The Tactics of the Battle of
The Impact of Social, Economic,
and Political Factors
on Sixteenth Century Galley Warfare
JOHN F. GUILMARTIN, JR., LT COL, USAF
A large body of naval history, reflecting a Mahanian bias, has applied to Lepanto the conditions which later prevailed in the age of sail. Overturning with ease this baggage of ill-conceived scholarship, Colonel Guilmartin places Lepanto in its intercultural Mediterranean setting. To explain the essential differences in design and tactical capabilities of Spanish, Venetian, and Muslim war galleys, Guilmartin downplays the narrow Mahanian emphasis on technological innovation and lays greater stress on the human factors, especially the social status of the oarsmen. Instead of portraying a "mindless slugfest" in which the opponents fought a land battle at sea, the author has done an admirable job of reconstructing from fragmentary evidence the tactical complexities of Lepanto.
In the history of armed conflict at sea, there is no battle better known and less understood than Lepanto. The name Lepanto stands forth in virtually every general history as a convenient naval semicolon separating the declining Mediterranean World from the rising North Atlantic. It has been heralded by generations of historians as the beginning of the end for the Ottoman Empire; it has been described ad nauseum by students of warfare as "the last great galley fight"; it has been routinely acknowledged by students of literature as a source of Cervantes' inspiration.
For all that, there is little consensus among scholars as to what the battle meant or how it was won and lost. This is due to a pervasive Mahanian bias in virtually all naval history, a tendency to view the entire history of armed conflict at sea in the analytical terms applied so effectively to the naval conflicts of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries by Mahan.#1 This approach reduces to confusion any effort to make tactical sense of early modern Mediterranean galley warfare in general and Lepanto in particular. It does so by misplacingor ignoringthe impact of the human factor in the political economic and social aspects of maritime conflict. As evidence of the depth of the problem, consider that I have carefully avoided any reference to "naval warfare" or to Lepanto as a "naval battle," phrases loaded with implicit Mahanian assumptions about the nature of the forces involved and their objectives.#2 My subject is tactics, so the digression will be brief, but it is worth noting that a substantial portion of the Christian forces engaged at Lepanto were commanded by naval entrepreneurs whose objectiveslegitimate from their point of viewwere quite different from those that we normally associate with naval commanders in battle.#3
It is worth considering also, that while recent American scholarship has illuminated the importance of Lepanto as an important cultural and strategic watershed without having been decisive in the orthodox, Mahanian sense, the work in question was not by a naval historian, or even by a European historian, but by an orientalist, Andrew Hess. Hess's success in placing Lepanto firmly within an appropriate multi-cultural strategic context is largely a product of his avoidance of Westernwhich militarily, is to say Mahaniancultural and strategic assumptions from the outset.#4
Tactically, however, the darkness is nearly complete. The only work of recent scholarship to contain a comprehensive treatment of the tactics used at Lepanto, Lepante: la crise de l'empire Ottoman by Michel Lesure of l'Ecole Pratique des Hautes Études,#5 is neither available in English nor written in the Anglo-American tradition of naval history. When tactics are mentioned at all, Lepanto comes across in Anglo-American naval historiography as a nautical Donnybrook Fair, a mindless slugfest where the only thought of the opposing commanders was to come to grips as quickly as possible, eliminating all nautical subtleties to engage in a "land battle at sea," whatever that means. The victory of the Holy Alliance appears more the result of brainless determination and religious fanaticism than the product of intelligent tactics.
The evidence does not support this view. Lepanto was shrewdly planned and well fought on both sides. The battle plans of the opposing commanders, Don John of Austria and Müezzinzade Ali Pasha, were well conceived, sophisticated and comprehensive without being excessively complicated. Both plans made the best possible use of the forces available, of the shoreline and of the inshore topography of the bottom, which is saying a great deal considering the heterogeneous nature of the two fleets. Don John had particularly grave problems in the deep-seated distrust, differing objectives, and political stress within his command; stress which threatened to tear it apart. Since our emphasis is on the human side of armed conflict at sea, this is as good a place as any to begin our tactical analysis.
The divergence of objectives within the component States of the Holy League was sharp and barely reconcilable, a fact which was founded in economic reality and reflected in tactical objectives. Venice wanted a short war and a quick peace, something which good Spaniards considered almost treasonable. War with the Turk had cut Venice's commercial lifeline to the East and fleet mobilization had gutted her workforce. With her fishermen, farmers, and merchant sailors serving afloat as oarsmen, mariners, and fighting men, Venetian commerce ground to a haltand Venice lived on commerce. Sebastian Venier, the Venetian Capitano Generale de Mar, wanted a major fleet engagementsomething approaching a decisive Mahanian naval battlein the worst way; but he wanted it for anything but the proper Mahanian reasons.#6
Mediterranean commerce meant little to Spain. Spain's vital trade with America was well out of the line of fire and Spanish commanders in the Mediterranean saw themselves as soldiers in an unending holy war with the Turk, a view shared by the Pope. The pressures on Spain were therefore more narrowly fiscal and military than those on Venice. Already saddled with as large a standing peacetime galley force as she could support, Spain found her naval obligations to the Holy Alliance to be modest expansion in an already large military budget.#7 As long as strategic gains in captured port cities and destroyed Muslim forces justified the expense, Spain was content to keep fightingand keeping the Turks at bay in the Eastern Mediterranean, far from his North African and Spanish Morisco allies, justified a great deal.
The objectives of Spain's Italian client stateswhich is almost, but not quite, to say the objectives of Genoa and Gian Andrea Doriawere something else again. Genoa, like Venice, depended heavily on commerce. Forced largely to abandon her commercial outposts in the Eastern Mediterranean after centuries of bitter conflict with Venice, Genoa still traded in the Ottoman domains. But where Venice depended upon a monopoly of specified low bulk, high value, luxury trades, the Genoese competitive edge was more a matter of efficiency in hauling bulk cargos.#8 This gave the Genoese considerably greater latitude in negotiations with the Turks; there are indications, for example, that Genoese merchants had provided the Tophane, the Ottoman Arsenal, with much of its bronze for cannon founding.#9 But Genoa was also firmly within the economic and political orbit of the Spanish Habsburgs.
Characteristically, then, Genoa's main naval contribution to the Holy Alliance was in the form of 11 galleys under Gian Andrea Doria, serving under a thoroughly commercial and highly remunerative personal contract to the Spanish Crown. Not only were Doria and his fellow condottieri well paid for their trouble on a galley per month basis (each of Doria's galleys cost Spain a third more than an equivalent Spanish vessel#10), they were pulling down a 14 percent annual rate of interest on the money which Philip II had borrowed from them to purchase their services! Is it entirely unreasonable to assume, as the Venetians did, that Doria had little interest in coming to hand strokes with the Ottoman forces?
Mass defection of the ships of one ally or another in mid-battle was therefore a real possibility which Don John of Austria had to guard against. With this in mind, the Christian order of battle assumes considerable significance. In our analysis, the Muslim order of battle provides a useful check, a control group of sorts. Although there were undoubtedly differences in tactical philosophy between the North African ghazi#11 warriors and the officials of the central Ottoman naval establishment, the necessity for unified command seems to have been clearly understood by all. Müezzinzade Ali Pasha's dispositions were therefore driven primarily by the limitations of his tactical instrument.
Just over half of the galleys in the combined Christian fleet which fought at Lepanto were Venetian, some 108 out of 206 or roughly 52 percent. Spain and her Viceroyalties of Naples and Sicily contributed 49 galleys, about 24 percent. Gian Andrea Doria had 11 galleys in his own squadron, 5 percent, while Genoa, Savoy, and the lesser Italian naval entrepreneurs accounted for another 23, another 12 percent. The Papal contingent put 12 galleys on line and the Knights of St. John of Malta 3-7 percent between them.#12
These percentages are only roughly indicative of combat power. They do not, for example, include galiots and other, lesser oared fighting craft. They do not include the six Venetian galeasses, nor do they take into account the considerable differences in manning between the galleys of the various contingents. Nevertheless, galleys formed the main battle line, and each of the galleys included in our computations occupied a place there. Preservation of the tactical integrity of the line was absolutely vital to the Christian cause; Christian galleys were, on the whole, less maneuverable than their Muslim opposites, but they were more powerful tactically, particularly in a formal, head-on clash when arrayed in an unbroken line. This fact was well established; its recognition was implicit in each side's order of battle. It is fair to say therefore, that the percentages cited above give a generally accurate idea of the relative importance of each contingent to the allied cause.
Don John ordered his fleet in the traditional four divisions: a centerthe "main battle"plus left and right wings and a reserve.#13 The organization into four squadrons, observed by both sides, was dictated by the inherent limitations of galleys and galley fleets. The symmetrical nature of the Muslim and Christian dispositions as stated in raw numbers are evidence of this.
Each of the Christian wings on the day of battle had 53 galleys; this represented the maximum number of galleys which could maneuver in a line abreast without losing formation integrity.#14 The Muslim right wing had 54 galleys, probably for the same reason.#15 The Muslim left had no less than 87 galleys, but there is reason to believe that they were intended to turn the Christian flank individually, catch-as-catch-can, with no pretense at formation keeping.
The Christian center, with less need to maneuver than the wings, numbered 62 galleys, an arrangement mirrored by the Muslim center which had 61 galleys on line. Don John's reserve squadron had 38 galleysapparently those left over after putting the largest number of galleys on line which was tactically feasible. Both Don John and Müezzinzade Ali Pasha based their tactical plans on a center of some 61 or 62 galleys flanked by covering squadrons of marginally smaller size. But where Don John concentrated his remaining galleys in a reserve squadron behind the main battle line as a defensive "stopper," Müezzinzade Ali Pasha gave the bulk of the remaining Muslim galleys to his left wing commander, Uluch Ali, a master of maneuver,#16 with the evident hope of using their superior numbers and maneuverability to turn the Christian flank.
One of Don John's earliest and most successful decisions was to break up the national contingents, distributing them between the various squadrons to prevent a national commander from leading his forces in mass defection at a critical point. His assignment of subordinate command reflected this philosophy: Don John in his Real commanded the center personally, flanked in his post of honor at the exact center of the line by Sebastian Venier in the Capitana of Venice to the left and Marc Antonio Colonna, the Papal commander, to the right in the Capitana of the Pope.#17 A Venetian, Agostin Barbarigo, commanded the left wing and Gian Andrea Doria commanded the right. A Spaniard, Don Alvaro de Bazan, commanded the reserve.
But the apparent simplicity of this scheme vanishes when we consider the actual distribution of galleys, squadron by squadron. If Don John was primarily concerned with the possibility of the mass withdrawal of a national contingent, what are we to make of the fact that no less than 77 percent of the left wing's galleys were Venetianunder a Venetian commander! This question, based on the numbers of galleys assigned to each squadron by nationality, must be answered if we are to understand the human, tactical questions posed by Lepanto.
It is necessary, at this point to go beyond the traditional, Mahanian, analytical framework of naval history. The reasons for this are pivotal: Lepanto's outcome hinged on differences in the design and tactical capabilities of the warships engaged and on the way in which the opposing commanders used them. This idea, stated as bluntly as we have just done, is unremarkable. We have already made reference to it. Technological differences in warship design was, as we would expect from a traditional perspective, important. The appearance of Venetian galeasses at Lepanto represented real technological innovation, a fact long recognized as a major contributory factor in the Muslim defeat.
The uniquely Mediterranean wrinkle lies in the fact that the key differences in technical characteristics and tactical capabilities among Spanish, Venetian, and Muslim war galleys were more the product of human factors than of narrowly technical ones. The galley's near total dependence on human energy for tactical mobility and combat effectivenessand unlike sailing warships, the two were directly interrelatedgave galley warfare a character quite different from that of warfare between fleets of broadside sailing warships.
Instead, human factorspolitical, economic, and social,manifested themselves on several levels. We have briefly addressed the political level. But human factors were also operative on a second, tactical level, a fact which accounted for important differences in the way in which the galleys of the various contingents were armed. Before addressing this question in detail, it is necessary to explain that the word "armed," in a proper Mediterranean context and as we shall use it throughout, encompassed both armament and manning.#18 The galleys which fought at Lepanto were armed not just with artillery, but with fighting manpower and oarsmen. The term covered armament and manning indifferently, covering a galley's artillery, rowing gangthe ciurma#19and specialized fighting men alike.
Finally, and least obviously, human factors affected the way in which galleys were designed and fitted out, a point which is crucial to an understanding of the battle of Lepanto and of Mediterranean armed conflict at sea in general. We cannot say that a Venetian galley was "better" than a Spanish or a Papal one; we cannot say that a Neapolitan galley was superior to a Turkish galley or a North African galiot, only that each was designed, fitted out, and armed to extract the maximum tactical benefit from the human resources available.
Having said this, we must admit that it would have been difficult for the modern, untrained eye to distinguish at a distance between an ordinary galley of Spain, Malta, Venice, or their Muslim opponents without reference to flags, pennants, or other heraldic devices. All had hulls about 136 feet long by about 17 or 18 feet wide topped by an outrigger assembly, the rowing frame, which spanned some 24 feet and supported the thole pins.#20 All carried a main centerline bow gun on a forward firing mount which ran back between the foremost oarsmen's benches on recoil. This was typically a full battery of cannon, weighing from 4,000 to 7,000 pounds exclusive of the mount and firing a cast-iron cannonball of from 40 to 50 pounds.#21 This cannon was invariably flanked by a pair of smaller guns (they had to be considerably smaller since there was much less room for them to recoil). These generally weighed from 1,500 to 3,000 pounds and fired projectiles weighing from 10 to 14 pounds. They were flanked, in turn, by a second pair of cannons which were smaller still, typically firing a five to eight pound ball and weighing from as little as 800 to as much as 1,500 pounds. One or more of these side piecesthe name of the innermost pair in Ottoman Turkish, Õayka topu, meant just thatmight have been a cannon of about the same overall weight or perhaps a bit less, designed to fire a cannonball of cut stone weighing about twice as much as its cast-iron equivalent.#22 We are, of course, speaking in generalities in order to give an overall idea of what an ordinary Mediterranean war galley of 1571 was like. This is, to a degree, artificial. Standardization, except to a limited extent in Venetian practice, was nonexistent and there was enormous variation in weaponry from one galley to the next. Spanish cannon, on the whole, were longer and heavier than the norm; Venetian guns were shorter, lighter, and fired larger projectiles, both in absolute terms and per pound of barrel weight.#23 Their technically superior artillery probably enabled the Venetians to dispense with a third pair of still smaller flanking pieces, frequently carried on ordinary galleys of the western Mediterranean, so as to lighten the ship with improved tactical mobility the benefit.#24
The cannon which we have described constituted the war galley's main battery. All were fixed to fire forward and could be trained in azimuth only by turning the ship. They were supplemented by numbers of small swivel guns, mostly mounted in the bows, though some were also mounted at the stern and along the sides of the ship.#25
Before turning to the way in which regional social and economic factors affected galley design, we must dispose of several less crucial points of a more narrowly technical nature to set the stage for our tactical analysis.
The first of these is the galeass. It has been represented in the western naval tradition as an awkward hybrid, a sailing warship with oars. In fact, it was exactly what its namegaleaza in Spanish, galee grosse in Venetoimplies, a big galley. The six Christian galeasses which fought at Lepantothe Muslims had nonewere Venetian merchant galleys which had been laid up in the Arsenal some years previously when rising operating costs, the consequence of a large crew, had made them economically non-viable.#26 When hostilities broke out, the Arsenal took advantage of their large and stable hulls, the product of merchant origins, to fit them out with a heavy artillery armament (while Venice had an adequate supply of good cannon, the Spanish, by contrast, seem to have been short of artillery).#27 Each galeass probably carried four or five full cannons, equivalent to an ordinary galley's main centerline bow gun, plus enough lesser cannon to have provided the secondary and tertiary armament for five galleys, and then some.#28 This is beside the main point. Suffice it to say that the "large galleys" performed better under sail than ordinary galleys; this was of little tactical significance. They were considerably harder to row, which was. While considerably slower under oarsthey taxed their ciurmi badlythey could, if competently handled, maneuver effectively in support of a fleet of galleys. They were competently handled at Lepanto.
Next we have the smaller relatives of the ordinary galley, notably the galiot. Galiots typically had eighteen banks of oars; ordinary galleys typically had 24 banks by 1570, and larger than ordinary galleys, or bastardas, could have as many as 35. Quicker, handier, and more maneuverable than the galley, the galiot was more lightly armed. Riding lower in the water, it was at a considerable disadvantage in a formal, head on clash between opposing squadrons in line abreast. Galiots were highly effective in a melee and ideal for raiding, particularly inshore, amphibious operations. With their modest logistic and manpower requirements, they were much favored by the lightly populated North African corsairing principalities. Both sides used still smaller oared warships, fragatas and bergantins, to feed reinforcements into the main battle line as well as for scouting and to protect the unengaged flanks and sterns of galleys locked up in the line of battle.
Finally we have the ordinary galley's big brother, the lantern galley. A characteristically Mediterranean concept, the lantern galley was an exceptionally well armed galley, formally recognized as such.#29 Often, but not always, larger than ordinary galleys, lantern galleys were named for their larger and elaborate stern lanterns, the Mediterranean symbol of tactical superiority and combat leadership par excellence. The equivalent term in broadside sailing warfare was "flagship," yet the two concepts are quite dissimilar. The nearest equivalent to "flagship" in Mediterranean terminology is not lantern galley, but capitanaroughly, the leader's shipor real, a royal capitana. Each squadron and national contingent at Lepanto, however small, had its own capitana. Each such squadron also had a patrona, a vice capitana. Plainly, we are dealing with a concept quite different from that of flagship: The basic distinction inherent in the idea of a flagship is one of command. By contrast, the idea behind the lantern galley was leadership. An exceptionally well found and heavily armed galley, the lantern galley served as a focal point for tactical decision. Most lantern galleys at Lepanto were not flagships; most of the Christian capitanas and patronas, at least, were not lantern galleys. Based on solid evidence, we know that there were 25 or 26 lantern galleys among the 206 or so Christian galleys at Lepanto. Based on circumstantial, but nevertheless persuasive evidence, there were a bare minimum of 21 Muslim lantern galleys in the force of some 230 galleys and 70 galiots, and perhaps as many as 25 or 30.#30
As we have indicated, the lantern galley was, by definition, superior in tactical power to an ordinary galley. This superiority was the product of a characteristically Mediterranean tradeoff: the lantern galley's greater weight of men and metal made her harder to row, whether the hull was actually larger than that of an ordinary galley or not. This meant a potential reduction in speed under oars; but such a reduction would have been tactically unacceptable. Speed was required for tactical reasons, to maintain place in a line abreast, if for no other reason. The lantern galley therefore required more oarsmen. But more oarsmen meant more weight and more weight called for still more oarsmen, a vicious circle which could not be broken.#31
The lantern galley represented a deliberate and conscious sacrifice in efficiency to achieve increased combat effectiveness at a necessarily limited number of tactically critical focal points. It is worth noting that the Venetians, whose ciurmi were mostly free and salaried, had by far the lowest proportion of lantern galleys of any national contingent, only seven out of 108 as opposed to 14 out of 75 among the galleys of Spain and her Italian clients.#32 With free oarsmen who were armed and expected to fight, there was less tactical benefit to be gained from a larger fighting complement.
Having dealt with the various categories of warships on each side, we must now address the all important issue of regional variations in design and armament. Here, we are concerned almost exclusively with the ordinary galley. National differences between lantern galleys were unquestionably less than the corresponding differences between ordinary galleys.#33 In any case, the main issue with respect to lantern galleys is how many there were and where. Differences in the design and armament of galiots were also relatively unimportant. North African galiots tended to be better armed and larger than their Christian opposites, and Muslim galiots of as many as 21 rowing banks were common.#34 But aside from confusing Christian observers as to the size of the Muslim forcea large Algerian or Tunisian galiot looked like an ordinary galley at a distance and was often reported as suchthis had little bearing on the issue.
Mediterranean war galleys fell, according to their design characteristics, into three basic categories: First, the galleys of Spain and her Italian client states (and many as 25 Or 30 of France, with which we are not concerned; for convenience, and because they were basically similar, these are all termed western galleys), Venetian galleys, and Muslim galleys.#35 Although much sweat and verbiage could be expended in an attempt to delineate precisely the characteristics of each group, the outlines are clear.
The ordinary Spanish, Maltese, Sicilian, Genoese, or Papal galley was an infantry assault craft. In the 1520s and >30s, Spanish galleys had been much like any others, but as the wage/price spiral attacked the Mediterranean world from West to East, the Spanish were forced progressively to abandon free, salaried oarsmen in favor of cheaper slaves and convicts.#36 The attendant loss in combat effectiveness and propulsive efficiencyand there can be no doubt that it was just that#37was counteracted by embarking increasing numbers of Spanish regular infantry. Her client states followed her lead for the same economic reasons.
Spain's strategic posture in the Mediterranean was basically defensive. Her Muslim enemies attacked her port cities and raided her coasts; Spain reacted. The great expense of keeping a well-armed galley constantly in readiness during the campaigning season from late March through mid-October to combat the elusive and unpredictable Muslim raiders acted to keep the Spanish standing fleet small.#38 The lack of numbers was balanced by a galley for galley superiority in raw combat power. The galleys of Spain and her allies carried more and better specialized fighting men than any others. The weight of mensome of whom had to be reserved to guard the servile ciurmimade Spanish galleys harder to row, a problem exacerbated by the fact that Spanish cannon were generally longer and heavier than the equivalent products of the Venetian arsenal or the Ottoman Tophane.#39 Further exacerbating the problem were constructional differences: The galleys of Spain and her Italian clients had acquired, by 1571, a permanent raised structure above the bow artillery, the arrumbada.#40 This served as a platform from which covering fire could be directed to cover the assault of infantry onto the low-lying deck of an enemy galley. It was highly effective tactically. It also added weight, and added weight was the antithesis of speed under oars, speed which had to be developed at all costs in the crunch of battle.
The Spanish and their allies accepted these deficiencies and played to their strong suit. By packing the rowing benches with slaves and convictsSpanish galleys at Lepanto had 200 oarsmen for 24 banks of oarsacceleration and dash speed were maintained. The cost was in sustained rowing speed, in which Spanish galleys were admittedly inferior to those of their friends and enemies alike.#41
The strategic posture of Venice, like that of Spain, was defensive. Here, the similarities ended. Venice depended more on diplomacy and on an extended chain of fortified ports to defend her commerce than on her small standing squadrons of galleys. Unlike Spain, she had no large force of first class regular infantry which could be used afloat and on land indifferently. What Venice did have was a small, but adequate, class of merchant sailors, fishermen, and coastal villagers who could be called upon to pull an oar in time of war. Skilled oarsmen and mariners, they were tough customers who could take care of themselves in a fightif not exhausted from rowing.
Where Spain's normal maritime posture was a wartime footing and her instrument a small force of: hard core regulars, Venice stood ready to shut down peaceful commerce in time of war in order to mobilize a sizeable force of ready reservists. This force of oarsman/sailor/soldiers was underwritten by the unmatched technical resources of the Venetian Arsenal. Using a small but highly skilled permanent workforce, the Arsenal built, stored, and maintained a large fleet of galleys, laid up in ordinary against the day on which war would break out. As a result, the tiny Venetian peacetime fleet could be expanded overnight into a formidable force, totally out of proportion to Venice's modest demographic resources.
Where the Spanish galley was little more than transportation for Spanish infantry, the Venetian galley was a combat assault transport, designed to bring men and supplies into a besieged port city, unopposed if possible, opposed if necessary. The emphasis was on speed under oars, an emphasis made necessary by Venice's lack of specialized fighting manpower and made possible by her continued use of free, fighting oarsmen. An important contributory factor was the lightness and excellence of Venetian ordnance. The result was an emphasis on speed under oars and gunneryand Venetian gunners were the class of the Mediterranean.#42 Where a head-on boarding fight was the preferred option for the Spanish galley captain and his squadron commander, it was the last resort for their Venetian opposites. This orientation was reflected in constructional details: Where the Spanish galley had a heavy permanent fighting platform above the main battery, the Venetian galley had a much lighter, removable one. It was not that the Venetians were unwilling or unable to have at it hand-to-hand; they could and didupon occasion with gusto. It was simply that they were acutely aware of their shortage of manpower and felt, with considerable justification, that there were usually better ways to skin the tactical cat.
Where Venice and the Habsburg Empire were on the defensive in the sixteenth century Mediterranean, the House of Osman was on the attack. This, and the social and economic conditions prevailing in the Ottoman domainsfor the wage/price spiral was less advanced than in the western Mediterraneangave the Turkish galley its unique characteristics.#43 If the Spanish galley was an infantry assault craft and the Venetian galley a tactical assault transport, the Turkish galley was an armed strategic landing craft.
Not as fast under oars as a Venetian galley, though probably a bit more maneuverable, the Turkish galley was a better sailing vessel. This was no accident. The dominant tactical function of the Venetian galley was the relief or resupply of a besieged fortified port; that of the Turkish galley was to transport men, munitions, guns, and supplies to the site of a siege and to protect them from interference once there. Designed for a strategic role which was palpably offensive, its tactical function was almost purely defensive. Most of its offensive punch stemmed, almost incidentally, from the characteristics of Ottoman society. The Turks and their North African allies were unique among European military establishments in possessing a sizeable corps of skilled archers who wielded their composite, recurved bows with awesome efficiency, a direct product of the delayed impact of the wage/price spiral in the East. Badly outclassing ordinary small arms in both range and precision, Turkish archery was particularly effective in a free-swinging melee where the flanks of hostile galleys were exposed. Like the Venetians, the Turks relied heavily on free oarsmen. While a conscripted Anatolian villager could hardly be considered the equal of a hardened Spanish infantryman, he at least did not need to be guarded in combat. Muslim capitanas and lantern galleys were apparently rowed mainly by volunteer Arabs, hard core light infantrymen who could be trusted to give a reasonable account of themselves in a close fight. The Janissaries, of whom there were a fair number at Lepanto, took a back seat to no one in skill or ferocity. In place of the Venetian removable fighting platform and the Spanish arrumbada, Turkish galleys seem to have had a low, permanent platform which covered only the forward portions of the bow guns, leaving the breeches exposed.
Lower in the water than the Christian galleys of the western Mediterranean, the Turkish galley had better sustained the speed under oars and was considerably more maneuverable. Muslim galleys drew less water than either Venetian or Western galleys, a fact of considerable importance at Lepanto.
With these characteristics in mind, we can turn to the order of battle with increased insight, addressing the opposing plans of attack. It is plain that to both Don John and Ali Pasha the center squadrons which they commanded personally were the centers of gravity of the opposing forces. For Don John, this represented tactical opportunity; for Ali Pasha, it was an unavoidable necessity, a mandate for a defensive holding action which would have to succeed so that the battle could be won elsewhere.
It was unquestionably plain to both sides that if the Christian center could maintain a solid and unbroken line, it would be able to grind down and eventually overcome anything the Muslims could put against it. This was clear from the inherent characteristics of the opposing galleys as well as from historical precedent.#44 Christian galleys in general and Western galleys in particular had a significant tactical edge in a formal, head-on clash. Here, their greater weight of men and metal and their specialized raised fighting platforms would tell; the musketeers and swivel gunners atop the arrumbadas of the Western galleys, in particular, would enjoy the luxury of being able to deliver plunging fire down onto the lower Muslim decks, protected from Muslim archery by temporary ramparts of wood and cordage, without having to worry about their exposed flanks.
For the Muslims, the problem was almost insuperable. A melee, of course, was their forte. Give them a chance to catch the Christian fleet in disorder and they would have it for breakfast, as they had a Prevesa in 1538 when the great Barbarossa outmaneuvered Andrea Doria the Elder in a brilliant game of logistic bluff#45 and at Djerba in 1560 when Piali Pasha had caught the younger Doria with his pants down. But against a commander of Don John's competence, this was nothing to bank on. Any partial engagement would surely tilt toward the heavier Christian galleys so long as they held formation. It was therefore all or nothing. Müezzinzade Ali Pasha would have to plan for a full, frontal clash knowing that his center would fight at a serious disadvantage.
Don John, for his part, clearly signaled his intention of fighting only in a well ordered line by ordering the projecting "spurs" cut off the bows of the Christian galleys so that their cannon could be depressed to bear down on the lower lying Muslim craft at the shortest possible range.#46 The "spurs," used to break down the enemy rowing frame and then serve as a boarding bridge in a flank attack, clearly had little value in the sort of fight which he had in mind.
The Muslims, of course, would do everything in their power to turn the flanks of the Christian center. In the event, they briefly succeeded. But this was nothing to count on. Competently handled flanking squadrons could be expected to frustrate any such attempt undertaken by anything more than the odd galiot, something which the Christian reserve could take care of handily.
To get at the Christian center, therefore, Müezzinzade Ali Pasha would first have to dispose of the Christian wings. This meant that he would have to suck them out of position, to turn their flanks, or to maneuver them so badly as to destroy their tactical integrity and produce a meleefor the Muslim squadrons would suffer the same tactical disadvantages in a head on clash on the wings as they would in the center, He would have to quickly eliminate at least one Christian wing as a tactical factor, for his center could not be expected to hold for long.
With this in mind, his basic plan is clear. He knew that he would take grievous losses in the center, yet he had to give his wings a solid base on which to maneuver. He possessed, in addition, an advantage over Don John in that he could allow his wings to run on a comparatively loose rein. The powers of maneuver of the Muslim flanking squadrons were undoubtedly superior to their Christian opposites, even if the Venetian galleys were individually faster. So Müezzinzade Ali Pasha backed up the galleys of his center with no less than 32 galiots to feed in reinforcementsattrition fillers in the antiseptic terminology of modern war. These would give the center a degree of organic close-in, flank protection in addition to that provided by the small reserve squadron so that the wings could run more freely still.
Ali Pasha then gave his wings their marching orders: Mehmet Suluk on the right would take advantage of the shallow draft of the Muslim galleys to work close inshore around the Christian flank. This was the key to the Muslim plan. If Barbarigo, commanding the Christian Left, left him any inshore room at all, he could quickly force numbers of galleys into the Christian rear. Since a galley was effectively helpless if attacked from the flank or rear (under such circumstances a galiot could take the measure of a first class galley, and often did) this would break the Christian line.
Uluch Ali on the left, with unlimited searoom, was given the preponderant force, at least thirty galleys more than he could put on line. He must have intended to work them around the Christian seaward flank in a loose gaggle. At the very least, this would force Doria to play an exceedingly cautious game; at best, it would pull him out of the fight altogether and unleash the better part of Uluch Ali's squadron into the Christian rear. The Christian reserve would then have to be dealt with, of course, but by that point the chances for confusiona factor which would work to the Muslim advantagewould be great. A bit of miscalculation or a premature decision to commit the Christian reserve, and he would be home free, whether or not Mehmet Suluk had run his gambit successfully on the right.
The tactical opportunities inherent in the Muslim dispositions were at least as evident to Don John as they are to us. In evaluating the way in which he planned to deal with them, we are blessed with a revealing piece of evidence: Don John's surviving order of march of 9 September (the order of march and order of battle were nearly the same).#47 This document enables us to reconstruct his tactical rationale with confidence. The order in question covers only 188 galleys, some 18 less than were present on the day of battle, the most notable omission being Gian Andrea Doria's squadron,#48 but they detail the exact position of each galley in the Christian line. Better still, they give us the identity and location of the Christian lantern galleys.
We noted earlier the disproportionate number of Venetian galleys on the left. Based on the raw numbers, this could be interpreted as an attempt to keep the Venetian galleys where there relative lack of tactical power would do the least harm or as an attempt to place them where their greater speed would do the most good. On the face of things, the first alternative makes more sense. The Venetian galleys would be maneuvering in formation with numbers of the slower Western galleys and would presumably have to conform to their speed. More to the point; why the left?
Clearly, Barbarigo's boys knew that they would have to do some fast stepping to keep Mehmet Suluk from turning them inside out. But was their problem qualitatively different or quantitatively worse than that faced by Doria's squadron on the offshore flank! There is no answer without reference to the human factor, to the detailed differences in design and armament between the galleys of the various Mediterranean nations on which we have spent so many paragraphs andthanks to Don John's order of 9 Septemberto the uniquely Mediterranean tactical concepts embodied in the lantern galley.
The order of battle 9 September provides us with the key to the puzzle. When we analyze the Christian dispositions in detailand we are able to extrapolate the order of battle of 7 October with considerable confidencea whole new picture emerges. The deliberate weighting of the Christian right and center with heavier, slower, Western galleys implied by the raw numbers turns out to be only the tip of the iceberg. There was, in fact, an even more pronounced internal weighting of both the center and the left which the numbers alone cannot show. This is strikingly evident in the remarkably asymmetrical dispositions of Barbarigo's squadron, which, significantly, seem to have changed least in composition between 9 September and the battle. The raw numbers tell us that only 12 of the 98 western galleys in the Christian fleet were assigned to the left; in round figures this amounted to one out of eight in a squadron which contained a fourth of the galleys in the Christian fleet. More striking still is the fact that only four of the 25 or 26 lantern galleys in the Christian fleet fought on the left. Three of the four, moreover, were Venetian, and there were only seven Venetian lantern galleys in all. Since we might reasonably assume that Venetian lantern galleys rowed better than their Western equivalents, the picture emerges of a deliberate emphasis on speed and maneuverability on the left at all costs. The 9 September order lists 50 galleys in Barbarigo's squadron; all but 11 of them were Venetian (the ratio was out of 53 on the day of battle).#49 Only three of the eleven western galleys were in the left, inshore half of the squadron; no less than six of the eleven were among the first sixteen galleys on the right, and the sole western lantern galley in Barbarigo's squadron was fourth from the right. Barbarigo led his squadron from the extreme left end of his line. The overwhelming suspicion arises that the left side of Barbarigo's squadron was specifically selected for its ability to maneuver better and faster than any other part of the Christian fleetas in fact it dida full month before the battle was joined.
In contrast to the left, the internal arrangement of the Christian right was generally symmetrical. In the order of 9 September, Hector Spinola in the Capitana of Genoa led the right from the exact center of his line, an arrangement probably followed by Gian Andrea Doris when he took over the squadron (Spinola moved to the center where he fought at Don John's immediate right). Twenty-two of Spinola's forty-seven galleys were Venetian (the proportion was twenty-five out of fifty-three on the day of battle), divided relatively evenly between the left and right halves of the squadron, ten on the left and twelve on the right. Of his five lantern galleys, one was on the extreme right flank, two were at the extreme left, and one was seven places left of his own lantern galley in the center. This arrangement may represent a slight weighting of the line to the left and a slight emphasis on mobility to the right. Then again, it may not. The lantern galleys on the extreme flanks, for instance, were almost surely heavily manned with carefully picked oarsmen so that they could maneuver with the more easily propelled ordinary galleys near them. Though costly in terms of manpower and therefore something which could be done only at a few carefully chosen points, this was a characteristically Mediterranean arrangement which we know to have been a standard tactic. On the whole, the order of battle of the Christian right was a balanced one.
The Christian center, however, was unbalanced in much the same way as the left, something which does not emerge from the raw numbers. Based on the order of 9 September and on what we know of the battle itself, Don John elected to lead from the exact center of his own squadron. Clearly, he had every intention of making the center of his "main battle" the tactical focal point of the entire action. He disposed his lantern galleys accordingly: No less than ten of the thirteen lantern galleys assigned to the center by his order of 9 September were in a tight grouping around his Real (the figure was probably eleven of fourteen on the day of battle). Only two of these, however, Sebastian Venier in the Capitana of Venice and another Venetian lantern galley, were to the left of the Real. The other seven were to the right, interspersed with an ordinary Venetian galley and one of the Pope.
The weighting of tactical power to the right and mobility to the left which these dispositions suggest becomes even more apparent when we consider the distribution of ordinary galleys in the Christian Center. No less than twenty of the twenty-eight Venetian galleys in the Center were in the left half of the squadron (the proportion may have been as much as twenty-three out of thirty-one; the document is illegible in spots).#50 At least twelve and perhaps thirteen of the last fifteen galleys on the left flank were Venetian, the two certain exceptions being the Patrona of Sicily, a lantern galley, and another Spanish lantern galley at the extreme end of the line.
What conclusions can we draw from the apparent dissymmetry in the Christian dispositions? First of all, it is apparent that they relate in some way to the proximity of the shore to the left flank. While the Christian left and center assumed imbalanced orders of battle of a similar nature, those of the right and the Reserve (which we have not previously mentioned, but which was, if anything, more symmetrical than that of the right)#51 were basically symmetrical. Those squadrons which were expected to fight out of touch with the shoreline, then, had symmetrical orders of battle.
It is plain that Don John and Müezzinzade Ali Pasha alike intended to march and to fight with their inshore flanks close to the shoreline. This was to protect communications with their logistic support: sailing vessels packed with men, munitions, and provisions, particularly important to the Christian fleet, and the shore itself for all important water. Galley fleets always operated on a short logistic tether, an inescapable product of the galley's small displacement and large complement. The problem became more serious as the scale of manning grew and the size of fleets increased.#52 The huge size of the fleets in the campaign of 1571 must have imposed severe logistic constraints. Neither fleet could afford to blunder around at sea, seeking some ephemeral tactical advantage at the risk of being cut off from supply ships or the shore by an enemy in an unassailable position along the beach. Both fleets were bound to the shore logistically and based their tactical plans and maneuvers upon it. Lepanto is more properly termed an amphibious campaign and battle than a naval one.
Hence the two opposing fleets were forced to work their way cautiously along the shore toward each other, the Christians from the north, the Muslims from the south. The movements of such sizeable forces would have been difficult to conceal and there is every reason to believe that the two commanders possessed excellent intelligence. In a technical sense, Lepanto may have been a meeting engagementthere is no evidence that either commander deliberately selected the location of the battlebut in fact, Lepanto was fought remarkably close to plan on both sides. When the Christian advance guard rounded Point Scropha at the northwestern entrance to the Gulf of Corinth early on the morning of 7 October to sight the Muslim fleet up the Gulf to the East, both sides were well prepared.
There is evidence that the inshore squadrons of both fleets were well in advance of their respective centers and offshore squadrons, the opposing forces advancing in staggered echelon with the seaward flanks refused. This may have been by deliberate tactical design; advancing the inshore squadrons may have given the centers better inshore flank protection and enabled them, in turn, to better support their inshore covering forces. It may have been an unavoidable result of the time and place of engagement; the curvature of the shore dictated that the Christian right and center, in particular, had a considerably greater distance to cover between initial sighting and engagement. This view is supported by the fact that all of the Christian galeasses, which Don John had intended to deploy ahead of the Christian line to disorder the onrushing Muslim galleys, did not get into position. The two galeasses assigned to the Left clearly got into position ahead of Barbarigo's galleys and did considerable damage to Mehmet Suluk; the two galeasses assigned to the Center seem to have engaged with some effect as well. But the two galeasses assigned to cover Doria's line were well to the rear when the action began; it is unclear as to whether or not they ever engaged. Conversely, one of the two galeasses on the left, probably that of Agostin Bragadino, actually managed to reenter the battle after having initially engaged the Muslim galleys as they swept past to attack the Christian left.
Be that as it may, the battle unfolded much as Don John had intended and as Müezzinzade Ali Pasha had feared. Both commanders had planned well; both had thoroughly prepared their forces; both had delegated authority wisely. In the event, the performance of certain of their subordinate commanders was nothing short of brilliant. The performance of the Christian left under Agostin Barbarigo, who died leading his forces at what we must assume, for lack of evidence to the contrary, to have been the critical tactical focal point, was particularly noteworthy. In Mehmet Suluk's defense, it must be said that he played an unexpectedly bad hand unexpectedly well; the inshore fight seems to have been a close one. Laurels must also go to Don Alvaro de Bazan, who committed the Christian Reserve at precisely the right time, using the characteristically Spanish tactical caution on which Don John must have depended. Uluch Ali Pasha, in perhaps the most brilliant maneuvering of the day, nearly salvaged victory from the ashes of defeat. For his part, Don John commanded wisely and fought well. The fact that he delegated the more spectacular maneuvering roles to seasoned and experienced subordinatesfor he was a relatively inexperienced marinerspeaks well for him. Müezzinzade Ali Pasha erred only in accepting battle at all, and there is evidence that he was under Imperial orders to engage. There is also evidence that he underestimated the size of the force arrayed against him. In the final analysis, his only real hope for victory was in bringing about a loss of tactical cohesion on the Christian side. Galley warfare was an explosive, all-or-nothing business and serious ruptures in the Christian ranks could have brought victory to the Muslims almost to the last act. He nearly succeeded.
In understanding Lepanto, it is necessary to emphasize the deliberate slowness with which large fleets of galleys maneuvered. While individual galleys could make good a flank speed of 7 to 72 knots for varying periods of time, usually a maximum of about 20 minutes, the effort required left the ciurma incapable of much of anything else.#53 This could be fatal, particularly to the Venetian or Muslim galley which relied on the fighting power of its free oarsmen to compensate for a lack of specialized fighting men in the crunch of a head-on encounter. A cruise speed of 22 or 3 knots was relatively economical of human effort, but this already modest speed was further reduced by the demands of formation keeping. It must be noted in passing that the option of engaging under sail was not a viable one, wind or no wind. Galleys were poor sailers to begin with; the precise maneuvering needed for boarding tactics could be accomplished only under oars and it was impossible to maintain a tactically viable formation under sail. Finally, and of overwhelming importance, a galley with its mast stepped and its large lateen yard set was horribly vulnerable to artillery fire; a single lucky shot could cut a key piece of rigging and bring the yard and sail down, crushing half the ciurma and totally disabling a galley with a single blow.
Thus, although the opposing fleets had sighted each other shortly after dawn, it was around noon before the first shots were exchanged. This was on the inshore flank where Mehmet Suluk's galleys, probably maintaining line for as long as possible to conceal their intentions, encountered the two Venetian galeasses covering Barbarigo's squadron. The heavy artillery of the galeasses seems to have done considerable damage to the Muslim squadron which continued past them, breaking for the shallow inshore waters to work their way around and into the Christian rear. They very nearly succeeded. The fight was confused and bitter in spots, approaching the melee that the Muslims desired so ardently. They were frustrated when Barbarigo managed, under difficulties which we can only imagine, to pivot his entire squadron door-like, pulling his left flank backwards to change his front by nearly 90 degrees and pin the Muslims against the shore like so many pinned butterflys.#54 Barbarigo died in the struggle and Christian losses were heavyMuslim archery seems to have been particularly telling in the early stages of the fightbut the result was the near total annihilation of the Muslim right. This was achieved only through the ability of the galleys of the Christian left to maneuver effectively as a formation under conditions of extreme difficulty. The galleys on the inshore end of the line would have had to back water, using their bow artillery as best they could to cover their retrograde movement, conserving their powers of combat and maneuver as best they could while waiting for their commander to determine whenand ifthey could go over to the attack. Military history attests to few maneuvers more intrinsically difficult than a retrograde movement under fire. That they succeeded in pulling it off speaks well for them, and for the skill and foresight of the Christian command in disposing their forces in such a way as to make the maneuver possible.
The Christian center came to grips with the Muslims perhaps a half hour later than the initial contact on the inshore flank and probably with the issue still in doubt there. Again, the Venetian galeasses seem to have disordered and inflicted loss on the onrushing Muslim galleys as they passed. There is no evidence of disintegration of the Muslim formation, so Müezzinzade Ali Pasha's forces must have reformed ranks in the brief moments before contact, using reinforcing galiots to fill gaps in the line. The fight was particularly bitter in the center, focusing on Ali Pasha's Sultana and the Christian Real, with individual Muslim galleys and galiots attempting to force their way through small gaps in the Christian line to outflank it internally.#55 In the event, the Christians managed to hold their ranks and bear the Muslims down with greater weight. A boarding party from Don John's Real, covered by arrow fire and musketry from Venier's galley to the left, eventually won the decks of Ali Pasha's galley and brought back his head, but it required three renewed assaults backed by manpower from the Patrona of Spain tied up to the Real's stern for just that purpose. Müezzinzade Ali Pasha died in vain, but it was a near thing.
It was a near thing, for as the centers locked up in mortal combat, the offshore squadrons entered into a deadly contest, a contest which Uluch Ali won. Just what happened and how is unclear; it is plain, however, that Uluch Ali Pasha and Gian Andrea Doria engaged in extended maneuvering, with the net result that the Christian right became badly separated from the center. In Doria's defense, there is no evidence that his offshore flank was turned. There is, however, evidence that his squadron had become fragmented and that the battle on the offshore flank had lost cohesion.#56 For reasons at which we can only guess, numbers of Christian galleys broke formation and headed for the main fight in the center. They may have been led by captains who perceived that Doria was treasonously holding them out of combat; they may have been led by captains who perceived that Doria had been completely outmaneuvered to the point that it was too late for the niceties of formation tactics and moved, accepting the disadvantages of a melee with the Muslims to do something, anything, before it was too late. In either case, Uluch Ali, observing the widening gap between the bulk of the Christian right and center turned inward and shot the gap between them, slamming into the exhausted right flank of the Christian center with deadly effect.
For a brief period the issue was in doubt: the Capitana of the Knights of St. John of Malta was overrun and several galleys were captured. Disaster was averted by the timely arrival of the reserve under Don Alvaro de Bazan. Observing the collapse of the Muslim center before his eyes and seeing the telltale traces in the distance of the fiasco on the inshore flank, Uluch Ali gathered his remaining forces, evacuated his prize crews from the overrun Christian galleys, and ran for it down the gulf. He got away with perhaps 30 galleys, the largest intact Muslim force to escape from the battle.
And so the battle of Lepanto was over. Don John had won because he had made better use of the tactical characteristics and capabilities of the ships and men available to him than had Müezzinzade Ali Pasha. Those characteristics and capabilities were dictated by a whole galaxy of socioeconomic pressures and influences.
This leads to a concluding assertion: That both employment tactics and weapons system design are driven directly by socioeconomic factors, whether this is explicitly recognized or not. This is an easy assertion to make, but a difficult one to sustain with any degree of scholarly rigor. That we have been able to do so in the case of Lepanto owes much to the unique characteristics of early modern Mediterranean warfare at sea, characteristics which therefore deserve a closer analytical look if we intend to extrapolate them into the future.
The economic component of socioeconomic factors presents few problems. Begin by positing a positive correlation between the effectiveness of weapons systems and their cost. This correlation holds as well for the weapons of today as it does for those of the sixteenth century; it holdsthough this point is often ignoredfor costs of maintenance and operation as well as for the cost of procurement. Barring sudden and dramatic technological breakthroughs, more effective weapons will generally impose a greater fiscal burden.
Such relationships apply generally to most societies and to most military establishments throughout history and fit well within a Mahanian analytical framework. Cost affects the number of weapons that can be produced and a tradeoff develops between quantity and quality. The tradeoff point is determined by the relationship between tactical effectiveness and costs, except where tradition or some other irrational factor intrudes.#57 This is a fairly obvious idea which has been worked to death by modern defense analysts, if not by historians. The phrases "cost effectiveness" and "more bang for a buck" come immediately to mind.
The social dimension is, however, harder to come to grips with, though it is arguably at least as important if a good deal less obvious. It is fairly easy to demonstrate that changes in the quality of military manpower affect tactical effectiveness; Mahan himself did so with considerable effect, for example in his comparative analysis of French and English naval leadership.#58 It is another matter entirely to be able to establish a causal relationship between social conditions and development and selection of either weapons or tactics. The uniquely human nation of galley warfare has enabled us to do both. To pick an obvious point in recapitulation, the fact that wages and prices were relatively lower in the eastern than in the western Mediterranean made free ciurmi a practical proposition for both Venice and the Ottoman Empire. This, in turn, made Eastern galleys more mobile and Eastern tactics more fluid. Spain, on the other hand, was forced to adopt a heavier, less mobile, galley because of a heavy dependence upon slave and convict oarsmen. This, in turn, increased her dependence on increasingly smaller numbers of necessarily more effective, and more costly, regular infantry with important tactical consequences. This sort of analysis, I would argue, is not Mahanian in nature.
We could go on at length, but I will conclude by suggesting that all weapon systems, past and present, have been designed and built with a set of assumptions in mind concerning the capabilities and limitations of the intended users. These assumptions exist in the mind of the designer, either implicitly or explicitly whether he be designing tanks, ships, aircraft, or small arms. They are more visible than usual in the case of the galleys which fought at Lepanto due to the severe design constrictions imposed by the materials and power source available to the designers. With wood as the only structural material and human muscle as the only tactical propulsion, Turkish, Venetian, and Spanish designers were forced into the same technical box; the subtle differences between their products can therefore be attributed to social factors. The impact of socioeconomic factors on weapons system design is generally gradual, subtle, and masked by more obvious factors such as changes in the fiscal environment or in the availability of critical supplies; this does not mean that it is unimportant. Human factors dictate the effectiveness and the design of our weapons today as surely as they dictated the design and the effectiveness of the weapons of five centuries ago. Before we permit the systems analysts to factor the human element out of weapons systems design altogether, we owe ourselves another look at the sixteenth century Mediterranean and at Lepanto.
Addendum: Following presentation of this paper, the author discovered that figures for the strength and composition of the Ottoman left wing and center had been exchanged, an error which also appears in the analysis of the battle in his earlier published work, Gunpowder and Galleys. Correction of the error suggests that the Ottoman left, with 61 galleys and 32 galiots, was weighted for speed and tactical mobility rather than for sheer combat power, a suggestion which fits the basic thrust of the tactical analysis above better than the earlier erroneous assumption. Correction of the error further indicates that the Ottoman center entered battle with a "second echelon" of 25 galleys backing the 62 galleys of the first rank. This use of a pre-committed reserve to make up for anticipated attrition similarly reinforces the above conclusions concerning Müezzinzade Ali Pasha's tactical concept, making his reliance upon the speed and agility of the Muslim galleys even more evident.
New Aspects of Naval History: Selected Papers Presented at the Fourth Naval History Symposium, United States Naval Academy 25-26 October 1979. Edited by Craig L. Symonds. Annapolis, Maryland: the United States Naval Institute, 1981. pp. 41-65
Geoffrey Symcox, The Crisis of French Seapower, 1688-1679: from the Guerre d'Escadre to the Guerre de Course (The Hague, 1974), Shows the limitations of an uncritical application of Mahan's conceptual framework to periods of armed conflict at sea other than that from which it was derived. The following, pp. 227-8, summarizes his position: "Mahan's vision of mighty fleets in climactic combat drew heavily on nineteenth century ideas of the 'strategy of annihilation,' and more specifically on Jomini's codification of the Napoleonic art of war ... both Jomini's and Mahan's theories were grounded in too narrow a period of history; the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, the era of Nelson, Mahan's hero ... Mahan in fact deduced his principles from the Nelsonian age and then extrapolated them to other periods ..." A discussion of problems arising from the application of Mahanian orthodoxy to Mediterranean warfare at sea in the sixteenth century (something which Mahan himself, to his credit, considered invalid) is in John F. Guilmartin, Gunpowder and Galleys: Changing Technology and Mediterranean Warfare at Sea in the Sixteenth Century (London, 1974), Ch. 1. "The Mahanians' Fallacy," pp, 221-33.
Guilmartin, pp. 16-22.
Guilmartin, pp. 26-34. Most of the galleys provided by Spain's lesser Italian allies served under contractual arrangements of a commercial nature.
Andrew C. Hess, The Forgotten Frontier, A History of the Sixteenth Century Ibero-African Frontier (Chicago, 1978), particularly pp. 90-91.
(Paris, 1972). Though not primarily concerned with tactics, Lesure's excellent book contains an extended account of the battle, in Part 2, "L'affrontement," Ch. I "Le 7 octobre," pp. 115-47. Lesure makes extensive use of quotes from primary source documents which are of considerable value in themselves.
For an overall appreciation of the Venetian strategic posture as they saw it at the time, see Alberto Tenenti, Christoforo da Canal: la Marine Vénitienne avant Lépante (Paris, 1967), p. 117. The Venetians hoped, by eliminating the Ottoman fleet, to lessen the threat to their coastal recruiting grounds and fortified ports along the Dalmatian coast and in the Greek Archipelago. The potential of the combined Ottoman naval force for large scale raiding and siege warfare was the real Venetian target, not "control of the sea."
For an analysis of the impact of economic factors on Mediterranean galley fleets in general, see Guilmartin, pp. 105-22.
See Robert S. Lopez, "Market Expansion: the Case of Genoa," Journal of Economic History, Vol. XXIV (1964).
William H. McNeill, Venice, the Hinge of Europe 1091-I797 (Chicago, >974) pp. 134-37 See particularly p. 135, n. 26, Citing information from Halil Inalcik. The Ottoman/Genoese tin trade was probably curtailed if not eliminated following the seizure of Chios from the Genoese syndicate controlling the trade in 1566, but the Genoese proclivity for trading on similar terms with Turk and Christian in war and peace alike is well documented.
Guilmartin, pp. 32-33. In addition, these contracts incorporated trade and tax concessions, granted by the Spanish Crown. If we prorate Doria's capitana and patrona (flagship and vice flagship, see note 17, below) at a galley and a half each, as the 1571 contract did, then lost export taxes on Sicilian wheat increased the cost to Spain of each galley by 7 percent. Rental charges for loaned convict oarsmen similarly increased the cost to Spain of each galley by 6 percent and Doria's personal salary, also covered by the contract, raised the cost of each galley another 5 percent.
"Ghazi," The Encyclopedia of Islam, New Edition, B. Lewis, C. Pellat and S. Schlacht eds. (London, 1960), p. 1043. Ghazi is an Arabic word designating those who took part in raids for the faith. It was also used as a title of respect and had a more permanent connotation than the Christian equivalent, "crusader." The ghazi psychology and mode of operation at sea was, however, more Mediterranean than exclusively Muslim; the Knights of St. John of Malta were essentially Christian ghazis.
There is agreement among the authorities regarding the general composition of the Christian fleet, but confusion concerning the precise numbers of galleys in each contingent. The allied force varied in size and composition from day to day as late arrivals appeared and as the odd galley dropped out for repairs or was detached for scouting or despatch duty. Lesure, Lépante, p. 115, using different sources from those upon which I have principally relied, gives a total of 208 galleys in the Christian fleet. Francisco-Felipe Olesa Muñido, La Organización. Naval de las Estados Mediterraneos y en Especial de España Durante los Siglos XVI y XVII (Madrid, 1968),Vol 1, p. 37l, deals intelligently with this problem. I have followed the figures given by Roger C. Anderson, Naval Wars in the Levant, 1559-1853 (Princeton, 1953), p. 38, as the best single reconciliation of a mass of conflicting data. He is generally substantiated by the various pertinent documents in the collection of the Museo Naval, Madrid, for example dto. 325 in the Colección Sanz de Barutell (Simancas), Art. 4, Vol. 2, titled "Relación de las Galeras, Naos y Fragatas que huvo en la Armada de su Magestad. . ." See also Baron Purgstall von Hammer, Histoire de L'Empire Ottoman, J.J. Hellert, trans. (Paris, 1835-41), p. 424, and Althea Weil, The Navy of Venice (London, 1910), p. 263.
Contemporary Spanish usage was Batalla for the center, a term plainly derived from "main battle," the traditional medieval term. Cuerno Izquierda and Cuerno Derecha were used for the left and right wings, cuerno meaning both "wing," in a military context, and "horn." The reserve squadron was called the Socorro, or "relief."
 Guilmartin, pp. 201-03.
For the composition of the Muslim fleet, I have followed the estimate given by Rosell Cayetano, Historia del Combate Naval de Lepanto (Madrid, 1853), P. 99, cited in Olesa Muñido, Vol. I, p. 371. Lesure, p. 115, arrives at the same totals by a different route. The published source closest to the event from the Muslim side with which I am familiar, that of the Romanian millet official Dimetrius Cantemir, The History of the Growth and Decay of the Othman Empire, N. Tindal trans. (London, 1734), gives a strength of from 270 to 170 "ships ... depending on the source." Not all of the 230 galleys and 70 galiots listed by Rosell Cayetano took part in the battle.
Uluch Ali had a long and distinguished corsairing career and assumed command of the Ottoman fleet the year after Lepanto. He got his start as a galley captain under the great Khaireddin Barbarossa and in 1560 made the initial sighting of the Christian fleet which led to the overwhelming Muslim victory of Djerba.
Capitana designated the galley of the leader of a national contingent or a squadron; patrona designated the galley of the second in command. Capitana and patrona were commonly used as titles, eg. La Capitana de Napoles: the galley of the commander of the Neapolitan squadron. Real was used to designate a royal capitana as was done by Don John as the designated agent of the King of Spain.
In contemporary Mediterranean documents, the term is generally applied first to the rowing arrangements and propulsive strength of a galley, then to fighting manpower and armament. A galley might, for example, be described as being "armed with 192 oarsmen to row four by four from poop to prow," another way of saying that it was a 24-bank galley designed to seat four oarsmen per bench and eight per bank.
The Venetian word for the rowing gang, pronounced "che oor me," plural ciurmi. I have used the Venetian since there is no English equivalent and the Spanish chusma has every evidence of being an Italian loan word like so many other castilian nautical terms.
There was some variation in these figures, but within a narrow range. See. R.C. Anderson, Oared Fighting Ships (London, 1962), pp. 567-68. Olesa Muñido, Ch. III, "El Buque," pp. 169-279, has an overwhelmingly comprehensive discussion of the construction of galleys. Björn Landström, The Ship (New York, 1961), pp. 127-39 gives a brilliantly effective graphic summation of most of what is known about the developmental history of the Mediterranean war galley.
Guilmartin, "The Early Provision of Artillery Armament on Mediterranean War Galleys," The Mariner's Mirror, Vol. 59, No. 3 (August 1973), gives the background for the derivation of these figures. See also Gunpowder and Galleys, pp. 207-12 particularly Figures 7 and 9.
"Stone throwers" were tactically more efficient than cannon firing cast iron cannonballs; see, for example, Michael Strachan, "Sampson's Fight with Maltese Galleys, 1628," The Mariner's Mirror, Vol. 55, No. 3 (August 1969), pp. 281-90. The high labor costs involved in cutting precision stone cannonballs eventually rendered the stone throwers obsolete, first in the nations of the North Atlantic and then, progressively, in the nations to the south and east. See Sir Henry Brackenbury, "Ancient Cannon in Europe," Part II, Journal of the Royal Artillery Institution, V (1865-66, pp. 8-9, for the enormous labor costs involved, even at a very early date.
This Statement is based on the measurement and analysis of numbers of surviving cannon in the collections of the Museo del Ejercito, Madrid; the Museo Militar, Lisbon; the Museo Storico Navale, Venice; and the Askeri Musesi, Istanbul; as well on data from the Venetian admiral Christoforo da Canal, cited in Olesa Muñido, Vol. I, pp. 297-315, and Luis Collado, Platica Manual de Artilleria (Milan, 1592), fol. 8. Note that long cannon were not long-range cannon. The inherent limitations of black powder placed an absolute limit on muzzle velocity which was attained with relatively short barrel lengths of 12-18 times the bore diameter. Practical limits of accuracy attainable with smooth bores and spherical projectiles held the maximum effective range of naval cannon to about 500 yards in any case.
This Statement is an educated guess based on the conclusions of the analysis described in note 23, above, notably the fact that da Canal does not mention such tertiary armament, and on the established Venetian preference for lighter cannon throwing a larger ball than their Spanish or Ottoman equivalents.
Guilmartin, Gunpowder and Galleys, Appendix 6, "The Classification and Arrangement of Ordnance on Sixteenth Century Galleys," pp, 295-303.
See Landström, pp. 134ff, and Anderson, Oared Fighting Ships, which contains an entire chapter on the technical development of the galeass. The Ottomans knew how to build such ships, which they called a maona, but either lacked the guns to arm them or failed to see the opportunity. J. R. Hale, "Armies, Navies and the Art of War," New Cambridge Modern History, Vol. II, Ch. XVI, provides interesting speculation on its origins.
See Venier's report to the Venetian Senate, "Relazione presentata il 29 December 1571 del Clarissimo Ser Sebastian Venier .. ." opusculo 3000, Archivo di Stato Veneziano, Venice. On 28 September, Don John requested six pieces of ordnance apparently for projected siege operations ashore, from Venier, who reluctantly complied.
This is based on analysis of the armament of the four NeapoIitan galeasses which sailed with the Spanish Armada of 1588 in Michael Lewis, Armada Guns (London, 1961), p. 138. The Venetian galeasses at Lepanto were at least as well armed. Lesure, Lépante, p. 116, gives them credit for 22 "heavy cannon" each.
The contemporary Spanish term was galera de fanal, or simply fanal in the shorthand of official listings. Interestingly, the ability to recognize and correctly identify individual lantern galleys is assumed in contemporary Spanish listings. The distinctive insignia of ordinary galleys, in contrast, are described in great detail.
The number of Christian lantern galleys was extracted from dto. 4 in Documents de Lepanto, Manuscrito 1693 (an extensive collection of documents), in the Museo Naval, Madrid, with adjustment for the known addition of at least one lantern galley, that of Gian Andrea Doria, between 9 September, the date of the document in question, and 7 October, the day of battle. The estimate of the number of Muslim lantern galleys is based on analysis of the numbers of Muslim galleys and pieces of artillery included in the formal division of spoils after the battle described in Gunpowder and Galleys, p. 232; this is roughly confirmed by a contemporary Venetian woodcut of the battle by G. B. Camocio, reproduced opposite p. 730 in Charles W. C. Oman, A History of the Art of War in the XVIth Century (London, 1937).
Based on the results of tests with an exceptionally large Venetian galley in 1529, cited in Anderson, Oared Fighting Ships, p. 67, an increase in displacement of 50 percent required double the size of the ciurma if there was to be no sacrifice in dash speed.
This differs from the figure of four cited in Gunpowder and Galleys, p. 244, n. 1. Continued analysis of dto. 4, Documentos de Lepanto, mss. 1693, cited in note 30 above, leads me to conclude that I misinterpreted the designation of two Venetian lantern galleys, erroneously identifying them as ordinary galleys.
This is because the lantern galley pressed against the intrinsic limits of human propulsive energy even harder than the ordinary galley. With less room for technical compromise, there was less room for regional variation. See Guilmartin, pp. 115-28 and Appendix 4, "Computation of the Speed of Sixteenth Century Galleys Under Oars," p. 392.
See, for example, dto. 7 in Vol. X of the Colección Navarrete, Museo Naval, Madrid, "Relación de los Navios y Artilleria de Franceses, Yngleses, y Portugeses, Turcos y Moros que don Álbaro Bazan Marques de Santa Cruz ... ha ganado ... desde 8 de Diciembre de 1554, hasta fin de Diciembre de 1583," and Colección Sanz de Barutell (Simancas) Art. 6, dto. 45, fol. 117-118. These two documents detail between them some nine Muslim galiots, all of them probably North African. Two were of 21 banks, two were of 20 banks (one of these is estimated based on the number of liberated Christian oarsmen), one of 19 banks, two of 18, one of 17, and one of 16 banks.
North African galleys may have constituted a separate class, but there is insufficient evidence on which to base such a categorization. In light of the North African preference for large galiots, the point is largely a moot one.
Figures 11-14, Gunpowder and Galleys, p. 222-25). The change in question was accompanied by the change in rowing systems discussed in note 32 above.
Both Venice and the Ottomans retained free ciurmi on their capitanas and patronas after they were forced by economic pressures to adopt largely servile ciurmi on ordinary galleys. The first regularly sanctioned use of convicts as oarsmen on Venetian galleys did not occur until 1549. re Tenenti, Cristoforo da Canal, pp. 83, 85. See Tenenti, Piracy and the Decline of Venice (Berkeley, 1967), pp. 124-25, for Cristoforo da Canal's backhanded testimony to the tactical effectiveness of free oarsmen c. 1587 (he was mainly concerned with their higher cost). Ismail Uzuncarsili, Osmanli Devletenin Merkez ve Bahriye Teskilati (Ankara, 1948), p. 482, cites a squadron of 41 Ottoman galleys in 1556 of which the capitana and two others were rowed by 'Azabs, salaried volunteer light infantrymen, three were rowed by slaves, and the remaining 36 were rowed by salaried mercenary Greek oarsmen.
The Spanish galley fleet in the Mediterranean (a misnomer: we are actually talking about a number of squadrons which were totally independent except when banded together for a major campaign) never seems to have consisted of more than 60 or so galleys.
This point is made expressly by Luis Collado, Platica Manual de Artilleria (Milan, 1592), fol. 8. Collado, a professional Spanish artillerist, made no bones about his preference for German and Venetian guns.
See Olesa Muñido, Vol. I, p. 138. Guilmartin, p. 208ff contains a comparative analysis of the various types of bow structure.
This point is made by a contemporary Spanish naval commander of great experience and competence, Don Garcia de Toledo, author of the relief of Malta in 1565, in a document of about 1568 whose title translates as "Discourse on what a galley needs to navigate well armed, both with ciurma and other people." Colección Navarrete, vol. XII, dto. 83, fol. 309ff.
There is evidence that Venetian gunners preferred to engage in a dead calm so that the lack of motion of the galley's hull would allow them to judge the fall of their shot more closely, re. Tenenti, Piracy, p. 79. This would have made little difference to the ordinary gunner and implies an ability to hit, under exceptional conditions, at ranges of as much as 700 to 1000 yards with some consistency despite the inherent inaccuracy of smooth bore cannon firing a spherical projectile.
"Turkish," in this context, is shorthand for "Muslim." To the Spanish, the galleys of the Ottoman central establishment and the galleys of the North African ghazi principalities alike were simply "Turcos."
To cite a notable example, Andrea Doria the Elder, at the head of 39 galleys, was surprised while traveling along the Italian coast in 1557 by no less than 103 Muslim galleys. Though hard pressed, his force got off with a loss of only seven galleys.
Guilmartin, Gunpowder and Galleys, pp. 42-56.
Collado, Platica Manual, fol. 50.
Documentos de Lepanto, mss. 1693, dto. 4.
Curiously, however, Hector Spinola in the Capitana of Genoathe only Genoese galley listedwas present, in command of the right. Was there a political split within the Genoese contingent with Spinola supporting Don John and Collona and the lesser Genoese captains backing Doria? We simply do not know. Agostin Barbarigo, the Venetian commander of the Left, is not listed either.
Reference note 12, above, for totals on the day of battle. The 9 September order, Documentos de Lepanto, mss. 1693, dto. 4, is our primary guide for the identity and disposition of individual galleys; dto. 14 in the same collection details the assignment of fighting manpower to specific galleys.
The order of 9 September is written in a cryptic officialese; it is occasionally less than clear in style and format and is illegible in spots. The identification of certain galleys is therefore uncertain. For example, the identity of several ordinary galleys as Venetian was established based on the fact that the names of western galleys are given first leg. Gitana de Napoles, Gypsy of Naples; Santiago de la Religion, Saint James of the Knights of St. John of Malta; and Vigilancia de Sicilia, the Vigilance of Sicily) whereas in the case of ordinary Venetian galleys, the name of the galley's captain is given first (eg. Dominici Pisani de Venicia, Jorge Gallota de Venecia, etc.). This practice is not observed with respect to lantern galleys, however, and the identification of several of the Venetian galleys as lantern galleys seems to have been either uncertain or an afterthought.
The Reserve consisted of 29 galleys in the 9 September order: 10 Venetian and 19 western, in no particular order. By the day of battle, the Venetian proportion of the Reserve had risen from 10 out of 29 to 16 out of 33.
Guilmartin, Fig. 10, p. 199.
Lesure, Lepante, pp. 129-33, quoting the account of Girolamo Diedo, a Venetian participant in the battle.
I have used extracts from Venier's official report, opusculo 3000, Archivo di Stato Venetiano, the Spanish account entitled "Relacion delo que hizo la Armada de la Liga Christiana desde los trienta de Setiembre 1571 hasta diet de Octobre," Documentos de Lepanto, mss. 1693, and Lesure, Lépante, pp. 133-47, for the fight in the center and on the right.
Lesure, pp. 137-39.
Note, however, that tradition is not always irrational; the retention of the highly effective composite recurved bow by the Turksused with devastating effect on the hosts of Peter the Great of Russia as late as the Battle of the Pruth in 1711is an excellent case in point.
Alfred Thayer Mahan, The Influence of Seapower Upon History 1660-1783 (Boston, 1890), pp. 127-29.