Empires of the Sea by Roger Crowley

Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World by Roger Crowley is an interesting account of the struggle between Christianity and Islam for control of the Mediterranean.  The book focuses on the fifty year battle (1521-1571) for control of the Mediterranean, including the three decisive Battles of Rhodes, Malta, and Lepanto.

Crowley discusses the three battles along with other important events and influential figures.  These figures include Suleiman the Magnificent, the Muslim ruler of the Ottoman Empire at the height of its power; Charles V, the Catholic ruler of the Hapsburg Empire – the largest and most powerful Christian power; and the various leaders of the Knights of St. John, the monastic military order that fought hard against the Turks at Rhodes and Malta.

Since I read my first book on the Battle of Lepanto, I have become more interested in the historical power struggle between Christians and Muslims.  Crowley adds significantly to my knowledge of this struggle.  For instance, I thought it was purely a fight between Christians and Muslims and that there a bitter hatred between the two sides.  However, as Crowley explains, at one time or another the French and the Venetians had treaties with the Turks during the time period studied.

In the front of the book, Crowley includes a map of the Mediterranean and detailed maps of the area surrounding the Battles of Malta and Lepanto.  These were good reference points for the events discussed in the text.  In addition, Crowley includes illustrations of the important men and various scenes that take place in time period – such as an illustration on the death of the Venetian governor after the fall of Famagusta, Cyprus.

The book is 291 pages long, but it seems a lot shorter because of Crowley’s writing style.  His style is very easy to read and understand.

This book is an excellent summary of the struggle between Christianity and Islam to control the Mediterranean.

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