Believed to have been inhabited at an earlier stage than its sister island of Malta, Gozo boasts a varied history and a rich cultural heritage. It is estimated that in 5000 BC, farmers from nearby Sicily settled first on the island, leaving behind beautiful earthenware resembling that found in Agrigento, Sicily, as well as impressive stone structures known as the Ggantija temples. Deemed to be the world’s oldest free-standing structures, these temples are a vivid symbol of Gozo’s early cultural and religious evolution.
In the period following the birth of Christianity, the island of Gozo witnessed the arrival of the Phoenicians, who were followed by the Carthaginians and eventually the Romans. It is also believed that Christianity reached the Maltese islands in 60 AD through St Paul. This was then superseded by an Arab period which started in the late 9th century AD, after the Arabs had taken over the neighbouring island of Sicily. The Arab influence can still be felt on our toponymy and on our names and surnames, as well as on our present language, which has a clearly identifiable semitic base.
The Normans came to rule the islands in 1090; after this period Malta and Gozo experienced brief periods under the Knights of St John, Napoleonic rule and the British Empire successively. Both islands were involved during the First and Second World Wars due to their strategic position in the Mediterranean region; these were times during which the islands suffered heavy bombardment. In 1964, after thousands of years under many a foreign rule, Malta and Gozo gained their independence and continue to enjoy national autonomy, having also recently become members of the European Union.
Both Malta and Gozo have a rich history to tell due to their varied centuries-old cultural influences and heritage. Gozo, the sister island that is smaller in size and somehow less industrialised than Malta, stands nonetheless at the same level of importance, having an impressive array of traditions, archaeological gems, and a haunting landscape and seascape that are unique to this mythical Mediterranean island.