History

 

 

The island of Gozo, the second largest in the Maltese archipelago, has a rich history that dates all the way back to 5000 B.C. The island’s first colonizers arrived on Gozo in the Neolithic period from the Italian island of Sicily after they successfully crossed over on a sea vessel.

Church Dome, Photo by FBalzan Photography

Church Dome, Photo by FBalzan Photography www.fbalzan.com

These early settlers are believed to have lived on the Northwest of Gozo, in Il-Mixta on Ghajn Abdul Plateau near San Lawrenz village. This part of the island has a large natural cave with a manmade wall as well as a natural column dividing it into two portions.

During the Temple Period between 4100 B.C. and 2500 B.C., inhabitants of the island were able to erect a number of stone structures including the famous Ġgantija Temples, the oldest surviving freestanding structures in the world. Most of these were subsequently destroyed in the Bronze Age when people from Southern Italy invaded the island,

The Bronze Age brought to Gozo warlike people who used bronze and copper tools. Various remains of this period have been found, including three dolmens on the Tac¬enc plateau, which have a horizontal slab of limestone and are held up by three stone blocks.

The Phoenicians, who were the most successful sailors and traders in the ancient world, set up and used several ports in Gozo for their navies. The island prospered from the invasion of the Phoenicians since they brought with them a number of skills as well as their own language. The Phoenicians called the island Gwl and built a walled town called Gwl, which today, is inner Victoria.

The island fell under the control of the Carthaginians around 550 B.C. and they governed it till they lost it to the Roman Empire in 218 B.C. after the Second Punic War. The Romans, however, never directly governed over Gozo, instead giving it the status of an autonomous region (or a Municipium). Gozo printed its own coins, and with the help of the Romans, rebuilt the town’s walls to ensure that the Carthaginians would not be able to capture it again.

In 535 A.D., Gozo came under the control of the Byzantines, who ruled over it for over three centuries. In 870 A.D., Aghlabid Arabs conquered Gozo and gave it its present name, Ghawdex. They also built the Citadel, and tore apart ancient walls that were built by the Phoenicians and Romans around the township of Gozo.

Mgarr Ix-Xini Tower, Photo by FBalzan Photography

Mgarr Ix-Xini Tower, Photo by FBalzan Photography www.fbalzan.com

Count Roger de Hauteville of Normandy took possession of the island in 1127 A.D. but the Arabs were allowed to stay as long as they paid him taxes. During this period, the island was governed by feudal lords who were responsible for collecting these taxes. In 1551 A.D., the islands came under the rule of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem for a period of twenty-one years.

Ottoman rulers Turgut Reis and Sinan Pasha ransacked the island in July 1551 A.D. and enslaved a majority of the 5,000 people who were previously living on Gozo. The Gozitans were taken to the Libyan city of Tarhuna Wa Msalaba through the port of Mgarr.

Gozo was repopulated from Malta between 1565 A.D. and 1580 A.D. under the control of the Knights of St. John who were ruling over Malta during this period. Except for a short period between 28 October, 1798 A.D. and 5 September, 1800 A.D. when it was given independence by Napoleon, Gozo has been governed from Malta.

In 1814 A.D., Gozo and the other islands of Malta were annexed by Britain under the Treaty of Paris, and it was subsequently transformed to an island fortress. It was not until 1964 A.D. that Malta became independent of British colonial rule.

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