NAFPAKTOS (LEPANTO)

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The town of Nafpaktos with its castle, the old Venetian harbor (the only surviving in mainland Greece), the Turkish mosques, such as Fethiye Mosque preserved as a whole and the houses of the old captains of the Greek Revolution in 1821, as the tower of Botsaraion, is a breath of freshness and history. It is worth walking on the sea walls, wander on the cobblestone paths, drink raki with fresh fish in traditional taverns and consider the past and present at every step.

 

The Battle of Lepanto


The Battle of Lepanto by Paolo Veronese

 

It was one of the largest naval battles of all time. It took place on October 7, 1571 in the area of Nafpakto (then known as Lepanto), with opponents the Christian states of the West and the Ottoman Empire. It ended on the same day with a triumphant victory of the Western countries.

The sovereignty of the Ottomans in the Mediterranean after the conquest of Cyprus in 1571 fueled their expansive moods towards the west. The Christian states awakened, put aside for a moment their differences and with the initiative of Pope Pius V on May 25, 1571 they formed the "anti-Turkish Holy Alliance" (Sacra Liga Antiturca). It included Spain, Venice, Genoa, the Papal States, the Savoy, Malta and other smaller cities of the Italian peninsula. They decided to establish a fleet and sent it on a mission in the eastern Mediterranean.

The naval force, led by the young Spanish prince Don Juan of Austria, gathered in Messina, Sicily and with the Pope's blessings sailed on September 16, 1571.

The Allied fleet numbered 210 galleys, 30 frigates, 24 transport ships and other smaller escort vessels. The crews of the ships reached 38,000 men, of whom 15,000 were Greeks from the Ionian Islands and Crete.
 
The Ottoman fleet led by the muezzin  Zante Ali Pasha had 210 galleys and 50 other escort ships. The crews reached up to 47,000 men, of whom 15,000 were Greeks forcibly recruited. The fleet lacked firepower and morale, as crews battled for a long time and were debilitated. The Turkish armada had only rowers, while the Allied fleet had also sailing ships, which were the new element of naval battle.

The final battle was at the mouth of the Achelous river near Echinades islands, but went down in history as the "Battle of Lepanto ". From morning until late afternoon the conflict was conducted with tremendous intensity. The struggle at certain stages moved from deck to deck and from body to body.

The Christian fleet with more robust weapons and better tactics clearly defeated its opponent, who was undefeated until then. In the words of the author of "Don Quixote" Miguel de Cervantes, who took part in the battle and lost his left hand: "... it was the most glorious moment that people have seen from the past or the present or from the future to come."

The victory of the Allies was greeted with enthusiasm in the West. Great painters such as Tintoretto, the Titian and Veronese, immortalized in their works scenes of the battle, while El Greco painted the portrait of the big winner, Don Juan of Austria.

The events of the anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto

Every year in early October, the city of Nafpaktos organizes enactment of the naval Battle and other honorary events in honor of that victory.



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