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Victory of the West: The Great Christian-Muslim Clash at the Battle of Lepanto Paperback – April 8, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Capponi, a highly regarded Italian Renaissance scholar with a focus on military history lives up to his reputation in his first major U.S. publication. The battle of Lepanto, fought in 1571, was both one of history's significant naval engagements and a watershed in the long war between Christians and Muslims. To pierce its penumbra of myths and legends, Capponi returns to the original archival and printed sources to construct this fresh, multilayered analysis. On one level Lepanto was a victory for the Western technology that would decide so many battles in the next four centuries. The Christian fleet made better use of gunpowder weapons and had a trump card in their galleasses—galleys converted into gunships, whose heavy artillery allowed Christian seamen to prevent the Ottomans from utilizing their superiority in boarding tactics. Lepanto was also a psychological victory: a ramshackle alliance of Christian states thrashed an Ottoman Empire at the peak of its power and confidence, preventing the Ottomans from dominating the Mediterranean as before. The unexpected outcome sharpened the still-enduring struggle between Christianity and Islam, making it correspondingly difficult for the Muslim world to accept the West taking an increasing lead in military, scientific and economic matters. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

By the middle of the sixteenth century, Islam, under the banner of the Ottoman Turks, was ascendant in North Africa, Asia Minor, and most of the eastern Mediterranean. With their powerful navy as a springboard, the Turks were poised to advance further west. On October 7, 1571, the Ottoman fleet met a combined Christian fleet called the Holy League off the coast of mainland Greece. The daylong battle resulted in an overwhelming defeat of the Ottomans, the first significant defeat of Ottoman forces by Europeans, which shattered the aura of invincibility that had surrounded them. Some historians have suggested the event was the beginning of the long decline that led to the Ottoman Empire being designated as the "sick man of Europe." Capponi, a military and Renaissance historian, tells about this seminal battle with great attention to detail as well as superb insight into the cultural differences between the adversaries. He makes effective use of primary sources, including Miguel de Cervantes, who was wounded in the battle; the result is an absorbing and even thrilling account. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (April 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306816180
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306816185
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,190,753 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Marco Morin on August 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An excellent book that from now on (but just until I'll write my own narration of Lepanto ....) will be the unquestionable reference work on the subject. Almost one hundred years ago Alethea Wiel, in The Navy of Venice (London, 1910) wrote: "They (the six Venetian Galleasses positioned in front of the Christian fleet) bore so distinguished and important a part in the crushing defeat of the Turks at Lepanto as to have, it is said, secured the victory to Venice and her allies." This in one of the various points that Niccolò Capponi, leading Italian military historian, probed and researched in depth providing full evidence of what really happened the 7th of October 1571. Many errors, constantly repeated since the times of Jurien de la Gravière (and perhaps earlier) by almost all the authors, have been so eradicated with the help of an opulent amount of newly discovered archival documents.

Some inaccuracies: at page 187 the moschetto, a small piece of artillery was named after a bird, a special kind of falcon; at page 192 Antonio (and not Arturo) Surian, called the Armenian, was a very well known inventor and not a Master Gunner. This is all I have been able to discover so far but, being green with envy, I am sure that reading the book again I'll be able to uncover other crucial blunders of the same magnitude.

Summing up: a virtually flawless, superior level academic work that can be read with absolute ease and pleasure.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By C. A. Temm on August 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
For many Westerners, history is something that happened last year and this deliberate ignorance of the past gives rise to many false beliefs today. Chief among them would be the belief in the West that we have always been aggressors in the Levant and Islam is simply now fighting back. Even a cursury examination of history reveals the dangerous falsehood in that belief.

Niccolo Capponi's book on the Battle of Curzolaris (AKA Lepanto to many Americans)is well worth the time to read. Though he breaks no real new ground, his detail and love of subject (pre 16th century Med cultures, esp. Italy)shows. Copiously end noted with many charts comparing manpower, ships, armaments, losses etc (about 20% of the book), the book puts together an engrossing story of a world at war.

From the pre League political climate and the earlier attempts to forge a concerted Christian force to battle the Ottomans as they ravaged the shores of Europe, Mr. Capponi's book does an admirable job of illustrating the problems and weaknesses of Christian Europe at this time. He notes how the new Pope, Pius V would be the mover and true shaker of the enterprise. to do so, he had to overcome a relucant Spain, many suspicious Italian states, the crusading orders of St Stephen and Hospitallers, the machinations of France trying to aid its Ottoman allies(!), and everyone's suspicions of Venice. By devious use of subsidies and reminders of religious duty, Pius finally cobbles together his League.

Ironically it would be the Ottoman capture of Famagusta(Cyprus), a Venetian possession and the treatment of the garrison and inhabitants that would cause a creaky alliance to tun into a avenging force that went on to destroy the bulk of the Ottoman fleet.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bettie Gage Lippitt on March 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Niccolò Capponi has written a fascinating and detailed history of Europe and the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century and the fractious relationships between the European states,the Venetian Republic,and the Papacy. Often more suspicious of each other than of the Turks, they finally merged into a shaky Christian coalition which faced down the Sultan's navy at the battle of Lepanto. Although full of historical and military detail, "Victory of the West" is a very readable book, laced with humor and compassion, and much attention to good storytelling. When the two naval forces finally face each other, I guarantee you won't be able to put the book down until the finish!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By David Mastro on October 19, 2009
Format: Paperback
Niccolo Capponi's "Victory of the West" is a very useful and enjoyable text overall (the info on Mediterranean maritime culture and naval ordnance being especially interesting), but I was genuinely staggered at the end of the book, when the author declared in the Epilogue that, "The Europeans had realized that they could not win in a sword fight with the Ottomans and that in the long run it was not worth trying". Capponi was referring to the Holy League's emphasis on heavy artillery and arquebuses at Lepanto, but, given that the Turks had more ships than the Christians to begin with, the advantage in gunpowder weapons should be viewed more as an equalizer, than anything else. Also, the final arbitrating factor in any all-out galley fight was always hand-to-hand combat; given this, Capponi's declaration sounds downright ludicrous. The European Christians of that time had a very rich martial tradition concerning the use of single-handed swords, two-handed swords, pikes, half-pikes, halberds, partisans, etc., as even a cursory examination of the manuals by Achille Marozzo, Angelo Viggiani, Giacomo di Grassi, and other contemporary fencing masters quickly reveals. The HTH skills of the Spanish, Italians, and other Europeans were certainly respected by the Ottomans. There is also a distinct sense of irony in Capponi's assertion, considering that earlier in his book, he described how the Venetian captain Antonio de Canal "was busy clearing the enemy decks with a two-handed sword".

In addition to the above, I also personally feel that John F. Guilmartin has given better explanations for the demise of the Ottoman Navy, in both his classic text, "Gunpowder and Galleys", and his more recent book, "Galleons and Galleys".
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