Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Ancient Malta: Phoenician, Punic and Roman

LEVEL 01 - Year 1 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT Classics and Archaeology

DESCRIPTION This unit provides an overview of the development of human settlement and culture in the Maltese islands during the ancient historical period starting with the debated question of the earliest presence of the Phoenicians – whether earlier or later than 750BC – and ending with an equally contested date – the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in AD 476 or the subsequent annexation of the islands within the Eastern Roman Empire, in AD 535.

The study-unit includes two site visits.

It introduces the Phoenicians, both in their homeland on the coastal strip occupied by modern Lebanon and in their colonized territory in the western Mediterranean. The question of their apparent peaceful penetration into and eventual colonization of the two major islands is discussed, as well as their interaction with the indigenous prehistoric population. Malta’s absorption, from around the middle of the 6th century, into the empire headed by Carthage, the most powerful of the former western Phoenician colonies is another unresolved question. This period is referred to as the Punic period, characterized by a sequence of bloody and destructive conflicts between Carthage and her Greek rival cities in Sicily. For some reason Malta does not feature in the written accounts of these wars until Carthage crossed swords with another emerging power, that of Rome. What really happened in 218 BC, at the start of the second of three major and long-lasting wars between them, is investigated. In that year Malta was incorporated within Roman conquered territory, as part of the province of Sicily, thus opening a new interesting and fateful chapter in the island’s history.

The better documented Roman period is dealt with in two distinct phases, characterized by the respective political setup that administered the extensive Roman territory: the Republican age which ended in 27 BC when Augustus set up an autocratic rule of successive emperors that lasted half a millennium.

Throughout the study-unit the narrative will be based on contrasting the written and the archaeological evidence, the main themes being the settlement patterns, the economy and the cultural changes, in language, religious beliefs and material culture.

The most tangible archaeological manifestations for late antiquity are the Early-Christian catacombs and smaller hypogea. Since their timeline extends from the 4th to the 9th century, they are covered in this study-unit whereas the historical account of the Byzantine age (after AD 535) and the respective written sources will be covered in the study-unit dealing with the Middle Ages.

Study-Unit Aims:

• To enable students to familiarize themselves with the written sources relating to ancient Malta;
• To offer insights into the main economic activities of ancient Malta;
• To offer insights into the changes in the religious beliefs and practices from one phase to the other of ancient Malta;
• To provide students with direct autoptic experience with both physical archaeological remains in the field and those housed in museums by means of field sessions.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

• Identify from the lectures the essential bibliographic tools for the study of the Phoenician, Punic and Roman phases in Malta within a Mediterranean context;
• Describe the rationale of the present chronological divisions that characterise the study of ancient Malta in their sequence within the wider Mediterranean context;
• Identify and explain the processes of cultural development based on the suggested readings and from direct observation of the surviving remains;
• Demonstrate critical thinking skills by evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of current literature and by giving their own views on specific topics, supported by valid arguments and examples.

2. Skills
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

• Apply learned analytical skills in the pursuit of further studies and further career opportunities;
• Practice the learned critical thinking skills to everyday life situations;
• Distinguish between pure personal hunches, educated guesswork, working hypotheses subjected to scrutiny, ascertained knowledge founded on stringent evidence;
• Demonstrate learned writing skills in correct English and in a coherent and logical manner to other life situations when required;
• Illustrate their ability to speak publicly on other topics, as required.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Texts:

• A. Bonanno, Roman Malta: the Archaeological Heritage of the Maltese Islands - Malta Romana: il Patrimonio Archeologico delle isole Maltesi, (Rome, 1992).
• A. Bonanno, Malta. Phoenician, Punic, and Roman, (Malta, 2005).
• A. Bonanno, The Archaeology of Malta and Gozo: 5000 BC-AD1091, (Malta, 2017).
• M. Buhagiar, 'The Maltese Early Christian Cemeteries. An Overview', in Bonanno, A. and Militello, P. (ed.) Malta in the Hybleans, the Hybleans in Malta MaltanegliIblei, gli Iblei a Malta (Proc. Int. Conference Catania, 30 September, Sliema 10 November 2006), pp. 245-258, (Palermo, 2008).
• T. Gambin & E. Azzopardi, Archaeology and the Sea in the Maltese Islands, (Malta, 2012).
• C. Sagona, The Archaeology of Malta: from Neolithic through the Roman Period, (Cambridge, 2015) (Chapters 6-8).

Supplementary Readings:

• B. Bruno, Roman and Byzantine Malta: Trade and Economy. (trans. G. Cutajar, with P.J. Hudson), (Malta, 2009).
• M. Buhagiar, Late Roman and Byzantine Catacombs and Related Burial Places in the Maltese Islands, (Oxford, 1986).
• J. Magro Conti, & P.C. Saliba, (eds), The Significance of Cart-ruts in Ancient Landscapes, (Malta, 2005/2008).
• C. Sagona, The Archaeology of Punic Malta (Ancient Near Eastern Studies Supplement 9), (Leuven, 2002).

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture, Fieldwork and Seminar

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Seminar Paper SEM2 Yes 30%
Assignment SEM2 Yes 70%

LECTURER/S Maxine Anastasi
Anthony Bonanno (Co-ord.)
Timothy Gambin
Nicholas Vella

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The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
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It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.