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)
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.
Excellent audiobook that's full of gore and local color and dates and battles and geopolitics and religion and it's all brought to life by the always terrific John Lee's narration.
The one flaw is that there is often a background hiss and crackle to the production (I assume it's the production and not my audible.com download) that, while not prominent, can last for long stretches. It was so distracting that it required listening with sound turned way down on my headphones in order not to annoy. So it's not the audiobook you'd want if you were, as I've been known to do, operating a tractor on the farm while trying to listen.
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.
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