Ann's Reviews > The Great Siege: Malta 1565

The Great Siege by Ernle Dusgate Selby Bradford
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Apr 09, 11

Read in April, 2011

This is a wonderfully absorbing tale that is accessible even to non-historians. In 1565, Suleyman the Magnificent, decided to add Malta to his ever-expanding empire. The rocky and desolate island in the MEditerranean was at that time the stronghold of the Knights of St.John, who had moved there after their expulsion from Rhodes. The Knights of St.John, like the better-known Templars, were a Christian order of aristocratic soldiers, sworn to defend the Catholic Faith. They had immediately set about fortifying the main harbors of the island. For several months they defended their fortifications at St. Elmo and St. Angelo against an onslaught of Saracen violence. The numbers were stacked against them: 40,000 Muslims versus 9,000 defenders. Yet they hold out, and the story is fascinating even after 500 years. The Grand Master of the Knights, de la Villette, a wily old warrior, proved to be more than a match for the Muslim leaders, who wasted precious resources by quarreling among themselves.

The first part of the book is a little dry, especially where the fortifications are described in detail - lots of specialized military and architectural language. But once the story gets into the siege proper, it's as exciting as anything the most best-selling thriller writers can come up with. Tales of incredible heroism, of ingenious ruses, of physical exhaustion and religious fanaticism. Stories of men slipping across a narrow channel at night to relieve their comrades, of 70-year old men leading charges with bullets whipping across their heads, of spies and defectors, of "infernal engines", of internal strife and competion.

REad this book if you are interested in the history of the MEditerranean!
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