ANST - FW: Musing on October 7th -- Stick a Fork in that Turkey, She's Done

j'lynn yeates jyeates at
Sun Oct 8 07:42:18 PDT 2000

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- -----Original Message-----
From: Ellsworth Weaver [mailto:astroweaver at]
Sent: Sunday, October 08, 2000 00:32
To: 2thpix at
Subject: Musing on October 7th -- Stick a Fork in that Turkey, She's

Dear Folk,

On October 7, 1571, the myth of the unbeatable Turks was to sink in
Mediterranean Sea at the Battle of Lepanto.

The Ottoman Turks had soundly defeated the Habsburg’s Europeans in
Hungary (see "Know Mohacs") and other battles. Suleyman the
had been a capable and dynamic leader. Unfortunately he had died
leaving his son, Selim II "The Sot", in charge of the family business
(see "The Magnificent and the Gal with Antelope Eyes".) On the
side the leader was Don Juan of Austria. He was the illegitimate son
Charles V and half-brother to Philip II of Spain (see "Isabel, Dafydd

The Ottoman Turks in 1570 had demanded the surrender of Cyprus which
was held by the Venetians. Although a Christian fleet of Sicilians
papal vessels set sail to relieve the attack, they arrived at Rhodes
only to hear the news that Nicosia had already been taken. That
to the rescue force that it was already too late. Famagusta fell in
early August of that year and by September 9, 1570 the Cypriot
fell to the heathen Turks.

The next year the Europeans decided to get tough. There was a real
danger of all of Europe falling to the curved sword and clever
of those rascally Ottomans.  Venice, Spain, and the Pope announced
they had formed a permanent alliance to fight the infidel. In August
1571, the largest Christian fleet to come together in the sixteenth
century assembled in the bay of Naples. Don Juan was given command of
242 vessels drawn from the navies of the Hospitallers, Savoy, Genoa,
Venice, Spain, and the Papal states.  There were about 30,000 men
aboard when they set sail to find the Turks.

Nafpaktos is the closest modern town to where the battle was actually
fought. It is in the Corinthian Gulf. The Gulf of Lepanto is really a
long arm of the Ionian sea running from east to west separating the
Pellopennesian peninsula to the south from the Greek mainland to the
north. Okay, you know that Greece looks like a chubby arm descending
into the Mediterranean. There is what looks like a hand coming from
that arm with fingers jutting out.. At where the wrist would be is a
stretch of water going from the west into the arm. That is the gulf.
Got an idea where that is now?

Ali Pasha was the naval commander of Selim II’s navy. For six weeks
ship had been anchored inside the fortified port of Lepanto in the
of Corinth’s inner portion. They were sailors and overseas: lots of
boys spending their money, seeing the sites. On October 5 they hauled
up anchor and rowed (yes, they had oars) out westward to leave the
place. Ali Pasha had heard that the Christians had a fleet roaming
around and so when they got fifteen miles of the mouth of the inlet,
had all the ships drop anchor and wait. He sent his scout ships
commanded by his faithful Kara Kosh to see what was up. The scouts
all day to look around. They got back the next midnight with word
the Christian fleet was at Cephalonia, a small island almost directly
opposite the mouth of the Gulf.

Next morning early, Ali Pasha got word from his scouts on the hills
that they could see the Christians tooling down the coast toward the
mouth of the inlet. It was not a good place to get trapped. Ali Pasha
had everyone head out into open water. Within a short time the two
fleets were facing each other. The Turks had two hundred thirty
and one hundred auxiliary vessels. Ali Pash commanded the center
squadron facing that commanded by Don Juan of Austria. Pretty evenly

The navy was much more civilized in those days. They signaled each
other when they were ready for battle. The challenger, in this case
Turks, would fire a single cannon. The respondent would fire two each
signaling that they were ready. The Turks hoisted a huge green silk
banner decorated with the Moslem crescent and with holy writ
upon it on the Turkish flagship.

In sixteenth century, craft would be strenuously rowed toward each
other to ram, and hopefully sink, the opponent. After initial
grappling hooks pulled the boats together and boarding parties
clambered over the side onto each other’s vessels to hack and hew at
the crew. Even the privatize guns of the time needed to be close to
hit. That was all to change in this battle.

.Don Juan’s ships were equipped with fine cannon and men who knew how
to fire them. From the very first salvo the cannon balls tore through
the Turkish ships and many were sunk before even contacting the
The cannon were what made the difference. Certainly the Turks were
inferior as fighters; both sides were evenly matched in men and
And yet...

After an hour of fighting the flag ship with her green banner fell to
the Christians. The Turk’s right wing was completely sacked. Not a
galley escaped there. By four o’clock in the afternoon the whole
was over. No Turks were left alive to fight in that stretch of water.
The sea looked like chunky tomato soup from all the blood and bodies
floating in it.  By evening it looked like a storm was coming on. Don
Juan ordered the fleet to regroup and head for the bay. The
of the other vessels eventually met together on Don Juan’s craft just
before midnight October 7.

They toted up the losses. The Christian fleet had lost seven to eight
thousand men and about 16,000 wounded. However, only about fifteen
ships had been sunk. They counted the losses light.  The Turks, of
course, faired much worse. Less than fifty of the three hundred plus
ships escaped. One hundred and seventeen galleys were captured intact
and the rest were suck or destroyed after they had been run ashore by
the fleeing Turks. Of the seventy-five thousand Turks who had entered
the battle, a majority were killed, five thousand taken prisoner. On
the bright side, ten thousand Christian galley slaves were liberated.
Maybe a few Turks got away by swimming to shore but it really did not
matter. Turkey had no navy left. That was it.

Venice received the homecoming fleet in a week of celebration. The
seventh of October was declared a perpetual holiday to celebrate. In
1572, Pope St. Pius V ordered an annual commemoration of Our Lady of
Victory to be made to implore God's mercy on His Church and all the
faithful. And, to thank Him for His protection and numberless
particularly for having delivered Christendom from the arms of the
infidel Turks by the sea victory of Lepanto in the previous year.
was like the rebel alliance blowing up the Death Star. Folks wrote
poems and painted paintings depicting it. Of course the authors of
those works were nowhere near the fighting.

That isn’t exactly true. Miguel Cervantes was actually there and
wounded at the battle. He had been a member of the Spanish infantry
the time. He had earlier been captured by the Barbary pirates, too.
was a vet.

This battle marked the end of Turkish naval supremacy and the
of the Ottoman Empire's decline on both land and sea. Perhaps the
important result of the battle was its effect on men's minds: the
victory had ended the myth that the Turks could not be beaten. It
marked the end of the rowing galleys.

What have we learned? Being a bastard is not necessarily a draw back
when it comes to military matters? Suleyman might not have lost the
fleet that way if he had been alive? No force is invincible except
force of habit? How about artillery is the Queen of Battle?

If you are out there hoisting the crescent on a green silk banner,
writing of your wartime experiences, lobbing cannon balls through
wooden ships and leather-covered men, or just swimming desperately
shore and you want to forward these missives, please do only keep my
name and sig. attached.

A former rocketeer myself,
J. Ellsworth Weaver

SCA – Sir Balthazar of Endor
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