March 13, 2013

Stories of Venice and the Venetians

Stories of Venice and the Venetians By John B. Marsh pages 403-405.


But the loss of Cyprus and the massacre of the Venetian soldiers was nobly avenged in the great battle between the hostile fleets which took place in the Gulf of Lepanto, on the 7th October. The inactivity of the fleet in the war with Cyprus was chiefly owing to the non-fulfilment of terms made by Spain, but the victories of the Turks roused that nation to action, and in August they assembled at Messina one of the most powerful fleets that ever took part in a battle at sea. Spain and Venice had between them 200 galleys of large size, and 100 transports, and they carried 50,000 infantry and 4,500 horses. Don John, of Spain, was in command of one section, and the other was under the direction of Sebastiano Venierio. After cruising about the Gulf of Venice and the Mediterranean they entered the Archipelago, and on the 7th October the opposing armaments came in sight of each other in the Gulf of Lepanto. The Turks had a fleet of 200 ships, under Mahomed Siroco, Governor of Alexandria and King of Algiers, and the Capudan Ali. The appearance of the Turks gave the greatest pleasure to the Christian allies. They prepared for battle with alacrity, and as they neared each other the sounds of trumpets and of drums were heard from the Christian ships, while from every portion flags and banners were waving in the air. All the Christian slaves on board the combined fleets, who had been condemned to work at the oars for their crimes, were unchained, armed like their brethren, and exhorted to fight for the cause of Christ. The cannon on board the allied vessels was largely in excess of the number carried by the Turks, and the allied soldiers were armed with a greater number of guns than the Turks, whose chief weapons were bows of several kinds. Conspicuous above all the other ships in the fleet of the Turks was the vessel which bore the Capudan Ali. There was no ship afloat that could compare to it for the beauty of its dimensions and for the excellence of its furniture. The deck was made of walnut inlaid with different coloured woods, setting forth scenes of celebrated battles fought by the soldiers of his country. The cabin was decorated with rich hangings, wrought with gold thread and set with precious stones; in thelockers there was a large number of gold and silver vessels of great beauty and workmanship, while the apparel which Ali himself was accustomed to wear filled several cabins, and consisted of cloths of gold and silver adorned with jewels. On the prow of the vessel there was a silver staff, from the top of which floated the banner of the Sultan. In the encounter Don John and Ali sought out each other's vessels and engaged in deadly conflict. Three times the gallant Spaniard, seconded by his men, climbed into the Turkish ship, and drove the crew to take refuge round the mainmast, and three times were the Spaniards and the Venetians driven back again to their own vessels, leaving only dead on the deck of the ship behind them. Seeing the enormous superiority of the Turkish ship, two Venetian vessels bore down to the assistance of Don John, while, on the other hand, Ali summoned several vessels to his assistance, and the ships continued to fight for some time longer. In the course of the battle two Venetian captains, fighting side by side with Don John, were slain, and the Spanish commander was himself wounded slightly by an arrow, but nothing could avert the Christians from continuing their attacks. Ultimately a Macedonian soldier, serving on one of the Venetian ships, whose captain was slain, recognizing Ali on the deck of his vessel, took deliberate aim and fired a shot which struck the Turkish commander on the breast and killed him. The moment he fell his soldiers became dispirited, threw down their arms, and received quarter. The head of Ali was severed from his body and fixed on the point of his own mast, so that it could be seen by the whole fleet.

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