The War for Candia previous_inactive 1/1 next

The War for Candia (1645-1669)

The war for Candia  lasted 24 years, from 1645 to 1669, and was markedly different from the 1570-73 war against the Turks. The latter was an epoch-making conflict of empires and civilisations at the height of their powers - in political and military terms Venice was actually the greatest Christian power active in the Levant. The war of Candia, which began in 1644, was instead located in the Mediterranean which had lost its centuries-old supremacy. The interests of the continental powers had moved towards the Atlantic and Northern Europe, and the naval power of the Venetians and the Spaniards was dramatically diminished by piracy.

After 1640, when it became clear that the Turks had set their sights on Candia, Venice mobilised a formidable fleet, which included ships from Malta, the pontifical states, Naples, and Tuscany. By 1645 the Christian fleet totalled 60-70 galleys , 4 galleasses , and about 36 galleons . In the course of 24 years of war the Venetians were generally on the offensive, often achieving stunning victories, including those in the central Aegean in 1651, and the Dardanelles  in 1655 and 1656. Northern winds and the strong currents of the Black Sea, together with the ability of the Turks to organise convoys of reinforcements from Chios , Rhodes, Alexandria and Malvasia  prevented the establishment of a permanent base in the Dardanelles. The attempt to occupy the Turkish base of Chania  in 1666 was unsuccessful.

In the final phase of the war - the spring of 1667 - the Grand Vizier Achmed Koprolu assumed the command of operations against Candia. His adversary was the General Sea Captain  Francesco Morosini who had achieved at the age of 28 the highest title in the navy, after a rapid ascent through the ranks - from 'Sopracomito' ('galley captain' ) to 'Capitano al golfo' ('gulf captain' .

A siege which was to last 28 months began on 22 May. In the assaults sorties that followed, 108,000 Turks and 29,088 Christians lost their lives. These casualties included 280 Venetian noblemen, a figure equivalent to roughly a quarter of the Grand Council .

It is still a mystery why Francesco Morosini made a peace treaty with the Turks on 6 September 1669, without asking authorisation from the Senate , especially since the war situation and international circumstances did not seem to require it, for the Republic's chances then seemed good.

The negotiations for the peaceful surrender of Candia to the Turks allowed Morosini to avoid further losses of troops and equipment. It also meant that he could take treasures from the churches and archives of a 465-year-old administration back home to Venice, and keep for the Serenissima the bases of Suda , Grabusa , and Spinalonga , along with the recently-acquired territories of Dalmatia.

Francesco Morosini, who had become a very controversial figure because of the surrender in 1669, was re-elected General Captain in 1683, when it seemed that Venice had finally arrived at its opportunity for revenge. In the same year Polish and Austrian troops had repelled the Turkish attack on Vienna, and in a renewed spirit of the Crusades, these forces, together with the Pope, invited Venice to join them and subdue the common enemy for good. In Venice the pro-war contingent immediately prevailed, and this anti-Turk coalition was also joined by Russia, an emerging power attempting to open up a route to the Black Sea. In four years Francesco Morosini reconquered all that Venice had lost in Morea  and the Ionian, and in the Serenissima  its dream of its ancient Mediterranean power was revived. After an unsuccessful attack on Negroponte and a serious epidemic that decimated the fleet, Morosini decided to withdraw to Morea, when his popularity was at its peak. He was again elected General Captain, and was honoured with the title of doge  before his death in 1693.

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