Around 700 BC, the Ancient Greeks settled on Malta, which they called Melite (the name comes from the Greek word "meli" - "honey", possibly due to Malta's unique production of honey; an endemic species of bee lives on the island, giving it the popular nickname the "land of honey"). A century later, Phoenician traders, who used the islands as a stop on their trade routes, joined the natives on the island. The Romans also made use of this trading post, designating it (and the island) by the name of Melita.

After the fall of Phoenicia, in 400 BC the area came under the control of Carthage, a former Phoenician colony. During this time the people on Malta mainly cultivated olives and carobs, and produced textiles.

During the First Punic War of 218 BC, tensions led the Maltese people to rebel against Carthage and turn control of their garrison over to the Roman Republic consul Sempronius. Malta remained loyal to Rome during the Second Punic War and the Romans rewarded it with the title Foederata Civitas, a designation that meant it was exempt from paying tribute or the rule of Roman law, although at this time it fell within the jurisdiction of Sicilia province.

In 117 AD, the Maltese Islands were a thriving part of the Roman Empire, being promoted to the status of Municipium under Hadrian. During 60 AD, in the north of the island at Saint Paul's Bay, Saint Paul the Apostle was shipwrecked on the shores. Tradition holds he stayed in Malta for three months, introducing Christianity and performing various miracles. This is documented in the Bible in the Acts of the Apostles.

When the Roman Empire split into Eastern and Western divisions in the 4th century, Malta fell under the control of the Greek speaking Byzantine Empire. Malta was under Byzantine rule for four centuries. During this period, Germanic tribes, including the Goths and Vandals, briefly took control of the islands before the Byzantines launched a counter attack and retook Malta.


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