Suleiman the Magnificent, sultan of the Ottoman Empire and the most powerful ruler in the world, was determined to conquer Europe. Only one thing stood in his way: the island of Malta, occupied by the Knights of Saint John, the Holy Roman Empire’s finest warriors. Determined to capture Malta and use its port to launch operations against Europe, Suleiman sent overwhelming forces. A few thousand defenders in Fort Saint Elmo fought to the last man.
When the Turks captured the fort, they took no prisoners, mutilating the defenders’ bodies. The Knights’ leader reciprocated by decapitating his Turkish prisoners and using their heads to cannonade the enemy. Then the battle for Malta began in earnest.
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