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Publisher's Summary

Suleiman the Magnificent, sultan of the Ottoman Empire and the most powerful ruler in the world, was determined to conquer Europe. Only one thing stood in his way: a dot of an island in the Mediterranean called Malta, which was occupied by the Knights of Saint John, the cream of the warriors of the Holy Roman Empire. A clash of civilizations was shaping up, the likes of which had not been seen since Persia invaded Greece. Determined to capture Malta and use its port to launch operations against Europe, Suleiman sent an armada and an overwhelming army. A few thousand defenders in Fort Saint Elmo fought to the last man, enduring cruel hardships. When the Turks captured the fort, they took no prisoners and mutilated the defenders’ bodies. Grand Master La Vallette of the Knights reciprocated by decapitating his Turkish prisoners and using their heads to cannonade the enemy. Then the battle for Malta began in earnest: no quarter asked, none given.
The Great Siege is not merely a gripping tale of brutality, courage, and tenacity but the saga of two mighty civilizations struggling for domination of the known world.

Ernle Bradford (1922–1986) was a prominent British historian specializing in the Mediterranean world and naval history. He served in the Royal Navy for the duration of World War II and later traveled throughout the Mediterranean, living for a while on Malta. He was a BBC broadcaster and magazine editor, as well as the author of many acclaimed books, including biographies on Cleopatra, Hannibal, and Caesar.
©2012 Ernle Bradford (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc
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Customer Reviews

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By Tad Davis on 08-18-13

Stirring tale of courage and endurance

Suleiman the Magnificent, at the start of his reign, captured the island of Rhodes and allowed the Knights Hospitaller to leave in good order. They re-established themselves on the island of Malta, and their sea raids once again became a threat to Ottoman shipping. At the end of his reign, Suleiman launched a massive campaign to oust them again - and open up Sicily, Italy, and Southern Europe to attack.

The siege failed: Suleiman's generals and admirals failed to reckon with the grit and almost superhuman determination of Jean de Valette, the Grand Master of the Order of Saint John; or with the fanatical devotion of his men and the courage of the Maltese people themselves. The siege was supposed to last a few weeks; it lasted nearly four months, until the Ottomans, broken by disease and beginning to run short of ammunition and provisions - and facing the belated arrival of Christian reinforcements from Sicily - gave up and left.

You don't have to take sides in the struggle (though Ernle Bradford certainly does) to appreciate this stirring tale of human courage and endurance. Simon Vance narrates the story with his usual crystal clarity and deft pacing.

This older book bears comparison with the more recent "Empires of the Sea" by Roger Crowley, narrated by the equally fine John Lee. Bradford focuses entirely on Malta, and provides a more detailed look at some aspects of the siege; Crowley covers the larger story, from the time of the corsairs through the Battle of Lepanto that finally broke the Ottoman sea power for good.

If you had to pick one, I would go with Crowley's. But if you want to revisit the story of the Great Siege from a slightly different angle, this is an excellent choice.

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15 of 16 people found this review helpful

By Jean on 02-05-13

Malta the key to the Mediterranean Sea

Ernie Bradford did an excellent job researching and telling this story of the greatest siege in history. A small group of the order of the Knights of Saint John held 3 forts against the might of the Ottoman Empire. At this time the Ottoman's were ruled by their greatest leader Suleiman the Magnificent and wanted Malta so he could control the Mediterranean area. The battle was without quarter and both sides felt they were fighting for the religious beliefs. I have always wanted to visit Malta and stay long enough to see all the sights of historical sights. Bradford gave lots of back ground about the Knights, their armour, the fighting techniques of the time and also the tactics of fort defense. As well as information about the Grand Master La Vallette of the Knights of Saint John. Simon Vance did a great job reading this book. If you like history you will enjoy this book.

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14 of 15 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Noel on 02-22-18

Outstanding! Greatest siege in history

Maltese heroism at its best. As the excellent narrator says unfortunately the names have been forgotten and unrecorded.

No single Maltese fighter ever defected to the other side, Bradford says, unlike Italian, French, Greek, Spanish and Turks who switched sides on several occasions. Another commentator, seeing the bravery and fearlessness with which the Maltese attacked their invaders, says, that no one of any other nation or creed could have been more courageous.

We must give credit to these Maltese heroes and try to identify and find information about these warriors who saved the island five centuries ago!

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By Anonymous User on 10-31-17

I really enjoyed this book <br /><br />

On planning to visit to Malta, I wanted to know the history behind the Island , I listen with amazement of the shear volume of history in- golfed this tiny island wow , a must read if planning a visit . I recommend this book .

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By Anthony on 04-24-15


Excellent interpretatio of a great book and an epic story. I am left thirsting for more stories of the knights of St John.

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