The Western Mediterranean 1480–1578

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Map Code: Ax01432

The Battle of Lepanto (1571) was hailed a historic victory for Christendom against the ‘infidel’ Turks. The fleet of the Holy League (Papal States, Spain, Venice) annihilated their Ottoman enemy, sinking or capturing almost 200 ships. The admiral that day, Don John of Austria, went on to recapture Tunis (1573). But the Ottomans bounced back, recapturing Tunis the following year, and reasserting their control in the western Mediterranean. This control had first been evidenced by the destruction of the Spanish fleet at Formentera (1529), and consolidated by Hayreddin Barbarossa’s raids on Sicily and destruction of the Holy League fleet at Preveza (1560). Charles V’s attempt to retaliate against Barbarossa in his Algiers stronghold (1541) ended in disaster. A further Holy League drubbing at Jerba (1560) underlined Ottoman supremacy. An ill-judged attempt to capitalize on Lepanto, King Sebastian of Portugal’s Moroccan crusade ended in his death and his army’s annihilation at Alcazarquivir (1578).

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