‘Defending the Christian Faith with Our Blood’. The Battle of Lepanto (1571) and the Venetian Eastern Adriatic: Impact of a Global Conflict on the Mediterranean Periphery

The Battle of Lepanto 1571‘Defending the Christian Faith with Our Blood’. The Battle of Lepanto (1571) and the Venetian Eastern Adriatic: Impact of a Global Conflict on the Mediterranean Periphery

Klemen Pust, Researcher (University of Primorska – Slovenia)

Athens: Institute for Education and Research ATINER, ATINER’s Conference Paper Series MDT2012-0036 (2012)


The Battle of Lepanto in 1571 was the greatest naval battle of oar driven vessels in the history of the Mediterranean and the first defeat of the Ottoman navy in a direct confrontation with Christian forces. It represents the peak of a global conflict that involved vast opposing empires. An important part in this victory was played by 8 galleys, equipped and manned by Venetian owned towns in the Eastern Adriatic. Besides that the sailors from Venetian province of Dalmatia were present on no less than 19 Venetian galleys. On the basis of recently discovered archival material it is now possible to establish that up to 15 000 soldiers, sailors and oarsmen originated from the Eastern Adriatic, which represents around 40% of the entire Christian forces. Furthermore, in April of 1571 the Ottoman navy penetrated into the Adriatic itself, where it managed to operate without any major Venetian resistance.

The extremely grim situation was particularly hard felt by the population because of the outburst of plague and subsequently of famine. The measures taken by the Venetian authorities were not sufficient and as a result social tumult and upheaval started, which later spread throughout Dalmatia. These uprisings became a political form of opposition against the Venetian power in the Eastern Adriatic and it took Signoria quite some time, money and effort before it could finally crush them.

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