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September 11 marks the 454th anniversary of the retreat of the Ottoman forces from Malta and the ending of the Great Siege. And what better way to celebrate one of the most famous events of the sixteenth-century Europe than to take a closer look at it?
Before The Siege
Following the six-month Siege of Rhodes in 1523 the Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, had successfully managed to eject the Knights from their base. For seven years (1523-1530) the Knights of the Order of Saint John lacked a permanent base.
The Order soon made their naval base in the island of Malta when, on 26 October 1530 , the Grand Master of the Knights Philippe de Villiers de L’Isle-Adam with his followers sailed to Malta’s Grand Harbour to lay claim to Malta and Gozo (granted to them by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in exchange for one falcon sent annually to the Viceroy of Sicily and a solemn Mass to be celebrated on All Saints Day).
Malta’s position in the centre of the Mediterranean made it a strategically crucial gateway between East and West, especially as the Barbary pirates increased their forays into the western Mediterranean throughout the 1540s and 1550s.
In 1551 Dragut and the Ottoman admiral Sinan Pasha decided to take Malta and invaded the island with a force of about 10,000 men. After only a few days, however, Dragut broke off the siege and moved to the neighboring island of Gozo, where he bombarded the Cittadella for several days. The Knights’ governor on Gozo, Gelatian de Sessa, having decided that resistance was futile, threw open the doors to the Cittadella.
The corsairs sacked the town and took virtually the entire population of Gozo (approximately 5,000 people) into captivity. Dragut and Sinan then sailed south to Tripoli, where they soon seized the Knight’s garrison there.
Expecting another Ottoman invasion within a year, Grand Master of the Knights Juan de Homedes ordered the strengthening of Fort Saint Angelo at the tip of Birgu (now Vittoriosa), as well as the construction of two new forts, Fort Saint Michael on the Senglea promontory and Fort Saint Elmo at the seaward end of Mount Sciberras (now Valletta)
By 1559 Dragut was causing the Christian powers such distress, even raiding the coasts of Spain, that Philip II of Spain organized the largest naval expedition in fifty years to evict the corsair from Tripoli. The Knights joined the expedition, which consisted of about 54 galleys and 14,000 men.
The ill-fated campaign climaxed in the Battle of Djerba in May 1560 when Ottoman admiral Piali Pasha surprised the Christian fleet off the Tunisian island of Djerba, capturing or sinking about half the Christian ships. The battle was disastrous for the Christians and marked the high point of Ottoman domination in the Mediterranean.
Getting Closer to the Siege
After the Battle of Djerba a Turkish attack at Malta was highly anticipated due to Malta’s strategic importance to the Ottoman plan of conquering more parts of Europe including Malta’s stepping stone Sicily and then the Kingdom of Naples.
In August 1560, Jean de Valette sent an order to all the Order’s priories that their knights prepare to return to Malta as soon as a citazione (summons) was issued. The Turks made a strategic error in not attacking at once, while the Spanish fleet lay in ruins, as the five-year delay allowed Spain to rebuild their forces.
In mid-1564 on of the Order’s most notorious naval commanders, Mathurin Romegas, captured several large merchantmen and took numerous high-ranking prisoners, including the governors of Cairo and Alexandria. Romegas‘ exploits made Sultan Suleiman seek the Order’s complete destruction.
By 1565 Jean de Valette’s spy network in Constantinople had informed him that the invasion was imminent. De Valette set about raising troops in Italy, laying in stores and finishing work on Fort Saint Angelo, Fort Saint Michael, and Fort Saint Elmo.
The Two Opposing Armies
Both of the following accounts are given by the Italian merceneray and official Order’s historian Francisco Balbi di Correggio
The Order’s Forces consisted of:
500 Knights Hospitaller
400 Spanish soldiers
800 Italian soldiers
500 soldiers from the galleys (Spanish Empire)
200 Greek and Sicilian soldiers
100 soldiers of the garrison of Fort St. Elmo
100 servants of the knights
500 galley slaves
3,000 soldiers drawn from the Maltese population
The Ottoman Forces consisted of:
6,000 Spahis (cavalry)
500 Spahis from Karamania
400 adventurers from Mytiline
2,500 Spahis from Rumelia
3,500 adventurers from Rumelia
4,000 “religious servants”
6,000 other volunteers
Various corsairs from Tripoli and Algiers
Total: 28,500 from the East, 40,000 in all
Before the arrival of the Turks Grand Master de Valette ordered the harvesting of all the crops, including unripened grain, to deprive the enemy of any local food supplies. Furthermore, the Knights poisoned all wells with bitter herbs and dead animals.
The Turkish armada arrived at dawn on Friday, 18 May, but did not land at once. On May 19 the first attack broke out. The following day the Ottoman fleet sailed up the southern coast of the island, turned around and finally anchored at Marsaxlokk (Marsa Sirocco) Bay, nearly 6.2 miles from the Grand harbour region. According to many accounts, Balbi’s in particular, a dispute arose between the leader of the land forces, the 4th Vizier serdar Kızılahmedli Mustafa Pasha, and the supreme naval commander, Piali Pasha , about where to anchor the fleet. Piali wished to shelter it at Marsamxett Harbour in order to avoid the sirocco and be near the Grand Harbour but Mustafa disagreed, because to anchor the fleet there would require the reducing Fort St. Elmo, (which guarded the entrance to the harbour) first.
Mustafa intended, according to these accounts, to attack the poorly defended former capital Mdina (standing in the centre of the island) then attack Forts St. Angelo and Michael by land. If so, an attack on Fort St. Elmo would have been entirely unnecessary. Nevertheless, Mustafa relented, believing that only a few days would be necessary to destroy St. Elmo. After the Turks were able to emplace their guns, at the end of May they commenced a bombardment.
While the Ottomans were landing, the knights and Maltese made some last-minute improvements to the defences of Birgu and Senglea. The Ottomans set up their main camp in Marsa, which was close to the Knights’ fortifications followed by camps on Saint Margherita Hill and Sciberra’s Peninsula in the next days.
Capture of Fort Saint Elmo
Having correctly calculated that the Turks would thus begin the campaign by attempting to capture Fort St Elmo, de Valette sent reinforcements and concentrated half of his heavy artillery within the fort. His intent was for them to hold out for a relief promised by Don Garcia, Viceroy of Sicily. The unremitting bombardment of the fort began on 27 May by three dozen guns on the higher ground of Mt. Sciberras. The fort was reduced to rubble within a week, but de Valette evacuated the wounded nightly and resupplied the fort from across the harbour. After Dragut’s arrival new batteries were set up to imperil the ferry lifeline. On 3 June, a party of Jannisaries managed to seize the fort’s ravelin and ditch. Still, by 8 June, the Knights sent a message to the Grand Master that the Fort could no longer be held but were rebuffed with messages that St Elmo must hold until the reinforcements arrived.
The Turks attacked the damaged walls on June 10 and 15, and made an all out assault on June 16, during which even the slave and hired galley oarsmen housed in St Elmo, as well as the native Maltese soldiers, reportedly fought and died “almost as bravely as the Knights themselves.” Two days later, Dragut was seen in a trench cannon emplacement arguing with the Turkish gunners about their level of fire. At Dragut’s insistence a cannon’s aim was lowered, but the aim was too low, and when fired its ball detached part of the trench which hit Dragut in the head, killing him.
Finally, on 23 June, the Turks seized what was left of Fort St. Elmo. They killed all the defenders, totaling over 1,500 men, but spared nine Knights whom the Corsairs had captured. A small number of Maltese, managed to escape by swimming across the harbour.
Mustafa had the bodies of the knights decapitated and their bodies floated across the bay on mock crucifixes. In response, de Valette beheaded all his Turkish prisoners, loaded their heads into his cannons and fired them into the Turkish camp
Although the Turks did succeed in capturing St. Elmo, allowing Piali to anchor his fleet in Marsamxett, the siege of Fort St. Elmo had cost the Turks at least 6,000 men, including half of their Janissaries.
The Senglea Peninsula
On 15 July, Mustafa ordered a double attack against the Senglea peninsula. He had transported 100 small vessels across Mt. Sciberras to the Grand Harbour, in order to launch a sea attack against the promontory using about 1,000 Janissaries, while the Corsairs attacked Fort St. Michael on the landward end. Luckily for the Maltese, a defector warned de Valette about the impending strategy and the Grand Master had time to construct a palisade along the Senglea promontory, which successfully helped to deflect the attack. Just all but one of the vessels sank, killing or drowning over 800 of the attackers. The land attack failed simultaneously when relief forces were able to cross to Ft. St. Michael across a floating bridge, with the result that Malta was saved for the day.
Mustafa ordered another massive double assault on 7 August, this time against Fort St. Michael and Birgu itself. On this occasion, the Turks breached the town walls and it seemed that the siege was over, but unexpectedly the invaders retreated. As it happened, the cavalry commander Captain Vincenzo Anastagi, on his daily sortie from Mdina, had attacked the unprotected Turkish field hospital, killing everyone. The Turks, thinking the Christian relief had arrived from Sicily, broke off their assault.
St Michael and Birgu
After the attack of 7 August, the Turks resumed their bombardment of St. Michael and Birgu, with at least one other major assault against the town between 19–21 August. The actual events that happened during those days are not entirely clear.
Balbi, in his diary entry for 20 August, says only that de Valette was told the Turks were within the walls and the Grand Master ran to “the threatened post where his presence worked wonders. Sword in hand, he remained at the most dangerous place until the Turks retired.”
Fort St. Michael and Mdina
At some point in August, the Council of Elders decided to abandon the town and retreat to Fort St. Angelo. De Valette, however, refused this proposal. Although the bombardment and minor assaults continued, the invaders were stricken by an increasing desperation. Towards the end of August, the Turks attempted to take Fort St. Michael two times: first with the help of a manta ( a small siege engine covered with shields) and then by use of a full-blown siege tower. In both cases, Maltese engineers tunneled out through the rubble and destroyed the constructions with point-blank salvos of chain shot.
At the beginning of September, the weather’s turning had Mustafa order a march on Mdina, intending to winter there. However the occurance of the attack failed. The poorly-defended and supplied city deliberately started firing its cannon at the approaching Turks at pointlessly long range. This bluff scared them away by fooling the already demoralised Turks into thinking the city had ammunition to spare.
By 8 September, the Turks had embarked their artillery and were preparing to leave the island, having lost perhaps a third of their men to fighting and disease.
On 7 September, Don Garcia had at last landed with about 8,000 men at St. Paul’s Bay on the north end of the island. The relief force consisted of mainly Spanish and Italian soldiers, sent by the Spanish Empire as well as the Duchy of Florence, the Republic of Genoa, the Papal States and the Duchy of Savoy.
The so-called Grande Soccorso positioned themselves on the ridge of San Pawl tat-Tarġa, waiting for the retreating Turks. It is said that when some hot-headed knights of the relief force saw the Turkish retreat and the burning villages in its wake, they charged without waiting for orders from Ascanio della Corgna. Della Corgna had no choice but to order a general charge which resulted in the massacre of the retreating Turkish force. The Turks fled to their ships and from the islands on 11 September.
Malta had survived the Turkish assault, and throughout Europe people celebrated what would turn out to be the last epic battle involving Crusader Knights.
Jean de Valette, Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, had a key influence in the victory against Ottomans. He had a major impact, by bringing together the kings of Europe in an alliance against the previously seemingly invincible Ottomans.
Such was the gratitude of Europe for the knights’ heroic defense that money soon began pouring into the island, allowing de Valette to construct a fortified city, Valletta, on Mt. Sciberras. de Valette didn’t leave to see Valletta completed as he died in 1568. He was buried in the Crypt of the Conventual Church of the Order within Valletta’s walls.
Just a few weeks away from beginning my third year of college and I find myself contemplating the recently finished summer. Or, to be more precise, the two months I’ve spent working as a food technologist in quality control at a flour milling industry.
I know that might sound confusing to you. After all how can a college student get a job in the study field she hasn’t even got her degree on?
Well to answer your question, I found this job position thanks to my father who works in the sales department at the same industry. I yearned for some work experience before my graduation to add in my CV and as a result I asked my father if I could apply for a job. He spoke to his boss on my behalf and after his boss made a review of my academic performance I was hired! You could say that I was a lucky girl …
So, after finishing my spring semester’s exams in late June I returned to my hometown Piraeus and started working officially on July 1st.
It was quite hard at the beginning I must admit. Despite my two years at college I still haven’t attend classes about grain quality control (which are in third year’s curriculum) and were required for such position. As a result I couldn’t get accustomed to some of the terminologies used and I struggled to prove my worth.
However, I found myself getting better and better as the days passed. I think it had mainly to do with my unexpected ease in the management of the different machines such as the amylograph, the farinograph and the alveograph. This, along with the many encouraging comments I received from my colleagues, gave me confidence in my own abilities.
And guess what? Your girl managed to master every little aspect of that job in just a two- months time. Sounds impossible but I guarantee it’s 100% true.
That brings us to another important factor I want to talk about: the working environment
When I first began working I expected a strick and apathetic workplace with serious people minding their own business and showing no interest in anything or anyone else. I can only blame the industry’s big company vibes for that …
To say I was wrong would be an understandment. I was pleasantly surprised to meet friendly and decent people who were kind enough to lend me a helping hand when I needed it without judging my lack of experience. I made a lot of acquaintances during my time there and had amazing conversations that I will cherish for many years to come.
All in all, my summer experience as a food technologist had a profound effect on me. Not only did I work in my study field and gained wonderful insights into one of my future courses but also earned a good amount of money and met wonderful people.
If you happen to be a college student who has the opportunity to work in his/hers study field before acquiring his/her degree I urge you to take that chance! By doing so you will receive useful knowldege along with work experience and a good salary. And bonus if you are an introvert like myself working can also help you improve your social skills and expand your acquaintance list.
A classic 80’s song by the Sultan of the Bedroom, the one and only Barry White. Appeared on my Youtube recommended videos and from the moment I (thankfully) decided to hear it I find myself humming it from time to time.
Woman In Love – Barbra Streisand
This is literally my most favorite romantic song of all times! It was the song accompanying a fan video about the film Sahara (also included in this post scroll down for more info) I accidentally found when researching the film. I have to say that I I listen to it every day for hours, without getting bored.
Can’t Take My Eyes of Off You – Gloria Gaynor
Apparently this month the music was mostly 80’s inspired. Now this song first came to my attention in the famous scene with Heath Ledger singing it in 10 Things I Hate About You. Even though I knew the song I had never listened to Gloria Gaynor’s cover before and I’m so glad I did for it became my favorite version.
Señorita – Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello
Seriously this song plays in every radio station out there all the time and yet no one gets annoyed or even bored by it. Certainly not me cause since the day I heard it I found myself thinking of dancing in the beach under the moonlight while sipping some Tequila Sunrise with my dance partner.
Tamally Maak – Amr Diab
I recently heard this song and became obsessed with it due to it’s exotic elements and how much it reminded me of Egypt (aka one of the best countries and ancient civilizations ever to exist). It is a love song of course but such a unique one that makes you dream of desert locations and handsome princes (or princesses).
After a ridiculously long break in watching television series, Lucifer came to bring me out of it. The show focuses on the Devil himself after he leaves Hell and moves to Los Angeles where he opens a bar and becomes a partner of the L.A.P.D homicide detective Chloe Decker with whom he is smitten. Needless to say how many times Lucifer’s wit and charisma made me question my morality and belief of God…
This is a 1983 adventure movie staring Brooke Shields and Lambert Wilson that I simply couldn’t resist. After her father dies in a racing vehicle practice young Dale participates in the Sahara race to save his dream only to get caught up with a Bedouin tribal war. Although the setting takes place in 1927 a certain 80s vibe is present throughout the film and made it hard not to love it.
Lion King (2019)
I am must admit with great shame that I never watched the original animated classic. I knew it was a popular one but for some reason I kept it out of my movie list. But then the live action happened and I found myself in the cinema with one of my closest friends singing Hacuna Matata, laughing at all the funny parts and even crying during Mufasa’s death (the first time I cried in the cinema). To say it was an amazing experience would be an understandment.
This is definetely one of the Youtube channels I never expected to enjoy! Not because the content is mediocre (on the contrary it is superb and well structured) but because I felt it was so out of my character. That was of course before I came upon this beautiful lady and listened to her talk about femininity and tradiotional homemaking lifestyle. Cause once I did I finally embraced my feminine side and I now strive to become a better version of a lady.
Now this lady brings out some truly magical vibes! Living in a small village in the north of Sweden after having abandoned the city life she shares her art and photography along with the simple joys of living close to nature. Such a unique lifestyle is she portraying that makes you redefine your whole world view.
Another wonderful lady with a distinctive lifestyle focusing on vintage revival from clothes and furniture to beauty and entertainment. Her passion speaks to my own vintage aesthetic and makes me glad to have discovered her channel.
What was in your own list of favourites for the month August? Let me know in the comments below…