Turkish–Venetian War (1714–1718)

From New World Encyclopedia
City plan of Corfu in 1688, depicting its fortifications

The Turkish–Venetian War 1714–1718 was fought between the Republic of Venice and the Ottoman Empire between 1714 and 1718. It was the last conflict between the two powers, and ended with an Ottoman victory and the loss of Venice's major possession in the Greek peninsula, the Peloponnese (Morea). Venice was saved from worse by the intervention of Austria in 1716 (Austro–Turkish War of 1716–18). The Austrian victories led to the signing of the Treaty of Passarowitz in 1718, which ended the war. This was the eighth and last clash that took place between the Venetian Republic and the Ottoman spaces during the long period of European-Ottoman hostility.

Yet, hostility did not always characterize relations between Venice and Turkey; in fact, Venice was a major trading partner with Turkey, maintained outposts across the Muslim world and entered many peace treaties with the Ottomans. While fighting Venice, the Ottomans encouraged and grew their trade with Florence. Without denying that many battles were fought and much blood shed, a balanced historical reconstruction needs to offset the story of battles and wars, including those between Venice and Turkey, alongside episodes when commerce thrived and peace flourished. It is even possible to argue that despite eight wars, Ottoman-Venetian relations were characteristically harmonious, that genuine friendships existed between Turks and Venetians and that coexistence and cooperation was more common than conflict. In an increasingly interdependent and pluralist world, it is necessary to offset the story of battles and wars, including those between Venice and Turkey, with episodes of more friendly, positive and constructive relations between people who have sometimes waged war against each other.


The seven earlier wars between Venice and the Ottomans were:

  1. 1423-30
  2. 1463-79
  3. 1499-1502
  4. 1537-39
  5. 1545-69
  6. 1570-73
  7. 1684-1699

The first military encounter between the Republic of Venice and the Ottomans was fought over possession of Thessaloniki, which was captured by the Ottomans. They had signed a treaty with the Ottomans in 1403 that allowed them to keep their colonies in the Aegean Sea in return for a tribute. The treaty was renewed in 1415. The first war was sparked by the Ottoman occupation of Thessaloniki and ended with another treaty. When the Ottomans conquered Constantinople in 1453, Venice immediately began to negotiate to keep its trading colony there, entering a treaty the following year. The second war started when Venice refused to surrender fortresses on the Aegean coast. This ended in another treaty; Venice surrendered the forts and agreed to pay an annual tribute but retained their right to trade in the Ottoman space. That same year they sent a famous artist to the Sultan on loan, further cementing their friendly relations. The third war was also fought around disputed territories in the Aegean and ended with another treaty. Partly, this war had been caused when the Venetians had refused to give refuge in Cyprus to a storm battered Turkish fleet that was on its way to attack he Mamluks in Egypt.[1] The Venetians enjoyed a very good relationship with Egypt at this time, even protecting their coastline from piracy. Dursteler describes the period from 1503 until the end of the Venetian republic in 1796 and mainly one of peace between Venice and the Ottomans, although four more wars took place. The first (the 4th Venetian-Ottoman War) was entered reluctantly by Venice, having spent "the previous thirty-five years cultivating Ottoman friendship." Some Venetians were even employed in the "Ottoman administration"[2] Venice was recruited into this war by the Holy Roman Empire as an ally in its own wars with the Ottomans. Under their brilliant admiral, Hayreddin Barbarossa the Ottomans won control of the seas. From 1548 until 1569, the Ottomans, having gained a foothold on the island in 1545, besieged Crete's capital. Venice had ruled Crete since 1204. The siege was one of the longest in history. The island fell September 4, 1969. The sixth war saw the Ottomans capture Cyprus. The penultimate war, the seventh, saw Venice regaining much of the territory previously lost in the Morea.

Rehearsing these wars gives the impression of a history of hostility between Venice and the Ottomans. However, throughout the whole period, Venice preferred when possible to use diplomacy to resolve disputes and wanted above all to maintain its trade with the Muslim world. In fact, Venetian trade with the Ottoman world was so important and extensive that Dursteler argues that "coexistence and cooperation" was more common than "dissonance and strife" as a description of their relations.[3] The extensive network of Venetian trading outposts and embassies across Ottoman space makes it possible to speak, he says, of a Venetian nation in Istanbul and beyond. In Istanbul, the Venetians were represented by the Baili and his "famiglia" (servants and officials.} In 1608, there were 34 members of the familgia in Istanbul.[4]

It is too simplistic to reduce conflict between Venice and the Ottomans to some type of Clash of the Civilizations or to a religious clash. When Venice was at war with Turkey, Florence's trade with the Ottoman flourished, so even when the Ottomans were fighting one Christian state they happily traded with another. Although at these times Venetians were expelled from their outposts and embassies and replaced with Florentines, Christians were still welcome commercial partners.[5] Goffman says that the Florentines were granted "indulgent liberties" by the Sultan.[6] Venetians, though, sometimes continued to trade through Jewish merchants even when at war with the Ottomans.[7] The Ottomans had a presence in Venice from 1419.[8] "By 1567, the number of Muslim merchants was notable enough" for the papal nuncio to Venice to suggest that missionary work might be carried out among them.[9] Dursteler describes genuine friendships between Venetians and Muslims and what he calls a "shared intercultural discourse."[10]

The Ottoman empire was an expansionist polity. As long as Venice was a Mediterranean power, armed clash was probably inevitable because Venetian colonies stood in the way of the Ottoman plan to dominate Europe and perhaps the world. Venice was equally determined to protect her trade routes and to maintain mastery of the sea. The immediate background to the eight and last Ottoman-Venetian War were the territorial concessions that the Ottomans had been forced to make several to Austria and Venice, including the Morea peninsula. The Ottomans were determined to reverse these losses, and Venice, as the weaker of the two, was chosen as the first target. The time was judged as ripe in 1714: The Ottomans had just emerged from a successful conflict with Russia and Austria was embroiled in the War of the Spanish Succession.

The Ottoman conquest of the Morea

The Ottomans declared war on December 9, 1714, using some transgressions of Venetian merchants as a pretext. During the early months of 1715, they assembled an army of about 70,000 men in Macedonia under the Grand Vizier Silahdar Damat Ali Pasha. The Grand Vizier marched south, reaching the main camp in Thebes in early June. In the meantime, the Ottoman Fleet, numbering 80 warships under Canum Hoca, had captured the last Venetian possessions in the Aegean, the islands of Tinos and Aigina.[11]

The Venetians, who did not have any standing army and relied mainly on mercenaries, could only muster 8,000 men and 42 mostly small ships, under the command of the Captain General Geronimo Delphino.[12] This force was not only insufficient to meet the Ottoman army in the field, but also inadequate to man the many fortifications that the Venetians had built or enhanced during the past decades. In addition, the local Greek population disliked Venetian rule, something Damad Ali exploited, by ensuring that his troops respected their safety and property. Thus he was able to count on the Greeks' good will, who provided his troops with ample provisions,[13] while the Venetians, who hoped to recruit a militia amongst the native population, were left isolated in their forts.

On June 25, the Ottoman army crossed the Isthmus of Corinth and entered the Peloponnese. The citadel of Acrocorinth, which controlled the passage to the peninsula, surrendered after a brief siege, on terms of safe passage for the garrison and the civilians. However, some Janissaries, eager for plunder, disobeyed Damat Ali's orders and entered the citadel. A large part of the garrison, including the provedditore Giacomo Minoto, and most of the civilians were massacred or sold to slavery. Only 180 Venetians were saved and transported to Corfu.[14] These tragic events later inspired Lord Byron's poem The Siege The Siege of Corinth.[15]

After Corinth, the Ottomans advanced against Nafplion (Napoli di Romagna), the main base of Venetian power in the Morea. Nafplion was well-protected by several strong forts and had a garrison of 2,000 men. However, on July 20, after only 9 days of siege, the Ottomans exploded a mine under the bastions of Palamidi and successfully stormed the fort. The Venetian defenders panicked and retreated, leading to a general collapse of the defense.[16]

The Ottomans then advanced to the southwest, where the forts of Navarino and Koroni were abandoned by the Venetians, who gathered their remaining forces at Methoni (Modon). However, being denied effective support from the sea by Delfino's reluctance to endanger his fleet by engaging the Ottoman navy, the fort capitulated.[17] The remaining Venetian strongholds, including the last remaining outposts on Crete (Spinalonga and Souda), likewise capitulated in exchange for safe departure. Within a hundred days, the entire Peloponnese had been re-taken by the Ottomans.[13]

The Siege of Corfu

Corfu (red).

After their success in the Morea, the Ottomans moved against the Venetian-held Ionian Islands. They occupied the island of Lefkada (Santa Maura), which the Venetians had taken in 1684, and the fort of Butrinto opposite the city of Corfu. On July 8, 1716, an Ottoman army of 33,000 men landed on Corfu, the most important of the Ionian islands.[18] Despite an indecisive naval battle on the same day, the Ottoman land army continued its disembarkation and advanced towards the city of Corfu. On 19 July, after capturing the outlying forts of Mantouki, Garitsa, Avrami and of the Saviour, the siege began.[19] The defense was led by Count Johann Matthias von der Schulenburg, who had roughly 8,000 men at his command. The extensive fortifications and the determination of the defenders withstood several assaults. After a great storm on August 9—which the defenders attributed to the intervention of Corfu's patron saint, Saint Spyridon—caused great casualties among the besiegers, the siege was broken off on August 11, and the last Ottoman forces withdrew on August 20.[19]

Austrian intervention and conclusion of the war

In the meantime, with Pope Clement XI providing financial support and France guaranteeing Austrian possessions in Italy, Austria felt ready to intervene. On April 13, 1716, Emperor Charles VI renewed his alliance with Venice, whereupon the Ottomans declared war on Austria. The Austrian threat forced the Ottomans to direct their forces away from the remaining Venetian possessions, but the Serenissima was too weak to mount any counter-offensive. Only naval actions between the Venetian and Ottoman fleets took place in the Aegean Sea, such as the Action of June 12, 1717, and the Battle of Matapan a month later, but these were generally indecisive and did not affect the outcome of the war. With the Austrian victories at the Battle of Petrovaradin and the Siege of Belgrade, however, the Ottomans were forced to sign the Treaty of Passarowitz, where they lost significant territories to Austria, but maintained their conquests against Venice in the Peloponnese and Crete.


The complex history of Turkish-Venetian relations saw extended periods of peace, including the periods 1481-97, 1503-37, 1540-70 with Venice enjoying profitable and extensive trade within the Ottoman space. Arguably, the Ottomans and the Venetians preferred to negotiate to settle disputes, even though they did fight some ferocious battles. Venice also enjoyed for a long period a cordial relationship with the Mamluks. Venice-Ottoman Confrontations were due on the one hand to the Ottoman's expansionist plans, Ottoman invasion of Europe and on the other hand to Venice's desire to control and protect the sea-routes. Yet, to present the story of Turkish-Venetian relations and encounter as if there was constant hostility and conflict misrepresents reality. By listing all the wars that took place between various Muslim and European powers (identifiably Christian at the time) a case for deep rooted, historical enmity can be constructed. Some even suggest that civilatizational clash, especially Christian-Muslim is inevitable, that deep differences exist between these two spheres, making co-existence and cooperation impossible. On the one hand, much bloodshed and conflict has occurred. Yet, conflict has not always characterized relations; in reality, conflict has been interspersed with what the Spanish call convivencia, era of coexistence and commingling.

Venice was never antagonistic to the world of Islam in the same way that some European nations were, always balancing its interests. When the Pope "from time to time" placed "restrictions on trade with Muslims … the Venetians, eager to assert their independence from papal authority, circumvented the bans by trading surreptitiously through Cyprus and Crete."[20] In fact, "For centuries, the Christian Republic carried on a diplomatic high-wire act, balancing competing allegiances to Muslim rulers and the Catholic Church, essentially doing whatever was necessary to keep commerce as free and unhindered as possible." Here is an example of how trade between different civilizational zones can produce a preference for peace: War disrupts commerce except, of course, for the makers and sellers of weapons. Without trade with the Muslim world, says Covington, "Venice would not have existed."[20]

Venice did not survive very long after this war. By 1792, her merchant fleet was greatly reduced in size and in 1796 Venice fell to Napoleon Bonaparte's army. In 1797, Napoleon ceded Venice to the Austrians, who had long coveted the sea-port. Napoleon re-took Venice in 1805 but after his final defeat in 1814 it reverted to Austria again. In 1866, it became part of the Kingdom of Italy after a war with Austria as part of the process of Italian unification.


  1. Goffman (2002), 141.
  2. Goffman (2002), 145.
  3. Dursteler (2006), 21
  4. Dursteler (2006), 32.
  5. Goffman (2002), 176.
  6. Goffman (2002), 172.
  7. Dursteler (2006), 108.
  8. Dursteler (2006), 169.
  9. Dursteler (2006), 170.
  10. Dursteler (2006), 173-174.
  11. Finlay (2005), 264.
  12. Finlay. 2005. page 265.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Stavrianos and Stoianovich (2002), 181.
  14. Finlay (2005), 266-268.
  15. George Gordon Byron, The Siege of Corinth, Ready to Go Books. Retrieved February 22, 2009.
  16. Finlay (2005), 270-271.
  17. Finlay (2005), 272-274.
  18. Norwich (1982), 579.
  19. 19.0 19.1 ConfuWeb, The history of Corfu. Retrieved February 22, 2009.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Richard Covington, East Meets West in Venice, Saudi Aramco World (March, April): 2-13. Retrieved February 22, 2009.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Dursteler, Eric. 2006. Venetians in Constantinople: Nation, Identity, and Coexistence in the Early Modern Mediterranean. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 9780801883248.
  • Finlay, George. 2005. The History of Greece under Othoman and Venetian Domination. Elibron Classics series. Boston, MA: Adamant Media Corp. ISBN 9781402172137.
  • Goffman, Daniel. 2002. The Ottoman Empire and Early Modern Europe. New Approaches to European History, 24. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521452809.
  • Norwich, John Julius. 1982. A History of Venice. New York, NY: Knopf. ISBN 9780394524108.
  • Setton, Kenneth Meyer. 1991. Venice, Austria, and the Turks in the Seventeenth Century. Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society, v. 192. Philadelphia, PA: American Philosophical Society. ISBN 9780871691927.
  • Stavrianos, L.S., and Traian Stoianovich. 2002. The Balkans Since 1453. London, UK: Hurst. ISBN 9781850655503.


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