Main content

The Battle of Lepanto

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the sea battle of Lepanto, in which the Christian forces of the Holy League defeated the Ottoman fleet of Selim II in 1571.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Battle of Lepanto, 1571, the last great sea battle between galleys, in which the Catholic fleet of the Holy League of principally Venice, Spain, the Papal States, Malta, Genoa, and Savoy defeated the Ottoman forces of Selim II. When much of Europe was divided over the Reformation, this was the first major victory of a Christian force over a Turkish fleet. The battle followed the Ottoman invasion of Venetian Cyprus and decades in which the Venetians had been trying to stop the broader westward expansion of the Ottomans into the Mediterranean. The outcome had a great impact on morale in Europe and Pope Pius V established a feast day of Our Lady of Victory. Some historians call it the most significant sea battle since Actium (31 BC). However, the Ottomans viewed the loss as less significant than their victory in Cyprus and, within two years, the Holy League had broken up.


Diarmaid MacCulloch
Professor of the History of the Church at the University of Oxford

Kate Fleet
Director of the Skilliter Centre for Ottoman Studies and Fellow of Newnham College, University of Cambridge


Noel Malcolm
A Senior Research Fellow in History at All Soul's College, University of Oxford

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Available now

43 minutes

Last on

Thu 12 Nov 2015 21:30


Diarmaid MacCulloch at the University of Oxford

Kate Fleet at the University of Cambridge

Noel Malcolm at the University of Oxford

Battle of Lepanto - Wikipedia



Hugh Bicheno, Crescent and Cross: The Battle of Lepanto, 1571 (Cassell, 2003)

Palmira Brummett, Ottoman seapower and Levantine diplomacy in the age of discovery (State University of New York Press, 1993)

Niccolò Capponi, Victory of the West: The Story of the Battle of Lepanto (Macmillan, 2006)

Suraiya N. Faroqhi and Kate Fleet (eds.), The Cambridge History of Turkey, vol. II: The Ottoman Empire as a World Power, 1453-1603 (Cambridge University Press, 2013), especially ‘Ottoman expansion in the Mediterranean’ by Kate Fleet

Daniel Goffman, The Ottoman Empire and Early Modern Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2002)

Molly Greene, Catholic Pirates and Greek Merchants: A Maritime History of the Mediterranean (Princeton University Press, 2010)

Noel Malcolm, Agents of Empire. Knights, Corsairs, Jesuits and Spies in the Sixteenth-Century Mediterranean World (Allen Lane, 2015)

Justin McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks: An Introductory History to 1923 (Longman, 1997)

Philip Williams, Empire and Holy War in the Mediterranean: The Galley and Maritime Conflict between the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires (I. B. Tauris, 2014)


Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Interviewed Guest Diarmaid MacCulloch
Interviewed Guest Kate Fleet
Interviewed Guest Noel Malcolm
Producer Simon Tillotson


  • Thu 12 Nov 2015 09:00
  • Thu 12 Nov 2015 21:30

Featured in...

In Our Time podcasts

In Our Time podcasts

Every episode of In Our Time is available to download.

The In Our Time Listeners' Top 10

The In Our Time Listeners' Top 10

If you’re new to In Our Time, this is a good place to start.

Arts and Ideas podcast

Arts and Ideas podcast

Download the best of Radio 3's Free Thinking programme.