The greatest Christian naval victory over the Ottomans – 1571.

The greatest Christian naval victory over the Ottomans – 1571.

Six Croatian galleys from Cres, Krk, Rab, Šibenik, Trogir and Hvar also took part in the battle.

The Battle of Lepanto, when the naval forces of the Holy League clashed with the Ottoman Empire, took place on October 7, 1571, and ended in a great Christian victory. The battle permanently shattered Ottoman supremacy in the Mediterranean and prevented an attack on Europe from the south. This skirmish was also the last great naval battle in which the galleys took part. Namely, at that time the naval war was fought with the help of large galleys with a large number of rowers and armed soldiers on board. When the galleys crashed into each other the soldiers would cross over to the enemy ship and fight hand to hand.

The immediate reason for the battle was the Ottoman conquest of the last Venetian stronghold in the eastern Mediterranean – Famagusta in August of the same year. Realizing the danger of the Ottoman invasion from the south, the former rivals – Spain, the Papal States, Venice, Genoa and Malta, formed an alliance of so-called The Holy League at the instigation of Pope Pius V. The League equipped a large fleet of 206 galleys and 22 sailing ships with about 28,000 soldiers, 43,000 rowers and 13,000 sailors. The fleet was commanded by Don Juan of Austria, the illegitimate son of Emperor Charles V and half-brother of King Philip II of Spain.

Seeing the danger, Sultan Selim II. he ordered his Grand Admiral Ali Pasha to move the fleet to the fortified port of Lepanto. The Ottoman fleet numbered about 220 galleys and 80 other ships with 25,000 soldiers and tens of thousands of sailors and rowers – slaves.

The battle itself took place in the Gulf of Patras on the west coast of Greece. In the Christian fleet on the left wing were Venetian galleys. In the center were the Spanish ships of Don Juan of Austria and the remaining Venetian galleys and papal ships. To the right, the fleet was completed by Genoese ships with Admiral Doria. Opposite them, the Ottomans were led on the right wing by Admiral Mehmet Sorak, in the middle by Mehmet Ali, and on the left by Uluč Ali (an apostate Italian from Calabria).

The battle lasted several hours and ended in an overwhelming victory for the Holy League. During the fighting, Ali-pasha was killed, whose head was impaled on a stake and exposed on the mast of a Spanish command ship. With this, the morale of the Ottoman forces, which fled. Less than 10,000 Ottomans survived the battle, and they also lost 180 galleys, on the other hand the League lost 7,000 men and 12 galleys. The Christians won primarily thanks to their cannons and arquebuses, while the Ottomans still used bows and steels.

Six Croatian galleys from Cres, Krk, Rab, Šibenik, Trogir and Hvar also took part in the battle. In addition, there was one galley from Koper and one from Kotor. In the days before the battle, a galley from Zadar smashed pirate ships around Lepanto so that the ships of the Holy League would be undamaged before the battle. The Zadar galley itself did not take part in the Battle of Lepanto because it fell into the hands of the Ottomans near Corfu.

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