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A chronicle of the most famous naval battle in Mediterranean history

In Lepanto: The Battle of the Three Empires, Alessandro Barbero describes the events that led to one of the most famous naval conflicts in history. He examines the documents and evidence surrounding the event, and draws a clear and comprehensive picture of the battle between the Ottomans and the Christians. The result is an exciting adventure, which is brimming with fascinating characters and surprising twists and turns.

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The battle of Lepanto was a result of the Ottoman and Venetian rule over Cyprus

By the 1770s, Cyprus had belonged to the Venetian Republic for about 80 years, but it was located about 2,000 kilometres from St Mark’s Square, the centre of the Venetian Empire, and this was a colossal distance at the time. The island had briefly belonged to the Muslims before it became part of the Venetian Empire, and later became a Crusader state. Cyprus is located just 70 kilometres from the Turkish coast, and the Ottoman Empire was opposed to the Christian rule over the area, as the Sultan believed that a land that had known “the true faith” should not be controlled by “infidels”. He therefore demanded an annual contribution of 8,000 ducats from Venice, which the Republic was willing to pay, in order to cement its ownership of Cyprus. The agreement, however, was ambiguous and so each side interpreted it differently: the Venetians maintained that Cyprus was an important extension of their Empire, while the Ottomans claimed that their sovereignty over the island was undisputed, and had only been transferred to the Venetians temporarily, for as long as it was convenient. The sultan later decided that he would regain control of the island, and rumours began to spread rapidly about the Ottoman Empire’s intentions. By 1569, Venice was worried: reports from Marcantonio Barbaro, the ambassador to Constantinople, were inconsistent, and did little to alleviate the Venetians’ concerns. The Turks began to build transport ships and manufacture weapons, and this unnerved their rivals even further. Barbaro and the other Venetian patricians held on to the hope that the sultan simply wished to free the Moriscos, the Muslim subjects of the Christian rulers in Spain, but deep down, they knew that an Ottoman attack on Cyprus was imminent.


The key ideas of "Lepanto"

The battle of Lepanto was a result of the Ottoman and Venetian rule over Cyprus
The Ottoman Empire knows that the conquest of Cyprus would trigger a bitter and costly war, but the benefits of ruling over the island are too great to pass up
The threat of an Ottoman invasion of Cyprus is real, but Venice has no intention of relinquishing the island, and so begins to prepare for war
Pope Pius V pushes for the formation of a league to fight the Turks, which unites the Christian kingdom of Spain and the Republic of Venice
As the Venetians grow increasingly concerned about the Turkish advance in the Adriatic, they begin preparing to defend themselves against a possible direct attack
The Turks conquer Famagusta, taking full control of Cyprus, and return home triumphant
The Spaniards finally arrive in Messina, reunite with the Venetians, and form a fleet that is far superior to that of the Turks
The Christians easily overpower the Ottomans at Lepanto
The Christians secure the victory thanks to their superior manpower and weapons
The Turks regroup after the defeat at Lepanto, but Venice has no intention of waging another war
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