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The Great Siege of Malta - The Epic Battle between the Ottoman Empire and the Knights of St. John, Bruce Ware Allen

The Great Siege of Malta - The Epic Battle between the Ottoman Empire and the Knights of St. John, Bruce Ware Allen


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The Great Siege of Malta - The Epic Battle between the Ottoman Empire and the Knights of St. John, Bruce Ware Allen

The Great Siege of Malta - The Epic Battle between the Ottoman Empire and the Knights of St. John, Bruce Ware Allen

The Great Siege of Malta was one of the most important military encounters of the Sixteenth Century. Earlier in the century the Knights of St John had been expelled from Rhodes, and the remaining Christian enclaves in the Eastern Mediterranean were slowly falling to the Ottoman Empire. The Knights of St. John ended up finding a new home on Malta, sitting at a key point in the centre Mediterranean. After a period of more limited conflict, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent decided to send a massive army to capture the island. The resulting siege saw the outnumbered Knights (supported by a number of allies and mercenaries) defend the fortresses around the Grand Harbour (the site of modern Valetta, named after the commander of the defence during the siege).

This book begins on Rhodes, and tracing the developments that led to the Great Siege. The build up takes up the first quarter of the book, and gives us a good feel of the Mediterranean world at the time and the pressures that led to the siege. The remaining three quarters of the book focus on the siege itself, which began with a determined defence of the outlying fortress of St. Elmo, before the always wearied Ottomans were finally free to concentrate on the main defences. Most of our attention is focused on events around the main siege, but Allen also covers the limited fighting elsewhere on Malta and the Christian relief effort, which was being organised on Sicily by the Spanish viceroy.

This is a compelling account of this vitally important siege, a conflict that helped define the borders between Christianity and Islam in the Mediterranean. Allen provides us with a vivid account of the desperate fighting at Malta, portraits of the main characters on both sides, and of the worlds in which they were operating. This is an impressive account of this epic siege.

Part One: Corsairs and Rulers
1 - The Siege of Rhodes, 1521
2 - The Road to Malta, 1522-1530
3 - In Service to the Empire, 1531-1540
4 - War at Sea, 1541-1550
5 - Djerba, 1551-1560
6 - An Almost-Peaceful Interim, 1561-1564
7 - Dark Clouds in the East, 1565

Part Two: Objective: St. Elmo
8 - First Blood
9 - Sizing up the Enemy
10 - Preparations for a Siege
11 - A Fatal Oversight
12 - Thrust and Parry
13 - Fresh Resolve
14 - Bullets Wrapped in Smoke and Fire
15 - A Plea to God
16 - The End of the Battle

Part Three: Honor Bought with Blood
17 - Piccolo Soccorso
18 - Relief into Birgu
19 - Barvi d'Algieri
20 - Endurance
21 - Onslaught of the Ottomans
22 - Two Gentleman of Perugia

Part Four: A Line Drawn in Water
23 - The Gran Soccorso at Sea
24 - Mustapha's Last Hazard
25 - The Gran Soccorso at War
26 - From the Ashes
27 - Verdict
28 - The Survivors

Author: Bruce Ware Allen
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 328
Publisher: ForeEdge from University Press of New England
Year: 2015



Reviews | The Great Siege of Malta: The Epic Battle Between the Ottoman Empire and the Knights of St. John

Voltaire, writing in the 18th century, declared, “Nothing is more famous than the siege where Suleiman’s luck ran aground.” Yet in 2015, the 450th anniversary of that siege of sieges, little notice was taken of the earth-trembling events that transpired half a millennium ago. An exception was Bruce Ware Allen’s fine Great Siege of Malta (and a novel by this reviewer).

By 1565 the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent had wearied of the depredations the Knights of Malta were inflicting on his shipping lanes. Resolving to expunge the knights from the face of the earth, he dispatched the largest armada since antiquity against the island. In the spring of that year 200 ships carrying 30,000 or more fighting men invaded a rock defended by 600 knights and 6,000 to 8,000 soldiers, half of whom were untrained. After four months of unimaginably vicious siege warfare, the Turks threw up their hands and left.

Allen’s welcome account may be regarded as a corrective to Ernle Bradford’s enduring Great Siege: Malta 1565, published in 1961, whose stylistic verve is matched only by the number of its inaccuracies and inventions. By contrast, Allen’s mastery of the subject is evident throughout, and his is the most extensive bibliography of relevant materials to date, including as it does previously unutilized sources. Yet the primary siege sources are contradictory and frequently irreconcilable, and Allen rarely informs the reader why he has chosen one version over another. As an example, there are several incompatible accounts of the death of the famous corsair Turgut Reis, including a newly discovered Turkish one that contradicts the others. Allen chose the most implausible of all, and though he surely has his reasons, they remain unspoken. Both Bradford and Allen also publish a stirring letter from the Knights in doomed Fort St. Elmo, begging Grand Master de Valette to permit them to die in a heroic sortie. According to Maltese historian Giovanni Bonello, the original document has never been found, and Giacomo Bosio, whose encyclopedic history provides the original source for the letter, indicates that the generally quoted letter is but a paraphrase.

Like Bradford, Allen has chosen the “narrative” style favored by popular historians, but the author might want to consider writing a second version for those with more academic leanings, one in which he critiques and weighs his considerable sources. MHQ

Tony Rothman is the author of 11 books, most recently The Course of Fortune (J. Bolyston, 2015), a three-volume novel about the great siege of Malta.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue (Vol. 29, No. 1) of MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History with the headline: Reviews: The Great Siege of Malta.

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In the spring of 1565, a massive fleet of Ottoman ships descended on Malta, a small island centrally located between North Africa and Sicily, home and headquarters of the crusading Knights of St. John and their charismatic Grand Master, Jean de Valette. The Knights had been expelled from Rhodes by the Ottoman sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, and now stood as the last bastion against a Muslim invasion of Sicily, southern Italy, and beyond. The siege force of Turks, Arabs, and Barbary corsairs from across the Muslim world outnumbered the defenders of Malta many times over, and its arrival began a long hot summer of bloody combat, often hand to hand, embroiling knights and mercenaries, civilians and slaves, in a desperate struggle for this pivotal point in the Mediterranean.

Bruce Ware Allen's The Great Siege of Malta describes the siege's geopolitical context, explains its strategies and tactics, and reveals how the all-too-human personalities of both Muslim and Christian leaders shaped the course of events. The siege of Malta was the Ottoman empire's high-water mark in the war between the Christian West and the Muslim East for control of the Mediterranean. Drawing on copious research and new source material, Allen stirringly recreates the two factions' heroism and chivalry, while simultaneously tracing the barbarism, severity, and indifference to suffering of sixteenth-century warfare.

The Great Siege of Malta is a fresh, vivid retelling of one of the most famous battles of the early modern world-a battle whose echoes are still felt today.
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The Great Siege of Malta: The Epic Battle between the Ottoman Empire and the Knights of St. John

In the spring of 1565, a massive fleet of Ottoman ships descended on Malta, a small island centrally located between North Africa and Sicily, home and headquarters of the crusading Knights of St. John and their charismatic Grand Master, Jean de Valette. The Knights had been expelled from Rhodes by the Ottoman sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, and now stood as the last bastion against a Muslim invasion of Sicily, southern Italy, and beyond. The siege force of Turks, Arabs, and Barbary corsairs from across the Muslim world outnumbered the defenders of Malta many times over, and its arrival began a long hot summer of bloody combat, often hand to hand, embroiling knights and mercenaries, civilians and slaves, in a desperate struggle for this pivotal point in the Mediterranean.

Bruce Ware Allen’s The Great Siege of Malta describes the siege’s geopolitical context, explains its strategies and tactics, and reveals how the all-too-human personalities of both Muslim and Christian leaders shaped the course of events. The siege of Malta was the Ottoman empire’s high-water mark in the war between the Christian West and the Muslim East for control of the Mediterranean. Drawing on copious research and new source material, Allen stirringly recreates the two factions’ heroism and chivalry, while simultaneously tracing the barbarism, severity, and indifference to suffering of sixteenth-century warfare.

The Great Siege of Malta is a fresh, vivid retelling of one of the most famous battles of the early modern world—a battle whose echoes are still felt today.


The Great Siege of Malta – The Epic Battle between the Ottoman Empire and the Knights of St. John Paperback – Illustrated, 9 April 2019

"Allen's mastery of the subject is evident throughout, and his is the most extensive bibliography of relevant materials to date, including as it does previously unutilized sources."-- "Military History Quarterly"

"Gripping. . . . This is an important new study of one of the greatest of episodes in Malta's illustrious history."-- "The Journal of the Maltese Diaspora"

"This book offers many excellent things: it's a gripping read, and its scholarship opens a window onto a fascinating world. It provides deep insights into the nature of war and battle - or perhaps one should say into human nature - as well as providing some very thought-provoking parallels with today's geopolitical situation. Highly recommended to all readers."-- "Naval Historical Foundation"

Allen has done a fine job of researching his subject. His footnotes bristle with references to relevant primary sources both Christian and Ottoman. . . . The writing is is lucid and crisp, which makes for a readable book.-- "The Sixteenth Century Journal"


Great Siege of Malta

GOD'S SOLDIERS 2x52min / 1x91min
In the mid-16th Century, a long running conflict between two of the most powerful world religions is building up to a climactic battle in the Mediterranean for the very soul of Europe. Facing each other are two highly trained forces. The knights of the Order of St. John, a small but formidable Christian military Order and the Muslim Janissaries, the fearsome crack troops of the Sultan.

The historic events are told through the eyes of Hasan, a pressganged Greek boy who is conscripted into the Ottoman army, and his arch-rival, the ambitious novice warrior monk Raymonde. From an early age, both are trained to fight with no mercy in the name of God, and Allah. Only one will surviv

Българските народни песни поставят девойката спасителка на Малта в пряка кръвно-родствена връзка с най-силния и власт имащ човек сред рицарите. Използваната лексика характеризира доста точно позицията на Великия магистър и лаконично показва кой е той. Целта е вниманието да бъде насочено към историческата личност на Йоан де Валет и към чудото, спасило Малтийския орден през 1566 г.

The Bulgarian folk songs put the virgin saviour of Malta in a direct blood relationship with the strongest and most powerful man among the knights. The vocabulary used characterizes the position of the Grand Master accurately, and succinctly shows who he is. The aim is to draw attention to the historical figure of Ioannes de Valette and the miracle that saved the Order of Malta in 1566.

This review addresses the questionable practice of adding a subtitle to an author’s work after his death, "Clash of Cultures: Christian Knights Defend Western Civilization Against the Moslem Tide," and questions the terms employed in this newly added subtitle. It then enquires into the omission of mention a place from the author’s 1961 published account of the 1565 siege. The omission of a settlement that at the time of the siege was known as, Burmola, the location of the “Campo di Turchi”, the Ottoman-Muslim camp after the taking of Fort St. Elmo on the 23rd of June 1565. It suggests the reason for the omission of this toponym from this book was due to the author’s relationship with the politics in Malta at the time the book was being written in the late 1950’s, it being the birthplace and power base of Dom Mintoff. In consequence of the omission of this toponym from this historical bestseller there have been consequences over the past 60 years in peoples’ perception of the city and of the history of Burmola/ Bormla/Cospicua, and there have also been consequences in terms of the preservation of heritage in this city.

Bu kitap eleştirisi bir yazarın tercih ettiği başlığa ölümünden sonra tekrarlanan baskılarda yapılan ekler konusunu ele almak ve bu eklerde kullanılan sözcük seçimlerini tartışmak amaçlıdır. Eleştiride ele alınacak
ikinci konu da yazarın 1961 tarihli ilk baskıda Osmanlı ordusunun St. Elmo kalesini 23 Haziran 1565’de ele geçirdikten sonra kamp kurduğu (Campo di Turchi) Burmola kasabası anlatısında tamamen yok saymış olmasıdır. Bunun nedeni kasabanın, kitabın yazıldığı 1950’lerde Malta politikasında etkin olan Dom Mintoff’un doğum yeri olması ve yazarın politik bağlarının bu konuda etken olmasıdır. Kasabanın isminin (Burmola/Bormla/Cospicua) bu çok satan tarihi yayında zikredilmemesi geçtiğimiz 60 yıl içinde kentin algısı ve tarihi üzerinde buna bağlı olarak da tarihi mirasının korunması konusunda olumsuz etkileri olmuştur.

If there are a few episodes in Maltese history and collective mentality which have been invoked, remoulded, and applied to a multitude of circumstances faced by the Maltese across the centuries, the 1565 Siege of Malta deserves to be one of the leading, turning-point moments. ‘. the Maltese Victory of the 8th September of 1565 was the best VICTORY ever made in the world . ’ fervently wrote a correspondent on Il-Ħabbar in 1891. For, stated Giuseppe Muscat Azzopardi in 1882, ‘had not the Maltese stood firm in front of the Turks, they would have taken the whole of Europe following Malta.’ Strong words these may seem, they were put down on paper amidst the rise of Maltese Nationalism, when the leading Maltese politicians and elite were polarising into two factions - the genesis of Maltese political parties – the Riformisti and Anti-Riformisti. It should come as no surprise therefore, that the Otto Settembre commemoration was given a new twist during the last two decades of the nineteenth century.

Giovanni Antonio Vassallo published the first ever history of Malta and Gozo in the vernacular in 1862. A skimming through the text leaves the reader in awe after reading a sentimentally romanticised version of what was supposed to have taken place between May and September 1565. The event was glamourized, its episodes dramatized, with a hint of the imagination at play to arouse the emotions and quasi-apocalyptic in its teleological reach. Take Giuseppe Calì’s sentimental Death of Dragut, which can be matched with the leading European Romantic artistic pieces by Delacroix or Decamps, painted also during this period, in 1867.

Typically, during Malta’s romantic and nationalistic surge, the Otto Settembre embodied some fundamental concepts which carried vibrant implications to the contemporary situation of the colony between 1860 and 1939. Emphasising the cataclysmic dimension of the event, as if the world was desperately depending on Maltese valour for its survival, highlighted the glory and greatness of the Maltese nation in face of its submission, often seen as oppression, due to the colonial chains it was bearing. In this, as in other romantic expressions, the figure of the ‘us’ was set and defined by that of ‘the other’, with a predictable end-result: the overwhelming supremacy of the former despite forces playing against the odds. Pointing out the role of siege heroes, with their ideal attributes of valour, holiness, ability to sacrifice their lives for the patria, and having the power to change the course of history was tantamount to constructing exemplars for the type of leaders Malta needed during the British rule, especially when Anglicisation (filling the shoes of the Turk) was perceived to be the modern threat of annihilation to Maltese identity survival.

In the 1880s, the Otto Settembre started being celebrated in the streets and squares of Valletta, and soon, in every weekend of September, commemorations of the historical victory popped up in various towns and villages around Malta and Gozo. This, as had happened in Francesco Crispi’s Italy, soon started to imitate a typical religious village feast, with fireworks displays and bands marching, not to mention that in the late nineteenth century, a selection of pieces from the Armoury started being displayed during this feast in St George’s Square. The aim was in line with the current spirit of the times, namely that of disseminating a romantic patriotic spirit among the common man in the street and reminding the British of Maltese prowess in front of an aggressive threat.

Those who employed the Italianità weapon to fight Anglicisation were the protagonists, but as the decades passed, the Otto Settembre became so entrenched in the hearts of the Maltese, that nineteenth and twentieth century newspapers report festivities taking place in Maltese colonies around the Mediterranean, complemented by highly patriotic verses. Commissioning the allegory of Malta, a victorious young lady to be elevated on pedestals during village feasts, also assumed the costume of a victorious warrior over the Muslim. The Carnival Parade kept the romanticised historical episode alive every year in St George’s square – with an expected, yet still exciting, end result – the crashing feet of the Maltese and the Knights over the Infidel.

Taking all this into perspective, this presentation will demonstrate the up surging significance of the Otto Settembre – the commemoration of the Siege of Malta - during the rise of Maltese Nationalism between 1860 and 1939.


The Great Siege of Malta: The Epic Battle between the Ottoman Empire and the Knights of St. John

In the spring of 1565, a massive fleet of Ottoman ships descended on Malta, a small island centrally located between North Africa and Sicily, home and headquarters of the crusading Knights of St. John and their charismatic Grand Master, Jean de Valette. The Knights had been expelled from Rhodes by the Ottoman sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, and now stood as the last bastion against a Muslim invasion of Sicily, southern Italy, and beyond. The siege force of Turks, Arabs, and Barbary corsairs from across the Muslim world outnumbered the defenders of Malta many times over, and its arrival began a long hot summer of bloody combat, often hand to hand, embroiling knights and mercenaries, civilians and slaves, in a desperate struggle for this pivotal point in the Mediterranean. Bruce Ware Allen's The Great Siege of Malta describes the siege's geopolitical context, explains its strategies and tactics, and reveals how the all-too-human personalities of both Muslim and Christian leaders shape
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The Terrible Turks intended to make a Tower of Skulls out of the Maltese defenders!

In 1529, Sultan Suleiman set out from Constantinople with an army of 1 million Terrible Turks to kill the Reformation in its cradle.

In 1529, Sultan Suleiman set out from Constantinople to strangle the Reformation in its cradle.

That attempted conquest of Germany was rained out!

In 1565, the Sultan placed Mustafa Pasha in charge of the largest armada that had sailed since the ancient world.

It consisted of 200 ships and over 40,000 Terrible Turks.

Mustafa Pasha was also accompanied by the Sultans 2 most trusted pirates and beheaders: Turgut Reis and Piali Pasha.

Turgut Reis "Dragut" was a Terrible Turk indeed.

In 1560, he captured the Djerba fortress in Tripoli, and beheaded 6,000 of the Spanish defenders. Then he made a huge tower of their skulls!!

Piali Pasha was a confederate of Dragut who helped him build the Tower of Skulls.

Prior to the great Siege of Malta, the Terrible Turks achieved a great victory over a fleet sent to Tripoli by King Philip II.

In May 1560, the Battle of Djerba took place near the island of Djerba, in Tripoli.

It was an overwhelming victory for the Terrible Turks, with over 6,000 Spaniards killed, and they celebrated by making a tower of skulls of the victims.

They planned on doing the same on Malta.

The Tower of Skulls remained until 1848, when it was demolished and the bones were buried. After their victory at Djerba, Turgut and Piali sailed past Malta and they were very, very confident that another Tower of Skulls would soon adorn that island.


Watch the video: Έφτασε η στιγμή (May 2022).