In 1565 the forces of the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent were repulsed at Malta after a lengthy and bloody siege. Had the Turks taken the island, their way into the ill-defended western Mediterranean world would have been fully opened. Aware of the peril which still faced Europe, Pope Pius V rallied the Christian realms of southern Europe - principally Spain, Venice, Rome and the Italian republics - into a Holy League in 1570 with a powerful fleet of some 200 galleys. The entire fleet was placed under the command of the Spanish prince Don John of Austria. They met an equally powerful Ottoman fleet in battle off Greece at Lepanto in October 1572. Paul Fregosi tells the story of this encounter - in terms of human lives the most costly naval battle in history - in this extract from his recently completed book ‘Jihad in the West’. More than 32,000 Christian and Muslim sailors and soldiers were killed or drowned. By comparison, 3,000 British, French and Spanish sailors died at Trafalgar, the most famous of all naval battles.
Read Paul Fregosi’s “Annals Australasia” article HERE