There’s something about Malta that always seemed a little bit exotic to me. I don’t know if it was to do with Hollywood movies such as The Maltese Falcon, or more to do with those WW2 British films about the Royal Navy in the Med and plucky little Malta resisting relentless Nazi air attack. Who ever heard of a country being awarded the George Cross – a medal for gallantry?
But what really motivated me to visit the island was a book:- Empires of the Sea by historian Roger Crowley. It was about the maritime war during the decades long conflict between the Ottoman empire and the Christian states of Europe. The seaborne aspect of this conflict raged from Istanbul to Gibraltar, and was just as brutal as anything that happened on the land.
One of the pivotal battles was the 1565 Great Siege of Malta, when a force of 40,000 Ottomans attempted to capture the island. They were resisted by a much smaller force led by the Knights of St John.
It was an epic siege, with very heavy casualties on both sides. Malta lost about a third of its entire population, but ultimately the Christian defenders held the island.
Most of the battle took place around Malta’s Grand Harbour, where many of the key defensive fortresses still stand. You can walk on and around them , look out st the landscape and almost feel and touch the history…
Of course, there’s much, much more to Malta than a very decisive battle that happened 23 years before the Spanish Armada. Malta is an extraordinarily interesting place to visit.
(This video was shot in February 2020, just weeks before COVID-19 arrived on the island).