Morean War

 La battaglia sotto Calamata - Coronelli Vincenzo - 1687  Patrasso - Coronelli Vincenzo Maria - 1708  Venetian four-zecchini coin commemorating the Treaty of Carlowitz, 1699

Note: La battaglia sotto Calamata – Coronelli Vincenzo – 1687 // Patrasso – Coronelli Vincenzo Maria – 1708 // Venetian four-zecchini coin commemorating the Treaty of Carlowitz, 1699



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Morean War

Morean War
Part of the War of the Holy League
and the Ottoman–Venetian Wars
(15 years)
LocationPeloponnese, southern Epirus, Central Greece, Aegean Sea, Montenegro
Result Venetian victory
Morea ceded to Venice; Venetian gains in inland Dalmatia
 Republic of Venice
Knights of Malta
 Duchy of Savoy
Papal States
Knights of St. Stephen
  Maniots, Himariotes, and other Greek rebels
Montenegrin volunteers
  Morlachs and Croats
 Ottoman Empire
Commanders and leaders
Francesco Morosini
Otto Wilhelm Königsmarck
Girolamo Cornaro
Bajo Pivljanin
Ismail Pasha
Mahmud Pasha
Limberakis Gerakaris

The Morean War (Italian: Guerra di Morea) is the better-known name for the Sixth Ottoman–Venetian War. The war was fought between 1684–1699, as part of the wider conflict known as the "Great Turkish War", between the Republic of Venice and the Ottoman Empire. Military operations ranged from Dalmatia to the Aegean Sea, but the war's major campaign was the Venetian conquest of the Morea (Peloponnese) peninsula in southern Greece. On the Venetian side, the war was fought to avenge the loss of Crete in the Cretan War (1645–1669), while the Ottomans were entangled in their northern frontier against the Habsburgs and were unable to concentrate their forces against the Republic. As such, the Morean War holds the distinction of being the only Ottoman–Venetian conflict from which Venice emerged victorious, gaining significant territory. Venice's expansionist revival would be short-lived however, as its gains would be reversed by the Ottomans in 1715.


Venice had held several islands in the Aegean and the Ionian seas, together with strategically positioned forts along the coast of the Greek mainland since the carving up of the Byzantine Empire after the Fourth Crusade. However, with the rise of the Ottomans, during the 16th and early 17th centuries, the Venetians lost most of these, including Cyprus and Euboea (Negropont) to the Turks. Between 1645 and 1669, the Venetians and the Ottomans fought a long and costly war over the last major Venetian possession in the Aegean, Crete. During this war, the Venetian commander, Francesco Morosini, made contact with the rebellious Maniots. They agrred to conduct a joint campaign in the Morea. In 1659, Morosini landed in the Morea, and together with the Maniots, he took Kalamata. However, he was soon after forced to return to Crete, and the Peloponnesian venture failed.

During the 17th century, the Ottomans remained the premier political and military power in Europe, but signs of decline were evident: the Ottoman economy suffered from the influx of gold and silver from the Americas, an increasingly unbalanced budget and repeated devaluations of the currency, while the traditional timariot cavalry system and the Janissaries, who formed the core of the Ottoman armies, declined in quality and were increasingly replaced by irregular forces that were inferior to the regular European armies. The reform efforts of Sultan Murad IV (r.1623 1640), and the able administration of the Köprülü dynasty of Grand Viziers, whose members governed the Empire from 1656 to 1683, managed to sustain Ottoman power and even enabled it to conquer Crete, but the long and drawn-out war there exhausted Ottoman resources.

As a result of the Polish–Ottoman War (1672–76), the Ottomans secured their last territorial expansion in Europe with the conquest of Podolia, and then tried to expand into Ukrainian territory on the right bank of the Dnieper River, but were held back by the Russians. The Treaty of Bakhchisarai made the river Dnieper the boundary between the Ottoman Empire and Russia.

In 1683, a new war broke out between Austria and the Ottomans, with a large Ottoman army advancing towards Vienna. The Ottoman siege was broken in the Battle of Vienna by the King of Poland, Jan Sobieski. As a result, an anti-Ottoman Holy League was formed at Linz on 5 March 1684 between Emperor Leopold I, Sobieski, and the Doge of Venice, Marcantonio Guistinian. Over the next few years, the Austrians recovered Hungary from Ottoman control, and even captured Belgrade in 1688 and reached as far as Niš and Vidin in the next year. However, the Austrians were now overextended, as well as being embroiled in the Nine Years' War (1688–97) against France. The Ottomans, under another Köprülü Grand Vizier, Fazıl Mustafa Pasha, regained the initiative and pushed the Austrians back, recovering Niš and Vidin in 1690 and launching raids across the Danube. After 1696, however, the tide turned again, with the capture of Azov by the Russians in 1696 followed by a disastrous defeat at the hands of Eugene of Savoy at the battle of Zenta in September 1697. In its aftermath, negotiations began between the warring parties, leading to the signing of the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699.

Venice prepares for war

The Austrians and Poles considered Venetian participation in the war as a useful adjunct to the main operations in Central Europe, as its navy could impede the Ottomans from concentrating their forces by sea and force them to divert forces away from their own fronts. On the Venetian side, the debate in the Senate about joining the war was heated, but in the end the war party prevailed, judging the moment as an excellent and unique opportunity for a revanche. As a result, when news arrived in Venice on 25 April 1684 of the signing of the Holy League, for the first and only time in the Ottoman–Venetian Wars, the Most Serene Republic declared war on the Ottomans, rather than the other way around.

Nevertheless, at the outbreak of the war, the military forces of the Republic were meagre. The long Cretan War had exhausted Venetian resources, and Venetian power was in decline in Italy as well as the Adriatic Sea. While the Venetian navy was a well-maintained force, comprising ten galleasses, thirty men-of-war, and thirty galleys, as well as auxiliary vessels, the army comprised 8,000 not very disciplined regular troops. They were complemented by a numerous and well-equipped militia, but the latter could not be used outside Italy. Revenue was also scarce, at little more than two million sequins a year. However, according to the reports of the English ambassador to the Porte, Lord Chandos, the Ottomans' position was even worse: on land they were reeling from a succession of defeats, so that the Sultan had to double the pay of his troops and resort to forcible conscription. At the same time, the Ottoman navy was described by Chandos as being in a sore state, scarcely able to outfit ten men-of-war for operations. This left the Venetians with an uncontested supremacy at sea, while the Ottomans resorted to using light and fast galleys to evade the Venetian fleet and resupply their fortresses along the coasts. In view of its financial weakness, the Republic determined to bring the war to Ottoman territory, where they could conscript and extract tribute at will, before the Ottomans could recover from the shock and losses incurred at Vienna and reinforce their positions. In addition, Venice received considerable subsidies from Pope Innocent XI, who played a leading role in forming the Holy League and "nearly impoverished the Curia in raising subsidies for the allies".

In January 1684, Morosini, having a distinguished record and great experience of operations in Greece, was chosen as the commander-in-chief of the expeditionary force. Venice increased her forces by enrolling large numbers of mercenaries from Italy and the German states, and raised funds by selling state offices and titles of nobility. Financial and military aid in men and ships was secured from the Knights of Malta, the Duchy of Savoy, the Papal States and the Knights of St. Stephen of Tuscany, and experienced Austrian officers were seconded to the Venetian army. In the Venetian-ruled Ionian Islands, similar measures were undertaken; over 2,000 soldiers, apart from sailors and rowers for the fleet, were recruited. On 10 June 1684, Morosini set sail with a fleet of three galleys, two galleasses, and a few auxiliary vessels. On the way to Corfu he was joined by further four Venetian, five Papal, seven Maltese, and four Tuscan galleys. At Corfu they were united with the local naval and military forces, as well as forces raised by noble Greek families of the Ionian Islands.

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