Maltese people are proud of their island’s history, and there’s a very good reason for that. We’re surrounded by relics from across the millennia, with imposing structures and impressive stories. But even in a country which relishes in passing down these narratives from generation to generation, there are some which still manage to go largely unnoticed.
In the 18th Century, when the the Knights of St. John were still in vogue on our island, someone was pissed off at them, and by someone we mean a bunch of local slaves. The Order had a thing for pissing people off — it seemed to be their number one plan on their daily agenda – however this revolt did not really stem from the Order’s hobby of stepping on everybody’s toes flamboyantly.
Back in 1738, a Muslim ship called the Lupa was carrying Maltese, Georgian and Hungarian slaves across the Mediterranean. These slaves decided that they needed a career change and they flipped shit.
They took over the ship, killed a bunch of people and took 150 of them as prisoners. The slaves who ran out of fucks to give, sailed the captured ship to Malta. Oh and one of the prisoners they took was none other than the Pasha of Rhodes — Mustafa.
When they got here, the French themselves flipped shit because of the Franco-Ottoman alliance.
Upon freeing Mustafa, the French were surprised to find out that he had allegedly converted to Christianity and was actually planning on marrying a Maltese woman and staying here.
Spoiler alert: he only said that because he was plotting revenge.
In June 1749, the Grand Master organised a banquet to celebrate the traditional Imnarja in Valletta for everyone to attend, so Mustafa and some other slaves planned to poison all the food present at the banquet and also in all the fucking Auberges and palaces around the fucking island. Geez bro.
From there, (hypothetically) some of the slaves would assassinate Grand Master Pinto da Fonseca, some other slaves would overpower the guards, and then they’d attack the prison from were they would free all the other Muslim slaves, attack and take over St. Elmo, take all the weapons from the armouries and send for help from Tunis, Algiers and Tripoli to invade Malta.
Talk about ambitious.
As bombastically inflated plans go, this one was bound to fail hard.
A couple of weeks before L-Imnarja, three of the slaves met in a coffee shop to talk about this plot (genius). Of course, the shop owner overheard them and reported them.
Now we’re not saying we would’ve wanted half the country to be poisoned, but we’re genuinely disappointed that these guys would be so stupid as to discuss their mass assassination plans in a coffee shop.
They were arrested, and of course seeing as this was the 18th century, tortured.
Eight of the slaves had their foreheads branded with a cool letter R and sent to work in the galleys, 38 others were baptised and executed.
125 were hanged in the Palace Square in Valletta, and Mustafa was sent back to Rhodes in one of Malta’s very first examples of “go back to your country”.
So thanks to Mustafa, laws restricting slaves became harsher.
They couldn’t do anything except for, well, slaving — they could no longer sell their trade on the streets, had a curfew and could not gather in crowds.
So the lesson here is to not be bombastically short-sighted when it comes to planning revenge. And to never, ever, ever try to take over St. Elmo.