Saturday, October 07, 2006
On This Day in 1571: The Battle of Lepanto
(Oct. 7, 1571) Naval engagement between allied Christian forces (Venice, the pope, and Spain) and the Ottoman Turks during an Ottoman campaign to acquire the Venetian island of Cyprus. After four hours of fighting off the coast of Lepanto, Greece, the allies, under Juan de Austria, were victorious, capturing 117 galleys and thousands of men.
Christians and Ottomans fought in the strait between the gulfs of Pátrai and Corinth, off Lepanto (Návpaktos), Greece. The fleet of the Holy League commanded by John of Austria (d. 1578) opposed the Ottoman fleet under Uluç Ali Pasha. The allied fleet (about 200 galleys, not counting smaller ships) consisted mainly of Spanish, Venetian, and papal ships and of vessels sent by a number of Italian states. It carried approximately 30,000 fighting men. The Ottoman fleet Consisted of 220-230 Galleys. The battle ended with the virtual destruction of the Ottoman navy (except 40 galleys, with which Uluç Ali escaped). Approximately 30,000 Turks were slain or captured, some 10,000 Christian galley slaves were liberated, and much booty was taken. The victors, however, lost over 7,000 men. Among the allied wounded was Cervantes, who lost the use of his left arm.
Lepanto was the first major Ottoman defeat by the Christian powers, and Rout by the Christian Navies, led by Don Juan, ended the myth of Ottoman naval invincibility.