The Roman Republic was founded in 509 B.C., replacing the earlier Roman Kingdom. After 27 B.C. it was established anew as an Empire after a series of civil wars and political conflict. Julius Caesar had been appointed as perpetual dictator only to be assassinated shortly after in 44 B.C., leading to further unrest, with Caesar's adopted son Octavian being challenged by his brother-in-law Mark Anthony. The latter, despite his marriage to Octavian's sister, was having a love affair with Cleopatra VII Philopator, Queen & Ruler of Egypt.
Octavian declared him a traitor and defeated Mark Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C., conquering Ptolemaic Egypt. In 27 B.C. the Roman Senate formally granted him full authority over the City and Empire under the new title Augustus, effectively making him the first emperor.
During this period Roman jurisdiction expanded throughout the Mediterranean and as far as Britain, all of Western, and most of South West Europe. At its peak in around 117 A.D. the entire shoreline of the Mediterranean Basin was under Roman control.
Malta was first raided by the Romans in 255 B.C. as part of the first Punic War, when Rome was still a Republic, and Malta a Carthaginian outpost.
Rome and Carthage were on friendly terms in the early days of the Republic, signing treaties and alliances. Between 288-83 B.C., Messena (now Messina) in Sicily was taken by Mamertine mercenaries (from the Campania region in mainland Italy), until their defeat in around 269-265 B.C. At this time, Sicily was still under the control of Greece and Carthage, who had been at war over this region since 580 B.C. Rome got involved when the remaining Mamertines appealed to the Republic for help to regain independence, leading to much deliberation between the senators. After promises of booty by Consul Appius Claudius Caudex, the Tribal Assembly voted to break its peace treaty, which clearly forbade Sicily to Rome, and this led to the first Punic War between 264-241A.D. It was during this war that Malta was first attacked by the Romans, in 255 B.C., devastating most of the Islands. By now, Rome had well understood the importance of naval power and modelled its fleet on those of its enemies. The Second Punic War broke out between 218-201 B.C., leading the Romans to invade Malta again while on their way to the African Coast, effectively ending Carthaginian rule of our Islands. According to Roman writer and historian Livy, the commander of the Punic garrison surrendered without resistance to Co-Consul Tiberius Sempronius Longus. The archipelago was incorporated as part of the province of Sicily and Malta was eventually renamed Melite, after the Roman town Melita was established in what we now call Mdina. Until then, Malta had been known as Maleth, Punic name meaning 'safe haven'.
The islands prospered under Roman rule and by the 1st century A.D. Malta had its own senate and people's assembly distinguished as a Municipium and Foederata Civitas, with both Malta and Gozo minting their own distinctive coins based on Roman weight measurements. Latin became Malta's official language, along with the introduction of Roman religion. Despite this, the local Punic-Hellenistic culture and language is thought to have survived until at least the 1st century A.D., and in 60 A.D., the Acts of the Apostles state that Saint Paul was shipwrecked here, bringing Christianity to the islands. Many traces of a rich Roman culture remain scattered across the islands, including temples, villas, apiaries, baths and fortifications.
Malta remained part of the Roman Empire until the early 6th century A.D. and fall of Rome and collapse of its Western heart. By then there is mention of incursions by the Vandals and Ostrogoths as from the 5th Century A.D., who might have even briefly occupied the islands around that time. No solid evidence of this remains however. In 533 A.D., Byzantine General Belisarius briefly landed at Malta while on his way from Sicily to North Africa, and by 535, the island was integrated into the Byzantine province of Sicily. During the Byzantine period, the main settlements remained the city of Melite on mainland Malta and the Citadel on Gozo.