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Melita (personification)

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Title: Melita (personification)  
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Subject: History of Malta, Symbols of Malta, Allegory of Hispania, Kartvlis Deda, Mother Serbia
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Melita (personification)

Melita depicted on a £1 stamp designed by Edward Caruana Dingli issued on 28 August 1922

Melita is the personification of Malta or the Maltese people. The name originated from the Roman town of that name (Μελίτη, Melite in Ancient greek) which was destroyed and rebuilt several times by the Fatamids, Normans and the Order of Saint John and eventually renamed Mdina or Città Notabile.

The symbolic depiction of a country as a woman called by the Latin name of that country was common in the 19th Century (such as Britannia, Germania, Hibernia and Helvetia).


Melita has been portrayed a number of times on Maltese postage or revenue stamps. She appeared on 4 February 1899 on a 2/6 stamp designed by an unknown Malta Post Office official. She is shown wearing a helmet and a garment, while holding a sword in one hand and a shield in the other. The flags of Malta and of the Order of Saint John appeared behind her. This stamp was in use for many years until the 1920s. Special printings of this stamp were overprinted for revenue use from 1902 to 1908.

A different version of Melita was used for the 1922 definitive set designed by Edward Caruana Dingli. The design shows Melita wearing a garment over a breastplate showing the Maltese Cross, as well as a helmet and sandals. She is holding a rudder representing the Maltese in control of Malta's destiny. This was done because Malta had just achieved self-government a year before, and the stamps were commemorating this event.[1] This design was featured as a stamp-on-stamp in 2011, and it is considered as one of Malta's most beautiful stamps.[2]

The shilling values in this set used a different design by Gianni Vella. The Vella design showed two symbolic figures, a man representing Britain, holding a shield with the Union Jack and with his left hand resting on Melita, who is holding an olive branch. The design symbolized the protection and good relations between the two countries.[3]


Edward Caruana Dingli's Melita design was reused for the fifth series Maltese banknotes issued by the Central Bank of Malta.[4] This series was issued between 1989 and 2000 and was remained in use until 2008 when Malta adopted the Euro. The watermark on these and previous banknotes also shows the head of the allegorical figure Melita.[5]


  1. ^ "Melita Issue of Malta Stamps: 1922-26". British Empire Philately. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  2. ^ "Commemorative Stamp Issue - 90th Anniversary of the Malta Senate and Legislative Assembly".  
  3. ^ Bonavia, Carmel (4 December 2011). "Stamps marking Malta’s constitutional development".  
  4. ^ "The Maltese Identity".  
  5. ^ "Maltese banknotes - 5th Series and enhanced version (not legal tender after 31 January 2008)".  
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