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Battle of Lepanto (1571)
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Battle of Lepanto (1571)

The Battle of Lepanto was fought on October 7, 1571 near the Gulf of Patras, Greece between Ottoman naval forces and the combined naval power of the Pope, Spain, and Venice (with some minor contributions from Genoa, other Italian states, and the Knights of Malta) under the name of the Holy_League. The European fleet was ably commanded by Don John of Austria (Don Juan). Ali Pacha supported by the buccaneers Chulouk Bey of Alexandria, (also called Scirocco) and Euldj Ali was at the head of the Ottomans.

The engagement was a crushing defeat for the Ottomans, who lost all but about 40 of their approximately 300 ships involved in the battle. The Battle of Lepanto was one of the most decisive naval defeats in the Mediterranean between the Battle of Actium (in 31 BC) and the Battle of the Nile during the Napoleonic wars.

During the course of the battle, the Ottoman commander's ship was boarded and the admiral was beheaded, against the wishes of Don John. However, when his head was displayed from the mast of the Spanish flagship, it contributed greatly to the destruction of Turkish morale. The battle concluded around 4 pm.

The battle was the first major victory of any European army or navy against the Ottoman Empire and therefore it had a psychological importance. Despite the massive Turkish defeat, European disunity prevented the allied forces from pressing their victory or achieving a lasting supremacy over the Ottomans at this time. The Ottoman Empire immediately began a massive effort to rebuild their navy, and within 6 months was able to reassert Ottoman naval supremacy. The defeat at Lepanto did not prevent the Ottomans' capture of Cyprus and the forts around Tunis either. However, Ottomans lost their control of the seas, especially in the western part of the Mediterranean.

The Holy League had suffered 8,000 casualties but freed twice as many Christian prisoners.

One of the more well-known participants in the battle was Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, who was wounded and lost the use of his left hand.