How Important Was the Battle of Lepanto?
Fought on 7 October 1571, the great sea battle between Christian Europe and the Ottoman Empire was seen as a pivotal moment in history. Have its consequences been exaggerated?
‘Philip II’s chief minister hailed it as “the greatest naval victory since Pharaoh’s army drowned in the Red Sea”
Geoffrey Parker, Andreas Dorpalen Professor of History at Ohio State University and author of Imprudent King: A New Life of Philip II (Yale University Press, 2014)
The message arrived at Philip II’s pharaonic complex at El Escorial, still under construction, at 2pm on 31 October 1571, having travelled 3,500 kilometres at an average of 150 kilometres a day: a record. The king was at prayer, since it was All Souls Day, and, on his orders, the choir immediately sang the Te Deum. Philip’s chief minister hailed it as ‘the greatest naval victory since Pharaoh’s army drowned in the Red Sea’.
Two months later Philip’s son and heir was born and the coincidence led him to pardon all prisoners in his jails and to commission from Titian, the most famous painter of his day, a huge painting entitled The Offering of Philip II, which commemorated the two events.