The Cretan War of 1645-1671 isn’t a conflict I was familiar with, but it turns out to be a major conflict, triggered by an Ottoman invasion of Crete that saw them fairly easily conquer most of the island but left several key fortresses in Venetian hands, in particular the capital at Candia. The war dragged on for over 25 years, mainly because the defenders of Candia were able to hold out against a series of Ottoman sieges. The conflict also spread to Dalmatian, where both sides had some successes, and included a series of major naval battles, including several at the entrance to the Dardanelles.
One flaw with this book is that we don’t actually have a narrative of the war. There is a chronology but that just gives a bare outline of dates with no context. As a result I still don’t actually have a clear idea of the overall course of the war – how quickly did the Ottomans conquer the island, the general course of the campaigns in Dalmatia etc.
What we get instead are a series of chapters on different aspects of the war. We start with a look at the respective navies and armies, including an analysis of the ships involved. This war came at a time when the galley was slowly being replaced by sailing ships, and there an interesting analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of the two types. There is a look at pre-war Crete, which had been in Venetian hands for centuries, although there appears to have been little enthusiasm for Venetian control on the island. The diplomacy of the war is interesting, with Venice attempting to find allies and gain recruits across all of Christian Europe, with mixed results.
The final two chapters look at particular incidents in the fighting. First is a look at the naval war, which saw the Venetians attempt to impose a blockade on the island, at times coming close to starving the Ottomans into to surrender. This also triggered a series of naval battles outside the Dardanelles, which even saw the Venetians made an attempt to pass through the straits to Constantinople! The final chapter looks at the sieges that dominated the war on Crete, and in particular the series of attacks on Candia, which saw all of the techniques available at the period put to use.
These detailed chapters provide plenty of fascinating material, and give us a good idea of the nature of the fighting during this long war.
1 – Oars, Sails and Soldiers
2 – Venetian Crete
3 – Judith versus Holofernes: Diplomacy and Strategy in the Cretan War
4 – Campo di Marte dell’Europa
5 – War on the Sea
6 – Field Campaigns: Sieges
Author: Bruno Mugnai