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Battle of Lepanto

Paolo Veronese

Battle of Lepanto

Paolo Veronese
  • Date: c.1572
  • Style: Mannerism (Late Renaissance)
  • Genre: battle painting
  • Media: oil, canvas
  • Tag: saints-and-apostles, boats-and-ships, battles-and-wars, Virgin-Mary, angels-and-archangels
  • Dimensions: 169 x 137 cm
  • Order Oil Painting

Coordinates: 38°15′N 21°15′E / 38.250°N 21.250°E / 38.250; 21.250

The Battle of Lepanto was a naval engagement that took place on 7 October 1571 when a fleet of the Holy League, of which the Venetian Empire and the Spanish Empire were the main powers, inflicted a major defeat on the fleet of the Ottoman Empire in the Gulf of Patras, where Ottoman forces sailing westward from their naval station in Lepanto (the Venetian name of ancient Naupactus Ναύπακτος, Ottoman İnebahtı) met the fleet of the Holy League sailing east from Messina, Sicily. The Holy League was a coalition of European Catholic maritime states arranged by Pope Pius V and led by Adm. John of Austria, as agreed between Philip II of Spain—who largely financed the League—and the Venetian Republic (main contributor of ships), as well as the Portuguese Empire since it was the primary naval power in the century, being the first modern Global Empire. The Portuguese were also experienced in fighting the Ottoman Empire (and its allies) in the Indian Ocean as early as the century began, finally defeating it in The Ottoman-Portuguese War. To this battle, Portugal provided ships, menpower and cutting-edge naval technology..

In the history of naval warfare, Lepanto marks the last major engagement in the Western world to be fought entirely, or almost entirely, between rowing vessels, the galleys and galeasses that were still the direct descendants of the 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, strengthening the position of Philip II of Spain as the "Most Catholic King" and defender of Christendom against Muslim incursion, although this was mitigated by the defeat of the Spanish Armada by the Royal Navy of England in 1588.

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. 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 Marco Antonio 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.

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