Battle of Lepanto (1571)Battle of Lepanto (1571) - One of the lesser well-known significant battles in history, it was a naval engagement between a coalition of Catholic nations known as the Holy League and the Ottoman Empire.  The battle was fought on October 7, 1571 off the coast of western Greece near the mouth of the Gulf of Corinth.  Lepanto was the name of the port nearest the battle which was under Ottoman control (today it is the city of Naupactus in Greece).  At the time the Mediterranean Sea was roughly split down the middle with European nations controlling the western half and the Ottoman Empire controlling the eastern half.  However, the Italian city-state of Venice had a colony on the eastern island of Cyprus and The Ottomans besieged it in early 1571.  The Holy League assembled a fleet off the coast of Sicily in August.  It was too late to save the Cyprian colony, but the two sides still met in battle.  The league consisted of about 200 ships, half from Venice and a quarter from the Spanish Empire.  Although it provided only half as many ships as Venice, Spain, as the richest nation, funded most of the operation (with supplies, etc.).  The Ottomans had 250 ships.  John of Austria, who was the bastard son of Charles V, commanded the Holy League's fleet.  The Ottomans' commander was Admiral Ali Pasha.  Aboard one of the Spanish galleys was a young Miguel de Cervantes, who later wrote Don Quixote. The European side sailed out in roughly a single north-south line, although they left about 38 galleys in reserve behind the line.  The Ottoman deployment met the European, and slightly outflanked it on the southern end.  It also reinforced the center of its line thanks to its superior numbers.  As the battle was met, Admiral Pasha reportedly promised the Christian slaves manning the Ottoman ships their freedom in the event of victory.  John of Austria is said to have shouted, "There is no paradise for cowards!"  The Europeans employed a bit of deception by outfitting merchant ships, known as galleasses with heavy cannons and deploying them on the north side of the line.  Ali Pasha bought the deception and mistook the galleasses for the fleet's supply ships.  He concentrated his initial attack on that side of the line and was surprised when he was met with heavy artillery.  It was a fatal mistake that pretty much doomed the Ottomans from the very start.  Although the battle would rage on for about five hours, their fleet suffered its heaviest losses in this initial engagement, which threw the rest of the formation into chaos.  When it was done, 50 Ottoman ships were sunk and another 130 were captured by the Holy League.  In addition, about 12,000 slaves were freed.  The Europeans only lost 17 ships.  Their victory halted the expansion of the Ottomans in the western Mediterranean.