A (Brief) Beginner's Guide To Maltese History Part 2: The Phoenicians
Small island, big balls, even bigger history
When it comes to history, Malta is one of those countries which has more on its plate than it wishes to. Our Game of Thrones-esq shenanigans range from sexy spies, wars, accidental explosions, Mexican standoffs, dicks for rulers, slavery and presumably many hot people. We do know however that most people are only familiar with the Great Siege of 1565... and the Prehistory, now that we've covered that.
We at Lovin Malta have decided to start a new series of watered-down historical posts which will make readers more aware of what went down in our past. Sit back and get your learning hat out, we will teach you so hard you will pass any history test in no time.
Today’s lesson will be the Phoenician era, popularly known for purple kaftans, the alphabet and blowing. Glass blowing, that is.
Around 750 BC, a bunch of random people decided that Malta looked cool and had a strategic position. These people were called the Phoenicians, and we have them to thank for the colour purple. Not the movie, but the actual colour.
The Phoenicians were practically the ones who came up with the whole idea that our island is the place to be in when it comes to being strategic. This trend lived on up until the 19th Century at the very least.
In other words; they tried to make Malta happen, and they succeeded.
Anyway, so they liked us, and decided that our island's name from then on should be Maleth — which means shelter. They were highly civilised people who enjoyed travelling, building ships, blowing glass and having useful trade routes.
Oh, and apparently one third of the Maltese people still carry ancient Phoenician DNA. We have very few remains otherwise of these dear people, but it was through them that we passed from prehistory to history. The term prehistory means the period of time when no written history existed — what this basically means is that it’s thanks to them that we have written history.
The few remains we have from the Phoenicians are tombs around Mtarfa, Għajn Qatet, Ras il-Wardija, Tas-Silġ and Mellieħa. The Phoenicians and Bronze Age era Maltese people lived peacefully together, just like the modern day Maltese people and the foreigners working at iGaming companies.
We know this because pottery shards from the Bronze Age show that we amalgamated our pottery craftsmanship skills with those of the Phoenicians, giving us 90+ XP in pottery making.
Tas-Silġ is one of Malta’s most unique and important archeological sites — it's beautiful and it's lit, but you cannot really go inside unless you make an appointment (something to do with lots of important, fragile relics).
The Neolithic people constructed the first temple in this area, but the Phoenicians literally owned the area so well that it is mostly known for their settlement. This site was the first excavation on this island which unearthed the Phoenician way of life in Europe, seriously guys.
These strapping sea traders built themselves a temple for their Goddess Astarte — ash pits with animal bone fragments were discovered in this temple along with a variety of seafood, plates, saucers and remains from offerings to the Goddess.
The ancient city of Maleth, which today is known as Mdina, was founded by the Phoenicians, and it quickly became the capital city of the island, and we can see most of its remains behind the Domvs Romana in Rabat.
The Phoenicians also decided to build a necropolis for their dead who felt like settling on this sunny island in the limits of Binġemma, where a cluster of rock-dug tombs can be found.
Sadly, this area has been used as a dumping ground in the past, so it is not as well-preserved as it should be. The same faith was sadly reserved for the Għajn Qajjiet area, however most of the remains found there are on display at the National Museum of Archeology in Valletta.
Apart from these finds and a couple of Phoenician shipwrecks around the island, we also find these people’s traces in a number of tombs scattered around both Rabats and Ras il-Wardija in Gozo, but just like Tas-Silġ, these areas were later used by a number of conquerors. Certain structure and chamber similarities with Tas-Silġ can however be seen in the areas, such as bell-shaped wells, altars and niches.
Not much is known about the Phoenicians, because most of their history was written by their enemies, and as we already know, enemies aren't really the best sources. But we have a certain feeling that they were kind of really cool sailor people.