|16th Century Maltese War Galley|
|Don Juan (John) of Austria|
Before I discuss the battle itself let me note two historical asides:Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard,Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred,Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half attainted stall,The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall,The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung,That once went singing southward when all the world was young,In that enormous silence, tiny and unafraid,Comes up along a winding road the noise of the Crusade.Strong gongs groaning as the guns boom far,Don John of Austria is going to the war . . .
- Lepanto, in the Ionian Sea and the Gulf of Patras, is extremely close to another decisive naval battle fought in these waters on the western coast of Greece: Actium, in 31 BC between Octavian (soon to be Augustus) versus Antony and Cleopatra, was fought nearby.
- On one of the Spanish galleys, Marquesa, was a young, 20-something Spanish naval infantry (Marine) infantryman who had been ill but insisted on remaining on deck through the battle. Of the nearly 70,000 soldiers and sailors on the Christian side, he may have been among the least known. His name was Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. He would write a book known as Don Quixote.
The Catholic view of the battle uses the slightly larger Ottoman numbers as proof of a miracle, but the Holy League had 1,815 guns, versus 750 on the Ottoman side. The huge cannons the Ottomans had used in land battles were not on their naval vessels; the Western small arms, arquebuses and muskets, were superior to those of the Ottomans, though the latter had excellent bowmen.
The Holy League forces were commanded by Don John, and the Turks under Muezzinzade Ali Pasha, fought hard, but the battle results were one-sided. Again using Wikipedia, the Holy League lost 7,500 men and 17 ships, while the Ottomans lost 20,000 dead, wounded or captured, 137 ships captured, 50 ships sunk, and 12,000 Christian galley slaves freed.