The Science of Fortification in Malta in the Context of European Architectural Treatises and Military Academies
By João M. Mateus
Proceedings of the Second International Congress on Construction History, Cambridge University, 29 March-2 April 2006
Introduction: In order to understand why the fortifications of Malta evolved as they did, we need to study them in the context of the technical publications and military academies of the period. The science of fortification that developed during the three-century presence of the Knights on the island is a European science and the result both of theoretical debate and practical trials. This debate, which went on in military academies and in a variety of texts, discussed the merits and limitations of different models of attack and defence.
By 1530, when the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem landed in Malta, the invention of the press and the Renaissance rediscovery of the architectural ideals of antiquity had already contributed to the dissemination of a few texts on tactics and military construction. One of these was Comitis epitoma rei militari by Renatus Flavius Vegetius, written in the fourth century and subsequently copied and recopied in manuscript form. The book was printed for the first time – still in Latin – in Cologne around 1475, and later translated at various times into Italian, French, German, English and Spanish, right up to the end of the eighteenth century.