Lepanto: Turkish might buckles in the grandest naval battle of History
The Turkish fleet came on imposing and terrible, all sails set, impelled by a fair wind, and it was only half a mile from the line of galliasses and another mile from the line of the Christian ships.
D. John waited no longer; he humbly crossed himself, and ordered that the cannon of challenge should be fired on the “Real,” and the blue flag of the League should be hoisted at the stern, which unfurled itself like a piece of the sky on which stood out an image of the Crucified. A moment later the galley of Ali replied, accepting the challenge by firing another cannon, and hoisting at the stern the standard of the Prophet, guarded in Mecca, white and of large size, with a wide green “cenefa,” and in the center verses from the Koran embroidered in gold.
At the same moment a strange thing happened, a very simple one at any other time, but for good reason then considered a miracle: the wind fell suddenly to a calm, and then began to blow favorably for the Christians and against the Turks. It seemed as if the Voice had said to the sea, “Be calm,” and to the wind, “Be still.” The silence was profound, and nothing was heard but the waves breaking on the prows of the galleys, and the noise of the chains of the Christian galley slaves as they rowed.
Fr. Miguel Servia blessed from the quarter-deck all those of the fleet, and gave them absolution in the hour of death. It was then a quarter to twelve.
The first shot was fired by the galleass “Capitana,” commanded by Francisco Duodo, and it smashed the biggest of the five lanterns which crowned the stern of Ali Pasha’s galley; the second injured the castle of a neighboring galley; and the third sunk a small vessel which was hurrying to transmit orders. Then there was a retrograde movement through the Turkish fleet, which the bravery of Ali Pasha at once checked. He rushed to the tiller and made the “Sultana” pass between the galliasses with the rapidity of an arrow, without firing a shot; all the fleet followed him, their line already broken, but prepared to form up again when they had passed the obstacle, as the water of a river reunites after it has passed the posts of a bridge which has impeded and divided it. The left Christian wing and the Turkish right one were the first to engage. Mahomet Scirocco attacked with such force in front, and with such tumult of shouts and savage cries, according to the Turkish custom when fighting, that all attention was drawn to one point; meanwhile some of his light galleys slipped past on the land side and attacked the stern of Barbarigo’s flagship, who saw himself sorely pressed as the crew of Mahomet Scirocco’s galley had boarded his by the prow, and the Turks were already up to the mizzen mast.
The Christians defended themselves like wild beasts, gathered in the stern, and Barbarigo himself was directing them and cheering them on from the castle. He had lifted the visor of his helmet, and was using his shield against the storm of arrows that flew through the air. To give an order, he uncovered himself for a moment, and an arrow entered by the right eye and pierced his brain. He died the next day. Then there was grave risk of the Turks overcoming the Venetian flagship, destroying the left wing, and then attacking the center division on the flank and from the rear, making victory easy. Barbarigo’s nephew Marino Contarini overcame the danger. He boarded his uncle’s ship on the larboard side with all his people, and fought on board perhaps the fiercest combat of all on that memorable day. All was madness, fury, carnage and terror, until Mahomet Scirocco was expelled from the Venetian flagship and penned, in his turn, in his own ship, where he at last succumbed to his wounds. Clinging to the side, they beheaded him there and threw him into the water. Terror then spread among the Turks, and the few galleys at liberty turned their prows towards the shore. There they ran aground, the decimated crews saving themselves by swimming.
D. John had no time to reflect either on this danger, or that catastrophe, or that victory, for he was also hard pressed. Five minutes after Mahomet Scirocco had fallen on Barbarigo, Ali Pasha fell on him with all the weight of his hatred, fury and desire for glory. He could be seen proudly standing on the castle of the stern, a magnificent scimitar in his hand, dressed in a caftan of white brocade woven with silk and silver, with a helmet of dark steel under his turban, with inscriptions in gold and precious stones, turquoises, rubies, and diamonds, which flashed in the sunlight. Slowly the two divisions came on, unheeding what happened on the right or left, and in the midst were the galleys of the two Generalissimos, not firing a shot, and only moving forward silently.
When the length of half a galley separated the two ships, the “Sultana” of Ali Pasha suddenly fired three guns; the first destroyed some of the ironwork of the “Real” and killed several rowers; the second traversed the boat; and the third passed over the cook’s galley without harming anyone. The “Real” replied by sweeping with her shots the stern and gangway of the “Sultana,” and a thick, black smoke at once enveloped Turks and Christians, ships and combatants. From this black cloud, which appeared to be vomited from Hell, could be heard a dreadful grinding noise, and horrible cries, and through the smoke of the powder could be seen splinters of wood and iron, broken oars, weapons, human limbs and dead bodies flying through the air and falling in the bloodstained sea. It was the galley of Ali which had struck that of D. John by the prow with such a tremendous shock that the peak of the “Sultana” entered the “Real” as far as the fourth bench of rowers; the violence of the shock had naturally made each ship recoil; but they could not draw apart. The yards and rigging had become entangled, and they heaved first to one side and then to the other with dreadful grinding and movement, striving to get free without succeeding, like two gladiators, whose bodies are separated, who grasp each other tightly, and then seize each other by the hair. From the captain’s place where he was, at the foot of the standard of the League, D. John ordered grappling-irons to be thrown from the prow, holding the ships close together, and making them into one field of battle. Like lions the Christians flung themselves on board the ship, destroying all in their path, and twice they reached the mainmast of the “Sultana,” and as often had to retire, foot by foot and inch by inch, fighting over these frail boards, from which there was neither escape, nor help, nor hope of compassion, nor other outlet than death.
The “Sultana” was reinforced with reserves from the galleys, and to encourage them, Ali, in his turn, threw himself on board the ship. The “Sultana” rode higher out of the water than the “Real,” and the men poured down into her like a cataract from on high; the shock was so tremendous that the Field-Marshals Figueroa and Moncada fell back with their men, and the Turks succeeded in reaching the foremast. All the men at the prow hastened there, and D. John jumped from the captain’s post, sword in hand, fighting like a soldier to make them retire. This was the critical moment of the battle. There was neither line, nor formation, nor right, nor left, nor center; only could be seen, as far as the eye could reach, fire, smoke and groups of galleys in the midst, fighting with each other, vomiting fire and death, with masts and hulls bristling with arrows, like an enormous porcupine, who puts out its quills to defend itself and to fight; wounding, killing, capturing, cheering, burning were seen and heard on all sides, and dead bodies and bodies of the living falling into the water, and spars, yards, rigging, torn-off heads, turbans, quivers, shields, swords, scimitars, arquebuses, cannon, arms, everything that was then within the grasp of barbarism or civilization for dealing death and destruction.
At this critical moment, by a superhuman effort, a galley freed itself from that chaos of horrors, and threw itself, like a missile from a catapult, hurled by Titans, against the stern of Ali’s galley, forcing the peak as far as the third bench of rowers.
It was Marco Antonio Colonna who had come to the assistance of D. John of Austria; at the same time the Marqués de Santa Cruz executed a similar maneuver on one of the flanks. The help was great and opportune; still, the Turks succeeded in retiring in good order to their galley; but here, pressed hardly by the followers of Colonna and Santa Cruz, they tumbled over the sides, dead and living, into the water, Turks and Christians fighting to the last with nails and teeth, and destroying each other until engulfed in the gory waves.
Among this mass of desperate people Ali perished beside the tiller; some say that he cut his throat and threw himself into the sea; others that his head was cut off and put on a pike. Then D. John ordered the standard of the Prophet to be lowered, and amidst shouts of victory, the flag of the League was hoisted in its place.
D. John had been wounded in the leg, but without limping at all he mounted the castle of the vanquished galley to survey from there the state of the battle. On the left wing the few galleys left to Mahomet Scirocco were flying towards the land, and could be seen running violently aground in the bays, the crews throwing themselves into the water to swim ashore.
But, unluckily, the same was not happening on the right. Doria, deceived by the tactics of Aluch Ali, had followed him out to sea, making a wide space between the right wing and the center division; D. John’s orders to him to come back did not arrive in time. Meanwhile, Aluch Ali contented himself by watching Doria’s maneuvers, keeping up with him, but not attacking; until suddenly, judging no doubt, that the space was wide enough, he veered to the right with marvelous rapidity, and sent all his fleet through the dangerous breach, literally annihilating the two ends which remained uncovered; the disaster was terrible and the carnage awful; on the flagship of Malta only three men remained alive, the Prior of Messina, Fr. Pietro Giustiniani, pierced by five arrows, a Spanish gentleman with both legs broken, and an Italian with an arm cut off by a blow from an axe. In the flagship of Sicily D. Juan de Cardona lay wounded, and of his 500 men only fifty remained. The “Fierenza,” the Pope’s “San Giovanni,” and the “Piamontesa” of Savoy succumbed without yielding; ten galleys had gone to the bottom; one was on fire, and twelve drifted like buoys, without masts, full of corpses, waiting until the conqueror, Aluch Ali, should take them in tow as trophies and spoils of war. Doria, horrified at the disaster, in all haste returned to the scene of the catastrophe, but D. John was already there before him. Without waiting a moment, the Generalissimo ordered that the towing ropes which already attached twelve galleys to their conquerors should be cut, and although wounded, and without taking any rest after his own struggle, he flew to the assistance of those who were being overcome. “Ah! Brave Generalissimo,” exclaims Admiral Jurien de la Graviere, in his valuable study of the battle of Lepanto, “to him the armada owed its victory, to him the right wing its preservation.” The Marqués de Santa Cruz followed with his whole reserve, and seeing this help, the already victorious Aluch Ali understood that the prey would be torn from his claws.
The cunning renegade then thought only of saving his life, which he did by a means that no one else would have employed; he placed his son in a galley, and followed by thirteen other ones, passed like a vapor in front of the prows of the enemy, before they could surround him, and fled incontinently to Santa Maura, all sails set, he at the tiller, the unfortunate rowers with a scimitar at their throats, so that they should not flag or draw breath for a second, and should die rather than give in.
The first moment of astonishment over, the Marqués de Santa Cruz and D. John of Austria hastened in pursuit; but the advantage Aluch Ali had obtained increased each minute, night began to fall, and the storm which had threatened since two o’clock began to blow, and the first claps of thunder were heard. So the famous renegade escaped on the wings of the storm, as if the wrath of God were protecting him and preserving him to be the scourge of other people.
This was the last act of the battle of Lepanto, the greatest day that the ages have seen…
It was five o’clock on the evening of the 7th of October, 1571.
Rev. Fr. Luis Coloma, The Story of Don John of Austria, trans. Lady Moreton, (New York: John Lane Company, 1912), pp. 265-271.
Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 14
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Battle of Lepanto
|Battle of Lepanto|
|Part of the Fourth Ottoman-Venetian War and the Ottoman-Habsburg wars|
The Battle of Lepanto, unknown artist, late 16th century.
|Holy League:||Ottoman Empire|
|Commanders and leaders|
| Holy LeagueNavy:
Sufi Ali Pasha †
Mahomet Sirocco †
|Casualties and losses|
17 ships lost
|20,000 dead, wounded or captured
137 ships captured
50 ships sunk
12,000 Christians freed
The Battle of Lepanto was a naval engagement taking place on 7 October 1571 in which a fleet of the Holy League, a coalition of European Catholic maritime states arranged by Pope Pius V, led by Spanish admiral Don Juan of Austria and mostly financed by the Spanish Empire, decisively defeated the fleet of the Ottoman Empire on the northern edge of the Gulf of Corinth, off western Greece. The Ottoman forces sailing westwards from their naval station in Lepanto(Turkish: İnebahtı; Greek: Ναύπακτος or Έπαχτος Naupaktos or Épahtos) met the Holy League forces, which came from Messina, Sicily, where they had previously gathered.
The victory of the Holy League prevented the Ottoman Empire from expanding further along the European side of the Mediterranean. Lepanto was the last major naval battle in the Mediterranean fought entirely between galleys and has been assigned great symbolic and historical importance by several historians.
The Christian coalition had been promoted by Pope Pius V to rescue the Venetian colony of Famagusta, on the island of Cyprus, which was being besieged by the Turks in early 1571 subsequent to the fall of Nicosia and other Venetian possessions in Cyprus in the course of 1570.
The banner for the fleet, blessed by the Pope, reached the Kingdom of Naples (then ruled by the King of Spain) on 14 August 1571. There, in the Basilica of Santa Chiara, it was solemnly consigned to John of Austria, who had been named leader of the coalition after long discussions between the allies. The fleet moved to Sicily and leaving Messina reached (after several stops) the port of Viscardo in Cephalonia, where news arrived of the fall of Famagusta and of the torture inflicted by the Turks on the Venetian commander of the fortress, Marco Antonio Bragadin.
On 1 August, the Venetians had surrendered after being reassured that they could leave Cyprus freely. However, the Ottoman commander, Lala Kara Mustafa Pasha, who had lost some 50,000 men in the siege, broke his word, imprisoning the Venetians. On 17 August, Bragadin was flayed alive and his corpse hung on Mustafa’s galley together with the heads of the Venetian commanders, Astorre Baglioni, Alvise Martinengo and Gianantonio Querini.
Despite bad weather, the Christian ships sailed south and, on 6 October, they reached the port of Sami, Cephalonia (then also called Val d’Alessandria), where they remained for a while. On 7 October, they sailed toward the Gulf of Patras, where they encountered the Ottoman fleet. While neither fleet had immediate strategic resources or objectives in the gulf, both chose to engage. The Ottoman fleet had an express order from the Sultan to fight, and John of Austria found it necessary to attack in order to maintain the integrity of the expedition in the face of personal and political disagreements within the Holy League.
- See Battle of Lepanto order of battle for a detailed list of ships and commanders involved in the battle.
The members of the Holy League were the Republic of Venice, the Spanish Empire (including the Kingdom of Naples, the Kingdom of Sicily and the Kingdom of Sardinia as part of the Spanish possessions), the Papal States, the Republic of Genoa, the Duchy of Savoy, the Duchy of Urbino, the Knights Hospitaller and others. Its fleet consisted of 206 galleys and 6 galleasses(large new galleys, invented by the Venetians, which carried substantial artillery) and was commanded by Spanish admiral Don John of Austria, the illegitimate son of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles I of Spain and V of the Holy Roman Empire, and half-brother of Philip II of Spain, supported by the Spanish commanders Don Luis de Requesens and Don Álvaro de Bazán, and Genoan commander Gianandrea Doria.
The Holy League deployed 206 galleys and 6 galleasses: 109 galleys and 6 galleasses came from the Republic of Venice, 49 galleys from the Spanish Empire (including 26 galleys from the Kingdom of Naples, the Kingdom of Sicily and other Italian territories), 27 galleys from the Republic of Genoa, 7 galleys from the Papal States, 5 galleys from the Order of Saint Stephenfrom the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, 3 galleys each from the Duchy of Savoy and the Knights of Malta, and some privately owned galleys in Spanish service. All members of the alliance viewed the Ottoman navy as a significant threat, both to the security of maritime trade in the Mediterranean Sea and to the security of continental Europe itself. Spain was the largest financial contributor, though the Spaniards preferred to preserve most of their galleys for Spain’s own wars against the nearby sultanates of the Barbary Coast rather than expend its naval strength for the benefit of Venice. The combined Christian fleet was placed under the command of John of Austria (Don Juan de Austria) with Marcantonio Colonna as his principal deputy. The various Christian contingents met the main force, that of Venice (under Venier), in July and August 1571 at Messina, Sicily. John of Austria arrived on 23 August.
This fleet of the Christian alliance was manned by 40,000 sailors and oarsmen. In addition, it carried approximately 20,000 fighting troops: 7,000 Spanish regular infantry of excellent quality, 7,000 Germans and Croats, 6,000 Italian mercenaries in Spanish pay, all good troops, in addition to 5,000 professional Venetian soldiers. Also, Venetian oarsmen were mainly free citizens and were able to bear arms adding to the fighting power of their ship, whereas convicts were used to row many of the galleys in other Holy League squadrons.
Many of the galleys in the Ottoman fleet were also rowed by slaves, often Christians who had been captured in previous conquests and engagements. Free oarsmen were generally acknowledged to be superior by all combatants, but were gradually replaced in all galley fleets (including those of Venice from 1549) during the 16th century by cheaper slaves, convicts and prisoners-of-war owing to rapidly rising costs.
The Ottoman galleys were manned by 13,000 experienced sailors—generally drawn from the maritime nations of the Ottoman Empire, namely Berbers, Greeks, Syrians, and Egyptians—and 34,000 soldiers. Ali Pasha, the Ottoman admiral (Kapudan-i Derya), supported by the corsairs Mehmed Siroco (natively Mehmed Şuluk) of Alexandria and Uluç Ali, commanded an Ottoman force of 222 war galleys, 56 galliots, and some smaller vessels. The Turks had skilled and experienced crews of sailors but were significantly deficient in their elite corps of Janissaries. The number of oarsmen was about 37,000, virtually all of them slaves.
An advantage for the Christians was their numerical superiority in guns and cannon aboard their ships, as well as the superior quality of the Spanish infantry. It is estimated that the Christians had 1,815 guns, while the Turks had only 750 with insufficient ammunition. The Christians embarked with their much improved arquebusier and musketeer forces, while the Ottomans trusted in their greatly feared composite bowmen.
The Christian fleet formed up in four divisions in a north-south line. At the northern end, closest to the coast, was the Left Division of 53 galleys, mainly Venetian, led by Agostino Barbarigo (admiral), with Marco Queriniand Antonio da Canale in support. The Centre Division consisted of 62 galleys under John of Austria himself in his Real, along with Sebastiano Venier, later Doge of Venice, Mathurin Romegas and Marcantonio Colonna.
The Right Division to the south consisted of another 53 galleys under the Genoese Giovanni Andrea Doria, great-nephew of admiral Andrea Doria. Two galleasses, which had side-mounted cannon, were positioned in front of each main division, for the purpose, according to Miguel de Cervantes (who served on the galley Marquesa during the battle), of preventing the Turks from sneaking in small boats and sapping, sabotaging or boarding the Christian vessels. A Reserve Division was stationed behind (that is, to the west of) the main fleet, to lend support wherever it might be needed.
This reserve division consisted of 38 galleys – 30 behind the Centre Division commanded by Álvaro de Bazán, and four behind each wing. A scouting group was formed, from two Right Wing and six Reserve Division galleys. As the Christian fleet was slowly turning around Point Scropha, Doria’s Right Division, at the off-shore side, was delayed at the start of the battle and the Right’s galleasses did not get into position.
The Ottoman fleet consisted of 57 galleys and 2 galliots on its Right under Mehmed Siroco, 61 galleys and 32 galliots in the Centre under Ali Pasha in the Sultana, and about 63 galleys and 30 galliots in the South off-shore under Uluç Ali. A small reserve existed of 8 galleys, 22 galliots and 64 fustas, behind the Centre body. Ali Pasha is supposed to have told his Christian galley-slaves: “If I win the battle, I promise you your liberty. If the day is yours, then God has given it to you.” John of Austria, more laconically, warned his crew: “There is no paradise for cowards.”
The left and centre galleasses had been towed half a mile ahead of the Christian line. When the battle started, the Turks mistook the galleasses for merchant supply vessels and set out to attack them. This proved to be disastrous; with their many guns, the galleasses alone were said to have sunk up to 70 Ottoman galleys before the Ottoman fleet left them behind. Their attacks also disrupted the Ottoman formations.
As the battle started, Doria found that Uluç Ali’s galleys extended further to the south than his own, and so headed south to avoid being outflanked, instead of holding the Christian line. After the battle Doria was accused of having maneuvered his fleet away from the bulk of the battle to avoid taking damage and casualties. Regardless, he ended up being outmaneuvered by Uluç Ali, who turned back and attacked the southern end of the Centre Division, taking advantage of the big gap that Doria had left.
In the north, Mehmed Siroco had managed to get between the shore and the Christian North Division, with six galleys in an outflanking move, and initially the Christian fleet suffered. Commander Barbarigo was killed by an arrow, but the Venetians, turning to face the threat, held their line. The return of a galleass saved the Christian North Division. The Christian Centre also held the line with the help of the Reserve, after taking a great deal of damage, and caused great damage to the Muslim Centre. In the south, off-shore side, Doria was engaged in a mêlée with Uluç Ali’s ships, taking the worse part. Meanwhile, Uluç Ali himself commanded 16 galleys in a fast attack on the Christian Centre, taking six galleys—amongst them the Maltese Capitana, killing all but three men on board. Its commander, Pietro Giustiniani, Prior to the Order of St John, was severely wounded by five arrows, but was found alive in his cabin. The intervention of the Spaniards Álvaro de Bazán and Juan de Cardona with the reserve turned the battle, both in the Centre and in Doria’s South Wing.
Uluç Ali was forced to flee with 16 galleys and 24 galliots, abandoning all but one of his captures. During the course of the battle, the Ottoman Commander’s ship was boarded and the Spanish tercios from 3 galleys and the Ottoman Janissaries from seven galleys fought on the deck of the Sultana. Twice the Spanish were repelled with heavy casualties, but at the third attempt, with reinforcements from Álvaro de Bazán’s galley, they took the ship. Müezzinzade Ali Pasha was killed and beheaded, against the wishes of Don Juan. However, when his severed head was displayed on a pike from the Spanish flagship, it contributed greatly to the destruction of Turkish morale. Even after the battle had clearly turned against the Turks, groups of Janissaries still kept fighting with all they had. It is said that at some point the Janissaries ran out of weapons and started throwing oranges and lemons at their Christian adversaries, leading to awkward scenes of laughter among the general misery of battle.
The battle concluded around 4 pm. The Ottoman fleet suffered the loss of about 210 ships—of which 117 galleys, 10 galliots and three fustas were captured and in good enough condition for the Christians to keep. On the Christian side 20 galleys were destroyed and 30 were damaged so seriously that they had to be scuttled. One Venetian galley was the only prize kept by the Turks; all others were abandoned by them and recaptured.
Uluç Ali, who had captured the flagship of the Maltese Knights, succeeded in extricating most of his ships from the battle when defeat was certain. He cut the tow on the Maltese flagship in order to get away and sailed to Constantinople, gathering up other Ottoman ships along the way and finally arriving there with 87 vessels. He presented the huge Maltese flag to Sultan Selim II who thereupon bestowed upon him the honorary title of “kιlιç” (Sword); Uluç thus became known as Kılıç Ali Pasha.
The Holy League had suffered around 7,500 or soldiers, sailors and rowers dead, but freed about as many Christian prisoners. Ottoman casualties were around 15,000, and at least 3,500 were captured.
The engagement was a significant defeat for the Ottomans, who had not lost a major naval battle since the fifteenth century. The defeat was mourned by them as an act of Divine Will, contemporary chronicles recording that “the Imperial Fleet encountered the fleet of the wretched infidels and the will of God turned another way.” To half of Christendom, this event encouraged hope for the downfall of “the Turk“, the Satan-like personification of the Ottoman Empire, who was regarded as the “Sempiternal Enemy of the Christian”. Indeed, the Empire lost all but 30 of its ships and as many as 20,000 men, and some Western historians have held it to be the most decisive naval battle anywhere on the globe since the Battle of Actium of 31 BC.
Despite the decisive defeat, the Ottoman Empire rebuilt its navy with a massive effort, by largely imitating the successful Venetian galeasses, in a very short time. By 1572, about six months after the defeat, more than 150 galleys and 8 galleasses, in total 250 ships had been built, including eight of the largest capital ships ever seen in the Mediterranean. With this new fleet the Ottoman Empire was able to reassert its supremacy in the Eastern Mediterranean. On 7 March 1573 the Venetians thus recognized by treaty the Ottoman possession of Cyprus, whose last Venetian possession, Famagosta, had fallen to the Turks under Piyale Pasha on 3 August 1571, just two months before Lepanto, and remained Turkish for the next three centuries. That summer the Ottoman Navy attacked the geographically vulnerable coasts of Sicily and southern Italy. Sultan Selim II’s Chief Minister, the Grand Vizier Mehmed Sokullu, argued to the Venetian emissary Marcantonio Barbarothat the Christian triumph at Lepanto caused no lasting harm to the Ottoman Empire, while the capture of Cyprus by the Ottomans in the same year was a significant blow, saying that:
You come to see how we bear our misfortune. But I would have you know the difference between your loss and ours. In wresting Cyprus from you, we deprived you of an arm; in defeating our fleet, you have only shaved our beard. An arm when cut off cannot grow again; but a shorn beard will grow all the better for the razor.
Numerous historians pointed out the historical importance of the battle and how it served as a turning point in history. For instance, it is argued that while the ships were relatively easily replaced, it proved much harder to man them, since so many experienced sailors, oarsmen and soldiers had been lost. The loss of so many of its experienced sailors at Lepanto sapped the fighting effectiveness of the Ottoman navy, a fact emphasized by its avoidance of major confrontations with Christian navies in the years following the battle. Other historians have suggested that the reason for the Turks being contained at the time had less to do with the battle of Lepanto than the fact that they had to contend with a series of wars with Persia, a strong military power at the time.
After 1580, the discouraged Ottomans left the fleet to rot in the waters of the Golden Horn. Especially critical was the loss of most of the caliphate’s composite bowmen, which, far beyond ship rams and early firearms, were the Ottomans’ main embarked weapon. US historian John F. Guilmartin noted that the losses in this highly specialized class of warrior were irreplaceable in a generation. Paul K. Davis has also stated that:
This Turkish defeat stopped Ottomans’ expansion into the Mediterranean, thus maintaining western dominance, and confidence grew in the west that Turks, previously unstoppable, could be beaten.
The victory for the Holy League was historically important not only because the Turks lost over 200 ships and 20,000 men killed (not including 12,000 Christian galley slaves who were freed), but because the victory heralded the end of Turkish supremacy in the Mediterranean.
However, in 1574, the Ottomans retook the strategic city of Tunis from the Spanish-supported Hafsid dynasty, which had been re-installed after John of Austria’s forces reconquered the city from the Ottomans the year before. Thanks to the long-standing Franco-Ottoman alliance, the Ottomans were able to resume naval activity in the western Mediterranean. In 1576, the Ottomans assisted in Abdul Malik’s capture of Fez – this reinforced the Ottoman indirect conquests in Morocco that had begun under Suleiman the Magnificent. The establishment of Ottoman suzerainty over the area placed the entire southern coast of the Mediterranean from the Straits of Gibraltar to Greece under Ottoman authority, with the exceptions of the Spanish-controlled trading city of Oran and strategic settlements such as Melilla and Ceuta.
Nonetheless, Spanish success in the Mediterranean continued into the first half of the 17th century. Spanish ships attacked the Anatolian coast, defeating larger Ottoman fleets at the Battle of Cape Celidonia and the Battle of Cape Corvo. Larache and La Mamora, in the Moroccan Atlantic coast, and the island of Alhucemas, in the Mediterranean, were taken, but during the second half of the 17th century, Larache and La Mamora were also lost.
Spain retains cities and other possessions on the North African coast to this day.
The Holy League credited the victory to the Virgin Mary, whose intercession with God they had implored for victory through the use of the Rosary. Andrea Doria had kept a copy of the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe given to him by King Philip II of Spain in his ship’s state room.Pope Pius V instituted a new Catholic feast day of Our Lady of Victory to commemorate the battle, which is now celebrated by the Catholic Church as the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Descriptions in art and culture
The significance of Lepanto has inspired artists in various fields. One piece of commemorative music composed after the victory is the motet Canticum Moysis (Song of Moses Exodus 15) Pro victoria navali contra Turcas by the Spanish composer based in Rome Fernando de las Infantas. The other piece of music is Jacobus de Kerle “Cantio octo vocum de sacro foedere contra Turcas” 1572 (Song in Eight Voices on the Holy League Against the Turks), described as an exuberantly militaristic piece celebrating victory over the Turks. There were celebrations and festivities with triumphs and pageants at Rome and Venice with Turkish slaves in chains.
There are many pictorial representations of the battle, including one in the Doge’s Palace, Venice, by Andrea Vicentino on the walls of the Sala dello Scrutinio, which replaced Tintoretto‘s Victory of Lepanto, destroyed by fire in 1577. A painting by Paolo Veronese is in the collection of the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice and Titian‘s Allegory of the Battle of Lepanto, using the battle as a background, hangs in the Prado in Madrid. A painting by Filipino painter Juan Luna depicting the Battle of Lepanto is also displayed at the Spanish Senate in Madrid.
The battle has also appeared in literature and poetry. Spanish poet Fernando de Herrera wrote the poem “Canción en alabanza de la divina majestad por la victoria del Señor Don Juan” in 1572. King James VI of Scotland published in 1591 a poem of about 1,000 lines celebrating this Christian victory. The English author G. K. Chesterton wrote a poem Lepanto, first published in 1911 and republished many times since. It provides a series of poetic visions of the major characters in the battle, particularly the leader of the Christian forces, Don Juan of Austria. It closes with verses linking Miguel de Cervantes, who fought in the battle, with the “lean and foolish knight” he would later immortalize in Don Quixote. Miguel de Cervantes lost the use of an arm in this battle and therefore he is known as el manco de Lepanto (the one-armed man of Lepanto) in the Hispanic world. Emilio Salgari devoted two of his historical novels, “Captain Storm” and “The Lion of Damascus”, to the siege of Famagusta and Lepanto and they served as basis for three movies, two in Italian and one in Spanish.
In popular culture
- In the game Europa Universalis 4 there is a song named “Battle of Lepanto”.
- In the real-time strategy game Age of Empires II: The Conquerors, there’s a Lepanto scenario.
- In the board game Diplomacy, the Lepanto Opening is a popular series of opening moves by the Italian player against a Turkish adversary.
- National Maritime Museum BHC0261, based on a 1572 print by Martino Rota.
- Drane, Augusta Theodosia (1858). The Knights of st. John: with The battle of Lepanto and Siege of Vienna. London.
- Konstam, Angus (2003). Lepanto 1571: The Greatest Naval Battle Of The Renaissance. United Kingdom: Osprey Publishing. pp. 20–23. ISBN 1-84176-409-4. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
- George Ripley and Charles A. Dana (1867). The new American cyclopaedia: Volume 10. New York.
- Setton, Kenneth Meyer (1984). The Papacy and the Levant, 1204–1571, Volume 161. Philadelphia.
- Rodgers, William Ledyard (1939). Naval Warfare Under Oars, 4th to 16th Centuries: A Study of Strategy, Tactics and Ship Design. United States: Naval Institute Press. p. 175. ISBN 978-0-87021-487-5.
- Geoffrey Parker, The Military Revolution, pp. 87—88
- Confrontation at Lepanto by T.C.F. Hopkins, intro
- Geoffrey Parker, The Military Revolution, p. 88
- John L. Esposito (1999). The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality?. Oxford U.P. pp. 42, 85.
- Paul K. Davis (1999). 100 Decisive Battles: From Ancient Times to the Present. Oxford U.P. p. 170.
- Jackson J. Spielvogel (2012). Western Civilization: A Brief History, Volume II: Since 1500, 8th ed. Cengage Learning. p. 343.
- Goffman (2002), p. 158
- Glete, Jan: Warfare at Sea, 1500–1650: Maritime Conflicts and the Transformation of Europe. Routledge. 2000. pp. 105. Retrieved from Ebrary.
- Konstam, Angus (2003). Lepanto 1571: The Greatest Naval Battle Of The Renaissance. United Kingdom: Osprey Publishing. p. 23. ISBN 1-84176-409-4. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
- Stevens (1942), p. 66–69
- Stevens (1942), p. 61
- Setton (1984), p. 1047
- Meyer Setton, Kenneth: The Papacy and the Levant, 1204–1571, Vol. IV. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1984. ISBN 978-0-87169-162-0, p. 1047.
- ISBN 1861899467, p. 70
- ISBN 0-306-81544-3, p. 225
- Stevens (1942), p. 67
- Setton (1984), p. 1026
- Konstam (2003), p. 20
- John F. Guilmartin (1974), pp. 222—225
- The first regularly sanctioned use of convicts as oarsmen on Venetian galleys did not occur until 1549. re Tenenti, Cristoforo da Canal, pp. 83, 85. See Tenenti, Piracy and the Decline of Venice (Berkeley, 1967), pp. 124-25, for Cristoforo da Canal’s comments on the tactical effectiveness of free oarsmen c. 1587 though he was mainly concerned with their higher cost. Ismail Uzuncarsili, Osmanli Devletenin Merkez ve Bahriye Teskilati (Ankara, 1948), p. 482, cites a squadron of 41 Ottoman galleys in 1556 of which the flagship and two others were rowed by Azabs, salaried volunteer light infantrymen, three were rowed by slaves, and the remaining 36 were rowed by salaried mercenary Greek oarsmen.
- Stevens (1942), p. 63
- Konstam (2003), pp. 20-21
- A History of Warfare, Keegan, John, Vintage, 1993
- Stevens (1942), p. 64
- A flag taken at Lepanto by the Knights of the Order of Saint Stephen, and traditionally said to be the standard of the Turkish commander, is still in display, together with other Turkish flags, in the Church of the seat of the Order in Pisa. ,  (in Italian)
- Wheatcroft 2004, pp.33-34
- “Department of History – Columbia University” (PDF). Columbia.edu. Retrieved 2012-07-07.
- J. Norwich, A History of Venice, 490
- L. Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire, 272
- Wheatcroft 2004, p. 34
- Roger Crowley, “Empires of the Sea: The siege of Malta, the battle of Lepanto and the contest for the center of the world”, publisher Random House, 2008, p287
- Guilmartin (1974)
- Davis, Paul K. 100 Decisive Battles: From Ancient Times to the Present
- Badde, Paul. Maria von Guadalupe. Wie das Erscheinen der Jungfrau Weltgeschichte schrieb. ISBN 3-548-60561-3.
- Butler’s Lives Of The Saints (April) by Alban Butler (1999) ISBN 0-86012-253-0 page 222
- EWTN on Battle of Lepanto (1571) 
- Stevenson, R. Chapter ‘Other church masters’ section 14. ‘Infantas’ in Spanish Cathedral Music in the Golden Age pp316-318.
- Stephen Pettitt, ‘Classical: New Releases: Jacobus De Kerle: Da Pacem Domine’, Sunday Times, Jan 2006.
- See Rick Scorza’s article in The Slave in European Art: From Renaissance Trophy to Abolitionist Emblem, ed Elizabeth McGrath and Jean Michel Massing, London (The Warburg Institute) and Turin 2012.
- “War and Peace in ‘The Lepanto’ of James VI and I”, Robert Appelbaum, Modern Philology, Vol. 97, No. 3 (Feb, 2000), pp. 333-363
- Salgari, Emilio (June 19, 1905). Capitan Tempesta. Create Space. ISBN 978-1-4636-3716-3. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
- Salgari, Emilio (January 1, 1947). Il Leone Di Damasco. Milan: Fabbri. ASIN B005WW1Z5U. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
- D’Errico, Corrado. “Capitan Tempesta”. www.imdb.com. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
- D’Errico, Corrado. “Il Leone Di Damasco”. www.imdb.com. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
- Navasqués, Carmen. “El León de Damasco”. www.imdb.com. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
- Anderson, R. C. Naval Wars in the Levant 1559–1853, (2006), ISBN 1-57898-538-2
- Beeching, Jack. The Galleys at Lepanto, Hutchinson, London, 1982; ISBN 0-09-147920-7
- Bicheno, Hugh. Crescent and Cross: The Battle of Lepanto 1571, pbk., Phoenix, London, 2004, ISBN 1-84212-753-5
- Capponi, Niccolò (2006). Victory of the West:The Great Christian-Muslim Clash at the Battle of Lepanto. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-81544-3.
- Braudel, Fernand. The Mediterranean in the Age of Philip II. (vol 2 1972), the classic history by the leader of the French Annales School; excerpt and text search vol 2 pp 1088–1142
- Chesterton, G. K. Lepanto with Explanatory Notes and Commentary, Dale Ahlquist, ed. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2003). ISBN 1-58617-030-9
- Clissold, Stephen (1966). A short history of Yugoslavia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-04676-9.
- Cakir, İbrahim Etem, “Lepanto War and Some Informatıon on the Reconstructıon of The Ottoman Fleet”, Turkish Studies -International Periodical For The Language Literature and History of Turkish or Turkic, Volume 4/3 Spring 2009, pp. 512–531
- Cook, M.A. (ed.), “A History of the Ottoman Empire to 1730”, Cambridge University Press, 1976; ISBN 0-521-20891-2
- Crowley, Roger Empires of the Sea: The siege of Malta, the battle of Lepanto and the contest for the center of the world, Random House, 2008. ISBN 978-1-4000-6624-7
- Currey, E. Hamilton, “Sea-Wolves of the Mediterranean”, John Murrey, 1910
- Guilmartin, John F. (1974) Gunpowder & Galleys: Changing Technology & Mediterranean Warfare at Sea in the 16th Century. Cambridge University Press, London. ISBN 0-521-20272-8.
- Guilmartin, John F. (2003). Galleons and Galleys: Gunpowder and the Changing Face of Warfare at Sea, 1300–1650. Cassell. ISBN 0-304-35263-2.
- Hanson, Victor D. Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power, Anchor Books, 2001. Published in the UK as Why the West has Won, Faber and Faber, 2001. ISBN 0-571-21640-4. Includes a chapter about the battle of Lepanto
- Hess, Andrew C. “The Battle of Lepanto and Its Place in Mediterranean History”, Past and Present, No. 57. (Nov., 1972), pp. 53–73
- Konstam, Angus, Lepanto 1571: The Greatest Naval Battle of the Renaissance. Osprey Publishing, Oxford. 2003. ISBN 1-84176-409-4
- Stevens, William Oliver and Allan Westcott (1942). A History of Sea Power. Doubleday.
- Harbottle’s Dictionary of Battles, third revision by George Bruce, 1979
- Parker, Geoffrey (1996) The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1500–1800. (second edition) Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. ISBN ISBN 0-521-47426-4
- Stouraiti, Anastasia, ‘Costruendo un luogo della memoria: Lepanto‘, Storia di Venezia – Rivista 1 (2003), 65-88.
- Warner, Oliver Great Sea Battles (1968) has “Lepanto 1571” as its opening chapter. ISBN 0-89673-100-6
- The New Cambridge Modern History, Volume I – The Renaissance 1493–1520, edited by G. R. Potter, Cambridge University Press 1964
- Wheatcroft, Andrew (2004). Infidels: A History of the Conflict between Christendom and Islam. Penguin Books.
|Library resources about
Battle of Lepanto
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- Chronicle of the battle of Lepanto by Luis Coloma, SJ
- “Lepanto cultural center”
- The Battle that Saved the Christian West by Christopher Check
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