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Monday, 4 January 2016

Battle of Lepanto

The Battle of Lepanto was a naval engagement that took place on October 7, 1571 between a fleet of the Holy League (a coalition of Spain, Venice, and the Papal States arranged by Pope Pius V) and the fleet of the Ottoman Empire. It was part of the Fourth Ottoman-Venetian War and the Ottoman-Habsburg wars.

The Ottoman forces sailing westwards from their naval station in Lepanto met the Holy League forces, which came from Messina, Sicily, where they had previously gathered on the northern edge of the Gulf of Corinth, off western Greece. The Christian naval soldiers called upon the name of Our Lady of the Rosary as they engaged in battle.

The Battle of Lepanto, unknown artist, late 16th century
The superior force of the Ottoman fleet was decisively defeated by The Holy League led by Philip II of Spain's admiral Don Juan of Austria. The victory prevented the Ottoman Empire from expanding further along the European side of the Mediterranean.

A soldier for the Papal Army, the author of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes, served on the galley Marquesa during the battle. Though taken down with fever, Cervantes refused to stay below, and begged to be allowed to take part in the engagement, saying that he would rather die for his God and his king than keep under cover.

Cervantes fought bravely on board a vessel, and suffered three gunshot wounds all together, in his chest and left arm. It was "for the greater glory of the right" he said of the wound to his left arm which rendered it useless for the rest of his life.

Cervantes always looked back on his conduct in the battle with pride: he believed that he had taken part in an event that would shape the course of European history.

Lepanto was the last major naval battle in the Mediterranean fought entirely between galleys and has been assigned great symbolic and historical importance by a number of historians.

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