Wednesday, September 3, 2008


The mouth of the Gulf of Lepanto was the scene of the great sea fight in which the naval power of the Ottoman Empire was nearly completely destroyed by the united papal, Spanish, Habsburg and Venetian forces (Battle of Lepanto, October 7, 1571).

[Read all about it at]

The Venetians, on the left flank of the battle line, were especially passionate. Not long before, the Turks had so battered an island port maintained by Venetians (and others) that the Venetian commander, Marcantonio Bragadino appealed for a truce. The Turks promised him and his subjects safe passage — and then took him prisoner, beat him, cut off his nose and ears, put a collar on him, and made him crawl like a dog before the conquering army. In a little cage, he was hoisted up on the mast of the galley so that all in the fleet and on land could see him. Then he was brought down flayed mercilessly, his skin carefully stripped from his body as he died (the skin was later stuffed with straw and sent off to Constantinople as a trophy). Thousands of Venetians and others were slaughtered on the spot, or driven off in captivity for service on Turkish galleys or in Turkish harems.

But other elements of the Christian fleets were also angry. For decades now, the Turks had used their near-supremacy in the Mediterranean to make constant raids on the Christian communities near to the sea, and hauled away young women and men for the harems, and stronger men for the galleys.

Battle of Lepanto

In 1372, the rivalry between Genoese and Venetians merchants in Famagusta was causing problems. When fighting broke out over an incident at the coronation of King Peter II, some Genoese lost both their lives and property. In revenge, the Genoese occupied parts of Cyprus and Famagusta, forcing out the traders to nearby Nicosia. The Genoese were thrown out in 1464, but the damage to trade had been done.

In 1489, the Venetians moved their capital city from Nicosia to Famagusta, and they too began a massive programme of improving the town's defensive walls, adding towers and cannon posts

The Siege of Famagusta, North Cyprus

Their precautions were justified when the Ottoman navy arrived in North Cyprus in 1570 and laid siege to Famagusta. Lala Mustafa Pasha tried to take the town in October 1570, but finding the fortifications too strong, decided to sit out the winter at his camp in nearby Pomodamo. Extra troops arrived in April 1571, and the siege began in earnest. By May, the Turks had managed to dig under the arsenal tower, but the plot was discovered. The defenders of Famagusta took the gunpowder destined to blow up the tower for themselves, and literally fired it back at the Turks!

However, by August the citizens had run out of food, ammunition, and men fit to fight. On 1 August, 1571, the town surrendered to the Ottoman invaders. By the end of 1571, the whole of Cyprus had fallen under Ottoman rule.

"Famagusta lies near the center of a long scallop of bay on the eastern shore of the island (Cyprus) , facing Syria. In the 13th Century it was the wealthiest port in the Mediterranean….it is surrounded by massive stone walls that were reinforced in the 16th century by Venetian military engineers bracing for the arrival of the Ottomans. The invasion finally came in 1570….50,000 Turks came ashore in the withering heat of midsummer, led by a sadist named Lala Mustafa. After sacking Nicosia and killing 20,000 inhabitants, Mustafa led his forces against Famagusta, which was defended by a garrison of Venetian soldiers."

"The Turks hammered the thick stone walls with an estimated 100,000 cannonballs until the Venetian commander, Marcantonio Brigadino, finally ran out of supplies. Bragadino arranged for peaceful terms of surrender, but the Turks - enraged by the losses they had suffered while taking the city - started torturing and killing Bragadino's soldiers. When Bragadino objected, Mustafa ordered that his ears and nose be cut off and that he be skinned alive. The skin was stuffed with straw and mounted on a wagon, and legend has it that Bragadino lived long enough to behold his own gruesome double paraded through the streets."

Now you can see why the papal, Spanish, Habsburg and Venetian forces were outraged by the usual Islamic horrors perpetrated upon the defenders and inhabitants of Famagusta

Battle of Lepanto at]

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