The Atlantic Monthly/Volume 1/Number 2/The Battle of Lepanto

The Atlantic Monthly  (1857) 
The Battle of Lepanto


It was two hours before dawn on Sunday, the memorable seventh of October, 1571, when the fleet weighed anchor. The wind had become lighter, but it was still contrary, and the galleys were indebted for their progress much more to their oars than to their sails. By sunrise they were abreast of the Curzolares, a cluster of huge rocks, or rocky islets, which, on the north, defends the entrance of the Gulf of Lepanto. The fleet moved laboriously along, while every eye was strained to catch the first glimpse of the hostile navy. At length the watch from the foretop of the Real called out, "A sail!" and soon after announced that the whole Ottoman fleet was in sight. Several others, climbing up the rigging, confirmed his report; and in a few moments more word was sent to the same effect by Andrew Doria, who commanded on the right. There was no longer any doubt; and Don John, ordering his pendant to be displayed at the mizzen-peak, unfurled the great standard of the League, given by the pope, and directed a gun to be fired, the signal for battle. The report, as it ran along the rocky shores, fell cheerily on the ears of the confederates, who, raising their eyes towards the consecrated banner, filled the air with their shouts.

The principal captains now came on board the Real to receive the last orders of the commander-in-chief. Even at this late hour there were some who ventured to intimate their doubts of the expediency of engaging the enemy in a position where he had a decided advantage. But Don John cut short the discussion. "Gentlemen," he said, "this is the time for combat, not for counsel." He then continued the dispositions he was making for the assault.

He had already given to each commander of a galley written instructions as to the manner in which the line of battle was to be formed, in case of meeting the enemy. The armada was now formed in that order. It extended on a front of three miles. Far on the right a squadron of sixty-four galleys was commanded by the Genoese, Andrew Doria, a name of terror to the Moslems. The centre, or battle, as it was called, consisting of sixty-three galleys, was led by John of Austria, who was supported on the one side by Colonna, the captain-general of the pope, and on the other by the Venetian captain-general, Veniero. Immediately in the rear was the galley of the Comendador Requesens, who still remained near the person of his former pupil; though a difference which arose between them on the voyage, fortunately now healed, showed that the young commander-in-chief was wholly independent of his teacher in the art of war. The left wing was commanded by the noble Venetian, Barberigo, whose vessels stretched along the Ætolian shore, which, to prevent his being turned by the enemy, he approached as near as, in his ignorance of the coast, he dared to venture. Finally, the reserve, consisting of thirty-five galleys, was given to the brave Marquis of Santa Cruz, with directions to act on any part where he thought his presence most needed. The smaller craft, some of which had now arrived, seem to have taken little part in the action, which was thus left to the galleys.

Each commander was to occupy so much space with his galley as to allow room for manoeuvring it to advantage, and yet not enough to enable the enemy to break the line. He was directed to single out his adversary, to close at once with him, and board as soon as possible. The beaks of the galleys were pronounced to be a hindrance rather than a help in action. They were rarely strong enough to resist a shock from the enemy; and they much interfered with the working and firing of the guns. Don John had the beak of his vessel cut away; and the example was speedily followed throughout the fleet, and, as it is said, with eminently good effect. It may seem strange that this discovery should have been reserved for the crisis of a battle.

When the officers had received their last instructions, they returned to their respective vessels; and Don John, going on board of a light frigate, passed rapidly through that part of the armada lying on his right, while he commanded Requesens to do the same with the vessels on his left. His object was to feel the temper of his men, and rouse their mettle by a few words of encouragement. The Venetians he reminded of their recent injuries. The hour for vengeance, he told them, had arrived. To the Spaniards, and other confederates, he said, "You have come to fight the battle of the Cross,—to conquer or die. But whether you die or conquer, do your duty this day, and you will secure a glorious immortality." His words were received with a burst of enthusiasm which went to the heart of the commander, and assured him that he could rely on his men in the hour of trial. On his return to his vessel, he saw Veniero on his quarter-deck, and they exchanged salutations in as friendly a manner as if no difference had existed between them. At a time like this, both these brave men were willing to forget all personal animosity, in a common feeling of devotion to the great cause in which they were engaged.

The Ottoman fleet came on slowly and with difficulty. For, strange to say, the wind, which had hitherto been adverse to the Christians, after lulling for a time, suddenly shifted to the opposite quarter, and blew in the face of the enemy. As the day advanced, moreover, the sun, which had shone in the eyes of the confederates, gradually shot its rays into those of the Moslems. Both circumstances were of good omen to the Christians, and the first was regarded as nothing short of a direct interposition of Heaven. Thus ploughing its way along, the Turkish armament, as it came nearer into view, showed itself in greater strength than had been anticipated by the allies. It consisted of nearly two hundred and fifty royal galleys, most of them of the largest class, besides a number number of smaller vessels in the rear, which, like those of the allies, appear scarcely to have come into action. The men on board, including those of every description, were computed at not less than a hundred and twenty thousand. The galleys spread out, as usual with the Turks, in the form of a regular half-moon, covering a wider extent of surface than the combined fleets, which they somewhat exceeded in numbers. They presented, indeed, as they drew nearer, a magnificent array, with their gilded and gaudily painted prows, and their myriads of pennons and streamers fluttering gayly in the breeze, while the rays of the morning sun glanced on the polished scymitars of Damascus, and on the superb aigrettes of jewels which sparkled in the turbans of the Ottoman chiefs.

In the centre of the extended line, and directly opposite to the station occupied by the captain-general of the League, was the huge galley of Ali Pasha. The right of the armada was commanded by Mehemet Siroco, viceroy of Egypt, a circumspect as well as courageous leader; the left by Uluch Ali, dey of Algiers, the redoubtable corsair of the Mediterranean. Ali Pasha had experienced a similar difficulty with Don John, as several of his officers had strongly urged the inexpediency of engaging so formidable an armament as that of the allies. But Ali, like his rival, was young and ambitious. He had been sent by his master to fight the enemy; and no remonstrances, not even those of Mehemet Siroco, for whom he had great respect, could turn him from his purpose.

He had, moreover, received intelligence that the allied fleet was much inferior in strength to what it proved. In this error he was fortified by the first appearance of the Christians; for the extremity of their left wing, commanded by Barberigo, stretching behind the Ætolian shore, was hidden from his view. As he drew nearer, and saw the whole extent of the Christian lines, it is said his countenance fell. If so, he still did not abate one jot of his resolution. He spoke to those around him with the same confidence as before of the result of the battle. He urged his rowers to strain every effort. Ali was a man of more humanity than often belonged to his nation. His galley-slaves were all, or nearly all, Christian captives; and he addressed them in this neat and pithy manner: "If your countrymen win this day, Allah give you the benefit of it! Yet if I win it, you shall have your freedom. If you feel that I do well by you, do then the like by me."

As the Turkish admiral drew nearer, he made a change in his order of battle by separating his wings farther from his centre, thus conforming to the dispositions of the allies. Before he had come within cannon-shot, he fired a gun by way of challenge to his enemy. It was answered by another from the galley of John of Austria. A second gun discharged by Ali was as promptly replied to by the Christian commander. The distance between the two fleets was now rapidly diminishing. At this solemn hour a death-like silence reigned throughout the armament of the confederates. Men seemed to hold their breath, as if absorbed in the expectation of some great catastrophe. The day was magnificent. A light breeze, still adverse to the Turks, played on the waters, somewhat fretted by contrary winds. It was nearly noon; and as the sun, mounting through a cloudless sky, rose to the zenith, he seemed to pause, as if to look down on the beautiful scene, where the multitude of galleys, moving over the water, showed like a holiday spectacle rather than a preparation for mortal combat.

The illusion was soon dispelled by the fierce yells which rose on the air from the Turkish armada. It was the customary war-cry with which the Moslems entered into battle. Very different was the scene on board of the Christian galleys. Don John might be there seen, armed cap-a-pie, standing on the prow of the Real, anxiously awaiting the coming conflict. In this conspicuous position, kneeling down, he raised his eyes to heaven, and humbly prayed that the Almighty would be with his people on that day. His example was speedily followed by the whole fleet. Officers and men, all falling on their knees, and turning their eyes to the consecrated banner which floated from the Real, put up a petition like that of their commander. They then received absolution from the priests, of whom there were some in each vessel; and each man, as he rose to his feet, gathered new strength from the assurance that the Lord of Hosts would fight on his side.

When the foremost vessels of the Turks had come within cannon-shot, they opened a fire on the Christians. The firing soon ran along the whole of the Turkish line, and was kept up without interruption as it advanced. Don John gave orders for trumpet and atabal to sound the signal for action; and a simultaneous discharge followed from such of the guns in the combined fleet as could bear on the enemy. Don John had caused the galeazzas to be towed some half a mile ahead of the fleet, where they might intercept the advance of the Turks. As the latter came abreast of them, the huge galleys delivered their broadsides right and left, and their heavy ordnance produced a startling effect. Ali Pasha gave orders for his galleys to open on either side, and pass without engaging these monsters of the deep, of which he had had no experience. Even so their heavy guns did considerable damage to the nearest vessels, and created some confusion in the pasha's line of battle. They were, however, but unwieldy craft, and, having accomplished their object, seem to have taken no further part in the combat. The action began on the left wing of the allies, which Mehemet Siroco was desirous of turning. This had been anticipated by Barberigo, the Venetian admiral, who commanded in that quarter. To prevent it, as we have seen, he lay with his vessels as near the coast as he dared. Siroco, better acquainted with the soundings, saw there was space enough for him to pass, and darting by with all the speed that oars and wind could give him, he succeeded in doubling on his enemy. Thus placed between two fires, the extreme of the Christian left fought at terrible disadvantage. No less than eight galleys went to the bottom. Several more were captured. The brave Barberigo, throwing himself into the heat of the fight, without availing himself of his defensive armor, was pierced in the eye by an arrow, and though reluctant to leave the glory of the field to another, was borne to his cabin. The combat still continued with unabated fury on the part of the Venetians. They fought like men who felt that the war was theirs, and who were animated not only by the thirst for glory, but for revenge.

Far on the Christian right, a manœuvre similar to that so successfully executed by Siroco was attempted by Uluch Ali, the viceroy of Algiers. Profiting by his superiority of numbers, he endeavored to turn the right wing of the confederates. It was in this quarter that Andrew Doria commanded. He also had foreseen this movement of his enemy, and he succeeded in foiling it. It was a trial of skill between the two most accomplished seamen in the Mediterranean. Doria extended his line so far to the right, indeed, to prevent being surrounded, that Don John was obliged to remind him that he left the centre much too exposed. His dispositions were so far unfortunate for himself that his own line was thus weakened and afforded some vulnerable points to his assailant. These were soon detected by the eagle eye of Uluch Ali; and like the king of birds swooping on his prey, he fell on some galleys separated by a considerable interval from their companions, and, sinking more than one, carried off the great Capitana of Malta in triumph as his prize.

While the combat thus opened disastrously to the allies both on the right and on the left, in the centre they may be said to have fought with doubtful fortune. Don John had led his division gallantly forward. But the object on which he was intent was an encounter with Ali Pasha, the foe most worthy of his sword. The Turkish commander had the same combat no less at heart. The galleys of both were easily recognized, not only from their position, but from their superior size and richer decoration. The one, moreover, displayed the holy banner of the League; the other, the great Ottoman standard. This, like the ancient standard of the caliphs, was held sacred in its character. It was covered with texts from the Koran, emblazoned in letters of gold, with the name of Allah inscribed upon it no less than twenty-eight thousand nine hundred times. It was the banner of the Sultan, having passed from father to son since the foundation of the imperial dynasty, and was never seen in the field unless the Grand-Seignior or his lieutenant was there in person.

Both the Christian and the Moslem chief urged on their rowers to the top of their speed. Their galleys soon shot ahead of the rest of the line, driven through the boiling surges as by the force of a tornado, and closing with a shock that made every timber crack, and the two vessels quiver to their very keels. So powerful, indeed, was the impetus they received, that the pasha's galley, which was considerably the larger and loftier of the two, was thrown so far upon its opponent that the prow reached the fourth bench of rowers. As soon as the vessels were disengaged from each other, and those on board had recovered from the shock, the work of death began. Don John's chief strength consisted in some three hundred Spanish arquebusiers, culled from the flower of his infantry. Ali, on the other hand, was provided with the like number of janissaries. He was also followed by a smaller vessel, in which two hundred more were stationed as a corps de réserve. He had, moreover, a hundred archers on board. The bow was still much in use with the Turks, as with the other Moslems.

The pasha opened at once on his enemy a terrible fire of cannon and musketry. It was returned with equal spirit, and much more effect; for the Turkish marksmen were observed to shoot over the heads of their adversaries. Their galley was unprovided with the defences which protected the sides of the Spanish vessels; and the troops, huddled together on their lofty prow, presented an easy mark to their enemies' balls. But though numbers of them fell at every discharge, their places were soon supplied by those in reserve. Their incessant fire, moreover, wasted the strength of the Spaniards; and as both Christian and Mussulman fought with indomitable spirit, it seemed doubtful to which side the victory would incline.

The affair was made more complicated by the entrance of other parties into the conflict. Both Ali and Don John were supported by some of the most valiant captains in their fleets. Next to the Spanish commander, as we have seen, were Colonna and the veteran Veniero, who, at the age of seventy-six, performed feats of arms worthy of a paladin of romance. Thus a little squadron of combatants gathered around the principal leaders, who sometimes found themselves assailed by several enemies at the same time. Still the chiefs did not lose sight of one another, but beating off their inferior foes as well as they could, each refusing to loosen his hold, clung with mortal grasp to his antagonist.

Thus the fight raged along the whole extent of the entrance of the Gulf of Lepanto. If the eye of the spectator could have penetrated the cloud of smoke that enveloped the combatants, and have embraced the whole scene at a glance, he would have beheld them broken up into small detachments, engaged in conflict with one another, wholly independently of the rest, and indeed ignorant of all that was doing in other quarters. The volumes of vapor, rolling heavily over the waters, effectually shut out from sight whatever was passing at any considerable distance, unless when a fresher breeze dispelled the smoke for a moment, or the flashes of the heavy guns threw a transient gleam over the dark canopy of battle. The contest exhibited few of those enlarged combinations and skilful manoeuvres to be expected in a great naval encounter. It was rather an assemblage of petty actions, resembling those on land. The galleys, grappling together, presented a level arena, on which soldier and galley-slave fought hand to hand, and the fate of the engagement was generally decided by boarding. As in most hand-to-hand contests, there was an enormous waste of life. The decks were loaded with corpses, Christian and Moslem lying promiscuously together in the embrace of death. Instances are given where every man on board was slain or wounded. It was a ghastly spectacle, where blood flowed in rivulets down the sides of the vessels, staining the waters of the Gulf for miles around.

It seemed as if some hurricane had swept over the sea, and covered it with the wreck of the noble armaments which a moment before were so proudly riding on its bosom. Little had they now to remind one of their late magnificent array, with their hulls battered and defaced, their masts and spars gone or fearfully splintered by the shot, their canvas cut into shreds and floating wildly on the breeze, while thousands of wounded and drowning men were clinging to the floating fragments, and calling piteously for help. Such was the wild uproar which had succeeded to the Sabbath-like stillness that two hours before had reigned over these beautiful solitudes!

The left wing of the confederates, commanded by Barberigo, had been sorely pressed by the Turks, as we have seen, at the beginning of the fight. Barberigo himself had been mortally wounded. His line had been turned. Several of his galleys had been sunk. But the Venetians gathered courage from despair. By incredible efforts they succeeded in beating off their enemies. They became the assailants in their turn. Sword in hand, they carried one vessel after another. The Capuchin, with uplifted crucifix, was seen to head the attack, and to lead the boarders to the assault. The Christian galley-slaves, in some instances, broke their fetters and joined their countrymen against their masters. Fortunately, the vessel of Mehemet Siroco, the Moslem admiral, was sunk; and though extricated from the water himself, it was only to perish by the sword of his conqueror, Juan Contarini. The Venetian could find no mercy for the Turk.

The fall of their commander gave the final blow to his followers. Without further attempt to prolong the fight, they fled before the avenging swords of the Venetians. Those nearest the land endeavored to escape by running their vessels ashore, where they abandoned them as prizes to the Christians. Yet many of the fugitives, before gaining the shore, perished miserably in the waves. Barberigo, the Venetian admiral, who was still lingering in agony, heard the tidings of the enemy's defeat, and exclaiming, "I die contented," he breathed his last.

Meanwhile the combat had been going forward in the centre between the two commanders-in-chief, Don John and Ali Pasha, whose galleys blazed with an incessant fire of artillery and musketry that enveloped them like "a martyr's robe of flames." Both parties fought with equal spirit, though not with equal fortune. Twice the Spaniards had boarded their enemy, and both times they had been repulsed with loss. Still their superiority in the use of their fire-arms would have given them a decided advantage over their opponents, if the loss thus inflicted had not been speedily repaired by fresh reinforcements. More than once the contest between the two chieftains was interrupted by the arrival of others to take part in the fray. They soon, however, returned to one another, as if unwilling to waste their strength on a meaner enemy. Through the whole engagement both commanders exposed themselves to danger as freely as any common soldier. Even Philip must have admitted that in such a contest it would have been difficult for his brother to find with honor a place of safety. Don John received a wound in the foot. It was a slight one, however, and he would not allow it to be attended to till the action was over.

At length the men were mustered, and a third time the trumpets sounded to the assault. It was more successful than those preceding. The Spaniards threw themselves boldly into the Turkish galley. They were met by the janissaries with the same spirit as before. Ali Pasha led them on. Unfortunately, at this moment he was struck by a musket-ball in the head, and stretched senseless on the gangway. His men fought worthily of their ancient renown. But they missed the accustomed voice of their commander. After a short, but ineffectual struggle against the fiery impetuosity of the Spaniards, they were overpowered and threw down their arms. The decks were loaded with the bodies of the dead and the dying. Beneath these was discovered the Turkish commander-in-chief, sorely wounded, but perhaps not mortally. He was drawn forth by some Castilian soldiers, who, recognizing his person, would at once have despatched him. But the wounded chief, having rallied from the first effects of his blow, had presence of mind enough to divert them from their purpose by pointing out the place below where he had deposited his money and jewels, and they hastened to profit by the disclosure before the treasure should fall into the hands of their comrades.

Ali was not so successful with another soldier, who came up soon after, brandishing his sword, and preparing to plunge it into the body of the prostrate commander. It was in vain that the latter endeavored to turn the ruffian from his purpose. He was a convict,—one of those galley-slaves whom Don John had caused to be unchained from the oar, and furnished with arms. He could not believe that any treasure would be worth so much to him as the head of the pasha. Without further hesitation he dealt him a blow which severed it from his shoulders. Then returning to his galley, he laid the bloody trophy before Don John. But he had miscalculated on his recompense. His commander gazed on it with a look of pity mingled with horror. He may have thought of the generous conduct of Ali to his Christian captives, and have felt that he deserved a better fate. He coldly inquired "of what use such a present could be to him," and then ordered it to be thrown into the sea. Far from being obeyed, it is said the head was stuck on a pike and raised aloft on board the captive galley. At the same time the banner of the Crescent was pulled down, while that of the Cross run up in its place proclaimed the downfall of the pasha.

The sight of the sacred ensign was welcomed by the Christians with a shout of "Victory!" which rose high above the din of battle. The tidings of the death of Ali soon passed from mouth to mouth, giving fresh heart to the confederates, but falling like a knell on the ears of the Moslems. Their confidence was gone. Their fire slackened. Their efforts grew weaker and weaker. They were too far from shore to seek an asylum there, like their comrades on the right. They had no resource but to prolong the combat or to surrender. Most preferred the latter. Many vessels were carried by boarding, others sunk by the victorious Christians. Before four hours had elapsed, the centre, like the right wing of the Moslems, might be said to be annihilated.

Still the fight was lingering on the right of the confederates, where, it will be remembered, Uluch Ali, the Algerine chief, had profited by Doria's error in extending his line so far as greatly to weaken it. His adversary, attacking it on its most vulnerable quarter, had succeeded, as we have seen, in capturing and destroying several vessels, and would have inflicted still heavier losses on his enemy, had it not been for the seasonable succor received from the Marquis of Santa Cruz. This brave officer, who commanded the reserve, had already been of much service to Don John, when the Real was assailed by several Turkish galleys at once, during his combat with Ali Pasha; the Marquis having arrived at this juncture, and beating off the assailants, one of whom he afterwards captured, the commander-in-chief was enabled to resume his engagement with the pasha.

No sooner did Santa Cruz learn the critical situation of Doria, than, supported by Cardona, general of the Sicilian squadron, he pushed forward to his relief. Dashing into the midst of the melée, they fell like a thunderbolt on the Algerine galleys. Few attempted to withstand the shock. But in their haste to avoid it, they were encountered by Doria and his Genoese. Thus beset on all sides, Uluch Ali was compelled to abandon his prizes and provide for his own safety by flight. He cut adrift the Maltese Capitana, which he had lashed to his stern, and on which three hundred corpses attested the desperate character of her defence. As tidings reached him of the discomfiture of the centre and the death of his commander, he felt that nothing remained but to make the best of his way from the fatal scene of action, and save as many of his own ships as he could. And there were no ships in the Turkish fleet superior to his, or manned by men under more perfect discipline; for they were the famous corsairs of the Mediterranean, who had been rocked from infancy on its waters.

Throwing out his signals for retreat, the Algerine was soon to be seen, at the head of his squadron, standing towards the north, under as much canvas as remained to him after the battle, and urged forward through the deep by the whole strength of his oarsmen. Doria and Santa Cruz followed quickly in his wake. But he was borne on the wings of the wind, and soon distanced his pursuers. Don John, having disposed of his own assailants, was coming to the support of Doria, and now joined in the pursuit of the viceroy. A rocky headland, stretching far into the sea, lay in the path of the fugitive, and his enemies hoped to intercept him there. Some few of his vessels stranded on the rocks. But the rest, near forty in number, standing more boldly out to sea, safely doubled the promontory. Then quickening their flight, they gradually faded from the horizon, their white sails, the last thing visible, showing in the distance like a flock of Arctic sea-fowl on their way to their native homes. The confederates explained the inferior sailing of their own galleys by the circumstance of their rowers, who had been allowed to bear arms in the fight, being crippled by their wounds.

The battle had lasted more than four hours. The sky, which had been almost without a cloud through the day, began now to be overcast, and showed signs of a coming storm. Before seeking a place of shelter for himself and his prizes, Don John reconnoitred the scene of action. He met with several vessels in too damaged a state for further service. These mostly belonging to the enemy, after saving what was of any value on board, he ordered to be burnt. He selected the neighboring port of Petala, as affording the most secure and accessible harbor for the night. Before he had arrived there, the tempest began to mutter and darkness was on the water. Yet the darkness rendered the more visible the blazing wrecks, which, sending up streams of fire mingled with showers of sparks, looked like volcanoes on the deep.

Long and loud were the congratulations now paid to the young commander-in-chief by his brave companions in arms, on the success of the day. The hours passed blithely with officers and men, while they recounted one to another their manifold achievements. But feelings of gloom mingled with their gayety, as they gathered tidings of the loss of friends who had bought this victory with their blood.

It was, indeed, a sanguinary battle, surpassing in this particular any sea-fight of modern times. The loss fell much the most heavily on the enemy. There is the usual discrepancy about numbers; but it may be safe to estimate the Turkish loss at about twenty-four thousand slain, and five thousand prisoners. But what gave most joy to the hearts of the conquerors was the liberation of twelve thousand Christian captives, who had been chained to the oar on board the Moslem galleys, and who now came forth with tears streaming down their haggard cheeks, to bless their deliverers.

The loss of the allies was comparatively small,—less than eight thousand. That it was so much less than that of their enemies may be referred in part to their superiority in the use of firearms; in part, also, to their exclusive use of these, instead of employing bows and arrows, weapons much less effective, but on which the Turks, like the other Moslem nations, seem to have greatly relied. Lastly, the Turks were the vanquished party, and in their heavier loss suffered the almost invariable lot of the vanquished.

As to their armada, it may almost be said to have been annihilated. Not more than forty galleys escaped, out of near two hundred and fifty which had entered into the action. One hundred and thirty were taken and divided among the conquerors. The remainder, sunk or burned, were swallowed up by the waves. To counterbalance all this, the confederates are said to have lost not more than fifteen galleys, though a much larger number doubtless were rendered unfit for service. This disparity affords good evidence of the inferiority of the Turks in the construction of their vessels, as well as in the nautical skill required to manage them. A large amount of booty, in the form of gold, jewels, and brocade, was found on board several of the prizes. The galley of the commander-in-chief alone is stated to have contained one hundred and seventy thousand gold sequins,—a large sum, but not large enough, it seems, to buy off his life.

The losses of the combatants cannot be fairly presented without taking into the account the quality as well as the number of the slain. The number of persons of consideration, both Christians and Moslems, who embarked in the expedition, was very great. The roll of slaughter showed that in the race of glory they gave little heed to their personal safety. The officer second in command among the Venetians, the commander-in-chief of the Turkish armament, and the commander of its right wing, all fell in the battle. Many a high-born cavalier closed at Lepanto a long career of honorable service. More than one, on the other hand, dated the commencement of their career from this day. Such was the case with Alexander Farnese, the young prince of Parma. Though somewhat older than his uncle, John of Austria, difference of birth had placed a wide distance in their conditions; the one filling the post of commander-in-chief, the other only that of a private adventurer. Yet even so he succeeded in winning great renown by his achievements. The galley in which he sailed was lying, yard-arm to yard-arm, alongside of a Turkish galley, with which it was hotly engaged. In the midst of the action, the young Farnese sprang on board of the enemy, and with his stout broadsword hewed down all who opposed him, opening a path into which his comrades poured one after another; and after a short, but murderous contest, he succeeded in carrying the vessel. As Farnese's galley lay just astern of Don John's, the latter could witness the achievement of his nephew, which filled him with an admiration he did not affect to conceal. The intrepidity he displayed on this occasion gave augury of his character in later life, when he succeeded his uncle in command, and surpassed him in military renown.

Another youth was in that sea-fight, who, then humble and unknown, was destined one day to win laurels of a purer and more enviable kind than those which grow on the battle-field. This was Cervantes, who, at the age of twenty-four, was serving on board the fleet as a common soldier. He was confined to his bed by a fever; but, notwithstanding the remonstrances of his captain, insisted, on the morning of the action, not only on bearing arms, but on being stationed at the post of danger. And well did he perform his duty there, as was shown by two wounds on the breast, and another in the hand, by which he lost the use of it. Fortunately, it was the left hand. The right yet remained, to record those immortal productions which were to be familiar as household words, not only in his own land, but in every quarter of the civilized world.

A fierce storm of thunder and lightning raged for four-and-twenty hours after the battle, during which the fleet rode safely at anchor in the harbor of Petala. It remained there three days longer. Don John profited by the time to visit the different galleys and ascertain their condition. He informed himself of the conduct of the troops, and was liberal of his praises to those who deserved them. With the sick and the wounded he showed the greatest sympathy, endeavoring to alleviate their sufferings, and furnishing them with whatever his galley contained that could minister to their comfort. With so generous and sympathetic a nature, it is not wonderful that he should have established himself in the hearts of his soldiers.

But the proofs of this kindly temper were not confined to his own followers. Among the prisoners were two sons of Ali, the Turkish commander-in-chief. One was seventeen, the other only thirteen years of age. Thus early had their father desired to initiate them in a profession which, beyond all others, opened the way to eminence in Turkey. They were not on board of his galley, and when they were informed of his death, they were inconsolable. To this sorrow was now to be added the doom of slavery.

As they were led into the presence of Don John, the youths prostrated themselves on the deck of his vessel. But raising them up, he affectionately embraced them. He said all he could to console them under their troubles. He caused them to be treated with the consideration due to their rank. His secretary, Juan de Soto, surrendered his quarters to them. They were provided with the richest apparel that could be found among the spoil. Their table was served with the same delicacies as that of the commander-in-chief; and his gentlemen of the chamber showed the same deference to them as to himself. His kindness did not stop with these acts of chivalrous courtesy. He received a letter from their sister Fatima, containing a touching appeal to Don John's humanity, and soliciting the release of her orphan brothers. He had sent a courier to give their friends in Constantinople the assurance of their personal safety; "which," adds the lady, "is held by all this court as an act of great courtesy,—gran gentilezza; and there is no one here who does not admire the goodness and magnanimity of your Highness." She enforced her petition with a rich present, for which she gracefully apologized, as intended to express her own feelings, though far below his deserts.

The young princes, in the division of the spoil, were assigned to the pope. But Don John succeeded in obtaining their liberation. Unfortunately, the elder died—of a broken heart, it is said—at Naples. The younger was sent home, with three of his attendants, for whom he had an especial regard. Don John declined the present, which he gave to Fatima's brother. In a letter to the Turkish princess, he remarked, that "he had done this, not because he undervalued her beautiful gift, but because it had ever been the habit of his royal ancestors freely to grant favors to those who stood in need of their protection, but not to receive aught by way of recompense."

This work was published before January 1, 1927, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.