Empires of the Sea

  • by Roger Crowley
  • Narrated by John Lee
  • 11 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Empires of the Sea tells the story of the 50-year world war between Islam and Christianity for the Mediterranean: one of the fiercest and most influential contests in European history. It traces events from the appearance on the world stage of Suleiman the Magnificent - the legendary ruler of the Ottoman Empire - through "the years of devastation" when it seemed possible that Islam might master the whole sea, to the final brief flourishing of a united Christendom in 1571.The core of the story is the six years of bitter and bloody conflict between 1565 and 1571 that witnessed a fight to the finish. It was a tipping point in world civilization, a fast-paced struggle of spiraling intensity that led from the siege of Malta and the battle for Cyprus to the pope's last-gasp attempt to rekindle the spirit of the Crusades and the apocalypse at Lepanto.It features a rich cast of characters: Suleiman the Magnificent, greatest of Ottoman sultans; Hayrettin Barbarossa, the pirate who terrified Europe; the Knights of St. John, last survivors of the medieval crusading spirit; the aged visionary Pope Pius V; and the meteoric, brilliant Christian general, Don John of Austria.It is also a narrative about places: the shores of the Bosphorus, the palaces and shipyards of the Venetian lagoon, the barren rocks of Malta, the islands of Greece, the slave markets of Algiers - and the character of the sea itself, with its complex pattern of winds and weather, which provided the conditions and the field of battle. It involves all the peoples who border the Great Sea: Italians, Turks, Greeks, Spaniards, the French and the people of North Africa.This story is one of extraordinary color and incident, rich in detail, full of surprises, and backed by a wealth of eyewitness accounts. Its denouement, the battle of Lepanto, is a single action of quite shocking impact - considered at the time in Christian Europe to be "a day to end all days".

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What the Critics Say

"A masterly narrative that captures the religious fervor, brutality, and mayhem of this intensive contest for the 'center of the world'." (Kirkus)
"Masterfully synthesizing primary and secondary sources, [Crowley] vividly reconstructs the great battles...and introduces the larger-than-life personalities that dominated council chambers and fields of battle." (Publishers Weekly)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Brilliant detail, exciting story

This narrative came as a complete surprise; I had no idea the Mediterranean Sea was a major war zone in the 16th century; no idea, either, that citizens of both Europe and the Ottoman Empire were enslaved on such a scale by the "corsairs" of the opposing sides. Crowley tells the story as if it were recent history, extracting a full measure of excitement and suspense out of each incident. Narrated by the irrepressible John Lee. The only problem is that, as with other works on similar topics, the unfamiliar names -- unfamiliar to me, at any rate -- are hard to grasp without a printed text alongside. Wikipedia helps a bit. A map of Malta, especially of the Grand Harbor, is essential.
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- Tad Davis

Thoroughly enjoyable

This was an absolutely wonderful book, exciting, informative, and important. It gives the reader an understanding of the struggle between Islam, under the Ottoman Turks at the height of their power, and the Catholic Christians, led primarily by the Hapsburgs of Spain, the Pope, and the Venetians.

The depictions of the battles are as evocative of the horror of war as any I have ever heard; the incredible tenacity and purpose of the Turks, the astounding resilience of the Christians, both sides calling with equal fervor on the Lord for his favor in battle; suffering, bravery and brutality all around. The book also contains stories of many men whose names I had never before heard, but whose actions had an impact on history that lasts to this day.

Some listeners may feel that, at times, the book goes into too much detail, though I did not. The reader was clear and easy to understand, well matched to the material.
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- Dennis

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-30-2008
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio