Over the past couple of weeks I've had the pleasure to finally read "Victory of the West," by
It's an interesting read, and I learned a great deal not only about the events leading up to the Battle of Lepanto, but also naval warfare during that period.
Despite the title, the author takes great pains not to paint either side as better than the other. However, there is simply no nice way to describe Janissaries - they are without a Christian equivalent and they pretty much give the lie to the whole notion that "jihad" really means "personal struggle" - unless getting to use enslaved children forcibly converted to your faith is a more accepted form of self-improvement than I thought.
Something the author stresses - and something that is worth pointing out to contemporary readers - is that both the Christians and the Muslims adhered to a code of honor. Yes, they were locked in a holy war, but there were some things you just didn't do.
Indeed, to break one's work to the enemy was not only certain to earn their ire, it would also earn the contempt of your own side. It makes a startling contrast with modern militant Islam, which basically can't be trusted to abide by any rules at all. No act is too depraved for the modern Islamic terrorist - something that would have horrified the Sultan and his generals.
Looking back, it does give more credence to the notion that perhaps Mark Steyn is wrong; perhaps radical Islam is the "weaker horse" and only Western intellectual and civilizational cowardice is holding it up. Certainly the Islam embodied by the Ottoman Empire in the 1500s was far more tolerant, self-confident and, for lack of a better term, civilized.
Anyhow, it's a worthwhile read, and loaded with period flavor. Buy it!