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Battle of Lepanto, 1571

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Don Juan of Austria versus Müezzinzade Ali Pasha: A Holy League fleet under Juan confronts an Ottoman fleet under Müezzinzade Pasha in a climactic battle involving a large majority of total galleys in the Mediterranean. Will Müezzinzade Pasha’s wings defeat their opposition in time to outflank Juan’s center? Click on images below to view PowerPoint presentation. | Legend |
 
 
While this battle did not mark the decline of the Ottoman Empire – it remained a threat to Europe for centuries after – the battle was a sign of things to come. The superior Holy League technology, the galeasse, played an important role in this battle. Europe of course modernized more rapidly than the Ottoman Empire which had significant implications for warfare among the two regions.
 
Technological innovations should not be overlooked in explaining the result of this battle. The beaks of Holy League galleys were removed for the battle so that bow cannons were more effective. This small but significant innovation along with the galeasse resulted in sinking or damaging possibly one-third of Ottoman ships (Crowley, 2008: 265). When the two battle lines collided, the Ottoman side was greatly depleted. The vital tactical factor in this battle was the reserves. While Müezzinzade Pasha’s reserve was deployed right beyond the center and pre-committed to fighting there, Juan’s reserve was under separate command: Bazan was given free reign to intervene anywhere he saw fit. During the battle, Bazan’s timely reinforcements contributed on all sectors.
 
 
 
My personal stamp on this battle was the rotation of the map; virtually every map places the Ottomans on the right and the Holy League on the left to emphasize the dramatic conflict between East and West. I rejected this landscape on two grounds. First, I wanted to provide a more original view and seeing the same map in every source is dull. Second, I wanted to downplay the East-West conflict of civilizations in favour of a more rationality-based context. Each civilization fought amongst itself more often than each other and the appearance that they fought one another for cultural purposes is somewhat superficial. Juan had to unite his polyglot fleet somehow and stressing the common religion among it was an effective way of doing so. France, Portugal and the Holy Roman Empire were conspicuously absent from this apparent climactic battle of civilizations because it was in their best interest to abstain.
 
Since it had been two months since my last animation, it felt gratifying to return in force to a favourite past-time.
 
- Jonathan Webb
 
Works Consulted

Beeching, Jack. The Galleys at Lepanto. London: Hutchinson, 1982.

Black, Jeremy. The Seventy Great Battles in History. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2004.

Crowley, Robert. Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto and the Contest for the Center of the World. New York: Random House, 2008.

Davis, Paul K. 100 Decisive Battles from Ancient Times to the Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Dupuy, Trevor N. The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History: From 3500 BC to the Present, Fourth Edition. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.

Fuller, J.F.C. The Decisive Battles of the Western World Vol. 1. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1954. 

Guilmartin, John Francis. Gunpowder and Galleys: Changing Technology and Mediterranean Warfare at Sea in the 16th Century. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2003.

Images

Don Juan of Austria: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_of_Austria
 
Holy League galeasse: http://www.collectableships.com/models/GoldenOldies.htm
 
Holy League galley: http://www001.upp.so-net.ne.jp/a-sasano/galley.htm
 
Müezzinzade Ali Pasha: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%BCezzinzade_Ali_Pasha
 
Ottoman galley: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Ponza_(1552)
 

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  1. 6 Comments to “Battle of Lepanto, 1571”

  2. The battle of Preveza must be animated!

    By Osman's Dream on Mar 1, 2010 at 6:04 pm

  3. The usually position of the fleets on a map has nothing to do with dramatic effects. The top side of a map is by old convention the North.

    The Holy League fleet is positioned to the left because they actually were in the western part of the battlefield, the Ottomans are to the right because they were in the eastern one.

    You’re way of positioning the map may be creative but it also runs against century old convention and thus induces confusion. A map is not a pretty picture but a tool of understanding.

    By Homa on Aug 19, 2011 at 11:46 pm

  4. Thanks very much for the animation. Regardless of conventions, your point that in large battles many of the most urgent conflicts are among nominal allies is important.

    By Joel B Davis on Apr 1, 2012 at 2:02 am

  5. It is not correct, in the first map, the back position of the two galeasses of the right wing: they were in the front just like the other four. See, for ex. the map of the battle, now3 in the Simanca Archives, sent by Don Juan to his half-brother Felipe II
    The beaks of the Venetian galleys, more than half of the total number of the Christian fleet, was removed 4 month earlier: the rest of the fleet copied this decision in Messina.
    Beeching work is more a novel than a history book and so it is dangerous to use as a reference.

    By Marco Morin on Jul 11, 2012 at 6:09 am

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