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457 years ago: The Great Siege’s first attacks took place within a quaint Zejtun road
The Turks first arrived in Maltese waters on 18th May 1565.

Benjamin Abela

The Great Siege of Malta is easily one of the largest and most significant military operations to ever impact the islands – having said that, this months-long war was launched by a series of attacks in the quiet streets of Zejtun.

Not exactly how you’d expect a massive siege to kick off, right?

Zejtun resident Sean Chircop took to social media to offer some insight into this historic attack.

“On 19th May 1565, the Turkish army started attacking Marsaxlokk, an event which led to the launch of what is nowadays referred to as The Great Siege of Malta,” Sean wrote.

“Zejtun had an important role throughout The Great Siege, since the war’s first attacks took place within the area of Hal Gwann, nowadays known as Triq San Gwann. This road served as the backdrop to the first battles and kidnappings,” he continued.

The Turks first arrived in Malta on Friday 18th May, however it wasn’t until the following day that they made land.

At face value, the Turkish army was far stronger than the Knights’, having been made up of around 40,000 soldiers. The Knights of St John, on the other hand, was made of just 6,100 men – only 2,500 of which were formally trained soldiers.

The remaining 3,600 fighters were servants, galley slaves, and militia.

“In the early hours of 19th May, the Turkish fleet started moving back to Marsaxlokk Bay. By midday, Muslin contingents had begun to land and, by evening, about 3,000 men were ashore and advancing on Zejtun in the hope of capturing slaves and livestock,” Sean continued, quoting a Times of Malta article penned by history writer Joseph F. Grima.

“However, a Christian cavalry detachment ran into some Turkish advance patrols. In the ensuing skirmish, the French Knight Adrien de la Riviere and the Portuguese novice Bartholomeo Faraone were captured by the Turks,” he added.

History writer Joseph F. Grima

The Turks continued to set up their main camp in Marsa, together with other additional camps and batteries on  Santa Margherita Hill and the Sciberras Peninsula.

On 21st May, the Turkish army commenced its attacks on Birgu, and a day later, on Senglea.

Main image: Sean Chircop / Facebook

20th May 2022


Benjamin  Abela
Written by
Benjamin Abela
Benjamin is a Writer at Content House Group. With his background in journalism, marketing, and the arts, Benjamin enjoys finding the human aspect to any story he gets a hold of. When he's not too busy writing his next article, you could probably find him playing with his cats or performing on a stage.

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