Maltese people

Maltese people
Maltese people
Adeodata Pisani 140x190.jpgEdward de Bono 1 140x190.jpgGerald Strickland 1930s 140x190.jpgDun Karm pittura Caruana Dingli 140x190.jpgEnrico Mizzi 140x190.jpg
Maria Adeodata Pisani • Edward de Bono • Gerald Strickland • Dun Karm Psaila • Enrico Mizzi
Total population
c. 740,000 worldwide
Regions with significant populations
Malta Malta 400,000
(Maltese descent only)
 Australia (2006) 92,332 [1]
 United States (2009) 46,466 [2]
 Canada (2006) 37,120 [3]
 United Kingdom (Malta-born) 30,178 [4]

Maltese, Italian, and English
Significant historical languages: Punic, Greek, Latin, Sicilian, Siculo-Arabic, French


Christianity (Roman Catholic) predominantly (95.34% of Malta's population[5]), other faiths

The Maltese (Maltese: Maltin) are an ethnic group indigenous to the Southern European nation of Malta, and identified with the Maltese language. Malta is an island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Included within the ethnic group defined by the Maltese people are the Gozitans (Maltese: Għawdxin) who inhabit Malta's sister island, Gozo.



Malta has been inhabited from around 5200 BC, since the arrival of settlers from the island of Sicily.[6] A significant prehistoric Neolithic culture marked by Megalithic structures, which date back to c. 3600 BC, existed on the islands, as evidenced by the temples of Mnajdra, Ggantija and others. The Phoenicians colonized Malta from about 1000 BC, bringing their Semitic language and culture, and becoming the direct male-line ancestors of about a half of the modern Maltese population. They used the islands as an outpost from which they expanded sea explorations and trade in the Mediterranean until their successors, the Carthaginians, were ousted by the Romans in 216 BC with the help of the Maltese inhabitants, under whom Malta became a municipium.[7]

After a period of Byzantine rule (4th to 9th century) and a probable sack by the Vandals,[8] the islands were invaded by the Fatimids in AD 870. The Arabs generally tolerated the population's Christianity, and their language subsequently shifted to Siculo-Arabic.[9]

The Muslim rulers were expelled from the islands by the Normans in 1090, and their leader Roger I of Sicily was welcomed by the native Christians.[7] The islands were part of the Kingdom of Sicily until 1530, and were briefly controlled by the Capetian House of Anjou. In 1530 Charles I of Spain gave the Maltese islands to the Order of Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in perpetual lease.

The French under Napoleon took hold of the Maltese islands in 1798, although with the aid of the British the Maltese were able to oust French control two years later. The inhabitants subsequently asked Britain to assume sovereignty over the islands under the conditions laid out in a Declaration of Rights,[10] stating that "his Majesty has no right to cede these Islands to any power...if he chooses to withdraw his protection, and abandon his sovereignty, the right of electing another sovereign, or of the governing of these Islands, belongs to us, the inhabitants and aborigines alone, and without control." As part of the Treaty of Paris (1814) Malta became a British colony, ultimately rejecting an attempted integration with the United Kingdom in 1956.

Malta became independent on September 21, 1964 (Independence Day). Under its 1964 constitution Malta initially retained Queen Elizabeth II as Queen of Malta, with a Governor-General exercising executive authority on her behalf. On December 13, 1974 (Republic Day) it became a republic within the Commonwealth, with the President as head of state. On March 31, 1979 Malta saw the withdrawal of the last British troops and the Royal Navy from Malta. This day is known as Freedom Day and Malta declared itself as a neutral and non-aligned. Malta joined the European Union on May 1, 2004 and joined the Eurozone on January 1, 2008.


The culture of Malta is a reflection of various cultures that have come into contact with the Maltese Islands throughout the centuries, including neighbouring Mediterranean cultures, and the cultures of the nations that ruled Malta for long periods of time prior to its independence in 1964.

The temple complex of Mnajdra (4th mi-3200 BCE)

The earliest inhabitants of the Maltese Islands are believed to have crossed over from nearby Sicily sometime before 5000 BCE. The culture of modern Malta has been described as a "rich pattern of traditions, beliefs and practices," which is the result of "a long process of adaptation, assimilation and cross fertilization of beliefs and usages drawn from various conflicting sources." It has been subjected to the same complex, historic processes that gave rise to the linguistic and ethnic admixture that defines who the people of Malta and Gozo are today.[11]

Maltese culture has both Semitic and Latin European origins; however, the Latin European element is more readily apparent in modern Malta for two key reasons: the fact that Latin European cultures have had more recent, and virtually continuous impact on Malta over the past eight centuries through political control; and the fact that Malta shares the religious beliefs, traditions and ceremonies of its Sicilian neighbor.


Maltese people speak the Maltese language, a Semitic language written in the Latin alphabet in its standard form. The language is descended from Siculo-Arabic, a dialect of Arabic spoken in Sicily and surrounding Southern Italy from the ninth century.[12] In the course of Malta's history, the language has adopted large amounts of vocabulary from Sicilian, Italian, English, and to a smaller degree, French. The official languages of Malta are English and Maltese, with Italian also widely spoken.

Maltese became an official language of Malta in 1934, replacing Italian and joining English. There are an estimated 371,900 speakers in Malta of the language, with statistics citing that 100% of the people are able to speak Maltese, 88% English, 66% Italian and 17% French, showing a greater degree of linguistic capabilities than most other European countries.[13] In fact multilingualism is a common phenomenon in Malta, with English, Maltese and Italian, used in everyday life. Whilst Maltese is the national language, it has been suggested that with the ascendancy of English language shift may begin;[14] however, this has been discredited by contemporary studies.[15]


The Constitution of Malta provides for freedom of religion but establishes Roman Catholicism as the state religion.

Malta is described in the Book of Acts at Acts 27:39-42 and Acts 28:1-11, where Christianity was introduced by Paul the Apostle. Catholic tradition holds Saint Publius as having been Malta's first bishop.[16] The Islands of St. Paul (or St. Paul's Islets), are traditionally believed[by whom?] to be the site where Saint Paul was shipwrecked (recorded at Acts 28:2) in the year 60 AD[citation needed], on his way to trial and apparent martyrdom in Rome.

Freedom House and the World Factbook report that 98% of the Maltese are Roman Catholic, making the nation one of the most Catholic countries in the world.[citation needed]

National symbols

Various symbols have identified the island over its history, the most common is the Maltese cross, the symbol used by the Knights of Malta and now a symbol of the Maltese nation. It appears on the reverse of the Maltese 1 euro and 2 euro coins introduced in January 2008.[17]

Maltese emigration and expatriation

In the nineteenth century, most migration from Malta was to North Africa and the Middle East, although rates of return migration to Malta were high.[18] Nonetheless, Maltese communities formed in these regions. By 1900, for example, British consular estimates suggest that there were 15,326 Maltese in Tunisia, and in 1903 it was claimed that 15,000 people of Maltese origin were living in Algeria.[19]

Malta experienced significant emigration as a result of the collapse of a construction boom in 1907 and after World War II, when the birth rate increased significantly, but in the twentieth century most emigrants went to destinations in the New World, particularly the United States and Australia. After World War II, Malta's Emigration Department would assist emigrants with the cost of their travel. Between 1948 and 1967, 30 per cent of the population emigrated.[18] Between 1946 and the late 1970s, over 140,000 people left Malta on the assisted passage scheme, with 57.6 per cent migrating to Australia, 22 per cent to the UK, 13 per cent to Canada and 7 per cent to the United States.[20]

46,998 Maltese-born residents were recorded by the 2001 Australian Census, 30,178 by the 2001 UK Census, 9,525 by the 2001 Canadian Census and the 9,080 by the 2000 United States Census.[21]

Emigration dropped dramatically after the mid-1970s and has since ceased to be a social phenomenon of significance. However, since Malta joined the EU in 2004 expatriate communities emerged in a number of European countries particularly in Belgium and Luxembourg.


Y-Dna haplogroups are found at the following frequencies in Malta : R1 (35.55% including 32.2% R1b), J (28.90% including 7.80% J1), I (12.20%), E (11.10% including 8.9% E1b1b), F (6.70%), K (4.40%), P (1.10%).[22] R1 and I are typical in European populations. J, K, F and E1b1b haplogroups consist of lineages with differential distribution within Middle East, North Africa and Europe. The low percentages of J1 and E1b1b are similar to the Sicilian population, suggesting common ancestry with Southern Italians and negligible genetic input from both North Africa and the Middle East.

Population links

The first settlers of Malta were from the island of Sicily.[6] However, the result of the influences on the population after this have been fiercely debated among historians and geneticists. The origins question is complicated by numerous factors, including Malta's turbulent history of invasions and conquests, with long periods of depopulation followed by periods of immigration to Malta and intermarriage with the Maltese by foreigners from the Mediterranean, Western and Southern European countries that ruled Malta.

The many demographic influences on the island include:

  • The Phoenician colonisation around 1000 BC.
  • The exile to Malta of the entire male population of the town of Celano (Italy) in 1223
  • The stationing of Norman French and Sicilian Italian troops on Malta in 1240
  • The removal of all remaining Arabs from Malta in 1224[23]
  • The arrival of several hundred Catalan (Spain) soldiers in 1283
  • Further waves of European repopulation throughout the 13th century[24]
  • The settlement in Malta of noble families from Sicily (Italy) and Aragon (Spain) between 1372 and 1450
  • The arrival of several thousand Greek Rhodian sailors, soldiers and slaves with the Knights of St. John
  • The introduction of several thousand Sicilian laborers in 1551 and again in 1566
  • The emigration of some 891 Italian exiles to Malta during the Risorgimento in 1849
  • The posting of some 22,000 British servicemen in Malta from 1807 to 1979,[25] as well as other British and Irish that settled in Malta over the decades
  • The mass emigration occurring after World War II and well into the 1960s and 70s. Many Maltese left the island for the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the USA. Following Malta's accession to the EU in 2004 expatriate communities grew in European countries such as the one in Belgium.

Present views

Confirming the idea that the first settlers on Malta were Sicilian, studies on the Y-chromosomes of men have indicated that the Maltese population has Southern Italian origins, with little genetic input from the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa.[26] A study carried out by geneticists Spencer Wells and Pierre Zalloua of the American University of Beirut showed that more than 50% of Y-chromosomes from Maltese men could have Phoenician origins.[27]. However, this latter study is not peer reviewed, as stated by the authors of the major peer reviewed studies mentioned previously .[28], [29]

Historical accounts

Over time, the various rulers of Malta published their own view of the ethnicity of the population.[30] The Knights of Malta promoted the idea of a continuous Roman Catholic presence,[31] and the British colonial rule disregarded a genetic and cultural connection between the Maltese and Italians in an attempt to counteract growing Fascist power in the area.[32]

See also

External links


  1. ^ Australian 2006 Census
  2. ^ American Community Survey 2009
  3. ^ Statistics Canada, 2006 Census: Ethnic Origin
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b "Gozo". 7 October 2007. Archived from the original on 22 August 2008. 
  7. ^ a b Castillo, Dennis Angelo. The Maltese Cross: A Strategic History of Malta. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-313-32329-1.,M1.
  8. ^ Borg, Victor Paul. The Rough Guide to Malta & Gozo. Rough Guides. ISBN 1-85828-680-8.
  9. ^ The Official Tourism Site for Malta, Gozo and Comino : What to See & Do : Holiday Ideas : Culture and Heritage : Timeline : :Arab Occupation
  10. ^ Holland, James (2003). Fortress Malta: An Island Under Siege, 1940-1943. Miramax Books. ISBN 1-4013-5186-7.
  11. ^ J. Cassar Pullicino, "Determining the Semitic Element in Maltese Folklore", in Studies in Maltese Folklore, Malta University Press (1992), p. 68.
  12. ^ MED Magazine
  13. ^
  14. ^ European Commission, "Malta: Country Profile", Euromosaic Study (September 2004). Available online, at[1] Europeans and Language
  15. ^
  16. ^ Kendal, James (1910). "Malta". The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX. Retrieved 2006-06-18. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ a b Jones, Huw R. (1973). "Modern emigration from Malta". Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 60: 101–119. JSTOR 621508. 
  19. ^ Attard, Lawrence E. (1989). The Great Exodus (1918–1939). Malta: Publishers Enterprises Group. 
  20. ^ King, Russell (1979). "The Maltese migration cycle: An archival survey". Area 11 (3): 245–249. JSTOR 20001477. 
  21. ^ "Country-of-birth database". Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Retrieved 3 August 2010. 
  22. ^ (n=90), Population structure in the Mediterranean basin: a Y chromosome perspective, Capelli et al. 2005
  23. ^ Debattista, Martin; Timeline of Malta History; retrieved on [2008-05-14]
  24. ^ Constantiae Imperatricis et Reginae Siciliae Diplomata: 1195-1198, ed. T.K.Slzer (Vienna, 1983), 237-240.
  25. ^ Joseph M. Brincat, "Language and Demography in Malta: The Social Foundations of the Symbiosis between Semitic and Romance in Standard Maltese," in Malta: A Case Study in International Cross-Currents. Proceedings of the First International Colloquium on the history of the Central Mediterranean held at the University of Malta, 13–17 December 1989. Ed: S. Fiorini and V. Mallia-Milanes (Malta University Publications, Malta Historical Society, and Foundation for International Studies, University of Malta) at 91-110. Last visited August 5, 2007.
  26. ^ C. Capelli, N. Redhead, N. Novelletto, L. Terrenato, P. Malaspina, Z. Poulli, G. Lefranc, A. Megarbane, V. Delague, V. Romano, F. Cali, V.F. Pascali, M. Fellous, A.E. Felice, and D.B. Goldstein; "Population Structure in the Mediterranean Basin: A Y Chromosome Perspective," Annals of Human Genetics, 69, 1-20, 2005. Last visited August 8, 2007.
  27. ^ In the Wake of the Phoenicians: DNA study reveals a Phoenician-Maltese link
  28. ^ C. Capelli, N. Redhead, N. Novelletto, L. Terrenato, P. Malaspina, Z. Poulli, G. Lefranc, A. Megarbane, V. Delague, V. Romano, F. Cali, V.F. Pascali, M. Fellous, A.E. Felice, and D.B. Goldstein; "Population Structure in the Mediterranean Basin: A Y Chromosome Perspective," Annals of Human Genetics, 69, 1-20, 2005. Last visited August 8, 2007.
  29. ^ [
  30. ^ Anthony Luttrell, "Medieval Malta: the Non-written and the Written Evidence", in Malta: A Case Study in International Cross-Currents. Proceedings of the First International Colloquium on the history of the Central Mediterranean held at the University of Malta, 13–17 December 1989. Ed: S. Fiorini and V. Mallia-Milanes (Malta University Publications, Malta Historical Society, and Foundation for International Studies, University of Malta) at 33-45. Last visited August 5, 2007.
  31. ^ Anthony T. Luttrell, "Girolamo Manduca and Gian Francesco Abela: Tradition and invention in Maltese Historiography," in Melita Historica, 7 (1977) 2 (105-132). Last visited August 5, 2007.
  32. ^ See, e.g.: "Malta: Civil History," in The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York. Last visited August 6, 2007.

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