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Names in Teal are the islands of the country.
In 1522 Suleiman the Magnificent,
Sultan of the Ottoman Empire attacked the Knights of St. John, the Hospitallers, in
their island kingdom of Rhodes, where they had retired after being defeated and
driven from the Holy Lands at the end of the 13th century. After a prolonged
siege, Suleiman conquered the Fortress at Rhodes, but allowed the surviving
knights, including Jean de la Valette, to depart.
The Siege of Malta, regarded as one of the critical battles of European history, lasted from mid-May to September 1565, with the final battle being waged at Mdina on September 11th of that year.
The Ottoman fleet landed at Marsaxlokk Bay and its troops pulled several batteries of cannons overland towards the Grand Harbor and Marsamxett Bay. The Turks regarded capturing Fort Saint Elmo as the key to controlling the Harbor and besieged it from Mount Sciberras as well as from the headlands to the west and east of the fort. Taking Fort Elmo required over a month of fierce fighting and resulted in the loss of thousands of combatants .
After conquering Fort Saint Elmo, the Ottomans were able to sail their fleet into Marsamxett Harbor and eventually carried some of their boats across Mount Sciberras and launched them into the Grand Harbor as part of the plan to capture Senglea and Birgu. The Ottomans had the higher ground on all sides of the remaining forts and the situation looked bleak for the Knights of Saint John and their supporters.
The battle resulted in route and the surviving Ottomans retreated to St. Paul’s Bay (St. Paul was shipwrecked here according to local history) where skiffs from nearby Ottoman fleet were waiting to rescue them. However, the escape was a doomed effort for both the Ottoman soldiers and part of their fleet.
Jean la Valette died three years after the battle having served his order and the island quite well. During this period, a settlement in his honor was established near Fort Saint Elmo on the slopes of Mount Sciberras. The settlement was named Valetta, now the capital of Malta.
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