Vaubois surrendered his French forces in 1800. Maltese leaders presented the main island to Sir Alexander Ball, asking that the island become a British Dominion. The Maltese people created a Declaration of Rights in which they agreed to come "under the protection and sovereignty of the King of the free people, His Majesty the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland". The Declaration also stated that "his Majesty has no right to cede these Islands to any power...if he chooses to withdraw his protection, and abandon his sovereignty, the right of electing another sovereign, or of the governing of these Islands, belongs to us, the inhabitants and aborigines alone, and without control."
British Empire and the Second World War
In 1814, as part of the Treaty of Paris, Malta officially became a part of the British Empire and was used as a shipping way-station and fleet headquarters. After the Suez Canal opened in 1869, Malta's position halfway between the Strait of Gibraltar and Egypt proved to be its main asset, and it was considered an important stop on the way to India, a central trade route for the British.
Between 1915 and 1918, during the First World War, Malta became known as the Nurse of the Mediterranean due to the large number of wounded soldiers who were accommodated there. In 1919, British troops fired into a crowd protesting against new taxes, killing four. The event, known as Sette Giugno ("7 June"), is commemorated every year and is one of five National Days. Until the Second World War, Maltese politics was dominated by the Language Question fought out by Italophone and Anglophone parties.
Before the Second World War, Valletta was the location of the Royal Navy's Mediterranean fleet headquarters; however, despite Winston Churchill's objections, the command was moved to Alexandria, Egypt, in 1937 out of fear that it was too susceptible to air attacks from Europe. During the war Malta played an important role for the Allies; being a British colony, situated close to Sicily and the Axis shipping lanes, Malta was bombarded by the Italian and German air forces. Malta was used by the British to launch attacks on the Italian Navy and had a submarine base. It was also used as a listening post, intercepting German radio messages including Enigma traffic. The bravery of the Maltese people during the second siege of Malta moved King George VI to award the George Cross to Malta on a collective basis on 15 April 1942. Some historians argue that the award caused Britain to incur disproportionate losses in defending Malta, as British credibility would have suffered if Malta had surrendered, as British forces in Singapore had done. A depiction of the George Cross now appears on the Flag of Malta and the country's arms.
Independence and Republic
Malta achieved its independence as the State of Malta on 21 September 1964 (Independence Day). Under its 1964 constitution, Malta initially retained Queen Elizabeth II as Queen of Malta and thus head of state, with a governor-general exercising executive authority on her behalf. In 1971, the Malta Labour Party led by Dom Mintoff won the general elections, resulting in Malta declaring itself a republic on 13 December 1974 (Republic Day) within the Commonwealth. A defence agreement was signed soon after independence, and after being re-negotiated in 1972, expired on 31 March 1979 (Freedom Day). Upon its expiry, the British base closed and lands formerly controlled by the British were given to the Maltese government.
In the aftermath of the departure of the remaining British troops in 1979 the country intensified its participation in the Non-Aligned Movement. Malta adopted a policy of neutrality in 1980. In that same year, three of Malta's sites, including the capital Valletta, were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In 1989, Malta was the venue of a summit between US President George H. W. Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, their first face-to-face encounter, which signalled the end of the Cold War. Malta International Airport was inaugurated and became fully operational on 25 March 1992, boosting the local aircraft and tourism industry. A referendum on joining the European Union was held on 8 March 2003, with 53.65% in favour. Malta joined the European Union on 1 May 2004 and the eurozone on 1 January 2008.
The unicameral Parliament is made up of the President of Malta and the House of Representatives (Maltese: Kamra tad-Deputati). The President of Malta, a largely ceremonial position, is appointed for a five-year term by a resolution of the House of Representatives carried by a simple majority. The House of Representatives has 65 members, elected for a five-year term in 13 five-seat electoral divisions, called distretti elettorali, with constitutional amendments that allow for mechanisms to establish strict proportionality amongst seats and votes of political parliamentary groups. Members of the House of Representatives are elected by direct universal suffrage through single transferable vote every five years, unless the House is dissolved earlier by the president either on the advice of the prime minister or through a motion of no confidence. Malta had the second-highest voter turnout in the world (and the highest for nations without mandatory voting), based on election turnout in national lower house elections from 1960 to 1995. Since Malta is a republic, the head of state in Malta is the President of the Republic. The current President of the Republic is George Vella, who was appointed in 2019 after being nominated both by the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party as opposition. The 80th article of the Constitution of Malta provides that the president appoint as prime minister "the member of the House of Representatives who, in his judgment, is best able to command the support of a majority of the members of that House". Maltese politics is a two-party system dominated by the Labour Party (Maltese: Partit Laburista), a centre-left social democratic party, and the Nationalist Party (Maltese: Partit Nazzjonalista), a centre-right Christian democratic party. The Labour Party has been the governing party since 2013 and is currently led by Prime Minister Robert Abela, who has been in office since 13 January 2020. There are a number of small political parties in Malta which have no parliamentary representation.
Malta has had a system of local government since 1993, based on the European Charter of Local Self-Government. The country is divided into five regions (one of them being Gozo), with each region having its own Regional Committee, serving as the intermediate level between local government and national government. The regions are divided into local councils, of which there are currently 68 (54 in Malta and 14 in Gozo). The six districts (five on Malta and the sixth being Gozo) serve primarily statistical purposes.
Each council is made up of a number of councillors (from 5 to 13, depending on and relative to the population they represent). A mayor and a deputy mayor are elected by and from the councillors. The executive secretary, who is appointed by the council, is the executive, administrative and financial head of the council. Councillors are elected every four years through the single transferable vote. Due to system reforms, no elections were held before 2012. Since then, elections have been held every two years for an alternating half of the councils.
Local councils are responsible for the general upkeep and embellishment of the locality (including repairs to non-arterial roads), allocation of local wardens, and refuse collection; they also carry out general administrative duties for the central government such as the collection of government rents and funds and answer government-related public inquiries. Additionally, a number of individual towns and villages in the Republic of Malta have sister cities.
The objectives of the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) are to maintain a military organisation with the primary aim of defending the islands' integrity according to the defence roles as set by the government in an efficient and cost-effective manner. This is achieved by emphasising the maintenance of Malta's territorial waters and airspace integrity.
The AFM also engages in combating terrorism, fighting against illicit drug trafficking, conducting anti-illegal immigrant operations and patrols, and anti-illegal fishing operations, operating search and rescue (SAR) services, and physical or electronic security and surveillance of sensitive locations. Malta's search-and-rescue area extends from east of Tunisia to west of Crete, an area of around 250,000 km2 (97,000 sq mi).
As a military organisation, the AFM provides backup support to the Malta Police Force (MPF) and other government departments/agencies in situations as required in an organised, disciplined manner in the event of national emergencies (such as natural disasters) or internal security and bomb disposal.
In 2020, Malta signed and ratified the UN treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Malta is regarded as one of the most LGBT-supportive countries in the world, and was the first nation in the European Union to prohibit conversion therapy. Malta also constitutionally bans discrimination based on disability. Maltese legislation recognises both civil and canonical (ecclesiastical) marriages. Annulments by the ecclesiastical and civil courts are unrelated and are not necessarily mutually endorsed. Malta voted in favour of divorce legislation in a referendum held on 28 May 2011.
Abortion in Malta is illegal. It is the only European Union member state with a total ban on the procedure. There are no exceptions for rape or incest. On 21 November 2022, the government led by the Labour Party proposed a bill that "introduces a new clause into the country's criminal code allowing for the termination of a pregnancy if the mother's life is at risk or if her health is in serious jeopardy". As of 2023, an exception was added to allow abortion only if the mother's life is at risk.