Greeks in Malta

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Ioannis Papafis from Thessaloniki, established his fortuitous enterprise working as a broker in Malta

The Greek people have a long presence in Malta, since ancient times. The Greeks used the islands for commerce and it is assumed that the location was a place of competition against the Phoenicians. It is not very clear if the Greeks made any colonies here, but we know that the island was known in Greece under the name Melite (Μελίτη) a derivative of the Greek word for honey (μέλι),[1][2][3] and the Romans later transcribed the name to Melita, which evolved into the modern Malta.[4]

Later, the Eastern Roman Empire which evolved into the Greek-speaking Byzantine Empire, held Malta for almost five centuries, from 395 to 870 AD,[5] until they lost it to the Arabs.[6]

During the 18th and 19th centuries a number of Greeks moved to Malta, coming from the Ottoman held areas in Greece. A number of Greeks from Rhodes island migrated in Malta after 1523, due to the capture of that Greek island by the troops of Suleiman the Magnificent in 1522 after the Siege of Rhodes.

In 1192, Margaritus of Brindisi, a Greek admiral of the Kingdom of Sicily, became the first count of Malta.[7]

During the 19th century, the Greek minority built one (Church of St George, Valletta)[8][9] of the two extant Greek orthodox churches in Valletta. There is also a catholic greek community on the island.[10]

The Greek Catholic Church of Our Lady of Damascus that houses an icon of the same name, was built in 1571 by Giánnis Kalamia, a wealthy Greek, one of 500 Greek Catholics who arrived with the knights in 1530. The Church was destroyed during an air raid on March 24th 1942[11] but was rebuilt in 1951 from funds collected by the great efforts of Fr. George Schirò, a descendant of one of the original 500. The last surviving descendant carrying the Kalamia name was a discalced Carmelite nun living in the 18th Century.[12]

One of the most important Greeks of Malta, was the national benefactor Ioannis Papafis, who was originally from Thessaloniki, and moved to Malta in the beginning of 19th century, and lived there - Valletta and Rabat - until the end of his life at 1886, contributing significantly to the local society as well as supporting financially the Greek War of Independence, and later the newly formed Greek state.[13]

The current Greek community of Malta is defined as being small by the Greek embassy in Malta.[14]


  1. ^ μέλι. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
  2. ^ Μελίτη, Georg Autenrieth, A Homeric Dictionary, at the Perseus Project.
  3. ^ "Controversy over unique Maltese bee population". Malta Today. 6 February 2008. 
  4. ^ Melita. Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short. A Latin Dictionary on Perseus Project.
  5. ^ "Maltese historical civilisations: greeks, phoenicians, romans, arabs". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  6. ^ "Malta:Crossroads to Civilizations". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  7. ^ Norwich, John Julius. The Kingdom in the Sun 1130-1194. Longman: London, 1970.
  8. ^ "Saint George Orthodox Church, Valletta", Orthodox World. Retrieved on 24 October 2014.
  9. ^ "Valletta",, Malta. Retrieved on 24 October 2014.
  10. ^ "| Our Lady of Damascus". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ Our Lady of Damascus Church records, 22nd November 2015
  13. ^ "Papafeio, founder". Papafeio Orphanage. Retrieved 2010-08-03. . biography of Ioannis Papafis, founder of the Papafeio orphanage (Greek)
  14. ^ "Political Relations - Greece and Malta". Retrieved 2015-02-18.