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Suleiman the Magnificent, 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, occupied by the Knights of St. John, the cream of the warriors of the Holy Roman Empire. A clash of civilizations the likes of which had not been seen since Persia invaded Greece was shaping up. 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 St. Elmo fought to the last man, enduring cruel hardships. When they captured the fort, the Turks 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.
Ernle Bradford was born in 1922 and died in 1986. He was a noted British historian specializing in the Mediterranean world and naval topics. Bradford was an enthusiastic sailor himself and spent almost thirty years sailing the Mediterranean, where many of his books are set. He served in the Royal Navy during World War II, finishing as the first lieutenant of a destroyer. Bradford lived in Malta for a number of years. He did occasional broadcast work for the BBC, was a magazine editor, and wrote many books, including Hannibal, Paul the Traveller, Julius Caesar: The Pursuit of Power, Christopher Columbus, and The Mighty Hood.