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'EMPIRES OF THE SEA: THE FINAL BATTLE FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN, 1521-1580' (original 2008; édition 2008)

par Roger Crowley (Auteur)

MembresCritiquesPopularitéÉvaluation moyenneMentions
9722121,942 (4.2)48
A thrilling account of the brutal decades-long battle between Christendom and Islam for the soul of Europe. This struggle's brutal climax came between 1565 and 1571, seven years that witnessed a fight to the finish decided in a series of bloody set pieces: the epic siege of Malta, in which a tiny band of Christian defenders defied the might of the Ottoman army; the savage battle for Cyprus; and the apocalyptic last-ditch defense of southern Europe at Lepanto--one of the single most shocking days in world history. At the close of this cataclysmic naval encounter, the carnage was so great that the victors could barely sail away because of the countless corpses floating in the sea. Lepanto fixed the frontiers of the Mediterranean world that we know today.… (plus d'informations)
Auteurs:Roger Crowley (Auteur)
Info:Faber & Faber Limited (2008), 368 pages
Collections:Lus mais non possédés
Mots-clés:Nonfiction, History, Ottoman Empire, Sixteenth Century, Maritime

Information sur l'oeuvre

Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World par Roger Crowley (2008)

  1. 10
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  2. 10
    The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean par David Abulafia (TomWaitsTables)
  3. 00
    The Last Days of the Incas par Kim MacQuarrie (47degreesnorth)
    47degreesnorth: Exceptional book of the conquest of the Incas by Spain and what financed Mediterranean warfare during the 16th century. Equally brutal in its breadth.

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» Voir aussi les 48 mentions

Affichage de 1-5 de 21 (suivant | tout afficher)
Excellent book! European maritime history and the crusades never cease to fascinate me. This book is about the naval battles waged by the Ottoman empire and the Holy Roman Emperor (or better the Christian forces led by Philip of Spain) between 1520 and1580, across the Mediterranean sea.

I loved the narration! It is a non-fiction, historical book, but the narration is better than many historical novels! :). The battles of Malta and Lepaton are described in great detail! ( )
  harishwriter | Oct 12, 2023 |
Empires of the Sea,
The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World
Author: Roger Crowley
Publisher: Random House
Publishing Date: 2008
Pgs: 336
Dewey: 940.21 CRO
Disposition: Irving Public Library - South Campus - Irving, TX

Rulers on a mission from God. Cultures in clash. Cruelty. Horror, War. Pirates. Slavery. Ottoman. Spanish. The Mediterranean running red with blood. Siege. Conquest. History ran red during this period when the Cold War between the followers of the Cross and the Crescent went to hot.
16th Century
Naval History
Roman Catholic Church
Naval Battles

Why this book:
Picked this up for Venetian history, which is outside my wheelhouse. Instead this is more aimed at Spanish-Ottoman history with sidelights in Venice, Rome, etc.
The Feel:
We think of this as the distant past. But America had already been discovered when the Siege of Malta occurred. And by the end of this period, Spain was busily colonizing and treasure seeking all of South America. This also coincided with the early Protestant era.

Favorite Character:
Oruch the Silver Arm sounds like a D20 RPG player character. But he was a pirate become conqueror and territorial governor in the Ottoman Empire under Suleiman. And thorn in the side of and bogeyman to Christian Spain. In death, Oruch was treated like a vampire. Body nailed to the wall of his last conquest. Silver arm hacked off. Beheaded. His arm and decapitated head shipped off to Spain to go on tour after being paraded around the Maghreb to insure that everyone knew he was dead.

Favorite Scene / Quote/Concept:
The rise of Sulieman, the coronation of Charles, the fall of Rhodes. It’s a helluva start.

The sheer viciousness of Famagusta is telling.

Hmm Moments:
Raw materials, bullion, higher prices, and lower production costs did more to stymie the Ottoman Empire than the defeat at Malta or the loss at Lepanto. Follow the money. The war for the Med ended in a stalemate and ignoble collapse for both the main combatants. The Ottomans lost their expand or die mentality. The Spanish fell victim to gold fever and inflation.

WTF Moments:
And again the Spanish under Charles snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and fail to roll onward to Algiers after the taking of Tunis. And thus despite defeating Barbossa, they let Barbossa the Younger slip away to harry them another day.

WTF? What of the French supplying cannon and shot to the Ottomans?

So...the defenders of Malta standing off the Ottoman fleet leave their posts for Sunday morning church and the Ottoman invasion force lands. :/

Meh / PFFT Moments:
With no true long range weaponry in this time, the Siege of Malta doesn’t make good strategic sense and seems ill conceived. The rock has nothing but position. Would have made more sense to raid in strength and destroy the Knights Navy and blockaded the rock leaving those ashore to starve and die of thirst or humidity, whichever came first.

King Phillip’s cold feet could have doomed Malta even though the ships, men, and material were gathered in Sicily, close at hand.

The Sigh:
The Spanish under Charles despite their defeat of Oruch failed the strategy game. Instead of marching on Algiers and eliminating the pirate threat, they took Oruch’s defeat as a sign that all was well. Oruch’s younger brother had a say in that matter. And through him, Sultan Selim of the Ottoman Empire and his son and heir Suleiman.

The Knights of St John after being in the eye of the storm in Rhodes, during the fall of the Byzantines and the Eastern Mediterranean were placed in the second eye on Malta. And twice in history they stood impediment to the Ottoman Navy and pirates and the ambitions of the Ottoman Turks.

The horrid life of the galley slaves be they Christian or Muslim, conscripted, stolen from homelands, debtors, all worked to death consumed like fuel. The age of sail was dawning but the enslaved oarsmen were still the primary fuel of the naval adventurism of Charles of Spain and Suleiman of the Turks. The strategic raids all seem to mainly be slave gathering exercises. Women and children for the auction and men for the oars. Islam and Christianity learned slavery by turning it on themselves, before graciously, pfft, sharing it with the rest of the world.

The Siege of Malta can be seen as an omen of the trench warfare of WW1.

The Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire, Sokollu Mehmet Pasha, who served Suleiman the Great and his successors, exercised influence and his own lust for power. He was more of a Cardinal Richelieu character ala The Three Musketeers than the real Cardinal Richelieu was.

Missed Opportunity:
Imagine if the Ottomans under Selim had built those canals connecting the Black and Caspian Seas and the Med and the Red. Would have opened the Orient to them in the same way that the discovery of America opened to Spain and the rest of Europe.

Movies and Television:
The Siege of Malta would make a helluva movie.
Very well paced.

Last Page Sound:
This was a gap in my historical knowledge. I was vaguely aware of the Siege of Malta, but not all the rest.

Questions I’m Left With:
Wonder if Oruch’s silver arm is still in a museum someplace?

Conclusions I’ve Drawn:
This presents itself as a complete war. But it is merely a flare-up in the long running contest between Islam and Christianity. A war that goes from hot to cold and back again over the long march of history. It predates both Christian and Muslim. Goes back at least to Greeks and Persians and wouldn’t surprise me if it predates them.

Author Assessment:
Loved it. Will definitely read other historical narratives by this author.
_________________________________________________ ( )
  texascheeseman | Apr 8, 2019 |
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 more 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 more 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 more time sifting, parsing and comparing the merits of rival testimony. Call me an idealist, but isn't that the nature of a historian?
( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
A hypothetical space alien, assigned by the United Federation of Planets to monitor the Earth, might have concluded that communism was on the march to triumph in the latter half of the 20th century. The Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, and a host of smaller socialist and communist states had unifying ideologies, uplifting goals, and citizens full of passionate intensity, while the West was disunited, apathetic, and lacking in conviction. The memoirs of KGB defector Vasili Mitrokhin were titled The World Was Going Our Way, and there was no particular reason for anyone to believe it wouldn’t. A similar observer in the early 16th century might have drawn the same conclusions about the Ottoman Empire. The Turks had captured Constantinople in 1453, and every few years added more territory in submission to Islam. The Sultan was the dynamic Suleiman the Magnificent and the Ottoman government was well organized and capable. It’s true it was no stroll in the park to be a Christian or Jew in the Ottoman Empire, but their lot was considerably better than that of Jews in Spain or Huguenots in France. Europe had achieved the Renaissance, but it could easily be interpreted as the last gasp of a dying and disunited civilization. With the Reformation and Henry VIII, Christianity divided; the single strongest European power, the Habsburg Empire, was ruled by a man deformed by inbreeding and reputed to be an idiot; and the other European states were ineptly ruled, paralyzed by external or internal politics, or all three. Roger Crowley’s Empires of the Sea shows that but for a little bit of bad luck at Malta and Lepanto Islam might have ended up ruling the Mediterranean littoral.

The few remaining European holdings were being picked off one by one. Rhodes, adjacent islands, and the fortress of Bodrum, the last remaining European possession on the Anatolian mainland, fell in 1522. Turkish admiral Hayrettin Barbarossa first overthrew independent Arab states in the Maghreb (Tunis and Algiers) then systematically reduced Venetian possessions in the Aegean Sea. The European response was hopelessly disorganized, with the Habsburgs, Venice, the Papacy and Genoa fighting more among themselves than against the Turks; it wasn’t until 1538 that a fleet set out to “avenge” Rhodes only to be routed at the Battle of Preveza off the Greek coast.

The emboldened Turks raided Spanish and Italian coastal towns with impunity – seizing 7000 slaves in Naples in 1544, 5000 from Gozo in 1551, and 6000 from Calabria in 1554. In May 1560, a Spanish fleet was overwhelmed at the Battle of Djerba off the coast of Tunisia. In 1565, Suleiman decided the time was ripe for Malta, where the Knights Hospitallers had established their headquarters after their expulsion from Rhodes. Malta had a few things going for it that Rhodes did not; it was further from the Istanbul and closer to European harbors and therefore harder and easier for the respective powers to reinforce; and the fortifications were built on bedrock, making them more difficult to destroy by mining. Unlike Rhodes, Suleiman did not take personal command, and his generals ignored substantial Christian forces in the hinterland of the island – which came back to do considerable damage in the late stages of the siege. The fortress of St. Elmo fell on June 23, 1565, but the other fortresses across the harbor held on; on September 11 (I wonder?) a Spanish relief force arrived and the Turks withdrew after a bloody defeat. In the meantime – on September 5th or 6th – Suleiman the Magnificent died on campaign in Hungary.

The new sultan, Selim, was nowhere near as popular or competent as Suleiman (Suleiman’s favorite for the succession, Mustafa, had be strangled before Suleiman’s eyes after being involved in a harem conspiracy). Nevertheless, the Ottomans were still the dominant power in the Mediterranean and turned their attention to Cyprus, which fell in August 1571. Selim was rather less chivalrous than his father, who had allowed the Knights of Rhodes to depart with their ships and possessions after their surrender; although the Venetian commander of Famagusta, Marc’ Antonio Bragadin, surrendered on a promise of similar treatment, he was skinned alive, stuffed with straw, and hung from the mainyard of the Turkish flagship.

Meanwhile, the European powers reacted with their traditional inertia. Phillip II was now the overall commander, but he was in Madrid communicating by letter – lots of letters; he wrote one daily. The local commander was his illegitimate half-brother, Don Juan of Austria. Juan was young and popular but Phillip II and the other naval powers – Venice, Genoa, the Knights of Malta, the Papacy and some minor Italian states – thought him too impetuous and he was deluged by letters from Madrid urging caution. However, the Turkish admiral, Ali Pasha, had unequivocal orders from Selim to go out and fight. Both sides had faulty intelligence – the Turks had slipped a disguised galley into the Holy League fleet at Messina and carefully counted the vessels –but had missed a Venetian contingent in the inner harbor; the Holy League had reconnoitered the Turkish fleet at Lepanto and missed a squadron that had temporarily moved to another port to resupply. Much too late to save Cyprus, the two fleets met in the Gulf of Lepanto in October 1571. The result was the first Christian naval victory in a long time; it was bloody, though, with the Christians losing 7500 men and 17 ships (including the flagship of the Knights of Malta) while the Turks lost over 20000 men and 180 ships. The victory was celebrated all over Europe (even in Protestant countries) and commemorated in a painting by Tintoretto; however, the above mentioned hypothetical observer might have considered it only a temporary setback for the Ottomans – within a year they had rebuilt their naval strength. In fact, though, although slave raids continued into the 19th century the Ottomans never again attempted a fleet engagement (Navarino wasn’t exactly their choice).

Crowley’s description of the politics and personalities involved is engaging, and the land engagements are excitingly detailed. The naval battles lack something; I suppose it’s because while a siege provides lots of time to record what’s going on naval battles are a lot more confused. While there are plenty of eyewitness accounts of Lepanto, once the battle was joined each observer was limited to what was going on in the immediate vicinity, and that was lots of gun smoke, blood, arrows, and water. The strategic maps are quite good; the tactical illustrations are all contemporary and while a 16th century woodcut is interesting it’s not a good way to show what went on at the siege of Malta. The end notes are adequate, and there’s a long bibliography. Crowley doesn’t devote a lot of time to whys rather than hows; i.e., why did the Turks lose at Lepanto? (My guess would be inferior gunnery). And it would be nice to see some alternate history speculation – what effect would a Turkish victory at Malta and/or Lepanto have had on European history? Still, this is an engaging, well written, and readable book. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 7, 2017 |
The Mediterranean was perceived by many people in the 16th century as the “Center of the World.” A monumental struggle for control of the sea took place between the two great empires of that era: the Ottoman Turks, and the Hapsburgs of Austria and Spain, the leaders of which often held the title of Holy Roman Emperor. The mutual enmity of the two empires was stoked by religious differences as much as by dynastic incompatibility. The wily traders of Venice did business with both contestants, often trading sides in order to protect their commercial interests. (As might be expected, interpreters, or “dragomen” held crucial roles in international relations.)

Roger Crowley has written a gripping tale of the ebb and flow of the interrelationships of the empires. In particular, he gives a vivid description of three parlous island sieges (Rhodes, Malta, and Cyprus) and several purely naval engagements, culminating in the hecatomb known as the Battle of Lepanto.

The Great Siege of Malta took place in 1565 when the Ottomans invaded the island of Malta, then held by the Knights Hospitaller (a medieval Catholic military order). The Knights, with approximately 2,000 soldiers and 400 Maltese men, women and children, withstood the siege and repelled the invaders. This victory helped contribute to the erosion of the European perception of Ottoman invincibility.

The Battle of Lepanto, which took place on October 7, 1571, pitted the Ottoman Empire against the “Holy League” - a coalition of nations (Spain, Venice, the Papal States,Genoa, and Malta) organized by Spanish King Philip II to stop Muslim encroachments upon the Italian and Spanish coasts.

This huge battle involved almost 400 vessels and more than 40,000 men, more than half of whom were killed in only a few hours. The ships employed cannons, arquebuses and other explosives such as “Granadoes,” small terra cotta pots filled with gunpowder or combustibles (pitch, turpentine, naphtha, or petroleum), that could be lit and thrown onto enemy ships. Savage hand-to-hand fighting also took place as enemy sailors boarded each others’ galleys.

At the battle’s conclusion, the Ottomans lost about 210 ships and some 25,000 men. The Holy League lost about 50 ships and 7,500 men.

The Ottoman’s losses proved pivotal; that many men were hard to replace.

Crowley’s descriptions are based on the accounts of the survivors of the battles. Occasionally, the participants showed some chivalry, as when the Ottomans allowed the few survivors of the siege of Rhodes to leave and take some of their possessions with them. Most of the time, however, no quarter was give by either side, and to lose usually meant that anyone who tried to surrender was likely to be tortured, beheaded, and/or skinned alive.

One might wonder who oared all those ships; it was not the soldiers. Galleys were more nimble than sailing ships, less dependent on the vagaries of the wind, and could change direction instantaneously at any time simply by rowing in a new direction. The problem was that not many men wanted the job of rower, and so the oarsmen were usually slaves, chained to their benches and incentivized more by whips than by salaries. Slavery was a common practice among both Christian and Muslim communities in the Mediterranean. The Ottomans and their co-religionists, the Barbary corsairs of the Maghreb, were more adept than the European Christians at finding large numbers of galley slaves. They routinely raided Mediterranean coastal towns, Sub-Saharan villages, and Balkan provinces, capturing and enslaving all the male infidels they didn’t kill. Miguel Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, spent some time chained to an oar before his parents ransomed him.

Crowley’s work is not confined to the description of medieval warfare. He also deftly handles the geopolitical aspects of the contest and describes the key participants and their intramural scuffling. In particular, he shows how Christendom was riven by three sources of internal discord: (1) Northern European Protestants vs. Mediterranean Catholics; (2) Venice vs. the Papacy; and (3) Roman Catholicism vs. Greek Orthodoxy. The Ottomans, by contrast, were generally united. Moreover, the Ottoman unity of command and purpose was a chief source of their strength.

Evaluation: This is a very entertaining, informative, and perhaps lesser-known history about some earlier confrontations between Islam and Christianity, and thus very relevant to events of today. If you think Islam and the West don’t get along very well now, you should have seen the 16th century!

A Few Notes on the Audio Production:

I listened to the audio version of this book, which was read competently by John Lee, who has a pleasant English accent. I am pretty familiar with the general geography of the area covered, but I would have benefitted from detailed maps of the particular siege sites.

(JAB) ( )
  nbmars | Mar 29, 2017 |
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Lee, JohnNarrateurauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé

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To George, who also fought in this sea, and who took us there
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A thrilling account of the brutal decades-long battle between Christendom and Islam for the soul of Europe. This struggle's brutal climax came between 1565 and 1571, seven years that witnessed a fight to the finish decided in a series of bloody set pieces: the epic siege of Malta, in which a tiny band of Christian defenders defied the might of the Ottoman army; the savage battle for Cyprus; and the apocalyptic last-ditch defense of southern Europe at Lepanto--one of the single most shocking days in world history. At the close of this cataclysmic naval encounter, the carnage was so great that the victors could barely sail away because of the countless corpses floating in the sea. Lepanto fixed the frontiers of the Mediterranean world that we know today.

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