Home

Visit Rome following 8 XVIIIth century itineraries XVIIIth century Rome in the 10 Books of Giuseppe Vasi - Le Magnificenze di Roma Antica e Moderna The Grand View of Rome by G. Vasi The Environs of Rome: Frascati, Tivoli, Albano and other small towns near Rome A 1781 map of Rome by G. Vasi An 1852 map of Rome by P. Letarouilly Rome seen by a 1905 armchair traveller in the paintings by Alberto Pisa The 14 historical districts of Rome An abridged history of Rome How to spend a peaceful day in Rome Baroque sculptors and their works The coats of arms of the popes in the monuments of Rome Pages on a specific pope Pages complementing the itineraries and the views by Giuseppe Vasi Walks in the Roman countryside and in other towns of Latium following Ferdinand Gregorovius A Directory of links to the Churches of Rome A Directory of links to the Palaces and Villas of Rome A Directory of links to the Other Monuments of Rome A Directory of Baroque Architects with links to their works A Directory of links to Monuments of Ancient Rome A Directory of links to Monuments of Medieval Rome A Directory of links to Monuments of Renaissance A Directory of links to Monuments of the Late Renaissance A list of the most noteworthy Roman Families Directories of fountains, obelisks, museums, etc. Books and guides used for developing this web site An illustrated Glossary of Art Terms Venice and the Levant Roman recollections in Florence A list of Italian towns shown in this web site Venetian Fortresses in Greece Vienna seen by an Italian XVIIIth century traveller A list of foreign towns shown in this web site
What's New!

Detailed Sitemap

All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to romapip@quipo.it. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in November 2011.


Map of Lepanto Lepanto (Nafpaktos)

Key dates:
1407 Venice bought the port of Lepanto
1499 Lepanto was conquered by the Turks
1571 Battle of Lepanto between a Christian fleet, gathered at the request of the Pope and led by Don John of Austria, and the Turkish fleet
1687 Lepanto was occupied by the Venetians but it was returned to the Turks by the peace of Karlowitz (1699)

Lepanto (Nafpaktos) is located a few miles to the east of the Little Dardanelles the narrows which close the Gulf of Corinth. It was fortified by the Venetians and the Turks maintained the walls and the castle. The fortifications were made up of a castle on top of a little hill from which two walls went down to the sea. The sea-line was protected by maritime walls and three other walls were built at various levels on the hill between the maritime walls and the castle (see sketch here below)

O
/___\
/_____\
/_______\
/_________\

View of the fortifications of Lepanto
View of the fortifications of Lepanto

The entrance to the harbour was protected by two towers and a large number of cannons. In 1570 the Turks attacked Cyprus and in August 1571 they conquered Famagusta, the last Venetian stronghold on the island. In the meantime at the request of Pope Pius V a large Christian fleet gathered at Messina in Sicily. Spain, Venice and the other Italian states were part of the alliance. The command was given to Don John of Austria, aged 26, natural son of Emperor Charles V. Venice moved the galleys located in Corfù and Candia to Messina. The commander of the Turkish fleet took advantage of this decision and from Negroponte (Euboea) moved around the Peloponnese and entered the Adriatic Sea where he attacked several towns belonging to Venice. He then moved to Lepanto to obtain new supplies.

Walls and towers protecting the harbour
Walls and towers protecting the harbour

The Christian fleet left Messina for the Ionian Islands and on October 7, 1571 it moved from the bay of Samos, in Cefalonia, towards Lepanto. It was in the interest of the Turks to avoid the battle or at least to fight in the vicinity of Lepanto to make use of the artillery of the fortress, but the Turkish commander underestimated the strength of the Christian fleet and thought that a victory would lead to the conquest of Candia and Corfù. What followed was the largest sea battle between oar fleets from the time of the Roman Empire. The ships were so many and in a limited space that the fight was decided by the Spanish swordsmen.

A mosque and a cannon
A mosque and a cannon

Both Venice and Spain have put inscriptions on the maritime walls of Lepanto to celebrate the battle. There is also a statue of Miguel de Cervantes, who fought and was seriously wounded in the battle. The tiny harbour has maintained (it is a miracle!) its ancient looks and even some symbols of the Turkish rule have been preserved.

Entrance to the third curtain-walls; view of the fourth curtain-walls and of the castle; a Turkish fountain
Entrance to the third curtain-walls; view of the fourth curtain-walls and of the castle; a Turkish fountain

The inner walls had only one point of passage located on the side of a tower. The walls are in general well kept but many of the buildings on the upper part of the hill have been abandoned and lie in ruins. Some of them show their Turkish origin.

Entrances to the fourth curtain-walls and to the castle
Entrances to the fourth curtain-walls and to the castle

The castle is surrounded by a beautiful pine wood. Little is little left of the barracks and of the other buildings which once were in the castle.

Views from the castle: the harbour and the Little Dardanelles
Views from the castle: the harbour and the Little Dardanelles

The views from the castle reward the effort made to get there. In particular the view over the harbour is very evocative of the past.

Fresco by Antonio Danti in the Vatican Museums
Fresco by Antonio Danti in the Vatican Museums and 1900 map

The victory of Lepanto was celebrated in all western Europe and in particular by Pope Pius V and his successor Pope Gregory XIII who wanted the event to be painted on a wall of the Vatican Palace. The red dot shows the castle of Lepanto. A 1900 map provides a more accurate view of where the battle took place.

Bay of Samos and Isole Curzolari
(above) Bay of Samos; (below) Oxia Island (Isole Curzolari)

The two fleets met near an islet which is today known as Oxia, but which at the time was called Isole Curzolari (the name included some smaller islets). For this reason the Venetians often called the fight as the battle of the Curzolari Islands. They celebrated it at the entrance of their
Arsenale in Venice.

The 1683 failed attempt by the Turks to conquer Vienna was regarded as a second Lepanto.

Excerpts from Memorie Istoriografiche del Regno della Morea Riacquistato dall'armi della Sereniss. Repubblica di Venezia printed in Venice in 1692 and related to this page:

Lepanto

Lepanto dalli Latini detto Naupactus, dal Volgo Epactos, dalli Turchi Einebachti, giace nella Livadia alle rive poco discoste dalla bocca del Golfo, che di Lepanto pure si chiama quest'è Città Archiepiscopale situata d'intorno à picciola Montagna di figura conica, nella di cui sommità evvi la Fortezza recinta con quattr'ordini di grosse mura, separate da alcune Valli, ne quali vi dimorano gl'Abitanti. Il suo porto non gira, che cinquecento piedi, e potrebbe chiudersi à catena, non avendo la bocac larga, che cinquanta; onde non riceve, che parco numero di piccioli Navigli, quali alle volte ne anco ponno uscirne, confinati dalla scarsezza dell'acque, e s'un tempo vi si ricovrava colle proprie Galeote il famoso Corsaro Durach Bey, ciò riusciva per una particolar vigilanza di mantenerlo netto. Quattr'erano quivi i Tempij all'Idolatria, quando sussisteva il Gentilesimo, in ciascheduno de quali adoravasi un partcolar falso Nume, cioè Nettuno, Venere, Esculapio, e Diana; ad Esculapio v'eresse colla machina gl'Altari Falisio in adempimento del voto fatto, nel mentre soggiaceva à grave infermità degl'occhi; ora soggetta agl'Ottomani vien governata da un Vaivoda, e vi sono sette Moschee, due Chiese per i Greci, ch'ivi vivono abbietti, e vilipesi da que' barbari, e tre Sinagoghe per gl'Hebrei; le delitie, che per la condizione del sito mancano à Cittadini dentro, abbondano dalla natura, e dall'arte fuori nella parte di Levante vicino al Mare, ove sorgono gran quantità d'acque, che dopo dato il moto a varij edificij di polvere, è coadivuto al lavoro de marrocchini, frequente mercatura de Paesani, scorrendo à piedi d'una dozina de Platani ben grandi, formano è per la vista, e per i freschi deliziosissimo posto; s'estendono indi per què contorni vaghi giardini con folte riviere di Cedri, Limoni, e Aranci. Il Territorio poi è al maggior segno fertile di Vini i migliori di tutta la Grecia. Non cedeva facilmente à qualunque forza prima dell'uso del cannone; tributava nel 1408 al soglio della Grecia, ne potendola sostenere Emanuel allora imperante, lasciòla alla Republica di Venezia; avuta che l'hebbero i Veneti, la ridussero in stato di ben resistere a grossi bronzi: stancò nel 1475, alla pugna un numero di trenta mille Turchi, costringendoli dopo continuato assedio di quattro, e più mesi a vergognosamente partirsene: seguiva lieta all'ubbidienza del comando Veneto, ne avrebbe cangiato un dominio si pio col tirannico giogo della Tracia, quando nel 1498 combattendola per mare, e per terra munita di cento cinquanta mille soldati Baiazet secondo, non l'avesse obbligata à farlo.
Conserva non ostante anco al presente indelebili gl'impronti di S. Marco non permettendo il Cielo, che si cancellino le gloriose memorie di quest'invitta Republica, dove per l'honor di Dio non solo profuse, mà è per spargere di nuovo il sangue.

Introductory page on the Venetian Fortresses

Pages of this section:
On the Ionian Islands:     Corfù (Kerkyra)     Paxo (Paxi)     Santa Maura (Lefkadas)     Cefalonia (Kephallonia)     Asso (Assos)     Itaca (Ithaki)     Zante (Zachintos)     Cerigo (Kythera)
On the mainland: Butrinto (Butrint)     Parga     Preveza and Azio (Aktion)     Vonizza (Vonitsa)     Lepanto (Nafpaktos)     Atene (Athens)
On Morea:     Castel di Morea (Rio), Castel di Rumelia (Antirio) and Patrasso (Patra)     Castel Tornese (Hlemoutsi) and Glarenza     Navarino (Pilo) and Calamata     Modon (Methoni)     Corone (Koroni)     Braccio di Maina, Zarnata, Passavà and Chielefà     Mistrà     Corinto (Korinthos)     Argo (Argos)     Napoli di Romania (Nafplio)     Malvasia (Monemvassia)
On the Aegean Sea:     Negroponte (Chalki)     Castelrosso (Karistos)     Oreo     Lemno (Limnos)     Schiatto (Skiathos)     Scopello (Skopelos)     Alonisso     Schiro (Skyros)     Andro (Andros)     Tino (Tinos)     Micono (Mykonos)     Siro (Syros)     Egina (Aegina)     Spezzia (Spetse)     Paris (Paros)     Antiparis (Andiparos)     Nasso (Naxos)     Serifo (Serifos)     Sifno (Syphnos)     Milo (Milos)     Argentiera (Kimolos)     Santorino (Thira)     Folegandro (Folegandros)     Stampalia (Astipalea)     Candia (Kriti)

You may refresh your knowledge of the history of Venice in the Levant by reading an abstract from the History of Venice by Thomas Salmon, published in 1754. The Italian text is accompanied by an English summary.

Clickable Map of the Ionian and Aegean Seas with links to the Venetian fortresses and to other locations (opens in a separate window)