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A History of Sea Power by Stevens and Westcott

After Lepanto he seemed unwilling


But

Santa Cruz, who was still laboring through the straits when the battle began, was now in a position to help. After an hour's fighting with all the advantage on Ali's side, Santa Cruz arrived with his reserve squadron and turned the scale. By this time, too, Doria managed to reach the scene with a part of his squadron. Thus Ali found himself outnumbered and in danger of capture. Signaling retreat, he collected a number of his galleys and, boldly steering through the field of battle, escaped to lay at the feet of the Sultan the captured flag of the Knights of Malta. Some thirty-five others of his force made their way safely back to Lepanto.

The fighting did not end till evening. By that time the Christians had taken 117 galleys and 20 galliots, and sunk or burnt some fifty other ships of various sorts. Ten thousand Turks were captured and many thousands of Christian slaves rescued. The Christians lost 7500 men; the Turks, about 30,000. It was an overwhelming victory.

As far as the tactics go, Lepanto was, like Salamis, an infantry battle on floating platforms. It was fought and won by the picked infantrymen of Spain and Italy; the day of seamanship had not yet arrived. For the conduct of the most distinguished admiral on the Christian side, Gian Andrea Doria, little justification can be found. Even if we accept his excuse at its face value, the event proved his folly. It is strange that in this, the supreme victory

of the Cross over the Crescent on the sea, a Doria should have tarnished his reputation so foully, even as his great-uncle Andrea had tarnished his in the battle of Prevesa. It seems as if in both, as Genoese, the hatred of Venice extinguished every other consideration of loyalty to Christendom.

What were the consequences of Lepanto, and in what sense can it be called a decisive battle? The question at first seems baffling. Overwhelming as was the defeat of the Turks, Ali had another fleet ready the next spring and was soon ravaging the seas again. Twice there came an opportunity for the two fleets to meet for another battle, but Ali declined the challenge. After Lepanto he seemed unwilling, without a great superiority, to risk another close action and contented himself with a "fleet in being." In this new attitude toward the Christians lies the hint to the answer. The significance of Lepanto lies in its moral effect. Never before had the Turkish fleet been so decisively beaten in a pitched battle. The fame of Lepanto rang through Europe and broke the legend of Turkish invincibility on the sea.

The material results, it must be admitted, were worse than nothing at the time. In 1573 Don Juan was amazed and infuriated to learn that Venice, contrary to the terms of the Holy League, had secretly arranged a separate peace with the Sultan. The terms she accepted were those of a beaten combatant. Venice agreed to the loss of Cyprus, paid an indemnity of 300,000 ducats, trebled her tribute for the use of Zante as a trading post, and restored to the Turk all captures made on the Albanian and Dalmatian coast. Apparently the Venetian had to have his trade at any price, including honor. At this news Don Juan tore down the standard of the allies and raised the flag of Castile and Aragon. In two years and after a brilliant victory, the eternal Holy League, which was pledged to last forever, fell in pieces.

As for Venice, her ignoble policy brought her little benefit. She steadily declined thereafter as a commercial and naval power. Her old markets were in the grip of the Turk, and the new discoveries of ocean routes to the east--beyond the reach of the Moslem,--diverted the course of trade away from the Mediterranean, which became, more and more, a mere backwater of the world's commerce. In fact, it was not until the cutting of the Suez Canal that the inland sea regained its old time importance.


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