Lepanto (mod. Gr. Epacto).
I. A Seaport Town Of Greece, in the nomarchy of Acarna-nia, capital of the eparchy of Naupactus, on the N. coast of the gulf of the same name, 12 m. N. by E. of Patras; pop. about 3,000. It is built on a hill and commanded by a castle, and is the seat of a Greek archbishop. The neighboring country produces grain, rice, wine, tobacco, and olive oil, and leather is manufactured and exported. The name of the place in antiquity was Naupactus, when it was a strongly fortified town of the Ozolian Locri, and renowned for its harbor. The Athenians, who became masters of it after the Persian wars, made it their headquarters in western Greece during the Peloponnesian war. Philip of Macedon assigned it to the .AEtolians, but the Romans restored it to Locris. In the middle ages Lepanto was long in possession of the Venetians, by whom it was fortified, and under whom it sustained a siege by the Turks in 1477 which lasted four months, when the besiegers withdrew with the loss of 30,000 men. It was ceded to the Turks in 1697.
II. Gulf Of, also called gulf of Corinth, between the N. coast of the Morea or Peloponnesus and the mainland of Greece, about 75 m. long from E. to W. At its W. end is the gulf of Patras, which is connected with it by a strait somewhat more than a mile in width, called the strait of Lepanto, and sometimes the Little Dardanelles. Toward the middle the gulf of Lepanto attains the width of about 16 m. It is surrounded by lofty and picturesque mountains. This gulf was the scene of one of the most important naval battles ever fought. In 1571 war existed between the Turkish sultan Selim II. and Philip II. of Spain, Pope Pius V., and the Venetian republic. The three Christian powers fitted out a great armada, of which the command was given to Don John of Austria, natural son of the emperor Charles V., then about 24 years old. The allied fleet assembled at Messina in Sicily; it consisted of 300 vessels, of which 200 were "royal galleys" of large size, manned by 50,000 seamen, and 20,-000 Spanish and 9,000 Italian soldiers, comprising many cavaliers of rank and distinction.
On Sept. 16 this formidable armament sailed from Messina, and at sunrise on Sunday, Oct. 7, 1571, reached the entrance of the gulf of Lepanto, where they came in sight of the Turkish fleet, consisting of 250 royal galleys of the largest size, besides many smaller vessels, the whole carrying 120,000 men. The Christian fleet extended on a front of three miles, the right commanded by the Genoese admiral Doria, the left wing by the Venetian admiral Barbarigo, and the centre by Don John in person, supported on the one side by Colonna, the papal captain general, and on the other by the Venetian captain general Sebastian Veneiro. The centre of the Turkish fleet was commanded by Ali Pasha, the right wing by Mohammed Sirocco, the viceroy of Egypt, and the left by Ulutch Ali, dey of Algiers. The last two were commanders of great experience and reputation. Before the battle began Don John embarked in a light galley and passed rapidly through his fleet, saying to his followers: "You have come to fight the battle of the cross - to conquer or to die. But whether you are to die or conquer, do your duty this day, and you will secure a glorious immortality." The action began about noon, and lasted more than four hours.
It resulted in the total defeat of the Turks, of whose entire fleet not more than 46 galleys escaped, while 130 were taken and 80 burned or sunk. Their loss in men was about 25,000 killed and 5,000 prisoners. . More than 12,000 Christian captives who had been chained to the oars on the Turkish galleys were also set free. Ali Pasha, the Turkish commander-in-chief, was killed. The loss of the allies was 1,000 Romans, 2,000 Spaniards, and 4,600 Venetians. Among the Spaniards engaged in the battle was Cervantes, the future author of " Don Quixote," serving as a common soldier. This victory caused a profound sensation throughout Christendom, as it was the first effective blow given to the power of the Turks, who had hitherto been thought invincible by sea. The pope on hearing the tidings burst into tears, exclaiming: " There was a man sent from God, and his name was John." The Turks themselves were so disheartened by this defeat, that the decline of their power dates from the battle of Lepanto. Prescott's " History of the Reign of Philip I. of Spain " contains a masterly description of the battle.