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The Battle of Lepanto was a naval engagement that took place on 7 October 1571 when a fleet of the Holy League, a coalition of Catholic states arranged by Pope Pius V (comprising Spain and its Italian territories, several independent Italian states, and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta), inflicted a major defeat on the fleet of the Ottoman Empire in the Gulf of Patras. The Ottoman forces were sailing westward from their naval station in Lepanto (the Venetian name of ancient Naupactus – Greek Ναύπακτος, Turkish İnebahtı) when they met the fleet of the Holy League which was sailing east from Messina, Sicily.
|Battle of Lepanto
|Part of the Ottoman–Habsburg wars and Fourth Ottoman–Venetian War
The Battle of Lepanto, Paolo Veronese (detail)
Republic of Venice
Republic of Genoa
Duchy of Savoy
Grand Duchy of Tuscany
Order of St. John
|Commanders and leaders
John of Austria
Álvaro de Bazán
Luis de Requesens
Carlo d'Aragona Tagliavia
Agostino Barbarigo †
Ali Pasha †
Mahomet Sirocco †
|Casualties and losses
13 galleys sunk or destroyed
117 galleys captured
20 galliots captured
50 galleys and galliots sunk or destroyed
|15,000 Christian slaves freed
The fleet of the Holy League consisted of 109 galleys and 6 galleasses from the Republic of Venice, 49 galleys from the Spanish Empire, 27 galleys from the Republic of Genoa, 7 galleys from the Papal States, 5 galleys from the Order of Saint Stephen and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, 3 galleys from the Duchy of Savoy, 3 galleys from the Knights of Malta and some private ships. Don John of Austria, half-brother of Philip II of Spain, was named by Pope Pius V as overall commander of the fleet and led the centre division along with the Papal captain Marcantonio Colonna and the Venetian Sebastiano Venier; the wings were commanded by the Venetian Agostino Barbarigo and the Genoese Gianandrea Doria. The Ottoman fleet consisted of 222 galleys and 56 galliots and was led by Müezzinzade Ali Pasha, Mahomet Sirocco and Occhiali.
In the history of naval warfare, Lepanto marks the last major engagement in the Western world to be fought almost entirely between rowing vessels, namely the galleys and galleasses which were the direct descendants of ancient trireme warships. The battle was in essence an "infantry battle on floating platforms". It was the largest naval battle in Western history since classical antiquity, involving more than 400 warships. Over the following decades, the increasing importance of the galleon and the line of battle tactic would displace the galley as the major warship of its era, marking the beginning of the "Age of Sail".
The victory of the Holy League is of great importance in the history of Europe and of the Ottoman Empire, marking the turning-point of Ottoman military expansion into the Mediterranean, although the Ottoman wars in Europe would continue for another century. It has long been compared to the Battle of Salamis, both for tactical parallels and for its crucial importance in the defense of Europe against imperial expansion. It was also of great symbolic importance in a period when Europe was torn by its own wars of religion following the Protestant Reformation. Pope Pius V instituted the feast of Our Lady of Victory, and Philip II of Spain used the victory to strengthen his position as the "Most Catholic King" and defender of Christendom against Muslim incursion. Historian Paul K. Davis writes that
More than a military victory, Lepanto was a moral one. For decades, the Ottoman Turks had terrified Europe, and the victories of Suleiman the Magnificent caused Christian Europe serious concern. The defeat at Lepanto further exemplified the rapid deterioration of Ottoman might under Selim II, and Christians rejoiced at this setback for the Ottomans. The mystique of Ottoman power was tarnished significantly by this battle, and Christian Europe was heartened.
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