Phoenician traders colonised the island of Malta some time around 1000 BC as a stop on their journeys around the Mediterranean. Phoenicia eventually fell to one of its former colonies, Carthage. Carthage is in Tunisia (which is about 200 miles west of Malta). The island became strategically important in thousands of years of conflict, with many rulers. The Maltese language evolved out of a variety of Arabic spoken in Sicily. The Normans ('North men' descended from Scandinavian Pirates and Raiders) then conquered the islands. When the 'Knights of Malta' were driven out of Rhodes by the Ottoman Empire, they were given the island by the Holy Roman Emperor. The French and British later had turns, before Malta became a republic in 1974, then joined the European Union in 2004. Malta has flavours of everywhere, but is 89% Roman Catholic (about one church per 1000 people, or one for each day of the year).