The Phoenicians are the first to discover the extraordinary strategic position of Malta, and have chosen it as base of their fervid commercial activities for over 300 years. The toponym “Malta” should derive from the Phoenician “Malit” that literally means refuge, shelter, asylum, and, given the geographical position of the island, seems to be an appropriate name.
The small archipelago has always been based on an economy projected on the outside, the sea, through a trade of exchange due to the lack of mineral resources and the narrowness of land available for agricultural exploitation. The multiplicity of external relations can occur in the presence, on Bahirija‘s site, of foreign settlers and in the discovery of Mycenaean ceramics.
The Phoenician presence in Malta is proved by the discovery of red pottery dated back to the VIII century BC, in indigenous settlements, proof of the cohabitation of the different groups. The two major cities mentioned by geographer Ptolemy are: Marsaxlokk, Rabat-Medina and, in the island of Gozo, Victoria’s site (Information that have been confirmed by archaeological researches, too).
Among the most famous places of worship there is surely the great extra-urban Tas-Silg’s shrine, consecrated to the Phoenician goddess Astarte, dating back to the Eneolithic period and used throughout the Phoenician period, until the I century BC.