Malta and the British Connexion
Charles Dimont asserts that few small countries have had such a variety of alien rulers as Malta, and yet maintained such a highly distinctive identity.
Malta has formed part of the British Commonwealth for a little more than 150 years. Today her constitutional standing within the Commonwealth has become a matter for debate and negotiation.
Therefore it may be appropriate to look back upon the island’s long history, both before and after the year 1800.
Its strategic position in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea has made it the concern over the centuries of most of the major powers of Europe and North Africa. Even Russia has taken a hand in shaping Malta’s history. Few small countries have had such a variety of alien rulers and yet maintained from earliest times a highly distinctive identity.
The “Island Fortress”—in area 95 square miles—is the largest of an archipelago which in prehistory supplied the peaks of a land bridge connecting Europe and Africa.
In a cave near Bir Zebbuga have been discovered the fossilized remains of numerous pachyderms and other extinct creatures, who doubtless perished on their way south to escape the increasing cold of Europe at the onset of the Ice Age.
Here too, in 1917, were unearthed two human teeth believed to be characteristic of the Neanderthal Man. In the Stone Age, Malta may have enjoyed a more advanced state of civilization than most other parts of the contemporary world.
No less than fifteen Stone Age temples have been dug up in Malta itself and in the island of Gozo nearby. The most remarkable of these is the great sanctuary known as the Hypogeum at Paula. It seems to have been the home of an oracle and a place for initiation into the mysteries of the priesthood.