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Siege of Candia

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Subject: Heraklion, Cretan War (1645–69), Koules Fortress, Ottoman Crete, 1669
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Siege of Candia

Siege of Candia
Part of the Cretan War (Fifth Ottoman-Venetian War)

The city of Candia with its fortifications, 1651
Date 1 May 1648 – 27 September 1669
Location Heraklion, Crete
Result Ottoman victory
Crete ceded to Ottomans
Ottoman Empire  Republic of Venice
 Knights of Malta
Commanders and leaders
Köprülü Fazıl Ahmed Francesco Morosini

60,000 soldiers

20,000 workers and miners

10,000 European allies men

12,000 Greek & Venetians Citizens

The Siege of Candia (modern Heraklion, Crete) was a military conflict in which Ottoman forces besieged the Venetian-ruled city. Lasting from 1648 to 1669, or a total of 21 years, it was the longest siege in history; however, the Ottomans were ultimately victorious despite Candia's unprecedented resistance.


In the 17th century, Venice's power in the Mediterranean was waning, as Ottoman power grew. The Venetian Republic believed that the Ottomans would use any excuse to pursue further hostilities.

In 1644, the Knights of Malta attacked an Ottoman convoy on its way from Alexandria to Constantinople. They landed at Candia with the loot, which included part of the Sultan's harem, returning from a pilgrimage to Mecca.

In response, 60,000 Ottoman troops led by Yussuf Pasha disembarked on Venetian Crete and occupied La Canea (modern Chania) and Rettimo (modern Rethimno). Both of these cities took two months each to conquer. Between 1645 and 1648, the Ottomans occupied the rest of the island and prepared to take the capital, Candia.


The siege of Candia began in May 1648. The Ottomans spent three months laying siege to the city, cutting off the water supply, and disrupting Venice's sea lanes to the city. For the next 16 years, they would bombard the city to little effect.

The Venetians, in turn, sought to blockade the Ottoman-held Dardanelles to prevent the resupply of the Ottoman expeditionary force on Crete. This effort led to a series of naval actions. On 21 June 1655 and 26 August 1656, the Venetians were victorious, although the Venetian commander, Lorenzo Marcello, was killed in the latter engagement. However, on 17–19 July 1657, the Ottoman navy soundly defeated the Venetians and the Venetian captain, Lazzaro Mocenigo, was killed by a falling mast.

Venice received more aid from other western European states after the 7 November 1659 Treaty of the Pyrenees and the consequent peace between France and Spain. However, the Peace of Vasvár (August 1664) released additional Ottoman forces for action against the Venetians in Candia.

In 1666, a Venetian attempt to recapture La Canea failed. The following year, Colonel Andrea Barozzi, a Venetian military engineer, defected to the Ottomans and gave them information on weak spots in Candia's fortifications. On 24 July 1669, a French land/sea expedition under Mocenigo not only failed to lift the siege, but also lost the fleet's vice-flagship, La Thérèse a 900-ton French warship armed with 58 cannons, to an accidental explosion. This dual disaster was devastating to the morale of the city's defenders.

Apparently chastened by their failed relief effort and the loss of so valuable a warship, the French abandoned Candia in August 1669 leaving Captain General Francesco Morosini, the commander of Venetian forces, with only 3,600 fit men and scant supplies to defend the fortress. He, therefore, accepted terms and surrendered to Ahmed Köprülü, the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire of on 27 September 1669. However, his surrender without first receiving authorization to do so from the Venetian Senate made Morosini a controversial figure in Venice for some years afterward.

As part of the surrender terms, all Christians were allowed to leave Candia with whatever they could carry while Venice retained possession of Gramvousa, Souda and Spinalonga, fortified islands that shielded natural harbors where Venetian ships could stop during their voyages to the eastern Mediterranean. After Candia's fall, the Venetians somewhat offset their defeat by expanding their holdings in Dalmatia.

It is said that when news of Candia's fall reached Pope Clement IX in October he immediately fell ill and, two months later, died.

Other participants

  • Knights of Malta fought at the Siege of Candia (in Crete) in 1668. In fact, by raiding an Ottoman convoy en route from Alexandria to Constantinople in 1644 and capturing part of the sultan's harem, they could be said to have precipitated the crisis.
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