June 2012 Event: 'Mare Nostrum' - Malta and the Mediterranean

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In his talk, Prof Maurice Cauchi emphasized the role of the Mediterranean Sea on the history of Malta. Ancient civilisations followed wind and sea currents to travel to and fro every part of the Mediterranean.marenostrum

He started by expressing surprise that out of the thousands of islands in the Mediterranean, no one has had such an illustrious history as Malta. Most prominently is the presence of prehistoric temples which are the oldest above-ground buildings in the world. The significance of these mammoth efforts, from a population which could hardly number more than 10,000 persons, is still difficult to explain

He also touched on Phoenician/Carthaginian business which criss-crossed the Mediterranean, and involved Malta. Again this could be explained by its position half-way between Rome and Carthage, which made it mandatory of the victorious city to control this lynch-pin island.

MHA Event June 2012 2MHA President Mrs Frances Bonnici thanks Prof Cauchi for his presentationProf Cauchi touched on the difficulties of travel in those days when one had to depend on wind and current to get anywhere, explaining that what took a few days with a good wind might take several weeks in a bad one.   The living conditions of the slaves who rowed the ships, as well as the sailors who manned them, could not have been very salubrious. Particularly so when the sea became infested with slave traders who considered piracy on land or sea to be a legitimate way of earning a crust.

He touched on the role that quarantine – always a problem of high priority in an island depending on commerce with all countries around the world. The Lazarett played a very significant role in reducing the risk of plagues being imported into the island.

Finally, he recalled the role that Malta played throughout history, starting with the several sea-battles that occurred around Malta in the middle ages, and ending with the last battle of all, that took place in World War 2. He took the original approach of describing the thinking of the enemy, as has become clear through the diary of Galeazzo Ciano, Mussolini’s Foreign Secretary (and son-in-law who he eventually had killed). It would appear that by June 1942 it was all but decided that the Axis were to invade Malta: but for a lack of fuel this would have been the case.

The evening came to a close after several members of the audience expressed their views about issues raised by the talk

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