The present relationships and emotions between Europe and the near-eastern Muslim world were reborn and reformed in this 16th century time frame described in "Empires of the Sea: The Contest for the Center of the World". It wasn't until I had listened to this book that I understood the significance of all the watch towers that line practically every piece of coastline along the entire Italian peninsula. Today these seem quaint and picturesque but in an earlier time they meant life or death or slavery by the warning they might give the people of any town or village that is exposed to the sea.
The savagery of the Muslim raiders and the fate of entire towns down to the last child, branded the black image of "The Turk" onto the Christian mind and memory. Although there were religious influences effecting the actions of the various peoples involved, it was at its core a conflict over power, trade and fortune.
If you think you know the history of Western Civilization and you don't know much about this particular time, then you will not really understand the present and a good chunk of the past. Roger Crowley does a superb job of giving the details (and there are plenty of details) in a storybook style that makes you want to know how it all comes out. John Lee is amazing as well, he always makes the narrative better.
The Ottoman Empire was a formidable force to be reckoned with at this time. Every country in Europe was concerned to one degree or another with this threat from the East. I was astonished to discover my own ignorance of vast scale of this conflict. The characters of this story are fascinating, on both the Muslim and Christian sides. Bravery, endurance and incredible savagery play parts in this narrative.
More importantly, this history allows you to better understand the posture, attitude, rhetoric and actions of the two sides in the present clash of violence and instability. The one thing you will discover is that neither side can support their claim that peace and tolerance flow from their religious theologies.
Learn, understand, then decide whether you accept or reject.
This era of conflicts between the Islamic and Christian worlds is not very well documented, which is why this book does a great job in filling the gaps of what happened between the Ottomans and the Christian kings after the Crusades.
Yes, because despite it being history, it was a very enjoyable listen.
No, but it was still a great book.
This was very well written and very well read. For anyone who enjoys history, I highly recommend this book. I had know idea of the struggle that occurred on the Mediterranean Sea between the Christian and Islamic empires.
I bought the book because he was the reader. A good book can be uninteresting without a good story teller. He is one of the best. I have found when a read a book I go too fast and miss details. I really enjoy listening to a great story teller like John Lee.
The subtitle says it all, "The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World." The coverage of the time period was excellent. There were times I could actually picture the sea battles. Excellent read on the subject.
This is not in the style of Livy. It reads more like historical fiction. This history helps explain many of the East West issues lasting since the Late middle ages.
It is fascinating to learn about the history of the relationship between the Middle East and Europe, a history much more complex than commonly acknowledged. In the 1560's, the Ottoman empire could take on Christian Europe and fight it to a draw. Certainly in the US, the 16th century is not a time widely discussed (take a look at A Voyage Long and Strange by Tony Horwitz). All these people died for their belief in the true faith, fighting for what they felt was a turning point in history, and the battles are mostly forgotten about today. This book is interesting if only from that perspective.
That being said, the narrative was pretty dry. Two or three hours on the siege was a little hard to take, and hard to visualize as an audiobook without maps. It would have been more compelling if the author made more of an effort to put the battles in a larger context. At the same time Malta was under siege, Europe was undergoing the Protestant reformation and exploiting the New World--this is mentioned only in passing but must have been a major factor in the politics of the Christian side. What was going on in the Ottoman Empire? You can't really tell, as the narrative seems biased towards the West (even slipping into "us against them" type language at times).
All in all: interesting, but probably not worth a download.
I really enjoyed learning about this forgotten period of history. The violence of man against one another frightens me, particularly when it's in the name of God. this book tells a detailed account of the war between Spain and Christians Europe and the Ottoman empire in their battle for control of the Mediterranean Sea.
This reminded me of Garrett Mattingly's classic Defeat of the Spanish Armada, and I would not be surprised to learn that Crowley was in some way inspired by that work. Certainly the subject and themes are similar, and while I don't feel Crowley's work quite reached the narrative or literary heights of Mattingly's, it was not for want of trying.
Empires of the Sea is an excellent overview of the conflict between the Ottoman Empire and the Christian Mediterranean powers in the 16th century, an honest portrayal of the protagonists that doesn't shy away from crediting the virtues or exposing the brutality of either side.
In addition to demonstrating a thorough understanding of the forces at play in this conflict, Crowley is adept at describing specific events so that the reader (or listener) is engaged and educated without losing track of the flow of a battle or a conversation or political machination.
While he doesn't delve quite as deeply into the character or psychology of his protagonists as Mattingly did in The Armada, Crowley does a good job of imparting an understanding of their motivations. In this way an otherwise large scale narrative maintains a personal quality which ties the reader to it. One gets a keen sense of the dashed ambitions of the rulers, and the sufferings and brief triumphs of the soldiers and slaves fighting their wars.
Ultimately, this is a story of two empires that never achieved their goals of spreading their dominion and their religion across the world, of the hundreds of thousands who suffered and died in the respective attempts, and of the extremities of brutality and chivalry, cowardice and courage that men will go to in war.
The best narrator of a history book I've heard so far. Emotive when necessary, academic when appropriate, avoids over-dramatisation without being dry. Good pronunciation and enunciation, and a nice, authoritative quality to the voice. Would definitely look for other book s narrated by him.
The description of the Great Siege of Malta in 1565 stood out for me. The contest between the last ambition of an ageing Sultan, the crippling caution of the Prudent King of Spain, and the fiery, zealous resolve the Grand Master defending the island is impossible to resist.
The high drama is juxtaposed with the horrific violence endured by the soldiers and slaves on both sides, and the shocking resilience of the native Maltese as their home is reduced to a hellish war zone. That this crucial event in the war remains largely unknown even to people who are well aware of the outcome at Lepanto seven years later makes the story all the more fascinating.
I highly recommend Empires of the Sea to anyone looking for an introduction to the 16th century Mediterranean world or interested in the Ottoman - Habsburg wars more generally. Or, to anyone who enjoys a well told, impeccably narrated historical account of any sort.