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Conflict between East and West

The climax of tension in the Mediterranean in the 1560s

The Ottoman expansion to the west followed a steady pace throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. Constantinople 1453, Euboea 1471, Methoni and Koroni 1499, Rhodes 1522. Until the middle of the 16th century the Ottomans had established their presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. At the same time, through the practice of adding to their naval force renowned corsaires, such as Hayredding Barbarossa, they managed to subdue large part of the Western Mediterranean, particularly along the coasts of N. Africa. The naval battle of Preveza in 1538 defined the status quo in the Mediterranean for about three more decades, offering the victory to the Ottomans who pushed the western powers to the Adriatic sea. Some islands remained within western hands. Among them, Malta, see of the Kinghts of St. John, was besieged by the fleet of Suleyman the Magnificent led by the kapudan Pasha Piyale Pasha, but in vain: the long siege had to be abandoned in the end and Piyale Pasha Reis returned to Istanbul with the proverbial (albeit probably fictitious) “Malta yok”, i.e. Malta doesn't exist. On the contrary, the attempt of Suleyman's successor, Selim II to conquer the Venetian-occupied Cyprus, was successful, thus erasing the last spark of Latin occupation in the easternmost regions of the Mediterranean. Despite the nickname “the Sot” given to Selim II, he was a perspicuous Sultan not without strategic competencies. Even if he didn't lead the campaigns himself, preferring debaucheries in the palace, he know how to design them. The siege and subsequent conquest of Cyprus worried the Western powers, particularly Pope Pius V, who realized that they had to reverse the situation.