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Empires of the Sea: The Final Battle for the Mediterranean, 1521-1580

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  4,550 ratings  ·  381 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)
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4.25  · 
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 ·  4,550 ratings  ·  381 reviews

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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'
Later that day the guns of Saint Angelo opened up. A volley of human heads bombarded the Ottoman camp across the water. There would be no repeat of the chivalrous truce at Rhodes.

As noted this marks my first ever tandem read with my brother. I am immensely proud of him but few would ever regard him as bookish. He had a brief infatuation with Rimbaud and Keats 20 years ago but that was soon abandoned. He now works on or around Pennsylvania Avenue. His attitudes have softened and become more nuan
Apr 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
part of a tetralogy (including the fall of Constinople, the history of Venice's maritime Empire and the creation of the Portuguese Empire) - earliest written I think but latest chronologically as it covers the naval conflict for the Mediterranean between the Hapsburg empires (especially of Spain) under Charles Quintus and Philip II (and assorted allies) and the Ottoman Empire under Suleiman the Magnificent and the corsairs of North Africa from 1521 end the fall of Rhodes to the Ottomans to 1580 ...more
My third book by Crowley, and it won't be my last -- he's one of the best narrative historians I've read. Engrossing, authoritative, and crammed full of detail. Highly recommended.

In a nutshell: in the 16th century, an expansionist, aggressive, and supremely organized Ottoman state focuses much of its attention on the Mediterranean, while squabbling European powers headed by Hapsburg Spain focus on the New World and internecine squabbling. The stage is set for decades of piracy, raiding, and sla
Sep 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This may very well be the most exciting history book I ever read. While it's obvious 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 this around my
May 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, history
Interesting history about the Mediterranean. I was mostly interested about the Knights of St. John who defended Malta. It felt to me that the author was sided to the Christian World and I rather have an unbiased opinion in nonfiction. All in all, I feel like humans will never learn, and war will always plague us.
Dec 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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

Don John of Austria is going to the war.
Sudden and still—hurrah!
Bolt from Iberia!
Don John of Austria
Is gone by Alcalar.

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 b
Feb 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set in 16th century mediterranean, Empires of the sea renders the picture of an epic confrontation between the Ottoman empire in it's heydey and several christian polities.
As other reviewers correcty point out, the book is divided into 3 sections. The first refers to a description of the sea, the asumption of promising Soliman and Charles V, their empires and their strategic goals, ambitions, and actions in it. For the Ottoman empire, their need to clear Rhodes and the St. John order with its p
Jan 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
José Luís  Fernandes
This is a book on the naval wars between the Spanish monarchy, the Knights of Saint John and sometimes Venice on one hand the Ottoman Empire (including the Babary Coast pirates, who were loyal to the Empire during this period), with a greater focus on the siege of Malta of 1565 and the battle of Lepanto (1571).

It's a nice introduction for those who want to know more about the subject and the book's style is very compelling for reading, but sometimes Crowley makes stupid comparisons with more m
Tudor Ciocarlie
Feb 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, explorers
I've traveled to Rhodes in august and this book was the perfect companion. I had some ideas about the naval war between the Ottomans and the Catholics, but I've never thought that the Mediterranean Sea in the 16 century was such in interesting place.
Feb 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Well-written, suspenseful history of the battle between the forces of Islam and Christendom in the 16th century Mediterranean.
Aug 22, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: quest, own-audio
I enjoyed this one more than that last book on the 1565 Malta siege. This one went into much more backstory leading up to the several month attack on Malta by the Turks. I enjoyed getting the backstory of so many of the integral players on each side. It helped me understand their motivations.
Todd Payne
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Utterly fascinating and gripping. Made me an instant and permanent Crowley fan.
May 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In his notes and acknowledgements at the end of Empires of the Sea, Professor Crowley describes his book as a "short, general work". This is a good criterion for reviewing his work, and modest in terms of his achievement.

In clear language and with a fine eye for detail, Prof. Crowley recounts the most dramatic events of a key time in western and Middle Eastern conflict. Between 1521 and 1571 the Ottoman Empire would effectively reach the limits of its effort to bring the last of the Roman Empire
Dan Walker
Jul 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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,
Nov 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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
Oct 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-history

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
Rochelle Reding
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Exceptional audiobook for a long car trip. The history of the Battle of Leponto. Pope Pius V, King Philip of Spain, Don John of Austria and the split in the Christian world due to the reformation and the battle against the Ottoman Empire. The battle between Islam and Christianity is long and bloody and the audiobook is not for the faint of heart. The book slogs a bit in the middle with so many details but in the end this just leads to a greater understanding of the depth of the divisions and to ...more
David Farrar
Aug 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first World War?

Crowley argues the confrontations between Islam and Christianity over control of the Mediterranean mark the first time all the resources of the known world came together in one ginormous clash of civilizations. Written with a wide angle view of politics and economics as well as a close up view of astonishing lives like Targut the pirate and the martyr of Farmagusta who was skinned alive after his final defeat.
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't really think of anything to criticise about this book. It's engagingly written, well-researched, fast paced yet still detailed, with plenty of quotes and anecdotes. It definitely has me inclined to check out Crowley's other books on Constantinople 1453 and the rise of the Portuguese empire.
Sep 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Edoardo Albert
Sep 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The world was strange five hundred years ago. The unity of medieval Christendom had ruptured, breaking apart a thousand years of cultural understanding (even if that had not translated into any lasting peace between the warring European states). Meanwhile, the old bulwark against the advance of the armies of Islam, the impregnable walls of Constantinople, had finally proved pregnable in 1453. Each new Ottoman Sultan had to prove his legitimacy through war and conquest - hence the inexorable driv ...more
May 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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
Jan 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Tariq Mahmood
Aug 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: europe, turkey, history
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
Apr 08, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Empires of the Sea,
The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World
Author: Roger Crowley
Publisher: Random House
Publishing Date: 2008
Pgs: 336
Dewey: 940.21 CRO
Disposition: Irving Public Library - South Campus - Irving, TX

Rulers on a mission from God. Cultures in clash. Cruelty. Horror, War. Pirates. Slavery. Ottoman. Spanish. The Mediterranean running red with blood. Siege. Con
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how much is fact, and how much is fiction? 3 24 May 28, 2017 12:39PM  

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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.
“On the Doncella, Federico Venusta had his hand mutilated by the explosion of his own grenade. He demanded a galley slave cut it off. When the man refused, he performed the operation himself and then went to the cook’s quarters, ordered them to tie the carcass of a chicken over the bleeding stump, and returned to battle, shouting at his right hand to avenge his left.” 6 likes
“War was not dependent on personal volition; it was an unceasing imperial project, authorized by Islam.” 1 likes
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