People have lived on Malta for thousands of years, as evidenced by large stone temples and carved stone reliefs with intricate designs. Around the 8th century BC, the Phoenicians settled on the island and brought advances such as metallurgy and writing.
The Phoenicians established their main city of Maleth on a large plateau in the middle of the island. They considered the location a place of refuge since it was naturally defensible. In fact, the ancient name for the island is derived from Phoenician Melita, which means, “refuge.”
By about the 6th century BC, Malta had come under the control of the Phoenicians from Carthage. However, due to the spread of Hellenism around the Mediterranean and Malta’s proximity to the Aegean region, Greek influence was found alongside Phoenician. Then, in 218 BC, during the Second Punic War, Malta surrendered to the Romans and Malta became part of the Roman province of Sicily.
During the Roman period, the name of this main city in the center of the island was Latinized to Melite, and it was considered the capital of the Maltese Islands. Today, the two towns of Mdina and Rabat cover the ancient city. Mdina is considered one of the best-preserved examples of a walled medieval city in all of Europe.