As far as a lot of people are concerned, the Maltese Islands had to endure three big sieges; The Great Siege, WW1 and WW2. But apparently, we went through some other shit we were not really aware of.
At one point, everyone in Gozo was abducted, large chunks of Mdina are in Tunisia, and this other time we destroyed invaders all on our own without anybody’s help. Here are the seven legendary sieges Malta braced itself through like a champ, and the five we managed to get the upper hand in.
1. Siege of Melite (870)
The Siege of Melite happened way back in 870 AD and it was technically an invasion on Mdina by the Aghlabid army. Mdina was actually called Melite before, hence the name.
We had been part of the Byzantine Empire since the 6th Century, and since we were soo strategically positioned, everybody wanted a piece of this hot island.
The attack was initially carried out by an engineer named Halaf. He was slain during the siege, so the Aghlabid governor of Sicily sent his friend out to destroy Malta.
The ruler of our island at that time was captured and taken prisoner, and the Aghlabids literally demolished everything in sight. They looted and pillaged Melite like crazy blood-hungry savages and pretty much destroyed or burned anything which they could not carry to their ships. Tan-nejk bro.
They somehow managed to take all the marble from the churches in Melite and used it to build the damn castle of Sousse in Tunisia. Ħartuna. There’s an inscription in the Sousse castle which reads:
“Every cut slab, every marble column in this fort was brought over from the church of Malta by Habasi ibn ‘Umar in the hope of meriting the approval and kindness of Allah the Powerful and Glorious.”
2. Siege of Medina (1053 – 1054)
This was an unsuccessful attack carried out by the Byzantines, who were probably still a bit sore about the whole Siege of Melite thing.
When Melite was destroyed, a Muslim community settled here and built Medina early in the 11th Century.
In 1053, a bunch of Byzantines came over to attack this settlement with “many ships” and “many men”. We’re not shitting you, that is what records say. The Muslims of Medina only had like, 400 men, and they were heavily outnumbered, but at least they had a lot of slaves. So they offered their daughters and freedom to the slaves in exchange for winning the siege.
As we all know, freedom and pussy are two things nobody wants to be lacking in, so the slaves fought so hard that they totally wiped out the Byzantine invaders. When the Byzantines tried to retreat, the slaves massacred them all. By the end, only one ship managed to leave the island out of the “many”. The slaves were presumably Maltese people who survived the previous massacres and some random Sicilians.
3. Battle of Malta (1283)
The Battle of Malta took place in the Grand Harbour and was one of those movie-worthy battleship scenes where anxiety-inducing music is played and people do acrobatics on giant boats.
This battle was part of some other war called the War of the Sicilian Vespers. Basically, these Aragonese guys had a bit of a hissy fit with these other Angevin guys so they decided to sort it out using galleys at the Grand Harbour. #AngryPrivilegedKids
We decided that we do not like our Angevin rulers we had anymore, so we decided to rebel (standard) with the help of some other foreign prospective ruler we really liked. So the Crown of Aragon came out for help, led by a guy who could not wait to get it on with Malta.
The Aragon guys decided to scout out our ports sneakily to see how many ships the Angevins had, although the Aragonese soldiers wanted to attack the other guys by ambushing them.
Their leader decided that he did not want to win the war by surprising his enemy. Instead, he told them to blow their war horns, and thus ensued an epic sea battle: Malta + Aragon VS Angevin Vespers. We did OK; Aragon and Malta won.
4. Siege of Malta (1429)
Way back in 1429, we had the Siege of Malta, where the Hafsid Saracens tried to take us over.
We were just freed from feudalism and Malta’s main defence consisted of the Maltese Dejma hunky soldiers and a few guys from Aragon.
An army of about 18,000 Hafdis Saracens arrived here from Tunisia and attacked Mdina. After like three days of raging boner fighting, they left Mdina and started looting towns around the island. Around 3,000 Maltese people were captured as prisoners and others were killed, with the effects of this siege being felt for many years following.
BONUS: Legend says that St. Paul appeared on a white horse, along with St. Agatha and St. George, stabbing a bunch of Hafdis Saracens with a dagger.
It is said that this siege was way worse than the 1565 one because we fought off the invaders without any foreign help. However, we still managed to fight off the enemy and it is till this day considered as a Maltese victory.
5. The Invasion of Gozo (1551)
This brutal invasion carried out by the Ottoman Empire took place just 14 years before the Great Siege (bad blood much?).
They tried to overtake Malta a couple of days earlier but failed terribly, so instead the Pasha decided to attack Gozo. The Governor of Gozo tried to negotiate with the Pasha, but that guy would not have any of it, and attacked the tiny island instead.
It is said that about 300 people escaped by climbing down the Cittadella walls, but 6,000 others were taken as captives by the Ottomans, and only 40 Gozitans were spared from slavery.
Some guy called Bernardo Dupuo is said to have fought to the death — killing his wife and daughters in the process to prevent them from being enslaved by the Ottomans. The Ottomans destroyed all the archives found in the Gozo University, leaving only a couple of Notarial Documents behind.
The population of Gozo increased drastically due to this invasion, and Maltese people were encouraged to repopulate the island — which took almost 150 years.
6. The Great Siege (1565)
The Great Siege of Malta lasted for three months, three weeks and three days — pretty much half a Satan for all you conspiracy theorists out there.
This Siege is famous because everyone, including women and children, fought d to repel the Ottomans, with the island’s victory being eventually celebrated throughout Europe. Even the famous French philosopher Voltaire commented on it by saying “Nothing is better known than the Siege of Malta.”
The build-up which led to this attack was the previously mentioned invasion of Gozo and the competitive contest between the Christians and the Ottomans.
As we already said in another article, the Maltese people harvested and burned every single crop they could find and dumped a bunch of dead animals in the wells to undermine the Ottomans.
When the Ottoman Armada arrived, they had a bit of a kerfuffle with the Knights on sea, but later on anchored in Marsaxlokk.
They managed to capture St. Elmo, with everyone on our side dying fighting to keep the fort under the Knights’ rule. The notorious Ottoman general Dragut also died during this fight, but the invaders still managed to capture St. Elmo. They killed everyone in their path except for nine Knights. In the meantime, though, at least 6,000 Turks were slain during this battle.
When the Ottomans crucified the captured and decapitated Knights, shit went down… brutally. De Valette went batshit and started beheading Ottoman prisoners and used their heads as cannon balls. We also wrote about how Toni Bajada had a giant role in the winning of this Siege by infiltrating a whole army.
Five cannons were constructed at the base of Fort St. Angelo, at sea-level, to stop attacks after Senglea was besieged. It is said that 130,000 cannonballs were fired towards Birgu and Isla during a dickish assault on the Ottoman’s part. The battle was almost lost, however the Knights attacked the unprotected Ottoman hospital, torturing and massacring every single Turk they could get their hands on.
On the 13th of September, the invading forces fled our country as reinforcements from Sicily arrived, making them all shit their baggy Ottoman pants.
All in all, thanks to this Siege, we got our beautiful Valletta built.
7. Siege of Valletta (1798 – 1800)
A siege, if sieges meant passive-aggressive acts of going against requests resulting in thousands-strong revolts.
In 1798, the French arrived on our island under the rule of Napoleon, who wanted to expand his French influence in Asia (and, well, most of the world).
When he arrived in Malta, he decided to take over from the Order, and they didn’t really put up much of a fight to be honest. However, they did try to prevent the French ships from entering our ports as an entire convoy. The Knights asked for them to come in twos only. Napoleon, being the tiny man that he was, attacked our country.
The French decided to dismantle the Churches, and obviously the Maltese got super angry at them. Armed with 23 cannons, coastal gunboats and our kickass forts, some 10,000 Maltese men attacked the French.
We asked for help from the British, and Lord Nelson sent over 13 battleships were sent over along with 1,200 muskets.
After a couple of days, Lord Nelson joined us, and the French kind of decided that the fight wasn’t really worth it. By 1800, the French had the shittiest morale known to mankind — they were starving to death and getting severely sick. Lord Nelson and Graham Ball successfully managed to win over Gozo.
L-Imblokk tal-Franċiżi was a two-year saga which consisted of cock-blocking the French in every way possible.The French were forced to retreat into Valletta and were being slowly starved by the Maltese people in order to undermine them. Eventually the French surrendered. Very on brand tbh.