sixteenth century the greatness of Venice began to decline. She
had to fight against a league of European powers for her
possessions on the mainland of Italy, and against the Turks for
her overseas territories. The power of the Turkish fleet had so
increased that the invasion of the Adriatic was threatened and
Venice itself had to be fortified against a possible
fortification of Cyprus was naturally resented by the Sultan,
Suleiman the Magnificent, who considered, not without reason,
that Venice had no right to fortify against himself a part of
his own dominions. The matter came to a head on the accession of
his son, Selim II, in 1566. The conquest of Cyprus appealed to
the Sultan not only as a means of adding to his revenues but
also securing the command of the eastern Mediterranean and
thereby the safety of the pilgrimage to Mecca, which had been
molested by the crusading galleys based on the harbours of
Cyprus. Selim II, therefore, made preparations for equipping a
fleet and collecting a force of all arms in Asia Minor for the
invasion of Cyprus, giving other reasons to his action, since he
was then at peace with Venice.
The Venetian ambassador at the
Sublime Porte soon informed the Senate at Venice that the
preparations were in fact directed against Cyprus. The Venetians
thereupon fitted out a fleet and sent a reinforcement to Cyprus
the distinguished soldier Girolamo Martinengo, with some 3,000
The Senate were unwilling to send their fleet to
Cyprus without first obtaining help from the European Powers.
They appealed to the Pope, who agreed to form a league against
the Turks. But, of all the European Powers, Spain alone sent
ships to Sicily to await the direction of the Pope. Portugal,
France, and Germany approved of the league, but sent no help.
Meanwhile, the Turks hastened the preparations and sent an envoy
to Venice demanding the cession of Cyprus. The Senate returned a
defiant reply, and war was declared.