The order of the Knights Hospitaller of St John of Jerusalem is the most long-lived military orders of knighthood. Founded in a hospice on the road to Jerusalem, it never numbered more than an active few thousand. In the order's frequent clashes with the expanding power of Islam, we see a microcosm of the conflict between east and west that lasted for centuries. The author describes the order from its first beginnings in the holy land, the increase in its wealth, power and territory, its expulsions from Cyprus and Rhodes culimating in the great siege of Malta in which the knights heroically stemmed the tide of Suleiman the Magnificent's expansion. The knights of St John were master mariners, navigators and builders of their time, and today their work continues in the sending of doctors and medical supplies to troublespots, and the maintenance of hospitals throughout the world.
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Ernle Bradford is a former Royal Navy officer and the the author of The Great Siege, The Mediterranean published in Classic Penguin History and Cleopatra published in Classic Penguin Biography.
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