Middle ages in Malta: the Arabs, Normans, Roman Empire and the French
The Arabs arrive in Malta
In the Middle Ages, Malta was ruled by the Arabs, who introduced new fruits, cotton as well as new agricultural techniques, like protecting against soil erosion by stone walls, which are to this date still part of the Maltese countryside. They also built a wall around the city of Melita and changed its name to Medina, “fortified city”. The Siculo-Arabic language, which the Arabs also introduced to the Islands, formed the basics of the modern Maltese language.
Malta under the Normans
In 909, the rule switched to the Fatimids and the Arab rule came to an end in 1090 when the Normans captured Malta. A Norman called Count Roger conquered Malta as part of his conquest of Sicily and by 1091 the Arabs were driven out of Sicily. In Malta, the Christian population were glad that the Normans and Count Roger had arrived and offered to fight on their side. As tradition says, in response to this offer, Count Roger tore off part of his red and white banner and presented it to Maltese, forming the base of the current Maltese flag.
With the Norman rule, Malta became part of the new Kingdom of Sicily, but the Maltese were left to run their own businesses and the Catholic Church was re-instated. The last Norman monarch made Malta a feudal lordship. It was during this time the men of Malta were militarised in case or capture attempts, due to the island’s strategic location.
Malta as part of the Holy Roman Empire
The Kingdom of Sicily was passed on to the House of Hohenstaufen and Malta became part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation between 1194 and 1266. During this time, the Maltese Islands were neglected and trade was completely ruined, while the remaining Muslims on the Island were forced to either convert or leave.
Aragonese Kingdom captures Malta
In 1266, Malta was captured for a short period by the French but only until Malta was yet again captured, this time by the Aragonese (part of Spain). The relatives of King Aragon ruled Malta for 126 years until 1409, when it passed to the Crown of Aragon. It was during this time that the title “Count of Malta” was abolished due to two dynasties fighting over the title. However, sometime later, the title was reinstated once again, but this time the Maltese people rose up against their Count, all the while voicing their loyalty to the Sicilian Crown. Impressed by the people’s loyalty, King Alphonso IV incorporated the title back into the House of Aragon and gave Mdina the name of Città Notabile.