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Just finished this book. I found it very informative, not only about the battle itself but the strategic, religious and political circumstances surrounding it, and the "mythology" it generated. If I have any criticism, it's that in attempting to demolish the "Christians good - Turks Bad" that normally accompanies traditional accounts of the battle, he goes a bit too far the other way.


He makes the point that for all the celebration that attends the battle, it was in no way decisive - the Holy League were not in a position to follow up the victory, and any effects of the battle were very temporary - Cyprus remained in Ottoman hands, and the ships of the Turkish fleet were fully replaced within a year (albeit with unseasoned timbers and inexperienced crews). And the mutual suspicion and antagonism between the members of the Holy League, particularly Spain and Venice caused it to disintegrate within the same period of time.


One thing I found extremely interesting was the Holy League's galleasses. They were much heavier than the galleys and had to be towed into position (against a headwind) forward of the main line of galleys, in the centre of the line. They were too unmanoeuvrable to take part in any but the initial stage of the battle, where the Turkish galleys swept past them to engage the galleys of the Christian fleet. Their broadsides are only known to have sunk two Turkish galleys before they were left behind, but in splitting to bypass them, the Turkish centre lost much of its cohesion.


Another fact of which I was unaware is that after an initial cannon volley, renaissance galley battles were very similar to classical and mediaeval ones. Normally only one cannon volley was discharged before the vessels met, and the rest was done by boarding. The Holy League knew (from their own experience from Christian fleets fighting each other), as the Turks did not, that firing at point-blank range was far more effective than firing earlier. After that initial salvo, galleys would attempt to "gang up" on galleys of the opposing fleet and sweep their decks clear of defenders in hand to hand combat. Once one enemy galley had been emptied of its crew, they would move on to another and repeat the performance. The Holy League didn't have it all its on way - the number of galleys taken by the Turks with all the crew killed was considerable.


But though it was a "famous battle", it really didn't decide very much (except perhaps for the fact that the Turks began to build their own galleasses.)


The deconstruction of the myth surrounding the battle is also very interesting and informative, though I must take issue with his contention that Tolkien's Lord of the Rings was substantially based on the conflict between Catholic Christianity and Islam. Thoroughly researched though the rest of his book may be, I really don't think he took the trouble to read Tolkien's.


Nonetheless, very well worth a read.



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