With 7,000 years of history, the Maltese Islands are steeped in culture and heritage. The Islands went through a golden Neolithic period, the remains of which are the mysterious megalithic temples dedicated to the goddess of fertility. Later on, the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Romans and the Byzantines, all left their traces on the Islands.
In 60 A.D. St. Paul was shipwrecked on the island while on his way to Rome and brought Christianity to Malta. The Arabs conquered the islands in 870 A.D. and left an important mark on the language of the Maltese. Until 1530 Malta was an extension of Sicily, the Normans, the Aragonese and other conquerors who ruled over Sicily also governed the Maltese Islands. It was Charles V who bequeathed Malta to the Sovereign Military Order of St. John of Jerusalem who ruled over Malta from 1530 to 1798. The Knights took Malta through a new golden age making it a key player in the cultural arena of 17th and 18th century Europe. The artistic and cultural lives of the islands were injected with the presence of artists such as Caravaggio, Mattia Preti and Favray (amongst many others) who were commissioned by the Knights to embellish churches, palaces and auberges.
In 1798 Bonaparte, on his way to Egypt, took over Malta from the Knights. The French presence on the islands was short lived as the English, who were requested by the Maltese to help them against the French, blockaded the islands in 1800. British rule in Malta lasted until 1964 when Malta became independent. The Maltese adapted the British system of administration, education and legislation. Malta became a Republic in 1974 and a member state of the European Union in May 2004.