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The Battle of Lepanto was a naval engagement taking place on 7 October 1571 in which a fleet of the Holy League, a coalition of European Catholic maritime states arranged by Pope Pius V, financed by Habsburg Spain and led by admiral Don John of Austria, inflicted a major defeat on the fleet of the Ottoman Empire in the Gulf of Patras, where the Ottoman forces sailing westwards from their naval station in Lepanto (the Venetian name of ancient Naupactus Íáýðáêôïò, Ottoman İnebahtı) met the fleet of the Holy League sailing east from Messina, Sicily.

In the history of naval warfare, Lepanto marks the last major engagement in the Western world to be fought entirely or almost entirely between rowing vessels, the galleys and galeasses which were still the direct descendants of the ancient trireme warships. The battle was in essence an "infantry battle on floating platforms".[10] It was the largest naval battle in Western history since classical antiquity, involving more than 400 warships. Over the following decades, the increasing importance of the galleon and the line of battle tactic would displace the galley as the major warship of its era, marking the beginning of the "Age of Sail".

The victory of the Holy League is of great importance in the history of Europe and of the Ottoman Empire, marking the turning-point of Ottoman military expansion into the Mediterranean, although the Ottoman wars in Europe would continue for another century. It has long been compared to the Battle of Salamis both for tactical parallels and for its crucial importance in the defense of Europe against imperial expansion.[11] It was also of great symbolic importance in a period when Europe was torn by its own wars of religion following the Protestant Reformation, strengthening the position of Philip II of Spain as the "Most Catholic King" and defender of Christendom against Muslim incursion, although this was mitigated by the defeat of the Spanish Armada by the Royal Navy of England in 1588.[12]

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