CHAPTER I. SETTLEMENT AT MALTA 1523-1565.
The most important seaman on the Turkish side was Dragut - Pasha of Tripoli since 1551 - who had been the greatest of Barbarossa's lieutenants. In 1540 Dragut had been surprised and captured by Giannetin Doria, the nephew of the great Admiral, and had served four years chained to the bench of a Genoese galley. One of the last acts of Khair-ed-Din Barbarossa had been to ransom his follower in the port of Genoa, in 1544, for 3,000 crowns, an arrangement of which the Genoese afterwards sorely repented. Dragut had the ear of the Sultan when the appeal for help came from Africa, and his suggestion was to attempt the capture of Malta. It had become more and more certain that the Turks would not leave the island unassailed. Not only did the Knights lend splendid help to the various Christian Powers, but they were in themselves a formidable foe. Their fleet was always small, six or seven galleys, but they became the dread of every Turkish vessel in the Mediterranean. Annually these red galleys, headed by their black capitana, swooped down on the Turkish shipping of the Levant and brought back many rich prizes. Malta grew steadily in wealth, and the island became full of Turkish slaves. The generals of the Maltese galleys, Strozzi, La Valette, Charles of Lorraine, and De Romegas, were far more terrible even than the great Corsairs, because of their determination to extirpate the infidel. The state of war between the Order and the Mussulman was recognised by all as something unique; neither side dreamt of a peace or a truce, and only once in the history of the Order does there seem to have been the suggestion of an agreement. The fanaticism which actuated the Knights in their determination to destroy the infidel made them formidable enemies, despite their fewness in number. Solyman the Magnificent must have often repented of his clemency in letting the Knights leave Rhodes alive, and in 1564 he decided it would be a fitting end to his reign if he could destroy the worst pest of the Mediterranean by capturing Malta and annihilating the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.
[Footnote 1: Vide Appendix I.]
[Footnote 2: The chroniclers, such as Vertot, often call this town, which was the ancient Adrumetum, "Africa," and it is therefore necessary to watch their use of that word carefully.]
[Footnote 3: See map on p. 19.]
[Footnote 4: This visit caused a great sensation in Europe, as De L'Isle Adam crossed the Alps in the depth of winter, and this haste to pay his respects touched the King of England.]