This is a vast subject - vast in time (from the oldest surviving pyramid which dates from 2686 BC to the Great War of 1914-18); vast in geography (from Gibraltar to Jerusalem); vast in culture, including as it does the civilizations of the Phoenicians, the Ancient Egyptians, Greece, Carthage, Rome, Byzantium...as well as the Borgias and the Medicis, Mohamed and El Cid, Nelson and Lawrence of Arabia, Napoleon in Egypt and Byron in Greece. It is the achievement of John Julius Norwich that he encompasses so much, yet succeeds throughout in weaving story after story, thus holding the reader's attention. "The Middle Sea" is not a dry record of facts; it is not an academic book and nor it is the kind of book one uses to look things up. It is a gloriously engrossing traditional history book about characters from the past: dissolute Popes and wily Emperors, noble-hearted Generals and Queens who were powers behind the throne. The author's greatest strengths, perhaps, are naval and military history: from the Crusades to the expulsion of the Moors from Spain, from Trafalgar to Gallipoli. Towns are beseiged and sacked, kingdoms are won and lost. The narrative covers the glories of Constantinople and Venice, and the stirring history of the islands of the Mediterranean - Malta, Sicily, Crete and Cyprus.