The Siege of Malta, 1565
An eyewitness account of one of the greatest-ever battles as a few men under the Knights of St John took on a huge Turkish armada. This is the history of one of the great battles of the world, written by a private soldier who was an eye-witness. The siege of Malta was a crucial moment in the long struggle between Islam and Christendom for domination of the Mediterranean, fought out by unequal forces on the small island which commands the sea-routes at the centre of that sea. The Knights of St John were a survival from the medieval world, the largest of the surviving crusading orders,and they had been driven out of their base on Rhodes in the eastern Mediterranean after a great onslaught by the Turks in 1522. Now, forty-three years later, the Turkish ruler, Suleyman the Magnificent, who had been the victor atRhodes, was determined to finish them off. He sent out a huge armada, carrying the pick of his army, under two commanders. Against this powerful force, the Knights could only raise a handful of men and mercenaries, and had to depend on the fortifications they had raised in the thirty-five years since they first came to Malta, which bore no comparison to the massive walls and ditches on Rhodes. Francisco Balbi di Correggio was a humble soldier of fortune who enlisted under the charismatic command of the Grand Master of the Order, Jean de la Valette. The extraordinary drama that unfolded after the first appearance of the Turkish fleet in the summer of 1565 is told in his own words, giving equal credit to the courage and leadership of the Knights and the grim determination of the ordinary people of Malta.