MALTA, malqa. An island in the Mediter ranean Sea, belonging to England, situated in latitude 35° 53' north and longitude 14° 31' cast, between Tripoli and Sicily (Map: Italy, J 12). It is the principal island of the Maltese group. which includes the neigh boring islands of Gozo, Comino, and a few islets. and has a total area of 117 square miles. Malta itself is about 17 miles in length, with an area of 95 square miles. The surface is •om paratively low, the highest point not exceeding 8-IS feet above the sea. The climate is mild and healthful, but the island is exposed during Au gust and September to the hot and moisture laden sirocco blowing from the Sahara. The soil is exceedingly fertile, and produces two and some times three crops annually. The inhabitants are mostly engaged in agriculture and cattle-raising: the main products of the island are cotton, pota toes. oranges, figs, honey, and corn. The chief manufactures are cotton, filigree, and timelier matches. The island contains quarries of marble. alabaster, and building stone. Malta, in spite of its comparatively small size, is very important, owing to its central position on the Mediter ranean highway. Besides forming a strongly fortified military station, it is exceedingly well suited to its use as a port of call, having at Valetta (q.v.), the capital. one of the best harbors in the world. In 1900, 3S14 vessels, with a tonnage of 3.539,098. entered the port, two-thirds of these being British. There are eight miles of railway on the island. In 1900 there were 145 schools, with 15.669 pupils. Be sides primary schools there are a university, a lyceum. and two secondary schools. In accor dance with the Constitution adopted in 188S, the island is administered by a Governor appointed by the British Crown and assisted by a emmeil composed of 19 members, 6 official and 13 elect ed by the people. The revenue for 1900 amount ed to f356.75S. and the .expenditure to £365.943. The population in 1900 was 1S3.679: there were 10.S40 British troops stationed on the island. The people of Malta are mostly of the ranean race. They are industrious and eco nomical and numbers of them may be found in the principal cities about the Mediterranean. The Maltese lang,uage, spoken by about a quarter of a million persons, in and out of the island, has in its vocabulary about 70 per cent. of- Semitic words. but the grammatical structure is derived from the Latin. The speech of the ruling class is practically Italian. which is still the official language, although most of the pupils in the schools are now learning English.
Malta is identified with the Hyperion or Ogy gin of Homer, where Calypso, the daughter of Atlas, who enslaved Odysseus, dwelt in a grotto. Two grottoes bearing her name are rivals as the traditional haunt of the nymph. Probably as early as the sixteenth century B.C. Malta was colonized by the Phoenician, of which race there are numerous archeological remains. It had developed considerable commercial importance when about B.C. 736 the Greeks dispossessed the Pincnicians and named the island Melita. The
Greeks in turn were displaced by the Carthagin ians about n.e. 500 to 4S0. During the first Punic War, Atilius Regulus, commanding a Roman fleet, ravaged the island, and in n.c. 218, during the Second Punic War, it was surrendered to Titus Sempronius by the Carthaginian com mander Hamilcar. and became politically at tached to Sicily. There are remains of a theatre, temples. and other buildings erected by the Ro mans, to whom Malta became well known for its In A.D. 61 Saint Paul was ship wrecked on the north coast, as mentioned in Acts xxvii. and xxviii.: Saint Paul's Bay. in which on the island of Selmun is a colossal statue of the Apostle. is pointed out as the generally accept ed landing place. On the dissolution of the Roman power, Malta was occupied successively by Vandals in 454. by Goths in 464, and again by the Greeks under Belisarius in 533. At their third attempt during the ninth century, with the assistance of the natives who massacred the Byzantine garrison. the Arabs became the mas ters and fortified the harbor as a station for their corsairs in S70. They were not driven out until 1090 by the Normans under Count Roger, who established a popular form of government which, with certain modifications. lasted for 700 years. Again it became politically attached to Sicily until 1530. when Emperor Charles V. granted it with Gozo and Tripoli in perpetuity to the Knights of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, after the Turks had captured their great stronghold at Rhodes. Taking the title of the Knights of Malta. they built immense forti fications and rendered invaluable services to Chri,tendom in checking and chastising the Bar bary pirates, and in defending the island against the incessant attacks of the Turks. The most formidable of these was the siege in 15G5 by the Sultan Solyman IL. when the Knights. command ed by the heroic La Valette, forced the enemy at the end of three months to retire with an im mense loss of men. Valetta was then built and the fortifications were increased; a con tinual war on the Moslems was waged until 1798, when. disorganized by internecine quar rels. the Knights surrendered their fortresses to Bonaparte on his way to Egypt. Three months later, however, the Maltese revolted against the French and, assisted by Neapolitan. Portuguese. and British auxiliaries, after a siege and blockade of two years, forced the French garrison to capitulate. The inhabitants claimed the protection of England, and the status of Malta as a British dependency dates from its recognition as such by the Congress of Vienna in 1814. See SAINT JOFIN. KNIGHTS OF. Con sult: Allege. Histoire dr Matte Paris, 1840) ; Seddall, Malta, Past and Present (London, 1870) ; Bono, Breve compendio della storia di Malta (Alalta, 1599) Balton. The Story of Malta (Boston. 1893) ; Bedford, Malta and the Knights llo•spitallers (London. 1894) Tullack, Malta Under the Phoenicians, Knights, and English. (London, 1861); Winterberg, Malta, Gcschichte and Gegenrcart (Vienna, 1879).