The Great Siege of Malta, May 18 – September 11, 1565

After his accession to the throne, Suleiman the Magnificent took the island of Rhodes from the Knights Hospitaller in 1522. Suleiman allowed them to depart with the agreement that they would never again engage in hostilities against the Ottomans.

The Knights Hospitaller initially moved to Sicily, but, this promise was not kept when in 1530 King Charles of Spain, an implacable foe of the Ottomans, offered Malta to the Knights from where they resumed their hostility against the Ottomans.

The Great Siege of Malta 1565 by Charles Philippe Lariviere (Photo: Wikimedia | Licensed under the Creative Commons)

Suleiman’s victories at Rhodes in the eastern Aegean (1522) and at Preveza in northwestern Greece (1538) made the Ottomans masters of the eastern Mediterranean. But the small stony island of Malta was still a major problem for the empire. Therefore, Suleiman decided to resolve the issue once and for all.

As a result, the Ottomans besieged Malta on May 18, 1565. The siege lasted for nearly four months and on September 11, 1565, the Ottoman fleet had to withdraw. The Ottomans should have taken the city, but Malta’s defenders and the arrival of a relief army of Spanish soldiers turned the tide.

During the siege, the Ottoman admiral Turgut Reis also lost his life. Turgut had been a major threat to the Christian nations of the central Mediterranean. Many historians believe that, had Turgut lived, the siege would have been successful.

This was a big setback for the Ottomans as they lost a huge number of their troops, including their best admiral. Next year in 1566, Suleiman the Magnificent would also die during his last campaign against the Habsburgs.

The withdrawal from Malta in 1565 and Suleiman’s death in 1566 marked the beginning of a halt in the Ottoman advance into central Europe and the Mediterranean.

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