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Empires of the Sea: The Contest for the Center of the World | [Roger Crowley]

Empires of the Sea: The Contest for the Center of the World

Empires of the Sea tells the story of the 50-year world war between Islam and Christianity for the Mediterranean: one of the fiercest and most influential contests in European history. It traces events from the appearance on the world stage of Suleiman the Magnificent through "the years of devastation" when it seemed possible that Islam might master the whole sea, to the final brief flourishing of a united Christendom in 1571.
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Publisher's Summary

Empires of the Sea tells the story of the 50-year world war between Islam and Christianity for the Mediterranean: one of the fiercest and most influential contests in European history. It traces events from the appearance on the world stage of Suleiman the Magnificent - the legendary ruler of the Ottoman Empire - through "the years of devastation" when it seemed possible that Islam might master the whole sea, to the final brief flourishing of a united Christendom in 1571.

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

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Saud 10-14-13
    Saud 10-14-13

    Learn, understand, then decide whether you accept or reject.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A document of a great conflict"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jason Fernley, NV, United States 05-22-13
    Jason Fernley, NV, United States 05-22-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Awesome, exciting history, well told"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes, because despite it being history, it was a very enjoyable listen.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The battles


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No, but it was still a great book.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Craig ZACHARY, LA, United States 12-24-12
    Craig ZACHARY, LA, United States 12-24-12 Member Since 2010
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    "An amazing history that most of us rarely study"
    What made the experience of listening to Empires of the Sea the most enjoyable?

    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.


    What does John Lee bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    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.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Derek 03-30-12
    Derek 03-30-12 Member Since 2015

    Enthusiast

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    "Bit of a sound problem if you listen too loud"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alison Austin, TX, United States 01-24-12
    Alison Austin, TX, United States 01-24-12 Member Since 2010

    Miss Construed

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "You can smell the salt air..."

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marshall I. Cohen 10-14-11 Member Since 2014
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    "A terrific history."

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris 05-07-09
    Chris 05-07-09
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    "interesting, a little dull"

    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.

    6 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Caroline1 06-14-15
    Caroline1 06-14-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Fascinating and easy listening"

    Anyone who enjoys reading history will enjoy this book. Quick read full of interesting facts and drama!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    NoLongerValid 05-01-15 Member Since 2015
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    "well told story"

    this book and narrator brought history vividly to life; the sieges, battles, and underlying conflict

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Overall
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    "Historical non-fiction at its best!"
    Any additional comments?

    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 Österreich, 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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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