A.12. Selim II (1566-74)
and the Battle of Lepanto (1571):


In 1559 the on-going power struggle in Western Europe finally ended in Spain’s favour (with the treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis) which faced the Ottomans with a drastically different set of conditions. They had attempted to take Malta from the Knights of Rhodes in 1565 but had failed and retreated. In 1570, they launched an expedition against Cyprus which proved to be a turning-point for both Christendom and the Ottoman empire: the Ottomans captured Nicosia but Famagusta held out for a year. In 1571 the Ottoman fleet sailed to the Adriatic to intercept the Crusading fleet sent against them: they withdrew to Lepanto at the end of the campaigning season but were attacked there on 7th October 1571 by the Crusaders, who won a great naval battle in which the Ottoman fleet was completely destroyed. Only 30 out of 230 ships escaped, and the total casualties amounted to 59,000 dead and wounded. Though the Christian fleet was met in 1572 and 1573 by a new Turkish fleet, forcing the Venetians to make peace (March 1573) and renounce all rights to Cyprus, the Battle of Lepanto was seen in Western Europe, especially in hindsight, as a definitive European victory, signalling the beginning of the end for the Ottoman empire. The Ottomans had always feared the combined forces of the Christian states and had always worked in their foreign policy to prevent it.


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