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The Great Siege: Malta 1565 (1961)

de Ernle Bradford

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4141147,509 (4.17)10
The indispensable account of the Ottoman Empire's Siege of Malta from the author of Hannibal and Gibraltar. In the first half of the sixteenth century, the Ottoman Empire was thought to be invincible. Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman sultan, had expanded his empire from western Asia to southeastern Europe and North Africa. To secure control of the Mediterranean between these territories and launch an offensive into western Europe, Suleiman needed the small but strategically crucial island of Malta. But Suleiman's attempt to take the island from the Holy Roman Empire's Knights of St. John would emerge as one of the most famous and brutal military defeats in history. Forty-two years earlier, Suleiman had been victorious against the Knights of St. John when he drove them out of their island fortress at Rhodes. Believing he would repeat this victory, the sultan sent an armada to Malta. When they captured Fort St. Elmo, the Ottoman forces ruthlessly took no prisoners. The Roman grand master La Vallette responded by having his Ottoman captives beheaded. Then the battle for Malta began in earnest: no quarter asked, none given. Ernle Bradford's compelling and thoroughly researched account of the Great Siege of Malta recalls not just an epic battle, but a clash of civilizations unlike anything since the time of Alexander the Great. It is "a superior, readable treatment of an important but little-discussed epic from the Renaissance past . . . An astonishing tale" (Kirkus Reviews).… (mais)
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This is a fairly short audiobook about the Turks’ 1565 siege of Malta against the Knights Hospitaller of St John. This book is about the fortresses, battles, fighting tactics, armaments, armor, luck, good and bad fortunes, and very little about the faiths involved. I didn’t know how it ended so it was a very interesting surprise. Reminded me very much of my undergrad class history of war, although a different time period. ( )
  KarenMonsen | May 1, 2021 |
Last week we stayed in a hotel in Malta for a week of sun and swimming. In the hotel lobby they had a stand with a good selection of paperbacks, mostly thrillers, but also books on Malta’s history. I started to flip through the pages of The Great Siege, and it seemed really interesting. I bought it the last day there, and started reading it on the flight home. I was hooked immediately, and couldn’t stop reading until I had finished it the same night.

The story of the siege of Malta in 1565 is absolutely riveting. The Knights of St John, with Grand Master de la Valette, and the Maltese population are attacked and besieged by the numerically superior Turks for the entire summer of 1565. Ernle Bradford does a remarkable job of describing the events in such a way that it almost feels like you are there. Along the way, you also learn a lot about life, war and politics in the 16th century. The writing flows really well, and this relatively short book (228 pages, divided into 31 chapters) is so exciting that I just couldn’t stop reading it.

The drama, the historical facts and the writing makes this one of the best books I have read, and I recommend it to anyone, even if you are not normally reading historical books. It’s that good. ( )
  Henrik_Warne | Dec 13, 2020 |
In the summer of 1565 on the parched ground of Malta, the future of Western Civilization was decided. Would the Moslems continue their expansion into the Mediterranean, preying on European ships and taking Christian slaves as far away as England? Or could they be held back?

It was an epic struggle, an astounding tale of resolve and leadership, of disunity in command and disunity among allies.

Soleyman the First was on the move. Even his European foes grudgingly said he earned the title “The Magnificent”. He had conquered large parts of the Middle East. His movement into Europe was only stopped at the gates of Vienna in 1529. But, at age 70, he was not resting on his laurels. Malta was a strategic thorn in the side of the Ottoman Empire, a base Christians could use to attack his supply and communication lines.

It would not be the first time Soleyman had tangled with the Knights of St. John, the Hospitallers, who used Malta as their base. In 1493, he had driven them off Rhodes. But they had turned Malta with its fine harbors into a base for raiding Moslem shipping.

Soleyman ordered two men to lead the assault on Malta. Mustapha Pasha would command the army. Piali would command the naval part of the expedition.

The man they faced was the Grand Master of the Hospitallers, Jean Parisot de la Valette. A single-minded man of noble birth, he had given himself entirely to the Hospitallers whom he joined at the age of 20. He had survived a year as a galley slave in the Ottoman fleet. He would command the defense personally, fighting constantly under the hot sun in full armor at age 61.

It was Valette who knew a siege was coming and fortified the island, who firmed the resolve of his men in the siege. With Valette, this is not only a compelling historical account but a study in leadership. Before the siege, the locals had little reason to love the Knights. But, during the siege, none of them became a turncoat. Nor did any of the local Jewish population who had no call to love the Christians.

It was Valette’s resolve as a single commander that carried the day in the face of almost equal Moslem resolve and far superior numbers but a resolve weakened by their lack of a unified command.

Bradford’s story, one of the first accounts of the siege in English (King Henry VIII had disbanded the English chapter of the Hospitallers and contemporary accounts are in French, Italian, and Spanish), is compelling history: thirst and disease, Hospitaller forts falling one by one, calling on the Viceroy of Sicily to help, men swimming channels in the teeth of enemy fire, and desperate sallies.

Bradford concisely gives us the historical background to the main event, the organization and logistics of the opposing forces, maps of Malta and its fortifications, thumbnail biographies, and quotes from contemporary accounts. A glossary of terms is provided. There is no index, but that’s not a problem in a kindle edition.

But Bradford also brings something else besides his skillful narration: a deep knowledge of Malta’s terrain and people. He was stationed there as a member of the Royal Navy in the second siege of Malta in World War Two. He sailed around the islands extensively. And, most importantly, he gives us local history and legend and folklore and poems about the siege. These were left out of contemporary histories, and the Maltese language had no alphabet until the 19th century.

It’s a highly recommended book even for those not interested in military history or the Crusades and the peculiar Christian warriors they gave birth to. The Siege of Malta was their finest hour. ( )
2 vote RandyStafford | Jun 8, 2020 |
An absolutely excellent book! It does not include the detail that Bruce Allen’s book does, but not important. He gets all the highlights and tells the story in a very entertaining way. Next book to be read in this genre is Balbi’s book. An absolutely fascinating subject made all the more fascinating by my stay in Malta! Finished 24.04.2020 in Malta during the plague. ( )
1 vote untraveller | Apr 24, 2020 |
Tales of heroism are always stirring, more so when they are true. This is nonfiction, but you won't believe it, written by a non academic, which is even harder to believe.
It's an account of one of the truly great sieges.
What are the great sieges? Troy, Tyre facing Alexander, the zillion sieges of Syracuse, the Spartans both at Thermopylae and maybe later, taking it up the Sphacteria, and... Malta, 1565.
The Knights of St. John defending their tiny island against the fabulous forces of Sultan Soleyman the Magnificent at the height of the Ottoman empire. Stunning cunning, incredulous courage, pinpoint planning and counter confounding lead to a see-saw slug fest that's breathlessly eye popping and forever unforgettable.
( )
1 vote LeonardGMokos | Nov 22, 2016 |
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The indispensable account of the Ottoman Empire's Siege of Malta from the author of Hannibal and Gibraltar. In the first half of the sixteenth century, the Ottoman Empire was thought to be invincible. Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman sultan, had expanded his empire from western Asia to southeastern Europe and North Africa. To secure control of the Mediterranean between these territories and launch an offensive into western Europe, Suleiman needed the small but strategically crucial island of Malta. But Suleiman's attempt to take the island from the Holy Roman Empire's Knights of St. John would emerge as one of the most famous and brutal military defeats in history. Forty-two years earlier, Suleiman had been victorious against the Knights of St. John when he drove them out of their island fortress at Rhodes. Believing he would repeat this victory, the sultan sent an armada to Malta. When they captured Fort St. Elmo, the Ottoman forces ruthlessly took no prisoners. The Roman grand master La Vallette responded by having his Ottoman captives beheaded. Then the battle for Malta began in earnest: no quarter asked, none given. Ernle Bradford's compelling and thoroughly researched account of the Great Siege of Malta recalls not just an epic battle, but a clash of civilizations unlike anything since the time of Alexander the Great. It is "a superior, readable treatment of an important but little-discussed epic from the Renaissance past . . . An astonishing tale" (Kirkus Reviews).

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