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  • Hardcover
  • 336 pages
  • Empires of the Sea: The Final Battle for the Mediterranean, 1521-1580
  • Roger Crowley
  • English
  • 24 October 2018
  • 9781400066247

About the Author: Roger Crowley

Roger Crowley was born in 1951 and spent part of his childhood in Malta He read English at Cambridge University and taught English in Istanbul, where he developed a strong interest in the history of Turkey He has traveled widely throughout the Mediterranean basin over many years and has a wide ranging knowledge of its history and culture He lives in Gloucestershire, England.

10 thoughts on “Empires of the Sea: The Final Battle for the Mediterranean, 1521-1580

  1. says:

    Cervantes, of the Don Quixote fame, was in one of these battles He was a 24 year old volunteer.Now I know that hundreds of years ago the Mediterranean Sea and its surrounding land areas were considered the center of the world and were a battleground for two great conflicting forces the Muslims Turks the Ottoman Empire and the Christians the French, Spaniards, Venetians, the war waging Popes, etc The Muslims and Christians call each other infidels and had a deep desire for each other s extinguishment There were also pirates on both sides of this religious divide which the author preferred to call corsairs They already had guns and cannons on those days The gun was called arquebus which was fatal only at short distances Warships were powered by rowers done by galley slaves often chained to their rowing benches to prevent escape or suicide Gut wrenching were the descriptions of battles and pillages, but it was no less so of these poor, miserable creatures In the heyday of Venetian sea power in the fifteenth century, galleys had been rowed by volunteers by the sixteenth, the muscle power was generally conscripted The Ottoman navy relied heavily on an annual levy of men from the provinces of Anatolia and Europe, and everyone employed chain labor captured slaves, convicts, and, in the Christian ships, paupers so destitute they sold themselves to the galley captains It was these wretches, chained three or four to a foot wide bench, who made sea wars possible Their sole function was to work themselves to death Shackled hand and foot, excreting where they sat, fed on meagre quantities of black biscuits, and so thirsty they were sometimes driven to drink seawater, galley slaves led lives bitter and short The men, naked apart from a pair of linen breeches, were flayed raw by the sun sleep deprivation on the narrow bench propelled them toward lunacy the stroke keeper s drum and the overseer s lash a tarred rope or a dried bull s penis whipped them beyond the point of exhaustion during long stretches of intensive effort when a ship was trying to capture or escape another vessel The sight of a galley crew at full stretch was as brutal as any a man could wish to be spared That least tolerable and most to be dreaded employment of a man deprived of liberty, wrote the eighteenth century English historian Joseph Morgan, conjuring up the vision of ranks and files of half naked, half starved, half tanned, meagre wretches, chained to a plank, from whence they remove not for months at a timeurged on, even beyond human strength, with cruel and repeated blows, on the bare flesh, to an incessant continuation of the most violent of exercises God preserve you from the galleys of Tripoli, was a customary valediction to men putting to sea from a Christian port Disease could decimate a fleet in weeks The galley was an amoebic death trap, a swilling sewer whose stench was so foul you could smell it two miles off it was customary to sink the hulls at periodic intervals to cleanse them of shit and rats but if the crew survived to enter a battle, the chained and unprotected rowers could only sit and wait to be killed by men of their own country and creed The nominally free men who made up the bulk of the Ottoman rowing force fared little better Levied by the sultan in large numbers from the empire s inland provinces, many had never seen the sea before Inexperienced and inefficient as oarsmen, they succumbed in large numbers to the terrible conditions One way or another the oared galley consumed men like fuel Each dying wretch dumped overboard had to be replaced and there were never enough When a town, settlement, fortress or city is captured always after a siege long or short there wouldn t be just a change of government The victors would loot and ransack the place, take whole able bodied populations as slaves, and those whom they find no need for like the sick or the very young or the very old they would hack to pieces or have their skulls split open.In one battle there was a negotiated surrender The leaders were offered safe passage by the victorious Ottoman chief But his Christian counterpart exhibited haughtiness even in defeat So the Ottoman had the latter s ears and nose lopped off Then he ordered him skinned alive He died only after half of his body s skin was gone.A great historical narrative helped a lot by the fact that those warring forces were the world s superpowers at those times and had each other s atrocities faithfully recorded to show how great human beings and their religions were, with their deeds of valor watched by their common god they call by different names.

  2. says:

    Later that day the guns of Saint Angelo opened up A volley of human heads bombarded the Ottoman camp across the water There would be no repeat of the chivalrous truce at Rhodes As noted this marks my first ever tandem read with my brother I am immensely proud of him but few would ever regard him as bookish He had a brief infatuation with Rimbaud and Keats 20 years ago but that was soon abandoned He now works on or around Pennsylvania Avenue His attitudes have softened and become nuanced Over Thanksgiving I had expressed an ongoing interest in Medieval Renaissance matters and we wound up agreeing on this text.I remarked rather quickly to my brother that this isn t great history but it is a compelling albeit horrifying narrative Mr Crowley couches his text in terms of a teleology, an ongoing clash of civilizations which will only be resolved in some distant future There is no regard for the Pirenne Thesis There are simply arguments about a universal dichotomy, one of which neither party could agree on anything, not even the primacy of their conflict Nor is there any need in speaking of a consensus regarding either the Christians or the Muslims in the 16th Century The Holy Roman Empire devoted much of its resources to fighting the French and the Protestants than it ever did the Ottomans.That said what unfolds is bleak Navies of the time were dependant on rowers and this perk free position had to be filled by ongoing slaving Thus the soul of the World s Center was at stake and the means to victory were human bondage In his afterward, Crowley notes the abundance of accounts left from the events and its participants I wish he would ve spent time sifting, parsing and comparing the merits of rival testimony Call me an idealist, but isn t that the nature of a historian

  3. says:

    A number of years ago I gazed at the large painting of the Battle of Lepanto in the Doge s Palace in Venice, finding the work complex and intriguing But never having heard of the battle, I had difficulty fitting it into an historical context So it was with interest that I encountered Crowley s work, subtitled The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World The book accomplished what I had hoped it would, in perhaps detail than I needed.The period covered includes the middle eighty years of the sixteenth century, focusing on events in the Mediterranean During this time the expansionist goals of the Ottoman Empire collided with the troubled and defensive actions of Christendom in Western Europe For most of that time the internal unity of the former exceeded the often fragmented and mutually competing interests of the West, the Pope having his own agenda, France looking after its own interests, the Holy Roman Emperor intent on expanding his influence, Spain mostly concerned about the Western Mediterranean, and the often perfidious Venetians trying to play all sides against each other to protect its own commercial network Again and again fate seemed to favor the Ottomans as they repeatedly overran the Mediterranean, their final great success having been the capture of Malta, a pivotal location in the middle of the Sea Finally, at the Battle of Lepanto just outside the Gulf of Corinth, the Ottomans were defeated at terrible cost to all sides, effectively ending the competition over the sea that the Romans had once called Mare Nostrum.Crowley presents these events in exhaustive detail, documenting his research carefully It becomes a numbing tale of violence and cruelty on all sides and by all participants One cannot help but be aware that ancient sources tend to magnify events and inflate numbers of participants witness the writings of Herodotus and one wonders if and how Crowley has been able to insert a corrective to such exaggerations Even if only a fraction of what is presented is factually accurate, however, the casualties in these battles makes the losses we suffer in conflicts of today seem paltry indeed Only with the American Civil War and the trench warfare in France during WW I do we see anything comparable.I found the book interesting and am glad that I read it, since now I have a much better understanding of the issues and times during which this prolonged struggle occurred There were times during the reading when I became impatient with what seemed repetitive acts of horrific violence, but my discomfort was clearly trivial to the experiences of those people who lived through the events.

  4. says:

    part of a tetralogy including the fall of Constinople, the history of Venice s maritime Empire and the creation of the Portuguese Empire earliest written I think but latest chronologically as it covers the naval conflict for the Mediterranean between the Hapsburg empires especially of Spain under Charles Quintus and Philip II and assorted allies and the Ottoman Empire under Suleiman the Magnificent and the corsairs of North Africa from 1521 end the fall of Rhodes to the Ottomans to 1580 and the informal truce which essentially ended large scale naval warfare in the Mediterranean at least between the two powers corsairs, the liquidation of the remnants of Venice s empire and later extension of European colonial conflicts continued until the 19th century but the Mediterranean became mostly a backwater to the larger geopolitical issues after 1600 another page turner from the author with memorable events and characters Rhodes, Tunis, Barbarossa, Malta, Cyprus, Lepanto, Don Juan of Austria and a reasonable presentation of the events in what became a seemingly crucial operation theaters for the two main empires of the day, only to peter out due to mutual exhaustion and history moving away from the area and to the trans oceanic theater that would dominate from the late 1500 s onhighly recommended and the best of the author alongside the Constantinople siege as the relative compactness of the area and timeline allows the narrative skills of the author to shine

  5. says:

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  6. says:

    My third book by Crowley, and it won t be my last he s one of the best narrative historians I ve read Engrossing, authoritative, and crammed full of detail Highly recommended.In a nutshell in the 16th century, an expansionist, aggressive, and supremely organized Ottoman state focuses much of its attention on the Mediterranean, while squabbling European powers headed by Hapsburg Spain focus on the New World and internecine squabbling The stage is set for decades of piracy, raiding, and slaving, with acute outbreaks of intense fighting Rhodes, Preveza, Tunis, Malta, Lepanto Add a dash of religious fervor, a pinch of arms race, and a smidgen of technological and doctrinal military revolution and you ve got a recipe for a brutal meatgrinder of a see sawing half century of trans continental warfare It s intense stuff, some of which I knew and some of which I didn t, all of it put into context and explained holistically i.e., this isn t a book that s just about Lepanto.The good bits The Ottomans were besiegers nonpareil No army in the world could match the Ottomans in the art of siege warfare through espionage they came to Rhodes quite well informed about the defenses, and had made a realistic assessment of the task The Turks accordingly placed their ultimate confidence less in their siege guns than in subterranean devices the use of explosive mines As an aside and on the topic of sieges and the Ottomans, I highly recommend the novel The Siege by Ismail Kadare Even the best besiegers in the world get a run for their money every now and then, as at Rhodes How clever is this In case a tunnel should be missed, Tadini, in charge of defensive planning bored spiral vents in the walls foundations to disperse the force of explosive charges More on the significance of Rhodes, home to the Order of Saint John aka the Knights Hospitaler The gunpowder age and the development of accurate bronze cannon that fired penetrative iron balls were revolutionizing fortress design Italian military engineers developed their discipline as a science They mapped geometric angles of fire with compasses and used knowledge of ballistics to design radical solutions At Rhodes, the engineers constructed prototypes of this new military engineering massive walls, angled bastions of immense thickness that commanded wide fields of fire, slanted parapets to deflect shot, mountings for long range guns, splayed gun ports, inner defensive layers with concealed batteries, double ditches excavated to the depth of canyons, counterscarps that exposed an advancing enemy to a torrent of fire The new principles were depth defense and cross fire no enemy could advance without being hit from multiple vantage points, nor could he be sure what traps lay within Rhodes in 1522 was not just the best defended city on earth, it was also a laboratory of siege warfare Specialized knowledge is becoming and , well, special Suleiman s master gunner had his legs blown off by a cannonball a loss said to have been grievous to the sultan than that of any general The end of Christian Rhodes This kind of Christmas truce in no man s land chivalry wouldn t last The treaty was finally signed on December 20 Four days later L Isle Adam went to make his submission to Suleiman in a plain black habit, the garb of mourning The meeting was almost gentlemanly Suleiman was apparently moved by the bearded melancholy figure who stooped to kiss his hand, and by the knights gallant defense Through an interpreter, he consoled the visibly ageing L Isle Adam with sympathetic words on the vagaries of life that it was a common thing to lose cities and kingdoms through the instability of human fortune Turning to his vizier, he murmured, It saddens me to be compelled to cast this brave old man out of his home Two days later, in a further remarkable gesture, he made a visit to view the city he had captured, almost without guards and trusting to the knights honor As he left, he raised his turban in salute to his adversary Meanwhile, in Spain First impressions aren t always fair, but the Hapsburgs didn t make it easy Where the young Suleiman s calculated imperial demeanor struck all who saw him, Charles just looked an imbecile Generations of inbreeding within the Hapsburg dynasty had bequeathed an unkind legacy His eyes bulged he was alarmingly pale Any redeeming physical features that he did possess a well formed body, a broad forehead were immediately offset by the long protruding lower jaw that frequently left his mouth hanging open, which to those impolite enough or royal enough to remark on it, lent the young man an aspect of vacant idiocy His grandfather Maximilian bluntly called him a heathen idol Facial deformity made it impossible for Charles to chew food properly, so that he was troubled all his life by digestive problems, and the deformity left him with a stammer The king spoke no Spanish He seemed grave, tonguetied, stupid hardly the prospective emperor of the terrestrial globe Later given the name barbarossa or redbeard by the Europeans, Hayrettin was perhaps the best and most politically skillful pirate to operate in the Western Med So politically astute that he gained much of North Africa for the Ottomans, a snazzy title for himself in exchange, and a tomb that stands by the Bosphorus to this day NB the huge number of slaves the West simply couldn t get its act together Hayrettin s knowledge of the sea, drawn from thousands of voyages, was unmatched, and his intelligence on enemy intentions, gathered from the interrogation of captured crews and from the freely given advice of Spanish Muslims, allowed him to strike unpredictably and at will He made one or two sweeps a year with a flotilla of eighteen vessels, snatching merchant ships, burning coastal villages, and abducting populations Over a ten year period, he took ten thousand people from the coastline between Barcelona and Valencia alone a stretch of just two hundred miles Oops Btw, Spain still retains a number of both large and small enclaves in North Africa In May 1529, all these forces came to a head when Spain s neglect of its African outposts brought a defining catastrophe The Pe n of Algiers, the small fort that throttled the city and its port, ran short of gunpowder Spies reported the situation to Hayrettin, who immediately stormed it The commander, Martin de Vargas, was offered the choice of conversion to Islam or execution He chose to die He was beaten to death in front of the janissaries a slow and painful end Shortly afterward, a relief fleet of nine Spanish ships arrived at the Pe n, unaware of the catastrophe, and were all captured The West often conceives of the Muslim Turks as the Other, but they saw themselves at least for a time and in part as heirs to the same Roman heritage that many in the West claim as their own Suleiman staged his own rival triumphs, contriving a matching iconography to that of the Hapsburg Spaniards From the Venetians he had commissioned a set of ceremonial objects worthy of a Roman emperor a scepter, a throne, and an extraordinary jeweled helmet crown, which the Italians claimed had been a trophy of Alexander the Great He entered Belgrade in a cavalcade of opulent pageantry, with great ceremony and pomp and with pipes and the sound of different instruments, that it was an extraordinary thing to marvel at and he went through triumphal arches along the streets of his progress, according to the ancient customs of the Romans The Columbian Exchange disease for tomatoes and gold, and the odds in the Old World change ever so slightly In prospect, the armada to Tunis would cost another million, a sum of money Charles did not have The expedition against Barbarossa took place only because of events on the other side of the world On August 29, 1533, Francisco Pizarro had strangled Atahualpa, the last king of the Incas, at Cajamarca in the Andes, having extracted an immense quantity of gold for his ransom Spanish galleons supplied Charles with a windfall 1,200,000 ducats of South American gold for the holy enterprise of war against the Turk, Luther and other enemies of the faith The treasure house of Atahualpa paid for Charles s crusade It was the first time that the New World had altered the course of events in the Old If you time travel to the 16th century, don t live by the water s edge The disguised galleys fell on Mahon like the vengeance of God Barbarossa took the caravel, comprehensively sacked the town, and carried off eighteen hundred people There was a glut of goods in the slave market of Algiers The sultan didn t play games On the evening of March 5, 1536, Ibrahim came to the royal palace as usual to dine with Suleiman As he was leaving, he was surprised to meet Ali the executioner and a posse of palace slaves the ambitious vizier had overreached himself, almost assuming that the authority of the sultan was his own, and winning the particular disfavor of Suleiman s wife, Hurrem When the hacked body was discovered the following morning, it was apparent from the bloody walls that Ibrahim had gone down fighting The spattered room was left untouched for many years as a warning to ambitious viziers that it takes but a single Turkish consonant to fall from makbul the favored to maktul the executed Again, specialized skills can t be squandered Despite their huge population, the supply of skilled soldiers was not inexhaustible, and when the bishop of Dax saw the proudly rebuilt fleet, he was not impressed Having seen an armada leave this port made up of new vessels, built of green timber, rowed by crews which never held an oar, provided with artillery which had been cast in haste, several pieces being compounded of acidic and rotten material, with apprentice guides and mariners, and armed with men still stunned by the last battle Lepanto Don t fire until you see the whites of their eyes has a nicer ring to it, but it s the same idea Advice from a sage military man to Don Juan of Austria in the run up to the battle In reality it s not possible to fire twice without causing the greatest possible confusion In my opinion the best thing is to do what the cavalry say, and to fire the arquebuses so close to the enemy that their blood spurts over you I ve always heard captains who know what they re talking about say that the noise of the bow spurs breaking and the report of the artillery should be simultaneous or very close together Lepanto The conventional wisdom was to avoid an all out confrontation, but terrible intelligence led both sides to gamble on a large battle As the hours passed and the two armadas spread across the water, the full extent of the unfolding collision became apparent Along a four mile wide front, two enormous battle fleets were drawing together in a closed arena of sea The scale of the thing dwarfed all preconceptions There were some 140,000 men, soldiers, oarsmen, and crew, in some 600 ships something in excess of 70 percent of all the oared galleys in the Mediterranean Unease turned to doubt There were men on each side secretly appalled by what they saw Lepanto was an awful slaughter It was a scene of staggering devastation, like a biblical painting of the world s end The scale of the carnage left even the exhausted victors shaken and appalled by the work of their hands They had witnessed killing on an industrial scale In four hours 40,000 men were dead, nearly 100 ships destroyed, 137 Muslim ships captured by the Holy League Of the dead, 25,000 were Ottoman only 3,500 were taken alive Another 12,000 Christian slaves were liberated The defining collision in the White Sea gave the people of the early modern world a glimpse of Armageddon to come Not until Loos in 1916 would this rate of slaughter be surpassed What has happened was so strange and took on so many different aspects, wrote Girolamo Diedo, it s as if men were extracted from their own bodies and transported to another world I know too much about salmonella to tie a chicken over a bleeding stump On the stricken San Giovanni, the Spanish sergeant Martin Mu oz, lying below with fever, heard the enemy clattering up the deck overhead, and leaped from his bed determined to die Sword in hand, he hurled himself at the assailants, killed four, and drove them back before collapsing on a rowing bench, studded with arrows and with one leg gone, calling out to his fellows Each of you do as much On the Doncella, Federico Venusta had his hand mutilated by the explosion of his own grenade He demanded a galley slave cut it off When the man refused, he performed the operation himself and then went to the cook s quarters, ordered them to tie the carcass of a chicken over the bleeding stump, and returned to battle, shouting at his right hand to avenge his left The corrosive power of inflation, and the ever increasing influence of the New World At the same time, the influx of bullion from the Americas was beginning to hole the Ottoman economy below the waterline, in ways that were barely understood The Ottomans had the resources to outstay any competitor in the business of war, but they were powerless to protect their stable, traditional, self sufficient world against the pernicious effects of modernity There were no defensive bastions proof against rising European prices and the inflationary effects of gold In 1566, the year after Malta, the gold mint at Cairo the only one in the Ottoman world, producing coins from limited supplies of African gold devalued its coinage by 30 percent The Spanish real became the most appreciated currency in the Ottoman empire it was impossible to strike money of matching value The silver coins paid to the soldiers grew increasingly thin they were as light as the leaves of the almond tree and as worthless as drops of dew, according to a contemporary Ottoman historian With these forces came price rises, shortages, and the gradual erosion of the indigenous manufacturing base Raw materials and bullion were being sucked out of the empire by Christian Europe s higher prices and lower production costs From the end of the sixteenth century globalizing forces started stealthily to undermine the old social fabric and bases of Ottoman power The Leviathan of the state may not always be pleasant, but this kind of thing doesn t happen when you have a coast guard Also, cue up the Marine Corps hymn After 1580 the corsairs also deserted the sultan s cause and returned to man taking on their own account along the barren shores of the Maghreb The sea at the center of the world would face another two hundred miserable years of endemic piracy that would funnel millions of white captives into the slave markets of Algiers and Tripoli As late as 1815, the year of Waterloo, 158 people were snatched from Sardinia it took the New World Americans finally to scotch the menace of the Barbary pirates Venice and the Ottomans, permanently locked into the tideless sea, would contest the shores of Greece until 1719, but the power had long gone elsewhere Also, there s a character called Kara Hodja the black priest , an Italian priest turned Muslim corsair with a name like that, he d fit in on Game of Thrones , and Bragadin, one of the Venetian commanders at Rhodes who ultimately had his skin flayed from his body and stuffed before being paraded around Read this book.

  7. says:

    This may very well be the most exciting history book I ever read While it s obvious that the author has done some wide and excellent research, this book reads like an adventure story Action packed to the brim with extensive reports of various enormous battles, interesting characters and great storytelling, this is basically a study of the war between the Ottomans and some of Europe From the early skirmishes to the defining battle at Lepanto, I couldn t get enough of it.I read this around my holiday in Malta and I couldn t have imagined a better guide Reading about the nervewracking siege of fort St Elmo and walking around its perimeter the day after I really love these kinds of things I will never forget Malta and I will never forget this book.I will definitely read from this author.

  8. says:

    Interesting history about the Mediterranean I was mostly interested about the Knights of St John who defended Malta It felt to me that the author was sided to the Christian World and I rather have an unbiased opinion in nonfiction All in all, I feel like humans will never learn, and war will always plague us.

  9. says:

    If you are going to read this book, you d better like slaughter It features lots of blood Mostly, this occurs during sieges of fortified towns, but sea battles claim their fair share of victims too All of it is described with great gusto, skill and narrative flair by the author, who clearly loves a good battle and knows how to recount it In this, the book is similar to his previous work, 1453, which was largely devoted to the conquest of Constantinople by Mehmet the Conqueror Fast forward three quarters of a century to Mehmet s great grandson Suleiman the Magnificent known as the Lawgiver to the Ottomans , and once again the story and the carnage resume with Empires of the Sea.Crowley begins his story with the taking of Rhodes in 1522 Suleiman had been on the throne for only two years, and the tradition was that a sultan consolidated his authority early in his reign with a series of victories He had already conquered the fortress of Belgrade, in what is today Serbia The island of Rhodes was next Since it lay just off the coast of Turkey, and was a stronghold of the crusading Knights Hospitaller who had used it to keep a toehold in the Eastern Mediterranean ever since being booted out of the Holy Land upon the failure of the Crusades, Rhodes was an obvious target The Turks were very adept at siegecraft, and along with their massive advantage in manpower, took the Knights key fortress after a prolonged siege and great loss of life Suleiman generously allowed the defeated Knights to leave the island, thinking that would be the last of them He was wrong The balance of power in the sixteenth century in Europe and around the shores of the Mediterranean was mainly contested by two great powers the Ottoman Empire and the Hapsburg Empire The Ottomans territories stretched across much of North Africa, and then from the Middle East through Turkey and the Balkans, all the way to Hungary Their expansion into Central Europe was largely checked by the Hapsburgs, whose territories were a patchwork quilt across Europe, and included parts of Central Europe, Austria, parts of Germany, parts of Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain Suleiman the Magnificent was to enjoy a long reign of almost half a century, from 1520 to 1566, the longest serving sultan of the Ottoman Empire His main opponent, the Hapsburg King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, had a similarly long reign from 1516 1556 Both monarchs had other worries than just each other Suleiman was regularly engaged in wars in the Balkans as well as against the Persians, fighting a war against the Safavid Persian Empire that lasted nearly a quarter century Charles V had to deal with the very combative Kings of France and with rebellious subjects in the Netherlands At various times, the French would even go so far as to ally themselves against the Ottomans to counter the power of Charles V Complicating matters greatly for the Hapsburgs was the Protestant Reformation, which rapidly picked up energy throughout the century after Martin Luther nailed his famous Ninety Five Theses to the Wittenberg castle church door in 1517 Protestants, especially those of the Netherlands, did not take kindly to being ruled over by a Catholic king such as Charles even through Charles himself was born and raised in the Low Countries, having been born in Ghent.Through the rest of the 1520 s, after the victories of Belgrade and Rhodes, Suleiman s Ottoman armies expanded the empire relentlessly in the Balkans, defeating the Hungarians at the Battle of Mohacs in 1526 and reaching as far as the gates of Vienna in 1529 before suffering their first major defeat With the Hungarian Kingdom removed as a power, the Hapsburgs and Ottomans were directly at one another s throats, a struggle that continued into the 20th century until World War I finished off both empires.In the Mediterranean, the Ottomans expanded across North Africa, absorbing the Barbary States of Tripoli, Tunis and Algiers Autonomous provinces of the Empire, they were still an important part of the Ottoman military presence in the Western Mediterranean because of their fleets of corsairs The corsairs functioned partly as free lance pirates and partly as instruments of Ottoman naval power, seizing shipping and mounting coastal raids in Spain, the Balearic Islands and along the coast of Italy.In 1538, the Ottoman navy under the pirate and admiral Barbarossa defeated the naval forces of the Hapsburgs and their allies at the battle of Preveza, off the coast of Greece This largely secured the Ottomans control of the eastern half of the Mediterranean for some years This battle would be a prelude for the far larger naval battle to come at Lepanto later in the century, with the same naval powers facing each other.However, strategically situated in the middle of the Mediterranean was the island of Malta, off the coast of Sicily The Knights Hospitaller, after their defeat in Malta, had roamed homeless for some years, before eventually being given lordship over under the island, under the leadership of the Grand master La Valette Here, they became the Knights of Malta, and carried on their war against Islam, mainly through imitating the tactics of the corsairs The Knights seized shipping wherever they could, roaming throughout the eastern Mediterranean under the noses of the Turks After they seized one ship too many to be precise, the galley of the Sultan s Chief Eunuch Suleiman decided to put an end to the Knights once and for all A massive invasion fleet was dispatched in 1565, and the fortresses of Malta were besieged Tens of thousands died, but just as the fall of Malta seemed imminent, a Spanish relief force was landed and put the Ottomans to flight The capital of Malta, Valletta, is named in honor of the commander who successfully defended it against near impossible odds.Not long after, Suleiman died on campaign in Hungary though his death was kept secret, by using a double to conceal his death, until his retinue could return with his cold body to Istanbul His successor and sole surviving son, Selim, was determined to follow in his father s conquering footsteps He immediately set out to take the Venetian possession of Cyprus, with a much larger force than the one which had attempted to take Malta After a couple of very bloody sieges of Nicosia and Famagusta the island was taken These sieges are described in graphic, sometimes gruesome detail by Crowley.The new and aggressive Sultan was the proximate cause for the Christian powers of the Mediterranean, principally Philip II of Spain, Pope Pius V, and the Venetians to form a new alliance Assembling a massive fleet, they set out to hunt down the Ottoman fleet Amazingly, in October of 1571, they did so What followed was the bloodiest naval battle in history, at Lepanto just off the west coast of Greece, as two massive fleets of oared galleys collided with one another in a spectacular cataclysm The superior firepower of the Christian fleet prevailed, mainly due to the Venetians whose heavily armed gun platforms, known as galleasses , destroyed most of the Ottoman fleet and killed 40,000 The Battle of Lepanto is the last of the major military clashes in Crowley s story Often painted as a turning point in the history of the Ottoman Empire, he says it s really not clear if this is the case The Ottomans were primarily a land power rather than a sea power, though they relied on their ships to tie together their far flung holdings around the Mediterranean It would not be until 200 years later than the Ottomans would begin to go into serious decline, and not until the end of World War I that they were finished as an imperial power.Through all of this, Roger Crowley s gifts as a story teller shine through He focuses mainly on the military events and the personalities of the major military leaders, using his great narrative powers and his eye for interesting detail and anecdote to enliven the story Yet he sketches in enough of the background grand strategy of the major powers involved to provide wider understanding Even if you know nothing of this era of history or its war making techniques, Crowley manages to make the story both clear and compelling I look forward to his next book.

  10. says:

    John of Austria is going to the war.Sudden and still hurrah Bolt from Iberia Don John of AustriaIs gone by Alcalar.The centuries long conflict between East and West, Muslim and Christian, comes to a head in the Sixteenth century Mediterranean Sea Crowley details the fascinating rivalry between Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire Their greatest victories, their most ignominious defeats, and everything in between are brought up at one point or another.The Great Siege of Malta, as reviewers all over the place say, is a point in time that begs to be adapted by any entertainment medium Somewhere around 7,000 Christians made a heroic stand against upwards of three times their number in the great fortress island of Malta Led by Grandmaster Jean de Valette of the Knights Hospitaller, the very citizens themselves put forth the most effort, according to Crowley, in defense of their home and hearth Crowley definitely stresses Philip II of Spain s epithet the Prudent, in relation to the great siege The course of history has proven that Christendom is utterly incapable of uniting for a common cause, and it s fascinating to see how down to the wire the siege was due to Philip s extreme cautiousness Andrea Vicentino s 1603 painting in the Palazzo Ducale in Venice depicts the sea of blood and corpses, the cluster of galleys.The Holy League, vigorously promoted by Pope Pius V, in the spirit of united Christendom, which took ages to even have the various Christian rulers assent to involvement, finally took to the sea at the Battle of Lepanto is the culmination of the period, where the Christian fleet shattered the larger Ottoman navy in a battle of nearly 500 ships The young Ritter Johann von sterreich, commonly known as Don Juan of Austria, just 24 at the time, led the massive coalition fleet that included Miguel de Cervantes to the great battle against Ali Pasha, the Grand Admiral of the Ottoman Navy, and very much a mirror image of Juan himself Juan s leadership inspired G.K Chesterton s 1911 poem, named after the eponymous battle.Crowley lays out a detailed surprising for its length narration and analysis of the Mediterranean between the Siege of Rhodes in 1522 and Lepanto in 1571 not particularly favoring one side or the other, though it is difficult as a reader not to feel some sort of good at sieges where the defenders are hugely outnumbered The narration itself is bloody and the bodies pile up in masses, turning the very sea that the galleys slice through crimson.This is historical non fiction at its best, with a strong, flowing narrative style that brings the characters of both sides back to life in a readable amount of pages though I listened to the audiobook , complete with stats and strategies for military history buffs all the while remaining exciting as hell to read Empires of the Sea only scratches the surface of the nearly three hundred year conflict.And John Lee s narration was fantastic The man could read a fuckin shopping list and have me panting at the end, completely enraptured DON T WE NEED APPLES TOO AND CLAM CHOWDER AND ANOTHER TWO POUNDS OF BACON

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