An independent state consisting of three islands in the mediterranean sea, south of sicily. Its capital is valetta. The major island is malta, the two smaller islands are comino and gozo. It was a phoenician and carthaginian colony, captured by the romans in 218 b.c. It was overrun by saracens in 870, taken by the normans in 1090, and subsequently held by the french and later the british who allotted them a dominion government in 1921. It became a crown colony in 1933, achieving independence in 1964. The name possibly comes from a pre-indoeuropean root mel, high, referring to its rocks, but a more picturesque origin derives the name from the greek melitta or melissa, honey, with reference to its early fame for its honey production.