Naval War in the Mediterranean
In my judgment the troopers are right who say that you should never fire your arquebus until you are near enough to be splashed with the blood of your enemy; and I have always heard the most experienced sea-captains say that the crashing of a ship's iron beak and the first report of her guns should be heard at the same moment, and I think so too. But your people should be taught not to be considering the enemy, or who is to fire first or lasi, but to fire when Your Highness gives the word, and only then.
Don Garcia de Toledo, quoted in Charles Petrie, Don John of Austria ( New York: 1967), p. 153. Don Garcia wrote this letter on galley tactics shortly before the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.
The war between Christendom and the Islamic world had been fought in the eastern Mediterranean Sea from virtually the first appearance of Islam, but it reached its height in the mid-sixteenth century. Both emperors, Charles V and Suleiman, committed more and more resources to the naval war until it eventually overshadowed their conflict on land.
Through the Middle Ages war in the Mediterranean continued to be a matter for galleys. Unlike the ancient Greek galleys, late medieval fleets ranged across the entire sea. The large crew aboard a galley was not a great drawback, since numerous stops could be made during a voyage. The north-south distance across the sea is relatively short, and a galley could make it without straining its crew and provisions. The east-west distance is obviously far greater, but the many land features in the Mediterranean meant that the trip could be made in several legs. While a typical war galley had serious problems in the Atlantic, there was little reason for one to venture out into its rough waters, except as a speedy courier.
When Greek fire was lost at the time of the conquest of Constantinople in 1204, galleys rapidly changed. The decline in the need for protection against fire meant that ships could become lighter and faster. Boarding and hand-to-hand fighting again dominated naval warfare. A typical Italian galley of 1300, whose design would change very little for the next 250 years,