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Italy, Europe and the Battle of Lepanto (1571)

Updated on December 31, 2014

The Events

The great battle of Lepanto (1571) between Turks and Christians was an epochal event not only in the history of Venice and her fleet, but for the whole of Europe. Bloody fights that had marked the Italian territory throughout the 16th century among France, Spain and Italian States, produced a double fault. First of all, the so-called “Wars of Italy” did not have an effective level of strategic consistency such as to justify the immense sufferings of the civilian population in Italy at the time, resulting in an almost complete destruction of the commercial and industrial sectors of Italy.

Considering the scale of those wars of the early 16th century, they were aggressive wars conducted in Italy by French and Spanish monarchs for pure prestige and internal reasons for expansion, not strategic necessity. Secondly, the major European powers which devastated Italy during the early 16th century forgot that Europe would have wholly submerged by an external enemy, the Turks, who in the almost general indifference were gathered at the gates of Europe and were laying siege to Vienna.

Italian, Spanish, English and German experts agree that if Europe could not stop the advance of the Turks, nearly the whole of Europe and her culture would disappear under the violent blows of the Turks, who were capable of building a great civilization which was, however, very different from the European society. The great battle of Lepanto was not only a sign of victory of Venice, but also and above all the victory of Europe, saving both the European country and her identity. The events that preceded the battle were serious and prestigious men of the Venetian fleet gave mixed up with them.

Historians told us that after the capture of Famagosta, Marco Antonio Bragadino (the governor of the same Famagosta) was received with great ceremony by Mustapha, but that M. A. Bragadino accused Mustapha of duplicity because he had broken the non-aggression treaty between Venice and the Turks. Mustafa with an angry glance responded that he was “the winning”, and Bragadino “the hostage”. And soon treacherously Bragadino's nose and ears were cut off. Moreover, Bragadino was also damned to labor as a slave in reconstruction of the bastions of Famagosta.

These events clearly demonstrated that the Ottoman Empire infringed primary rules of international law, with the massacre of unarmed civilians and soldiers , because it was certain of its imminent victory. For example, the conquest of Cyprus was not difficult for the so-called “Saracens”, as they were known in Italy. Turkish troops landed in Cyprus, and besieged Nicosia with a campaign of terror in all directions, spreading destruction through the country. The reaction of Venice was crucial for European civilization, and it's not for nothing that the great battle of Lepanto was considered one of the most important military battles in history.


On the capture of Famagosta and the torture of Bragadino, see “The Battle of Lepanto” in “Blackwood's Magazine”, Vol. LXXVI, July-December, 1854, pp. 78-79). On the siege of Famagosta, see also “Marco Antonio Bragadino, or the Soldier Martyr” in “The Four Martyrs”, by A.F. Rio, London, 1856, pp. 143 ff. On the battle of Lepanto, see J. Frederick-C. Fuller “The Battle of Lepanto, 1571”, in “A Military History of the Western World: From the earliest times to the Battle of Lepanto”, Funk & Wagnalls, 1954, pp. 569 ff. See also: T. Tibebu, “Hegel and the Third World: The Making of Eurocentrism in World History”, New York, Syracuse University Press, 2011: “The “battle of Lepanto, saved Italy, and perhaps all Europe” (p. 86).

The Fleet


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