Sciberras Peninsula

Capture of Fort St Elmo by Matteo Perez d'Aleccio

Capture of Fort St Elmo by Matteo Perez d’Aleccio

Valetta was founded on this day in the year 1566 on the Sciberras Peninsula in Malta.  The foundation stone for the City was laid by the eponymous Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller Order, Jean de Valette.

It is fitting that the Maltese capital should be named after Valette.  It was he who commanded the defence of the Island against the Turkish invasion the previous year.  A force of only 500 knights and about 2,000 soldiers defended the island against an invading force of Turks and Algerians numbering between 30,000 and 50,000.

The defending force withstood 4 months of constant frontal attacks by elite Turkish troops and endured a relentless barrage from the Turkish cannon.  They rebuilt walls even as they were destroyed.

It was one of the greatest and most uplifting victories in history.  It is one of three great battles that stemmed the expansion of the Ottoman Empire; the others being the Siege of Vienna and Lepanto.

Valetta was built upon the ruins of Fort St Elmo, which was lost to the Turks in the siege.  The small star shaped fort was reduced to rubble by Turkish guns within a week of their arrival.  Still, it held out for two incredible months, the defenders fighting for every scrap of stone with every drop of their blood.  St Elmo took the lives of 6,000 Turkish attackers, and half of the elite Janissary force.

Farewell to Malta; by Lord Byron

Adieu, ye joys of La Valette!
Adieu, sirocco, sun, and sweat!
Adieu, thou palace rarely enter’d!
Adieu, ye mansions where I’ve ventured!
Adieu, ye cursed streets of stairs!
(How surely he who mounts you swears!)
Adieu, ye merchants often failing!
Adieu, thou mob for ever railing!
Adieu, ye packets without letters!
Adieu, ye fools who ape your betters!
Adieu, thou damned’st quarantine,
That gave me fever, and the spleen!
Adieu, that stage which makes us yawn, Sirs,
Adieu, his Excellency’s dancers!
Adieu to Peter–whom no fault’s in,
But could not teach a colonel waltzing;
Adieu, ye females fraught with graces!
Adieu, red coats, and redder faces!
Adieu, the supercilious air
Of all that strut ‘en militaire’!
I go–but God knows when, or why,
To smoky towns and cloudy sky,
To things (the honest truth to say)
As bad–but in a different way.

Farewell to these, but not adieu,
Triumphant sons of truest blue!
While either Adriatic shore,
And fallen chiefs, and fleets no more,
And nightly smiles, and daily dinners,
Proclaim you war and woman’s winners.
Pardon my Muse, who apt to prate is,
And take my rhyme–because ’tis ‘gratis.’

And now I’ve got to Mrs. Fraser,
Perhaps you think I mean to praise her­
And were I vain enough to think
My praise was worth this drop of ink,
A line–or two–were no hard matter,
As here, indeed, I need not flatter:
But she must be content to shine
In better praises than in mine,
With lively air, and open heart,
And fashion’s ease, without its art;
Her hours can gaily glide along,
Nor ask the aid of idle song.

And now, O Malta! since thou’st got us,
Thou little military hothouse!
I’ll not offend with words uncivil,
And wish thee rudely at the Devil,
But only stare from out my casement,
And ask, for what is such a place meant?
Then, in my solitary nook,
Return to scribbling, or a book,
Or take my physic while I’m able
(Two spoonfuls hourly by the label),
Prefer my nightcap to my beaver,
And bless the gods I’ve got a fever.

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