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?

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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 galleass, 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 galleass 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.
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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 accurate, interest-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 when I had posted this one, 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.
Don Juan of Austria:
Holy League galeasse:
Holy League galley:
Map of Europe:
Map of the world:
Müezzinzade Ali Pasha:
Ottoman galley:

If you enjoyed the Battle of Lepanto 1571 battle animation, you may also enjoy these other battle animations:

Cape Ecnomus 256 BC, another naval battle fought in the Mediterranean Sea:

cape ecnomus preview 1

Battle of Rossbach 1757, another battle featuring the attack in the oblique order:


Battle of Nagashino 1575, the next battle chronologically on the site:

nagashino preview 1Thank you for visiting The Art of Battle: Animated Battle Maps.