The core of the story is the six years of bitter and bloody conflict between 1565 and 1571 that witnessed a fight to the finish. It was a tipping point in world civilization, a fast-paced struggle of spiraling intensity that led from the siege of Malta and the battle for Cyprus to the pope's last-gasp attempt to rekindle the spirit of the Crusades and the apocalypse at Lepanto.
It features a rich cast of characters: Suleiman the Magnificent, greatest of Ottoman sultans; Hayrettin Barbarossa, the pirate who terrified Europe; the Knights of St. John, last survivors of the medieval crusading spirit; the aged visionary Pope Pius V; and the meteoric, brilliant Christian general, Don John of Austria.
It is also a narrative about places: the shores of the Bosphorus, the palaces and shipyards of the Venetian lagoon, the barren rocks of Malta, the islands of Greece, the slave markets of Algiers - and the character of the sea itself, with its complex pattern of winds and weather, which provided the conditions and the field of battle. It involves all the peoples who border the Great Sea: Italians, Turks, Greeks, Spaniards, the French and the people of North Africa.
This story is one of extraordinary color and incident, rich in detail, full of surprises, and backed by a wealth of eyewitness accounts. Its denouement, the battle of Lepanto, is a single action of quite shocking impact - considered at the time in Christian Europe to be "a day to end all days".
©2008 Roger Crowley; (P)2008 Tantor
"A masterly narrative that captures the religious fervor, brutality, and mayhem of this intensive contest for the 'center of the world'." (Kirkus)
"Masterfully synthesizing primary and secondary sources, [Crowley] vividly reconstructs the great battles...and introduces the larger-than-life personalities that dominated council chambers and fields of battle." (Publishers Weekly)
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.
I'm a geologist and I use Audible books to while away long hours on the road... My pickup truck is my reading room!
Crowley has written a history that is poorly known and yet extremely important.
Most popular histories of the medieval world focus on the emerging nation-states of Europe or the vast, unstable Islamic empire that stretched from India to Spain. But few spend much time on the maritime power struggle for control of the Mediterranean. And yet it was on the sea that the contest between these two worlds played out.
The battle of battle of Lepanto does not figure prominently in any country's history, because it took place at sea, between navies built up out of small squadrons from many reluctant allies. It was not a critical battle of survival for any particular nation, and so no nation celebrates it. And yet the battle really was a defining "clash of cultures", and it had a huge impact on the current map of the world.
Roger Crowley tells this little-known history with great insight, and helps us understand both the background to the naval rivalry and the implications of the battles at Malta and Lepanto. Along the way, he keeps us entertained with a wealth of details about the historical personages that acted in the drama. And because this is a story most of us don't know very well, he keeps it moving along with well-paced suspense toward a decisive ending.
Fans of the Aubrey/Maturin series will find in this book all the maritime drama and historical urgency that they enjoy in O'brien's novels.
John Lee's narration is excellent.
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.
MSU Spartan, avid birdwatcher, tin can sailor, but mostly immobile now. I love Audible!
I sure wish this book had been available when I visited Malta with the USS Joseph P Kennedy, Jr, DD-850, back in the late sixties/early seventies. It would have been super to tour some of these battle sites. Alas.
John Lee is by far my favorite narrator even if his skill in voices isn't needed in this book. It is a well crafted narrative of what to me was a little known struggle between Christian Europe and the Islamic Otterman empire for supremacy of the Mediterranean basin. The intrigue, religious zeal and brutality of the period comes to life within the pages of the book. l looked forward to the read.
The lead up to the battle of Lepanto was written and narrated perfectly. The siege of Malta was almost verbatim from the Great Siege, but considering that the only credible description came from Balbi, I guess you can't be surprised.
A really exciting history of galley warfare, sultans and sea crusades. Sheds light on a really little known violent era of in an enthralling way. Lots of first-hand accounts and restrained historian speculations. Narrarator has a great accent to boot 5/5
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