From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]


Melita, now Malta, is an island in the Mediterranean, 47 miles S. of Sicily, 17 miles long, 9 miles broad, and 95 square miles in area. Its excellent harbours, together with its position in the track of ships sailing east and west, gave it commercial importance from very early times. Occupied by Phœnician settlers (Diod. v. 12), it was long under the power of the Carthaginians, who surrendered it to the Romans in the Second Punic War, 218 b.c. (Livy, xxi. 51), after which it was annexed to the province of Sicily. The identity of Malta with the island on which St. Paul was shipwrecked on his voyage to Italy ( Acts 28:1) was formerly disputed, but is now universally admitted. The case for another Melita on the Dalmatian coast-the modern Meleda -was presented by Padre Georgi, a Dalmatian monk who was a native of the island (1730), and by W. Falconer in his Dissertation on St. Paul’s Voyage (31872). The theory was examined and refuted by James Smith in his admirable monograph on The Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul (41880). It was based on two groundless assumptions: (1) that ‘the Adria’ through which St. Paul’s ship drifted must have been the modern Adriatic, or Gulf of Venice, whereas the term is known to have included in the Apostle’s time the whole expanse of sea between Sicily, Italy, Greece, and Crete (Adria); and (2) that the N. E. hurricane, which threatened to drive the ship upon the African quicksands, must have veered completely round and sent her northwards through the Strait of Otranto; an essential point, which the passenger St. Luke, whose narrative is the most vivid and instructive account of a voyage and wreck that has come down from antiquity, could not have failed to mention.

All the facts are in harmony with the theory that ‘St. Paul’s Bay’ in Malta was the scene of the shipwreck. (1) If the E. N. E. wind, known to present-day sailors as the ‘Gregalia’ or ‘Levanter,’ continued to blow day after day, as it often does in the late autumn, the ship, having been laid to on the starboard tack ( i.e. with her right side to the wind) to avoid being swiftly driven to the African coast, would move in the exact direction of Melita at the mean rate of 1½ miles an hour, covering the distance from Clauda-about 480 miles-in a little over 13 days ( Acts 27:27). The nautical problem is worked out by Smith (p. 125 f.). (2) Driven in the direction indicated, the ship could not enter St. Paul’s Bay without passing within a quarter of a mile of the low rocky point called Koura, and it was the ominous roar of the waves breaking on this headland-a sound at once detected by practised ears-that led the sailors to surmise that some land, which they could not see in the stormy night, was ‘nearing’ them ( Acts 27:27; προσάγειν is one of the many nautical terms which St. Luke heard the crew use; B* has προσάχειν = resonare ). (3) At the first indication of danger, orders were given to heave the lead, and the successive measurements of 20 and 15 fathoms ( Acts 27:28) exactly correspond to modern soundings taken at the entrance of the bay. (4) As the rapid shoaling proved that not a moment was to be lost, four anchors were cast from the stern, not, according to the usual practice, from the bow, for in that case the ship would have swung round from the wind, and either have wrecked herself in so doing, or at any rate have put herself in the worst position for grounding on the following day. The anchors could not have held in the hurricane except in a bottom of extraordinary tenacity, and the Sailing Directions state that ‘the harbour of St. Paul … is safe for small ships, the ground, generally, being very good; and while the cables hold there is no danger, as the anchors will never start’ (Smith, p. 132). (5) On attempting at daybreak to beach the ship, the sailors came unexpectedly upon ‘a place where two seas met’ (τόπον διθάλασσον,  Acts 27:41), which probably means (though there are other explanations of the difficult expression) the narrow channel between the little island of Salmonetta, on the western side of the bay, and the mainland. διθάλασσος, ‘two-sea’d,’ was a term commonly used to describe the great Bosporus (Strabo, II.  Acts 27:12), and St. Luke notes the fact that the ship met her fate at the end of a miniature Bosporus. (6) When she grounded herself on a bank covered with water too deep for wading, ‘the prow struck’ ( Acts 27:41). This fits the conditions exactly, for the nearest soundings to the mud indicate a depth of 3 fathoms, which is what the corn-ship would draw; and the bottom which she struck is ‘of mud graduating into tenacious clay, into which the fore part would fix itself and be held fast, whilst the stern was exposed to the force of the waves’ (Smith, p. 144). (7) The only physical feature that is now missing is the sandy or shingly beach (αἰγιαλόν,  Acts 27:39), but there are indications that a creek (κόλπον δέ τινα) ‘must at one time have had a beach which has been worn away, in the course of ages, by the wasting action of the sea’ (Smith, p. 247).

The scene of the wreck was about 8 miles N.W. of Valetta, and 5 miles N. of Medina, or Citta Vecchia, the old capital. The local tradition on the subject is certainly ancient, either dating back to the event itself, or resting on early and reasonable conjecture. The earliest maps of Malta, made in the 16th cent., contain the Cale di S. Paolo . To the Hellenist Luke the kind-hearted natives of the island were ‘barbarians’ ( Acts 28:4), a term which does not imply that they were savages, but merely that they did not speak Greek. They belonged to the highly civilized Phœnician race, of which the Carthaginians were a branch. The educated men in the island, of course, knew Greek, and bilingual inscriptions, in Greek and Punic, come down from the 1st century. St. Paul and his company spent three months in Melita, and Publius, the πρῶτος, or chief man, of the island, who was subject to the praetor of Sicily, treated them with marked respect ( Acts 28:7;  Acts 28:10). That πρῶτος was an official designation is proved by a Greek inscription bearing the name of Prudens, a Roman knight, πρῶτος Μελιταίων καὶ Πάτρων, and by a Latin one containing the words ‘Municipii Melitensium primus omnium.’ The fact that no snakes ( Acts 28:3), either venomous or harmless, are now found in Melita is accounted for by the increase of the population and the cultivation of the soil. St. Paul’s further labours in Melita, apart from certain acts of healing ( Acts 28:8-9), are left unrecorded by the historian, whose mind and pen hurry on to Rome. And one other fact which tells decisively against the Dalmatian Melita is the call which the Dioscuri made at Syracuse on the way to Puteoli ( Acts 28:12). There was a tradition, referred to by Chrysostom ( Hom. 54) that St. Paul’s stay at Melita resulted in the conversion of the inhabitants. The Maltese have attached the name of San Paolo to a church (1610) and a tower near the bay, and they drink out of the ‘ Ayin tal Razzal ’, or Fountain of the Apostle.

Literature.-Albert Mayr, Die Insel Malta im Altertum , 1909; W. M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen 5, 1900, p. 314 f.; W. J. Conybeare and J. S. Howson, St. Paul , 1865, ii. 421 f.; R. L. Playfair, in Murray’s Handbook to the Mediterranean 3, 1890.

James Strahan.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [2]

The scene of Paul's shipwreck (Acts 27-28). Not the Melita now Meleda in the gulf of Venice near Dalmatia; but the Melita between Sicily and Africa, Malta, where tradition names the place of the wreck "Paul's bay" (Mr. Smith, of Jordan Hill, Shipwreck of Paul). After leaving Fair Havens in Crete, and while sailing along its S. coast, the wind blew from E.N.E. (Euraquilon in the Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus manuscripts instead of Euroclydon), carrying them under the lee of the island Clauda (or Cauda, Vaticanus manuscript), 20 miles to the S.W. The Greek ( Acts 27:15, Antofthalmein ) is, "when the ship could not keep her eyes to the wind"; either figuratively, or literally eyes were carved or painted on the bows of the ship, an eastern usage still existing. Here, to enable the ship to weather the storm, they hoisted the boat on board, "undergirded the vessel" (Trapping It By Passing Four Or Five Turns Of Cable Round The Hull) , and "lowered the gear" ( Chalasantes To Skeuos Not "Struck Sail," Which If They Had Done They Would Have Been Driven Directly Toward The Syrtis Or Quicksand) , i.e. brought down the topsails and heavy yard with sail attached.

They then turned the ship's head to the N. on the starboard tack. the only course whereby to escape falling into the Syrtis. Thus, for 13 days they drifted through Adria, i.e. the middle of the Mediterranean between Crete and Sicily. If we deduce the ship's course from that of the wind, from the angle of the ship's head with the wind, and from the leeway, she must have drifted nearly W. by N., the precise bearing of the N. of Malta from the S. of Clauda. The rate of drift would average a mile and a half an hour, so that in 13 days she would pass over 468 miles; and Malta is from Clauda, just 476 miles. The striking coincidence at once identifies Malta as the scene, and confirms Luke's accuracy. On the 14th night "the seamen deemed that land was approaching them" (Greek), probably hearing the surf breaking. A ship entering Paul's bay from E. must pass within a quarter of a mile the point of Koura; but before reaching it the land is too low and too far to be seen in a dark night, but at this distance the breakers may be heard and also if the night admit, be seen.

The "land" then is the point of Koura E. of Paul's bay. A ship drifting W. by N. toward Paul's bay would come to it without touching any other part of the island, for the coast trends from this bay to the S.E. On Koura point, the bay's S.E. extremity, there must have been breakers with the wind blowing from N.E. Sounding they first found 20 fathoms, and a little further 15; and, fearing rocks ahead, east four anchors from the stern. Purdy (Sailing Directions) remarks on the tenaciousness of the bottom in Paul's bay, "while the cables hold there is no danger, the anchors will never start." After the frustrated attempt of the shipmen to flee in a boat, they lightened the ship of its wheat (brought from Egypt, the great granary of Italy,  Acts 27:6); they knew not the land (for Paul's bay is remote from the great harbor, and has no marked features to enable the Alexandrian seamen to know it), but discovered "a creek having a sandy beach ( Aigialon ) into which they determined if possible to strand the ship."

They cut the anchor cables, which had been let down at the stern rather than the bow, with the ulterior design of running her aground. Ships were steered by two paddles, one on each quarter. They were lifted out of water during anchorage in a gale, and secured by "rudder bands." These now they "loosed" in getting the ship again under weigh. Then "they hoisted up the foresail (not 'mainsail,' Artemon ) to the wind and made toward shore; and falling into a place where two seas met (Salmonetta, An Island At The W. Of Paul'S Bay, Which From Their Anchorage They Could Not Have Known To Be One, Is Separated From The Mainland By A Channel 100 Yards Wide Communicating With The Outer Sea; Just In The Sound Within Salmonetta Was Probably Where Two Seas Met) they ran the ship aground, and the forepart stuck fast, but the hinder was broken with the waves."

The rocks of Malta disintegrate into minute particles of sand and day, which when acted on by currents form a deposit of tenacious day; in still water of creeks without currents, at a depth undisturbed by waves, mud is found. A ship, driven by the wind into a creek, would strike a bottom of mud, graduating into tenacious clay; in this the forepart would stick fast. while the stern would be exposed to the violence of the waves. Captain Smyth's chart shows that after passing Koura point the ship coming from the E. passes over twenty fathoms, and pursuing the same direction after a short interval fifteen, a quarter of a mile from the shore which is here "girt with mural precipices."

The W. side of the bay, where the ship was driven, is rocky but has two creeks, one of which (Mestara) has still a sandy beach, and the other had one formerly, though now worn away by the sea. The Castor and Pollux after wintering in Melita proceeded with Paul to Puteoli ( Acts 28:11-13) by way of Syracuse and Rhegium. Therefore Melita lay on the regular route between Alexandria and Puteoli, which Malta does; and Syracuse, 80 miles off, and Rhegium would be the natural track from the neighboring Malta. "They knew the island" ( Acts 28:1) when they landed as Melita. The natives are called "barbarians" ( Acts 28:2) not as savages, but as speaking neither Greek nor Latin ( Romans 1:14), but a Phoenician or Punic dialect corrupted by foreign idioms of the mixed population.

The disappearance of vipers now is due to the clearing away of the woods that sheltered them. The "no little kindness" of the natives shows they were no savages. Publius is called ( Acts 28:7)" chief man of the island," not from his "possessions," his father being still alive, but as lieutenant of the printer of Sicily, to whose province Malta was attached (Cicero, Verr. 2:4, section 18). Two inscriptions, Greek and Latin, in Civita Vecchia in Malta record the title "the chief ( Protos , Primus ) of the Maltese." Paul healed diseases and received in return "many honors" and "necessaries" ( Acts 28:9-10). Melita was famous for honey, fruit, cotton fabrics, building stone, and a breed of dogs. Shortly before Paul's visit his piratical Cilician countrymen made Melita their haunt; but the Christianity which he introduced has continued since, though sadly corrupted by superstition. The knights of John flourished here in later times.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [3]

MELITA. An island about sixty miles S. of Sicily, with an area of about ninety-five square miles. Its excellent position as a commercial station led to its early colonization by PhÅ“nicians and Greeks. It became subject to Carthage, but was conquered by the Romans in b.c. 218, and became part of the province of Sicily. But the Carthaginian and Libyan element predominated, hence St. Luke’s use of the phrase ‘the barbarous people’ (  Acts 28:2 ). There can be no doubt that this Melita was the scene of St. Paul’s shipwreck. The use of the name Adria (  Acts 27:27 ) led to an attempt to identify it with Melita in the Adriatic, but the term ‘Adria’ was freely applied to the sea E. and S.E. of Sicily, and the wind ‘Euraquilo’ (  Acts 27:14 ) would drive them from Crete to Malta if the captain, realizing that his chief danger was the Syrtis quicksands (  Acts 27:17 ), took the natural precaution of bearing up into the wind as much as the weather permitted. The description is precise. On the 14th night of their drifting, by sounding they found they were getting into shallower water, and cast out anchors; but when day dawned they saw before them a bay with a shelving beach, on which they determined to run the vessel. Therefore they hastily cast off the anchors, unfastened the rudders, which had been lashed during their drifting, and with the aid of these and the foresail tried to steer the ship to the beach. But before they reached it they ran on a shoal ‘where two seas met,’ and reached the shore only by swimming or floating on spars. Every detail of the narrative is satisfied by assuming that they landed on the W. side of St. Paul’s Bay, eight miles from Valetta, five miles from the old capital Città -Vecchia. The tradition which gave this as the scene was already old when our earliest map of Malta (a Venetian one) was made about a.d. 1530. As it is scarcely likely that the spot was identified by special investigations in the Middle Ages, this is a remarkable instance of the permanence and correctness of some early traditions. Incidentally, it is also a proof of the remarkable impression made on the inhabitants by the three months St. Paul was compelled to spend in the island. St. Luke relates only two incidents. As they made a fire for the shipwrecked men, a snake, aroused from the wood by the heat, fastened on St. Paul’s hand, and, to the surprise of the onlookers, did him no harm. The word ‘venomous’ (  Acts 28:4 ) is not properly in the text, and St. Luke does not state that it was a miraculous deliverance. But the natives thought it was, and therefore there probably were venomous snakes in Malta then. There are none now, but in an island with 2000 inhabitants to the square mile they would be likely to become extinct. The other incident was the curing of dysentery of the father of Publius (wh. see). Naturally there are local traditions of St. Paul’s residence, and the map referred to above has a church of St. Paul’s near the bay, but on its E. side. The first known bishop of Malta was at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

Malta has had a varied history since. Vandals, Normans, Turks all left their mark on it. In 1530, Charles v. gave it to the Knights of St. John who defended it three times against the desperate attacks of the Turks. In 1798, Napoleon seized it, but the English took it from him in 1800, and it has remained English hands since. But the population remains very mixed, the race and the native language retaining much of the Arabic element.

A. E. Hillard.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [4]

now called Malta, an island in the African or Mediterranean Sea, between Africa and Sicily, twenty miles in length and twelve in breadth, formerly reckoned a part of Africa, but now belonging to Europe. St. Paul suffered shipwreck upon the coast of Malta,  Acts 18:1-3 . In the opinion of Dr. Hales, the island where this happened was not Malta, but Meleda. His words are: "That this island was Meleda, near the Illyrian coast, not Malta, on the southern coast of Sicily, may appear from the following considerations:

1. It lies confessedly in the Adriatic Sea, but Malta a considerable distance from it.

2. It lies nearer the mouth of the Adriatic than any other island of that sea; and would, of course, be more likely to receive the wreck of any vessel driven by tempests toward that quarter. And it lies north-west by north of the southwest promontory of Crete; and came nearly in the direction of a storm from the south-east quarter.

3. An obscure island called Melite, whose inhabitants were ‘barbarous,' was not applicable to the celebrity of Malta at that time, which Cicero represents as abounding in curiosities and riches, and possessing a remarkable manufacture of the finest linen; and Diodorus Siculus more fully: ‘Malta is furnished with many and very good harbours, and the inhabitants are very rich; for it is full of all sorts of artificers, among whom there are excellent weavers of fine linen. Their houses are very stately and beautiful, adorned with graceful eaves, and pargetted with white plaster. The inhabitants are a colony of Phenicians, who, trading as merchants, as far as the western ocean, resorted to this place on account of its commodious ports and convenient situation for maritime commerce; and by the advantage of this place, the inhabitants frequently became famous both for their wealth and their merchandise.'

4. The circumstance of the viper, or venomous snake, which fastened on St. Paul's hand, agrees with the damp and woody island of Meleda, affording shelter and proper nourishment for such, but not with the dry and rocky island of Malta, in which there are no serpents now, and none in the time of Pliny.

5. The disease with which the father of Publius was affected, dysentery combined with fever, probably intermittent, might well suit a country woody and damp, and probably, for want of draining, exposed to the putrid effluvia of confined moisture; but was not likely to affect a dry, rocky, and remarkably healthy island like Malta."

Smith's Bible Dictionary [5]

Mel'ita. (Honey). The modern Malta . This island lies in the Mediterranean, 60 miles south of Cape Passaro in Sicily, 900 miles from Gibraltar and about 1200 miles from Jerusalem. It is 17 miles long by 13 or 10 miles broad. It is naturally a barren rock, with no high mountains, but has been rendered fertile by industry and toil. It is famous for its honey and fruits. It is now in the hands of the English. - McClintock and Strong.

This island has an illustrious place in Scripture as the scene of that shipwreck of St. Paul, which is described in such minute detail in the Acts of the Apostle.  Acts 27:1.

The wreck probably happened at the place traditionally known as St.Paul's bay, an inlet with a creek two miles deep and one broad. The question has been set at rest forever by Mr. Smith of Jordan Hill, in his "Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul," the first published work in which it was thoroughly investigated from a sailor's point of view. The objection that there are no vipers in Malta is overruled by the fact that Mr. Lewin saw such a serpent there, and that there may have been vipers in the wilder ancient times, even were none found there now.

As regards the condition of the island of Melita, when St. Paul was there, it was a dependency of the Roman province of Sicily. Its chief officer, (under the governor of Sicily), appears from inscriptions to have had the title of Protos Melitaion , or Primus Melitensium , and this is the very phrase which Luke uses.  Acts 28:7. Melita, from its position in the Mediterranean and the excellence of its harbors, has always been important in both commerce and war. It was a settlement of the Phoenicians at an early period, and their language in a corrupted form, was still spoken there in St. Paul's day.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [6]

The name Melita was anciently applied to two islands; one in the Adriatic Sea, on the coast of Illyricum, now called Meleda; the other in the Mediterranean, between Sicily and Africa, now called Malta. That the latter is the one on which Paul suffered shipwreck is evident both from the direction of the wind which blew him thither, (See  Acts 27:27   28:1 .

Malta is a rocky island, sixty-two miles south of Sicily, seventeen miles long and nine broad, and containing nearly one hundred square miles, and 100,000 inhabitants. At an early period it was seized by the Phoenicians; these were dispossessed by the Greeks of Sicily; they by the Carthaginians; and they in turn, 242 B. C., by the Romans, who held it in the time of Paul. After numerous changes, it fell at length into the hands of the English, who since 1814 have held undisputed possession of it. The name of "St Paul's bay" is now borne by a small inlet on the north side of the island, opening towards the east, which answers well to the description in  Acts 27:1-44 . Here Paul was protected by the hand of God, amid perils on shore as well as in the sea. He remained here three months, and wrought many miracles.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [7]

Melita ( Mĕl'I-Tah ), Honey, modern Malta. A small island in the Mediterranean Sea, 60 miles south of Sicily. It is 17 miles long by 9 or 10 broad. This island is noted in Scripture as the scene of the shipwreck of Paul  Acts 27:1-44. The wreck probably happened at the place known as St. Paul's Bay, an inlet with a creek two miles deep and one broad. Its chief officer (under the Roman governor of Sicily) appears from inscriptions to have had the precise title which Luke uses.  Acts 28:7.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [8]

The island on which Paul was shipwrecked. He and the whole of the ship's company were received kindly by the inhabitants. Paul cured the father of the chief man and many others. They stayed there three months, and were bountifully supplied when they left.  Acts 28:1-11 . It is the well-known island of Malta in the Mediterranean.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [9]

Malta, Melita

An island in the Mediterranean sea, rendered memorable in Scripture from Paul's landing there, ( Acts 28:1, etc.) so called from Mai, honey.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [10]

 Acts 27:28 Acts 28 Acts 28:7 Acts 28:13,14

Holman Bible Dictionary [11]

 Acts 28:1

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [12]

Copyright StatementThese files are public domain. Bibliography InformationMcClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Melita'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [13]

Mel´ita, an island in the Mediterranean, on which the ship which was conveying St. Paul as a prisoner to Rome was wrecked, and which was the scene of the interesting circumstances recorded in .

Melita was the ancient name of Malta, and also of a small island in the Adriatic, now called Meleda, and each of these has found warm advocates for its identification with the Melita of Scripture. The received and long-established opinion is undoubtedly in favor of Malta; and those who uphold the claims of Meleda are to be regarded as dissenting from the general conclusion. This dissent proceeds chiefly upon the ground that the ship of St. Paul was 'driven about in (the sea of) Adria.' when wrecked on Melita. But it has been shown from ancient writers, that the name Adria was not, in its ancient acceptation, limited to the present Adriatic Sea, but comprehended the seas of Greece and Sicily, and extended even to Africa. Consequently the only strong argument in favor of Meleda must be regarded as having been entirely overthrown.

The name of St. Paul's Bay has been given to the place where the shipwreck is supposed to have taken place This, the sacred historian says, was at 'a certain creek with a shore,' i.e. a seemingly practicable shore, on which they purposed, if possible, to strand the vessel, as their only apparent chance to escape being broken on the rocks. In attempting this the ship seems to have struck and gone to pieces on the rocky headland at the entrance of the creek This agrees very well with St. Paul's Bay, more so than with any other creek of the island. This bay is a deep inlet on the north side of the island, being the last indentation of the coast but one from the western extremity of the island. It is about two miles deep, by one mile broad. The harbor which it forms is very unsafe at some distance from the shore, although there is good anchorage in the middle for light vessels. The most dangerous part is the western headland at the entrance of the bay, particularly as there is close to it a small island (Salamone), and a still smaller islet (Salamonetta), the currents and shoals around which are particularly dangerous in stormy weather. It is usually supposed that the vessel struck at this point. From this place the ancient capital of Malta (now Citta Vecchia, Old City) is distinctly seen at the distance of about five miles; and on looking towards the bay from the top of the church on the summit of the hill whereon the city stands, it occurred to the present writer that the people of the town might easily from this spot have perceived in the morning that a wreck had taken place; and this is a circumstance which throws a fresh light on some of the circumstances of the deeply interesting transactions which ensued.

The sacred historian calls the inhabitants 'barbarians:'—'the barbarous people showed us no small kindness.' This is far from implying that they were savages or uncivilized men; it merely intimates that they were not of Greek or Roman origin. This description applies to the ancient inhabitants of Malta most accurately; and as it could not apply to the inhabitants of Melida, who were Greeks, this is another argument to show that not Melida but Malta is the Melita of Scripture.

The island of Malta lies in the Mediterranean, about sixty miles south from Cape Passaro in Sicily. It is sixty miles in circumference, twenty in length, and twelve in breadth. Near it, on the west, is a smaller island, called Gozo, about thirty miles in circumference. Malta has no mountains or high hills, and makes no figure from the sea. It is naturally a barren rock, but has been made in parts abundantly fertile by the industry and toil of man. The island was first colonized by the Phoenicians, from whom it was taken by the Greek colonists in Sicily, about B.C. 736; but the Carthaginians began to dispute its possession about B.C. 528, and eventually became entire masters of it. From their hands it passed into those of the Romans B.C. 242, who treated the inhabitants well, making Melita a municipium, and allowing the people to be governed by their own laws. The government was administered by a propraetor, who depended upon the praetor of Sicily; and this office appears to have been held by Publius when Paul was on the island . On the division of the Roman Empire, Melita belonged to the western portion; but having, in A.D. 553, been recovered from the Vandals by Belisarius, it was afterwards attached to the empire of the East. About the end of the ninth century the island was taken from the Greeks by the Arabs, who made it a dependency upon Sicily, which was also in their possession. The Arabs have left the impress of their aspect language, and many of their customs, upon the present inhabitants, whose dialect is to this day perfectly intelligible to the Arabians and to the Moors of Africa. Malta was taken from the Arabs by the Normans in A.D. 1090, and afterwards underwent other changes till A.D. 1530, when Charles V, who had annexed it to his empire, transferred it to the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, whom the Turks had recently dispossessed of Rhodes. Under the knights it became a flourishing state, and was the scene of their greatest glory and most signal exploits. The institution having become unsuited to modern times, the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, commonly called Knights of Malta, gradually fell into decay, and the island was surrendered to the French under Bonaparte when on his way to Egypt in 1798. From them it was retaken by the English with the concurrence and assistance of the natives; and it was to have been restored to the Knights of Malta by the stipulations of the treaty of Amiens; but as no sufficient security for the independence of the Order (composed mostly of Frenchmen) could be obtained, the English retained it in their hands, which necessary infraction of the treaty was the ostensible ground of the war which only ended with the battle of Waterloo. The island is still in the hands of the English, who have lately remodeled the government to meet the wishes of the numerous inhabitants. It has recently become the actual seat of an Anglican bishopric, which however takes its title from Gibraltar out of deference to the existing Roman Catholic bishopric of Malta, a deference not paid to the Oriental churches in recently establishing the Anglican bishopric of Jerusalem.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [14]

mel´i - ta ( Μελίτη , Melı́tē ,   Acts 28:1 ): Is now generally identified with Malta. The former error in attributing the reference to the island of Meleda on the East coast of the Adriatic Sea was due to the ancient practice of employing the term Adria to include the Ionian and Sicilian seas.

Malta is the largest of a group of islands including Gozo and the islets Comino, Cominotto and Filfla, lying about 56 miles from the southern extremity of Sicily, 174 from the mainland of Italy, and 187 from the African coast. Malta itself  Isaiah 17   1/2 miles long and 9 1/4 broad, and contains an area of 95 square miles. Its modern capital, Valetta, is situated in 35 degrees 54' North latitude and 14 degrees 31' East longitude.

The central position of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea gave it great importance as a naval station. It was probably at first a Phoenician colony, and later passed under the influence, if not domination, of the Sicilian Greeks. But the Romans captured it from the Carthaginians in 218 Bc (Livy xxi. 51) and attached it definitely to the province of Sicily. Under Roman rule the inhabitants were famous for their industry, especially in the production of textile fabrics, probably of native cotton. The celebrated vestis melitensis was a fine and soft material for dresses and for the covering of couches (Cicero Verr . ii. 72,176; ii. 74,183; iv. 46,103; Diodorus v. 12,22). At the time when Paul visited the island it would seem that the administration was entrusted to a deputy of the proprietor of Sicily, who is referred to as prṓtos Melitaı́ōn (  Acts 28:7; CIG , 5754), or Melitensium primus omnium ( CIL , x, 7495) (see Publius ). A bay 2 1/2 miles Northwest of Valetta, the mouth of which is held by tradition to be the place where the vessel that bore Paul ran ashore, tallies admirably with the description of the locality in Acts. The Admiralty charts indicate places near the west side of the entrance to the bay, where the depth is first 20 ft. and then 15 ft., while the rush of the breakers in front of the little island of Salmoneta and behind it suit the reference to a place "where two seas met" ( Acts 27:41 ). The inlet is called the Bay of Paul. The topographical question has been exhaustively treated by Ramsay in St. Paul the Traveler .