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|Defending a Mediterranean island outpost of the Spanish Empire : the case of Malta
|Aragonese -- Malta
Malta -- History -- 870-1530
Knights of Malta -- History
Order of St John -- History
Fortification -- Designs and plans -- Malta -- History
|Sacra Militia Foundation
|Cassar, G. (2014). Defending a Mediterranean island outpost of the Spanish Empire : the case of Malta. Sacra Militia : The Journal of the History of the Order of St John, 13, 59-68.
|The Maltese archipelago, collectively known as Malta, has a long history of possession and colonisation running from prehistoric times till the attainment of political independence in 1964. One such long period of domination is that of the Aragonese who captured the Maltese islands in 1283 following a hard-fought sea battle won by the renowned Admiral Roger di Lauria.1 The battle, fought in Malta’s grand harbour in June of that year, was instrumental in wrestling the island from Angevin rule and facilitated the joining of Malta to the other Sicilian lands which now fell under the domination of Peter III of Aragon (I of Sicily).2 In fact, following that crucial naval battle, it was the turn of the castrum maris – the solitary guardian of the Maltese harbour and which was still in Angevin hands – to fall to the Aragonese Manfredi Lancia. With this latest victory the takeover of the island was completed.3 This castle (which would later become Fort St Angelo) at the tip of one of the numerous peninsulas jutting out into the Grand Harbour, had been described as a truly royal and highly armed fortification, and was at this time considered to be a precious gem on the Sicilian ring.4 The year 1283 marked the first of many centuries yet to follow during which the Spanish Crown extensively exploited the Maltese islands for its political and strategic exigencies while substantially conceding to the locals much less in return. The islanders had little choice but to abide by their Spanish rulers’ whims and pleasures. The period of Spanish domination, generally exercised through the viceroys of Sicily, culminated in the donation made by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (who was also King Charles I of Spain), to the Order of St John and which came into effect in 1530. At that point, the history of the islands takes a fresh turning with Malta being gradually transformed from an insignificant colonial backwater into a most respected, renowned and sought after country in the Mediterranean region. For it was during the domination of the Hospitallers that Malta was converted into one of the most fortified islands to be reckoned with.
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