Ottoman-Venetian War Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The war between Venice and the Ottoman Empire established the Ottomans as a naval power and saw Venetian hegemony in the eastern Mediterranean replaced by Ottoman hegemony.

Summary of Event

Ottoman Ottoman Empire;western expansion sultan Mehmed II, nicknamed Fatih (the Conqueror), is primarily remembered for conquering Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453 and for extinguishing the twelve-hundred-year-old Byzantine Empire. Yet these events occurred very early in the sultan’s reign, and it is often forgotten that in the remaining twenty-eight years he engaged in strenuous campaigning and achieved the extensive conquests that he bequeathed to his successors. Ottoman-Venetian War (1463-1479)[Ottoman Venetian War (1463-1479)] Mehmed II Mocenigo, Pietro Mocenigo, Giovanni Uzun Ḥasan Pius II Hunyadi, János Mehmed II Hunyadi, János Vlad III the Impaler Matthias I Corvinus Pius II Iskander Beg (Albanian chieftain) Mocenigo, Pietro Uzun Ḥasan Stephen the Great Mocenigo, Giovanni

In accord with Ottoman tradition, Mehmed saw himself as the quintessential gazi (fighter for the faith of Islam), waging jihad (holy warfare) against non-Muslims, but after 1453, he also claimed to be the heir to the Byzantine Empire, including all of its former territories. His ambition appears to have been to incorporate into his empire all the Balkan lands south of the Danube. Thus, he seized the islands in the northern Aegean, expelled the Florentine dukes of Athens, overran the Byzantine Despotate of the Morea (Peloponnese, Greece) in 1460, and the principality of Trebizond (Trabzon, Turkey) in 1461. By that time, he had already eliminated the vassal-principality of Serbia, which he converted into an Ottoman province in 1459. However, Belgrade, which the sultan had endeavored to take in 1456, remained in Christian hands, thanks to the heroic defense mounted by the Hungarian regent, János Hunyadi.

In 1461, the voyevod of Walachia Walachia;Ottoman Empire and , Vlad III (r. 1456-1462 and 1476), nicknamed Tepeş, “the Impaler,” and the historical progenitor of the fictional Count Dracula, crossed the Danube, captured Vidin, and raided into Ottoman territory, burning villages and massacring the sultan’s subjects. Mehmed retaliated in 1462 and ravaged much of Walachia, causing Vlad to flee to Transylvania, where he was eventually imprisoned by King Matthias I Corvinus of Hungary (r. 1458-1490), János Hunyadi’s son. Mehmed installed Vlad’s younger brother, Radu, a former hostage at the sultan’s court, as voyevod (1462-1475) in return for annual tribute. Meanwhile, in the western Balkans, the Ottomans moved into southern and central Bosnia in 1463 and completed the conquest of Albania between 1464 and 1479.

The Venetian Republic Venice, Republic of , although granted favorable trading privileges by Mehmed in 1454, observed with ever-increasing apprehension the Ottoman encroachment on Bosnia and Albania—traditionally Venetian spheres of influence—and the growing Ottoman presence in the Adriatic. At this time, Venice was the greatest Christian power in the eastern Mediterranean. It commanded the finest navy in the world outside China, maintained a sophisticated diplomacy rooted in excellent intelligence-gathering, and enjoyed great commercial wealth.

Hitherto, Venetian dominance of the Adriatic had gone unchallenged, as had the republic’s control of the Ionian and Aegean Seas. Venice ruled numerous ports on the mainland and many islands as well, including Crete, its most valuable possession. Mehmed II’s capture of Constantinople and the seemingly inexorable growth in his territorial ambitions were a threat to Venice’s survival. Constantinople, fall of (1453) Even Italy was attracting his attention: It was said that Mehmed intended to stable his horses in St. Peter’s in Rome, and the great fleet he was known to be building rendered this far more than just an idle threat. The republic decided that it must make a preemptive strike. In September, 1463, Venice retook the Morea and several Aegean islands from the Ottomans, asserting its control of the region.

Venice’s military actions were preceded by vigorous diplomacy, for the republic had no intention of acting alone. The Muslim threat posed by Mehmed was directed not only at Venice, but at all Christendom, and the Venetians found an enthusiastic champion in Pope Pius II, who called eloquently, although ineffectively, for a crusade. In Hungary Hungary;Ottoman Empire and , however, Venice found the ally it sought, and on September 12, 1463, a treaty of mutual aggression against the Ottomans was signed between them. If all went well in the ensuing struggle, Venice would retain the Morea and regain its losses in the Adriatic and the Aegean; Hungary would exercise hegemony over Bosnia, Serbia, Walachia, and Bulgaria; and a Byzantine prince would be restored to Constantinople. In addition, Venice planned to send envoys and firearms to the Ottomans’ Muslim foes, the rulers of Karaman in central Anatolia, and the Ak Koyunlu Turkomans Ak Koyunlu Dynasty in western Iran.

Following its preemptive occupation of the Morea in September, 1463, Venice proceeded to blockade the entrance to the Dardanelles, seizing the adjacent islands of Lesbos and Tenedos. Mehmed was quick to react: Two fortresses were constructed at Çanakkale to bar the entrance to the Dardanelles, while on the Bosporus, opposite Rumeli Hisari, another was constructed on the Anatolian shore. Moreover, the sultan’s navy had grown to the point where it would soon rival that of Venice.

As his fleet grew, Mehmed’s ability to take the initiative increased. His forces reconquered much of the Morea in 1467. When Iskander Beg, Albanian chieftain and ally of the Venetians, died in January of 1468, the Ottomans were able to annex virtually all of Albania and to advance against the inland Venetian city of Scutari (ShkodËr), although a heroic defense compelled the Turks to withdraw in 1474. Meanwhile, exasperated by Venetian raids on the coasts of the Aegean and southern Anatolia, Mehmed, in June, 1470, launched a massive expedition, said to number four hundred ships, against the hapless island of Negroponte (Euboea, Greece), which was the fulcrum of Venetian power in the Aegean. Despite this disaster, the Venetians rejected a peace offer in the following year, anticipating that events in Anatolia would force the sultan to turn eastward.

Mehmed had already campaigned against Karaman in 1468 and 1469. In 1471 and 1472, Ottoman forces again marched into Karaman, bringing them into direct conflict with the Ak Koyunlu. To assist the latter, the Venetian fleet, under its heroic captain-general, Pietro Mocenigo, raided Izmir and Antalya (summer, 1472) and provided firearms, munitions, and some trained personnel for the Ak Koyunlu.

The next year, Ottomans and Ak Koyunlu fought a decisive battle at Başkent Başkent, Battle of (1473)[Baskent, Battle of (1473)] on the upper Euphrates (August 11, 1473), forcing the Ak Koyunlu ruler, Uzun Ḥasan, to withdraw permanently into western Iran, allowing Mehmed to concentrate on crushing his Christian enemies in the west.

Between 1460 and 1476, Mehmed had been embroiled with Stephen the Great, voyevod of Moldavia Moldavia (r. 1457-1504). The threat posed by Moldavia was eventually neutralized, however, by Mehmed’s conquest of Genoa’s remaining Black Sea colonies and by the submission in 1475 of the khan of the Crimea, who henceforth proved a useful Ottoman auxiliary. In 1476, a feint by King Matthias toward Semendria, east of Belgrade on the Danube, brought Mehmed into Serbia again, where he beat off the Hungarians and raided across the frontier, before turning west again to harass northern Albania, taking Montenegro and Herzegovina, and raiding Croatia and Dalmatia. The Venetians hung on grimly to Scutari, but Ottoman raiding columns now swept through Istria and Friuli, and it was said that the fires of the burning villages could be seen from the top of the campanile of St. Mark’.

The Venetians had no alternative but to sue for peace. The newly elected doge, Giovanni Mocenigo, negotiated a treaty to end the seventeen-year-old war. The treaty was signed in Constantinople on January 25, 1479. Venice was forced to hand over Scutari, although it temporarily retained an enclave around Durazzo (DurrËs). The Aegean, its islands and coasts, were now incorporated into the Ottoman Empire, although Venice kept the northern Sporades, the Venetian dukes of Naxos survived in the Cyclades, and Genoa kept Chios. In the Morea, Venice retained its great base in Modon (Methoni) on the southwest coast. In return for these concessions, the Venetians had to pay the sultan an annual tribute of ten thousand ducats, but Venice’s trading privileges were restored and a Venetian consular representative (bailo) was to reside in Constantinople. The terms might have been harsher.

Mehmed was not finished with Italy, however. In 1479, he occupied the Ionian islands—Ithaca, Cephalonia, Zante, and Leucas—and in 1480, an Ottoman fleet seized Otranto in Apulia, establishing there a base for an advance on Rome. Delays followed as reinforcements were assembled. Finally, the expedition was canceled and Otranto evacuated at the news of Mehmed’s death on May 3, 1481.


The war of 1463-1479 was neither the first nor the last conflict between Venice and the Ottoman Turks, but for Venice it marked a turning point, although Venetians at the time appear not to have realized it. Thereafter, Venice was no longer, as it had been since 1204, mistress of the eastern Mediterranean. In contrast, for the Ottomans, their new navy allowed them to dominate the Aegean and the Black Sea and began the process whereby, a century later, the Mediterranean would become essentially a Turkish domain.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Babinger, Franz. Mehmed the Conqueror and His Time. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1978. The definitive study of the sultan’s reign.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Brummett, Palmira J. Ottoman Seapower and Levantine Diplomacy in the Age of Discovery. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994. An important study of naval strategy, an aspect of Ottoman expansion frequently neglected.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Crouzet-Pavan, Elisabeth. Venice Triumphant: The Horizons of a Myth. Translated by Lydia G. Cochrane. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002. A history of Venice from Roman times through the sixteenth century, focusing on the physical environment of the city and the effects of geography and space upon Venetian daily life, politics, and history. Includes photographic plates, illustrations, maps, chronology, glossary, bibliography, and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Imber, Colin. The Ottoman Empire, 1300-1650. New York: Palgrave, 2002. Important survey of the classical phase of Ottoman history.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Inalcik, Halil. The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age, 1300-1600. New York: Praeger, 1973. The best account of the early empire.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kafadar, C. Between Two Worlds: The Construction of the Ottoman State. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995. An extraordinarily perceptive and informative study of the way in which historiography and ideology came together to shape Ottoman imperialism.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">McCarthy, Justin. The Ottoman Turks: An Introductory History to 1923. New York: Longman, 1997. The most accessible account of the Ottoman Turks, the formation of their empire, and its decline.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Morris, Jan. The Venetian Empire. London: Penguin Books, 1990. A scholarly traveler explores Venice’s former colonies.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Norwich, John Julius. A History of Venice. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982. A first-rate popular narrative.

1454-1481: Rise of the Ottoman Empire

1469-1508: Ak Koyunlu Dynasty Controls Iraq and Northern Iran

1478-1482: Albanian-Turkish Wars End

16th cent.: Evolution of the Galleon

1512-1520: Reign of Selim I

1520-1566: Reign of Süleyman

1536: Turkish Capitulations Begin

July, 1570-Aug., 1571: Siege of Famagusta and Fall of Cyprus

Oct. 7, 1571: Battle of Lepanto

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