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November 2022

The Battle of Lepanto  

by Arrigo Petaco

Ωκεανίδα (Greek publisher)

The book “The Battle of Lepanto” is a book which has to do with the Battle of Lepanto fought in 1571 and the events preceding the battle. The battle was a naval encounter at Lepanto (Nafpaktos in Greek) in the Gulf of Patras fought between the Ottoman Empire and a coalition of Christian states. The book starts to describe the lead up to the battle from the fall of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) to the Ottoman Turks. This important event signified the end of a major, albeit, severely weakened, Christian era of power in the Middle East (the Byzantine Empire) and the ascendancy of the Ottoman Empire which had already obtained a significant foothold in Europe, troubling European Christian powers. The book, however, focuses mainly on the Mediterranean and the naval aspect of the struggle between the Christian Powers and the Ottoman Empire. One important aspect of the period examined is the action of pirates and corsairs operating with the approval of either sides. The Ottoman corsairs operated primarily from Algeria and plundered Christian shipping and raided coastal areas especially in Italy. They became a thorn in the side of Christian Europe leading to disruption of trade and insecurity for coastal populations. The piracy perpetrated, mainly, but, not exclusively, by Muslim vassals of the Ottomans (who paid tribute to the Sultan) was intimately linked to a thriving slave trade. In Algeria, Christians captured in coastal raids were sold as slaves if they did not -and they seldom did- become Muslims. Thus, many relatives in Europe would attempt to buy back loved ones often ending up deeply in debt. Another important event described in detail is the Ottoman attack on Malta in 1565. The island was controlled by the Knights of St John, a Christian religious order dating back to the crusades who had ended up in Malta after being chased out of the Holy Land, and, subsequently, the island of Rhodes. The Sultan had been convinced that an attack on Malta was preferable to an expansion on land. Thus, a Turkish army and fleet, which vastly outnumbered Malta’s defenders, attacked the island, eventually losing what became a long battle of attrition despite the defenders receiving little in the way of supplies and reinforcement from other Christian states. In 1568, Muslims -who were supposed to have been converted to Christianity after the Reconquitsa- in southern Spain rebelled against the Spanish crown without success. Furthermore, the Ottoman Empire attacked Cyprus -a possession of Venice- in 1570 and took over the island in 1571. These events culminated in pope Pius V organizing the “Holy League” consisting of Spain, the Papal States, Venice, Genoa and other small papal states. In order to counter the Ottoman threat and aid the defenders of Cyprus, the league organized a navy under Don Juan of Austria (illegitimate half brother of Phillip II of Spain) to take on the Turkish fleet. The coalition met the Ottoman fleet -which also incorporated Ottoman vassals and corsairs- at Lepanto in modern Greece and won a decisive victory. The fleet was, however, too late to prevent the capitulation of the Venetian garrison in Cyprus and was disbanded after the victory. The Battle of Lepanto was crucial because it is considered to have begun reversing the tide of Ottoman dominance in the Mediterranean with a Christian victory. It was also significant because it was won by a coalition of mutually suspicious and even hostile Christian states. The book is overall an interesting and broad take on the period of Ottoman expansion and the response of Christendom in the region of the Mediterranean. It is part of history that is less well known, but crucial to modern Europe all the same, and, therefore, this book definitely comes recommended.     

Νέα εικόνα (10).bmp
Νέα εικόνα (11).bmp

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