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Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World Hardcover – Bargain Price, July 1, 2008
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Is the West engaged in a “clash of civilizations” with the Islamic peoples of the Middle East? According to Crowley, that clash occurred in the sixteenth century, when Islam, under the leadership of the Ottoman Turks, seemed poised to dominate most of Europe. The “impregnable city” of Constantinople had been taken in 1453, and by the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Turks were ensconced in the Balkans. The key to the struggle between the Turks and the Christian West was control of the eastern rim of the Mediterranean Sea. The Turks had a formidable fleet, while the divided, quarreling Christian states seemed particularly vulnerable. Yet, through a combination of valor, military skill, and blind luck, the Christian West prevailed. Crowley’s exciting saga shows this struggle as grim, heroic, and inspiring. At the siege of Malta, a few hundred knights, remnants of a crusading order, held off 30,000 invading Turks. At Lepanto, Christians and Turks engaged in a naval bloodbath that decisively stemmed the Islamic tide. A beautifully written chronicle of a great and seminal struggle. --Jay Freeman
“[Crowley] offers exquisitely delicate insights and undulating descriptive passages. Yet in his descriptions of the battles, his prose is so taut and tense, it is impossible not to be caught up in the harrowing action.”—Christian Science Monitor
“A masterly narrative that captures the religious fervor, brutality and mayhem of this intensive contest.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Gripping . . . This is a rare combination of a history book that reads with the detail, insight and pace of a novel.”—Tampa Tribune
“Crowley has an astonishing gift for narration; his account is as exciting as any thriller.”—Wall Street Journal
“Crowley’s page-turner history . . . deserves to be this [season’s] most recommended nonfiction book. . . . Rich in character, action, surprise, what transpired in those few desperate weeks is one of history’s best and most thrilling stories.”—Dallas Morning News
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Crowley's first book was not only brilliant, it was also a commercial success; this volume should do as well or even better, for it is narrative history at its best. Crowley, who reads Turkish, was able to consult Ottoman diaries and modern works in Turkish. His accounts of the many land and sea battles are vivid, dramatic and multilayered, as they tell the story from different points of view.
The story begins in 1521 when the Knights of St John (a Christian military order) were routed from the island of Rhodes by the Ottomans and forced to retreat to Malta. The Ottomans were making gains everywhere around the Mediterranean with the help of their allies the Barbary pirates. It was a time of Islamic ascendency as the European powers were in disarray from internal squabbling.
The bulk of the book deals with the siege of Malta (1565). This was arguably one of the most heroic and odds-defying battles in history. About 600 Knights of St John were up against 30,000 Ottoman Turks.Read more ›
I must admit to prejudice here. I still have my copy of Ernle Bradford's magnificent history The Great Siege--paperback, from 1966, cost 5 shillings, and getting quite threadbare from rereading every few years. When one great book like this can spawn a 40-year interest in the subject, you know that you have an outstanding work indeed. Bradford's book is almost entirely limited to the siege of Malta, whereas Crowley's book covers this in under 100 pages. You get much more detail with Bradford, and a dramatic sense of the struggle, much more so than with Crowley. The focus is narrower--so for breadth, turn to Crowley, for depth to Bradford. Both books will give you a look at the personalities involved, and both convey the aspects of warfare at the time. So this is a good addition to your history shelf.
The story of the struggle between the Islamic Ottoman Empire and Catholic Hapsburg Spain for control of the Mediterranean (with important consequences for the lands bordering the Mediterranean) as told by Crowley makes for compelling reading, filled with dazzling characters and astounding events. The Pope fleeing Rome in advance of an army of invading Turks was a real historical possibility, averted by a chain of circumstances perhaps much less likely than normally seems evident from this distance of time. Malta, a geographic key to the central Mediterranean withstood a massive Muslim attack and siege only by the narrowest of margins. And Lepanto, the last great battle of oared ships, could very easily have been lost by the Hapsburgs, and Islamic domination of Italy and the south of France and of Spain might well have followed, greatly altering the future course of events in Europe.
Crowly has done a superlative job of narrating this slice of history and making it wonderfully vivid.
Crowley wastes no time with preliminaries but gets quickly to work in the first chapter with Suleiman's attack on Rhodes. There's no beating around the bush here. Crowley does a terrific job looking at the art of war and how the two sides differed in their respective approaches to battle. On the one hand, the Knights of Saint John, who, like the Templar's, was an international organization with members pulled from the major European countries and provinces of the time. On the other was the Turkish army of Suleiman, large, mobile, well equipped and quick to mount an offensive; apparently lacking nothing needed for conquest. That the Christians were out-numbered is made clear. To the defenders of Malta the loss of any knight was a loss that was difficult if not impossible to replace. Suleiman had numbers on his side and spent freely suffering huge casualties for the time of both his soldiers and slaves. It was all out warfare. Rhodes was strategically important, in part, due to the loss of Constantinople in 1453. However, the loss of Rhodes could not compare to the loss of Malta fifty years later. Without Malta, Italy would become the "front lines" in the battle between Christendom and the door to Europe would be open.
Crowley also does a masterful job by incorporating primary sources where possible. Descriptions by eyewitnesses are scattered throughout the text and add an important element to the book.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
One of the best history books that I have read. It almost reads like an adventure trilogy, with the three major sections of the book each focused on their own intertwined stories... Read morePublished 11 days ago by Aaron R. Smith
More relevant today than ever. It is indeed time to learn from history, and that history is brought to life in "Empires of the Sea".Published 16 days ago by kenneth mcgurn
This is another historical book on the same theme when the Ottoman Empire siege Island of Rhodes to kill the Christians and banished the Knight of St. John after a great battle. Read morePublished 17 days ago by Tanya Malone
Very interesting and informative -- historical understanding of Ottoman Empire versus Holy Roman Empire.Published 23 days ago by Clark Nichols
Easy to read, thorough, and well-written account of an historical theater that many do not hear much about.Published 25 days ago by Amazon Customer