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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Maritime Logistics Professional

Battle of Lepanto

Posted to Maritime Musings (by on July 1, 2014

The last major naval battle between oared vessels

The Battle of Lepanto took place on 7 October 1571 in the eastern Mediterranean Sea near the western end of the Gulf of Patras between the forces of the Holy League and the forces of the Ottoman Empire.  The Ottoman Empire was the dominate military and naval force in the eastern Mediterranean.  It has just conquered Cyprus and was threatening other European interests in the region.  At the urging of Pope Pius V, the Holy League fleet was cobbled together, consisting of vessels and personnel from Spain, Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, Venice, the Papal States, Genoa, Savoy, Urbino, and the Knights Hospitaller, all under the loose leadership of John of Austria.  They brought together 206 galleys and six galleasses.   The galleass was a hybrid vessel - larger than the traditional galley, it carried auxiliary sails.  Due to its size, it was also capable of carrying more and heavier weapons than the galley.  The Ottoman forces consisted of 206 galleys and 45 smaller galliots.  The Ottoman forces had a slight edge in the number of sailors and soldiers, but the Holy League forces had a more than 2-to-1 edge in guns.  The two fleets met by accident and quickly deployed into two nearly parallel north-south lines.  The Holy League galleasses were placed ahead of the galleys.  The Ottoman forces mistook them for merchantmen and promptly attacked.  It is said that the galleasses were responsible for the loss of up to 50 Ottoman galleys.  The fighting was over in about four hours.  The Ottoman forces lost 180 vessels, with 20,000 sailors and soldiers dead, wounded, or captured.  The Holy League forces lost 17 vessels, with 7,500 sailors and soldiers dead and 20,000 wounded.  Approximately 10,000 Christian slaves who had served (involuntarily) as oarsmen on the Ottoman galleys were freed.  The Ottoman Empire soon replaced most of the lost vessels, but was largely unable to replace the experienced sailors and soldiers lost during the conflict.  The Empire remained a major power in Asia Minor and North Africa, but never again threatened Western Europe.  

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