Adventures in Bookland: The Two Sieges of Rhodes, 1480-1522 by Eric Brockman

The Two Sieges of Rhodes, 1480-1522 by Eric Brockman

In the 16th century, the idea that European civilisation would come to dominate the world in the following centuries seemed extremely unlikely. Yes, it is true, mariners and adventurers had opened up the New World and sent Christian ships into the Indian Ocean, but Europe itself was fracturing, its medieval unity of religion breaking on the rocks of the Reformation, while from the east, the rising power of the Ottomans appeared to be flowing westward as inexorably as the tide.

With the gaze of Christian princes turned to the wider world beyond the Mediterranean, the main defence against Ottoman expansion was left to the Knights Hospitaller, the last of the monastic crusading orders, from their fortress island of Rhodes. In 1480, the conqueror of Constantinople, Mehmed, tried to take the island but a heroic defence turned him back. 42 years later, his great-grandson, Suleiman, tried again and this time a similarly heroic defence could only delay him since no Christian prince was willing or able to send a relieving force, so conscious were they of their rivalry and enmity.

Brockman tells the story of the two epic sieges well, making good use of the contemporary sources, although I would cavil at some of his interpretations. But overall an excellent account of the start of the war for the Mediterranean.


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