Malta’s prehistory (5000 BCE-218 CE) precedes Malta’s chequered history of colonizers and colonized. Phoenician traders arrived in Malta around 800 B.C. Evidence of colonization is however only provided by the Carthaginians in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. The islanders lived in relative peace until the Punic Wars between Carthage and Rome in the third century B.C. By 218 B.C., the Maltese islands were a Roman colony.
Malta was incorporated in the Sicilian province and Roman political and military practices were introduced. With the decline of the Roman Empire, Malta became part of the new Germanic kingdoms and was ruled by the Vandals and the Visigoths in the 5th century. During the sixth century, Malta also witnessed the quests for expansion and reintegration of the Byzantine Empire. In 870 A.D., Malta became Muslim. Particular chroniclers speak of Malta as uninhabited, although the advent of Norman rule in 1090 found an essentially Muslim population. Sicily and Malta became part of the domains of the Hohenstaufen in 1194 and by 1266 Malta was taken over with Sicily by the Angevins. Following the revolt of the Sicilian Vespers in 1282, Malta became part of the Aragonese kingdom. Under Spanish rule, Malta became part of a loose confederation of states known as the Crown of Aragon. In 1530, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, gave Malta to the Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.
It is during this period that the benefits of Malta’s fine harbours were exploited. Malta withstood a Turkish siege in 1565 and shortly afterwards the Knights built the city of Valletta. The Order fortified the islands extensively and eliminated the threat of Muslim raids. In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte took the island from the Knights. However, the population rose up against the French. The arrival of a British fleet to blockade the island completed the defeat of the French in 1800. Malta subsequently became an important naval base in the imperial quests of the British and its strategic position was exploited to the full. Self-government was awarded to the Maltese in 1921.
Malta suffered heavily during World War II when it was targeted by German and Italian bombing attacks. The island subsequently earned its independence within the Commonwealth in 1964 and became a Republic in 1974. The British military base was closed in 1979 and Malta subsequently proclaimed its neutrality. The island became a member of the European Union in May 2004.