Ottoman-Venetian War (1645-1669)


1618 engraving by Francesco Basilicata: 1) Castel Vecchio, the oldest part of the Venetian town; 2) Bastione Sabbionara; 3) Bastione Schiavo; 4) Bastione S. Salvatore; 5) 1477 round tower; 6) shipyards

In 1645 a Turkish fleet landed an invasion force in Western Crete which progressively took over the entire island except for Heraklion, which was first invested in May of 1648. The siege continued for the next 21 years before being pressed to completion. In 1667 a Venetian military engineer Colonel Andrea Barozzi defected to the Turks and described to them the weak spots in the town’s defences especially where they met the coast at St. Andrew’s Bastion on the west and the Sabbionara Bastion to the east. [View north from the Pantocrator Bastion.] A further blow came in 1669, when a French expedition failed to lift the siege and lost the fleet’s vice-flagship in an accidental explosion. Following these setbacks the French abandoned Candia leaving General Francesco Morosini with a much reduced garrison and limited supplies. He surrendered the town on September 27th. 1669. The Turks repaired the town’s defences but added few further improvements as the place became something of a provincial backwater. The walls were seriously damaged by German bombardments during the Second World War but have since, especially in the last fifteen years, been heavily restored.

An intermittent conflict spanning 24 years. It was sparked by a diplomatic row over interception of Ottoman high officials by Malta-based warships in late 1644. The Maltese were allowed to use Venetian facilities on Crete, which provoked the Sublime Porte to war with Venice (an ancient enemy). The more fundamental and persistent quarrel was over competition for control of the rich trades of the eastern Mediterranean. The conflict saw extensive fighting at sea, including several galley actions. Land combat occurred on various Mediterranean and Aegean islands, and along the coast of Dalmatia, where Venetian-hired mercenaries faced off against Ottoman regulars. The most important combined ground and naval fighting concerned control of Crete. An Ottoman invasion fleet arrived off the island in mid-1645. Janissaries and other crack Ottoman troops quickly secured several harbors and much of the country, taking Hanya (Xania) in August and Rethymnon in January 1646. There followed a three-year siege of the main Venetian garrison at Candia (Heraklion), prolonged by Venetian naval superiority and ability to resupply Crete via the water.

During the siege, some Ortas of the Janissary Corps were foolishly left by their commander in the trenches while other units were given home leave. That inequity led to a predictable mutiny in late summer 1649, and to the end of the siege in September. The Ottoman Navy continued to intermittently blockade Crete after that. Venice sought to retaliate by bombardments and naval raids along the Greek and Anatolian coasts of the Ottoman Empire. Those actions led to victories by Admiral Francisco Morosini (1618-1694) over Ottoman galley fleets that sallied out in 1651 and 1656. However, the sultan’s rich war chest permitted his Navy to rebuild and modernize, whereas Venice’s limited financial resources as well as acute mercantile self-interest and awareness recommended a settlement. Another three-year siege of Candia ensued from 1666 to 1669, the last phase conducted personally by Grand Vezier Köprülü Ahmed Fazil. In a peace treaty agreed at Candia, Venice surrendered Crete to the Sublime Porte in exchange for concessions in Dalmatia. Just two small fortified islands, and a third unfortified island, remained in Venetian hands. The fight over Crete resumed 15 years later when Venice joined the anti-Ottoman “Sacra Liga” during the ongoing First Austro-Ottoman War (1683-1699). Given Venice’s continuing naval and financial decline, its last small islands in the eastern Mediterranean were lost to the Ottomans as a result of participation in the second Austro-Ottoman War (1715-1718).

Siege of Candia, (1666-1669)

An Ottoman siege of Candia, on Crete, was conducted from 1646-1649. Ottoman troops then remained on the island during the duration of the Ottoman-Venetian War (1645-1669). A second, formal siege, including a naval blockade of the island, began in 1666. Venetian admiral Fancisco Morosini (1618-1694) broke through the Ottoman blockade in 1667 to take command of the defenses. The final phase of the attack on Candia in 1669 was conducted personally by Grand Vezier Köprülü Ahmed Fazil. The Ottomans slowly established a naval stranglehold on the island, blocking most reinforcements and supplies. During the final phase of the siege, Venetian defenders spent six months devising and laying out a massive countermine, but they were unable to make it detonate. After that failure and the withdrawal of a French contingent by Louis XIV, and given the renewed effort by a highly aggressive grand vezier, the garrison surrendered. The fall of Candia gave all Crete to the Ottomans, except for three small and nearby islands, and marked the permanent decline of Venice as a major sea power in the eastern Mediterranean.

Köprülü Ahmed Fazil (1635-1676)

Grand vezier at 26, in direct succession following his father Köprülü Mehmed Pasha, holding office from 1661-1676. He was as ruthless as his father but far more debauched. Like his father, he began his term by exterminating in a bloody purge all political opposition he could identify, including some courtiers who had supported his father and his own succession. Köprülü Ahmed Fazil also continued his father’s policy of full-bore aggression into Hungary and other Habsburg lands. His offensive into Hungary was stopped by Montecuccoli at St. Gotthard (August 1, 1664), but nevertheless resulted in a treaty favorable to the Ottomans, the Peace of Vasvar, signed nine days later. Unlike his father, Köprülü Ahmed Fazil successfully completed the Ottoman-Venetian War (1645-1669), traveling personally to Crete to conduct the final phase of the siege of Candia (1666-1669). He then opened a new front and war against Poland, the Ottoman-Polish War (1672-1676). His ambitions were repeatedly frustrated by the superior generalship of Jan Sobieski: he lost badly at Chocim in November 1673, and again at Lwow (Lvov) in 1675, despite having superior numbers in each case. He died at the start of the 1676 campaign, and his plans and army were defeated yet again later in the year at Zuravno.

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