Empires Of The Sea: The Final Battle For The Mediterranean, 1521-1580
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Empires Of The Sea: The Final Battle For The Mediterranean, 1521-1580

4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  1,310 ratings  ·  170 reviews
Shows the Mediterranean as a majestic and bloody theatre of war. Opening with the Ottoman victory in 1453, this title tells the story of military crusading, Barbary pirates, white slavery and the Ottoman Empire - and the larger picture of the struggle between Islam and Christianity.
Hardcover, 341 pages
Published May 1st 2008 by Faber & Faber (first published 2008)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee BrownThe Ascent of Money by Niall FergusonEmpires Of The Sea by Roger CrowleyA People's History of the World by Chris HarmanThe Bitter Road to Freedom by William I. Hitchcock
The Independent's "The Ten Best History Books"
3rd out of 10 books — 20 voters
John Adams by David McCullough1776 by David McCulloughTeam of Rivals by Doris Kearns GoodwinThe Guns of August by Barbara W. TuchmanThe Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer
Best History Books
437th out of 1,225 books — 1,153 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,978)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Cervantes, of the "Don Quixote" fame, was in one of these battles. He was a 24-year-old volunteer.

Now I know that hundreds of years ago the Mediterranean Sea and its surrounding land areas were considered the center of the world and were a battleground for two great conflicting forces: the Muslims (Turks/the Ottoman Empire) and the Christians (the French, Spaniards, Venetians, the war-waging Popes, etc.). The Muslims and Christians call each other "infidels" and had a deep desire for each other'...more
A number of years ago I gazed at the large painting of the Battle of Lepanto in the Doge’s Palace in Venice, finding the work complex and intriguing. But never having heard of the battle, I had difficulty fitting it into an historical context. So it was with interest that I encountered Crowley’s work, subtitled “The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World.” The book accomplished what I had hoped it would, in perhaps more detail than I needed.

The period...more
If you are going to read this book, you'd better like slaughter. It features lots of blood. Mostly, this occurs during sieges of fortified towns, but sea battles claim their fair share of victims too. All of it is described with great gusto, skill and narrative flair by the author, who clearly loves a good battle and knows how to recount it. In this, the book is similar to his previous work, 1453, which was largely devoted to the conquest of Constantinople by Mehmet the Conqueror. Fast forward t...more
Crowley nos cuenta la lucha por el dominio del Mediterráneo entre dos Imperios, el otomano y el español, a lo largo de gran parte del siglo XVI. Y lo hace con una narración llena de ritmo y emoción, que se lee de un tirón pero que sin embargo me ha dejado un regusto amargo.

El libro está dividido en tres partes de prácticamente la misma extensión. La primera narra los acontecimientos en las cuatro décadas que van desde la toma de Rodas por los turcos en 1523 hasta el sitio de Malta (1965). En es...more
This may very well be the most exciting history book I ever read. While I did get the impression that the author has done some wide and excellent research, this book reads like an adventure story. Action-packed to the brim with extensive reports of various enormous battles, interesting characters and great storytelling, this is basically a study of the war between the Ottomans and (some of) Europe. From the early skirmishes to the defining battle at Lepanto, I couldn't get enough of it.

I read th...more
Dan Walker
Mr. Crowley paints a panoramic picture of the contest between Christendom and the Ottoman Turks for control of the Mediterranean. I listened to the audiobook which is read by John Lee. Mr. Lee even sounds like a pirate, so the effect is perfect!

The Siege of Malta is protrayed in especially rich detail - since war then was so deeply personal, all the pomp, pageantry, and color were critical elements to battle. Mr. Crowley makes it easy to imagine the emotions that both sides must have felt: fear,...more
Roger Crowley tackles the sixteenth-century clash between East and West in the Mediterranean as a grand epic story in this book. Over fifty years of history is his canvas for a tale of peoples and cultures, which he does a wonderful job with. From start to finish, it is history, and a tale to be told, and Crowley tells it very well.

He starts with the siege of Rhodes (1521), as a prelude to the action in the rest of the book, as several key players later on were there. The centerpiece of the book...more
I found this to be an excellent general overview told in a narrative style. Though already well familiar with the conquest of Rhodes and the heroic defense of Malta, I hadn't known anything about Lepanto nor much about the background to some of the events described. I don't think it's hyperbole to say this book was a page-turner for me.

One thing I found interesting is that despite bouncing back fairly quickly in a logistical sense from the naval catastrophe at Lepanto, the Ottomans still essent...more
Urey Patrick
This book covers a period of time in which the centuries-long, ebbing & flowing conflict between Islam in the East and the squabbling realms that comprised the Christian West began to shift in important ways that set the direction of the future. Islam had the upper hand, its conquest of Christian lands was progressing with seemingly inexorable success. Islam was, and had been for decades if not centuries united in its goal of conquest - the West was fractured and weakened, as it had been for...more
Evan Brandt
This is history written as a great narrative.

You might even call it a "ripping yarn," although given the cast of characters and the circumstances, it would have been hard to be boring.

It deals with contest between the Ottoman Empire and Christian Europe for control of the Mediterranean Sea, which the turks called The White Sea.

Start with Suleman the Magnificent and Charles the V of the Holy Roman Empire, add in the Hospitaller Knights, or Knights of St. John, fortresses at Rhodes, Cyprus and Mal...more
«Nunca se ha escrito Historia mejor. El señor Crowley tiene un don asombroso para la narración y su descripción de los hechos absorbe como si se tratara de una novela. Sus análisis son inteligentes y perceptivos y destacan los retratos que hace de los personajes, que nos dejan imágenes indelebles grabadas en nuestra imaginación.»

John Julius Norwich, The Wall Street Journal

«Magnífico. Crowley es un historiador con corazón de novelista.»

Christopher Hart, Sunday Times

«Merece ser el libro de no ficc...more
Empires of the Sea recounts the oft forgotten struggle between the Ottomans and Europeans for the dominance of the Mediterranean in the mid 16th century. Although this conflict was waged on many levels (economic, cultural, religious, political, etc.), Crowley chooses to focus primarily on the military developments of the period.

The first third of the book presents a general overview of the key players and outlines the escalation of the conflict from 1520-1560. This section, though interesting a...more
Tariq Mahmood
It takes but a single Turkish consonant to fall from makbul to maktul.

A great book on the straight sea fights between the Ottomans and Catholic King Charles of Spain. The book was surprisingly easy to follow as it had none of the dry bits usually attached to historical narratives. Most enjoyable bit was the fight between the great admirals Barbarossa and Doria. I loved the occasional side stories from the Sultan's palace to the Kings lair which kept me well captivated.I never imagined a colition...more

Nobody else here seems to have mentioned it, so there's a great poem about the battle of Lepanto by G. K. Chesterton. It's really fun to read out loud. Thanks to my long-suffering wife for this.

It's hard not to think, after reading this, that it's a near-certifiable miracle that us Europeans didn't spend a couple of hundred years under the Ottoman yoke. The powers that were certainly did everything in their power to lose the battle for control of the Mediterranean, and were only saved by an over...more
Joel Trono-Doerksen
Very interesting narrative of the final battle for the Mediterranean. Crowley displays a brightly vivid account of the legendary Barbarossa brothers all the way to the battle of Lepanto. He gives both sides a fair trial and uses both European and Ottoman sources. He shows the humanity and inhumanity of both sides. In a subject area that tends to demonize the the East, Crowley offers us a breath of fresh air. For anyone wanting to study the 16th century Mediterranean, this is the book you should...more
This is the kind of book that reminds me of how much I love learning. I enjoyed reading this so much that upon finishing it, I immediately started it again from the beginning.

Roger Crowley's style is compelling and dramatic, and is a perfect match for subject matter such as the defense of Malta, and the bloodbath of Lepanto. Can't wait to read 1453.

This is one of my all time favorite books. If I could, I'd give it 10 stars.
Crowley is almost the perfect history writer. He glosses over nothing important but has the rare ability to tell a story that is hard to put down. He writes of a time that set the demarcation of the Christian-Muslim world that has lasted to our time. It's a world still trying to maneuver its boundaries. This story is filled with moments of history that we know to this day: Maltese falcons, Barbarossa and the Barbary pirates, the rape of the new world by Spanish adventurers, the names of Ottoman...more
Mariano Hortal
Publicado en http://lecturaylocura.com/imperios-de...

No hace mucho comenté por aquí en tono elogioso el comienzo de la colección de “Ático historia” de la editorial Ático de los libros con la inmejorable publicación de “El renacimiento del siglo XII” del británico Charles Homer Haskins. El segundo título de esta colección se trata de “Imperios del mar”, del también británico Roger Crowley y, sinceramente, no le va a la zaga; es una verdadera maravilla que atestigua que estamos ante una de las pr...more
Rachel Bayles
An astounding piece of historical scholarship. It can be redundant, but the detail here is impressive. This book gives the reader an emotional grasp of the scope and intensity of these battles.
Empires of the Sea is an account of a great war that most have never even heard of: the struggle between the Christian West represented by the Habsburg Spanish Empire and the Muslim East represented by the Ottomans for "the center of the world," the Mediterranean Sea. It's one of those books that does justice to a great piece of history the way a textbook can't: providing riveting accounts of the dramatic events that are barely a sidenote in most curricula.

The book focuses on three major portion...more
Owen Jones
An excellent book that fills in a gap in my knowledge of European history. It covers the events leading up to the Battle of Lepanto, perhaps the last of the great galley battles. Interestingly, the quantity of ships involved in sea battles has steadily diminished with the passage of time in inverse step, seemingly, with the concentration of firepower in vessels. Nearly 460 galleys and smaller ships took part in the battle but the galleys typically had only 5 or 6 guns mounted on the bow. Compare...more
The geopolitical story of how the Ottoman and Spanish empires divided the Mediterranean is told through three main battles: Rhodes, Malta (taking up the large middle section of this book), and finally Lepanto. These battles are told day by day, hour by hour, and sometimes blow by blow. The author tells a good story, and it is clear that he has kept his boyish enthusiasm for re-enacting a hero's fate in battle.
Sadly, the swashbuckling is sometimes accompanied by a similarly boyish ethnocentricit...more
M.M. Bennetts
This review was originally published in The Christian Science Monitor.

Often histories of 16th century Europe focus on the unfolding dramas of Northern Europe–the religious ferment of the Reformation, or Tudor England, that romping Renaissance soap opera featuring the ever-recognisable Henry VIII and all those wives, and his fiery daughter, Elizabeth I, patron of Shakespeare.

Yet curiously, simultaneously, a sequence of tumultuous power struggles was convulsing the southern regions of Europe–a ser...more
Roger Crowley focuses his book Empires of the Sea on the naval fights between the Spanish Empire and the Ottoman Empire for what was then thought to be mastery of the World. While the age of discovery was getting into full swing the galleys of the crusades were in fighting form across the Mediterranean often delving into base piracy as opposed to full naval combat. The times when naval combat did occur were some of the most devastating of the age including the Fall of Rhodes, the Siege of Malta,...more
I didn't know much about this era of world history. We're perhaps more familiar with northern Europe in the 16th century (era of Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth, Shakespeare). But much drama was occurring in southern Europe, especially the Mediterranean regions.

The Ottoman Turks attempted to expand their empire under Suleiman the Magnificent; and the clashes between Muslim and Christian armies are vividly described in this well-written history. The "siege of Malta" (1565) is a central part of the sa...more
After reading this book, I was genuinely shocked that I had never come across a widely published history of this period before. In a time when histories are becoming increasingly narrow and specialized, it is refreshing to find a sweeping account of an era and arena that has not already been memorialized to death.

If not for the first eighty or so pages of this book, I would have given it five stars. The buildup to Malta and Lepanto are quite necessary, but Crowley seems to fall into a no-man's-...more
'Empires of The Sea: The Final Battle for the Mediterranean' is a truly impressive piece of writing. Despite the fact that it only covers a brief period in the history of the Mediterranean, these years were certainly eventful, as the pages of the book will attest too, as they are packed full of information. Be it the naval engagements, naval blockades, pitched battles, and sieges. In addition, there is a chapter dedicated to 'The Corsairs', the privateers of Islam who were responsible for the de...more
Robert Corzine
Crowley does a great job of framing the dramatic struggle for control of the Mediterranean in the 16th Century. In the East, Suleiman the Magnificent, the absolute ruler of the vast Ottoman empire, united, organized, and expanding to conquer Christian lands. In the West, Philip of Spain, the titular political and military leader of a Christendom divided by myriad conflicting loyalties, rivalries, and interests.

The story begins with the siege of Rhodes, the last outpost in the East of the crusadi...more
Zachary Marciano
Coming from a very historical and war based background, I can almost always tell if a war book is good or not, and I can safely say that this book is a force of nature when it comes to telling the historical battles of the Mediterranean in a calculated and context-ed manner. This book mainly tells the stories of battles that were fought around the Mediterranean region; including the Siege of Malta and The Battle of Lepanto. One of this book's main focus is on the political and wartime actions of...more
An awesome, spellbinding, page turner of a book! I knew virtually nothing about Charles/Phillip of Spain, Venice, Knights of Malta, and Pope Pius V's power struggle versus the Ottoman Empire. In theory might sound boring, but I literally could not put this book down.

I enjoyed how this book thoroughly covered the seiges of Rhodes, Malta, Creta and the final naval battle of Lepanto. Also the author gently hinted at it, but could see lots of parralels between these wars and World War I. (though I...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
how much is fact, and how much is fiction? 1 5 Feb 19, 2014 11:34PM  
  • Lords of the Sea: The Epic Story of the Athenian Navy & the Birth of Democracy
  • Defenders of the Faith: Charles V, Suleyman the Magnificent, and the Battle for Europe, 1520-1536
  • Castles of Steel
  • The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople
  • Conquistador: Hernán Cortés, King Montezuma, and the Last Stand of the Aztecs
  • The First Crusade - A New History: The Roots of Conflict Between Christianity and Islam
  • Warsaw 1920: Lenin’s Failed Conquest of Europe
  • Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947
  • Holy War: How Vasco da Gama's Epic Voyages Turned the Tide in a Centuries-Old Clash of Civilizations
  • The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe
  • The Great Siege: Malta 1565
  • The Great Arab Conquests: How The Spread Of Islam Changed The World We Live In
  • The Bitter Road to Freedom: A New History of the Liberation of Europe
  • Sea of Faith: Islam and Christianity in the Medieval Mediterranean World
  • Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe
  • Dividing the Spoils: The War for Alexander the Great's Empire (Ancient Warfare and Civilization)
  • The Armada
  • The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal & the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic
Roger Crowley was born in 1951 and spent part of his childhood in Malta. He read English at Cambridge University and taught English in Istanbul, where he developed a strong interest in the history of Turkey. He has traveled widely throughout the Mediterranean basin over many years and has a wide-ranging knowledge of its history and culture. He lives in Gloucestershire, England.
More about Roger Crowley...
1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West City of Fortune: How Venice Won and Lost a Naval Empire

Share This Book