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The Advance of the Juggernaut
Since the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 the inexorable might of the Ottoman Empire has spread throughout the Middle East and into the Balkans. By 1529, they were strong enough to attack the city of Vienna and their failure to capture that city was the first major setback in nearly a century.
Since then the war between Christianity and Islam had taken to the seas. Christian Fleets were annihilated at the battles of Prevesa (1538) and Djerba (1560) and Ottoman dominance of the Eastern Mediterranean was assured. Their attempt to gain access to the Western Mediterranean was only held back only by the heroic defense of the Knights of St John on Malta in 1565, six years before Lepanto.
Nevertheless that defeat at Malta, where they had greatly outnumbered the Christians, blunted the sword of Islam and from that time, the Ottomans attempted to re-establish their dominance. They year before Lepanto, they attacked Venetian Cyprus. The Republic of Venice, which was in decline and too worldly, lacked the strength to stand alone against the Ottomans. They were even divided as to whether or not to fight over Cyprus—some preferring to negotiate a peace with the Ottomans so that they could carry on trading on the seas.
Christian Coalition Finally Forms
Pope St. Pius V saw the danger to the Faith and, seeing that no individual country of state could stand against the advance of this juggernaut, announced the creation of a Holy League to stand against Turkish aggression. During the 16th century, the great Christian naval powers of the Mediterranean were Spain, the Papal states, Venice and Genoa, as well as the Knights of Malta. These states were organized by the pope into a 'Holy League' for a united defence against the Ottomans. Against their better judgment, Venice's rivals answered the call―for Cyprus was a territory of Venice their rival in trade. The combined fleet gathered at Crete in September of 1570, but their first intended campaign failed before it started, because Cyprus fell before they could arrive to relieve it.
Turkish success at Cyprus now allowed their fleet to strike deeper into Christian Territory. By August of 1571 the Ottomans had established a base at Lepanto on the western coast of Greece. The Holy League Fleet had by now congregated at the arranged meeting point of Medina, on the island of Sicily, from where it would sail together eastwards, to halt the Turkish fleet. But it was not just the Musilm Ottoman Empire in the east that was a thorn in Europe’s side—the Muslim Barbary pirates of North Africa were also wreaking havoc throughout the western Mediterranean.
THE PROBLEM OF THE MARAUDING BARBARY PIRATES
The Barbary Pirates
The Turkish fleet was aided by the Barbary pirates, who were sometimes called Barbary corsairs or Ottoman corsairs. They were pirates and privateers who operated from North Africa, based primarily in the ports of Salé, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli. This area was known in Europe as the Barbary Coast, a term derived from the name of its Berber inhabitants.
The Barbary Coast, which extends from Morocco through modern Libya, was home to a thriving man-catching industry from about 1500 to 1800. The great slaving capitals were of course the aforementioned ports of Salé in Morocco, Tunis, Algiers, and Tripoli, and for most of this period European navies were too weak to put up more than token resistance.
The Barbary pirates first arose after the Christian Spanish drove the Muslim Moors out of Granada, Spain, in 1492. They did not become an organized body, under the protection of the North African port cities, until a few years later, under the leadership of Barbarossa, a pirate chieftain who became an Admiral in the navy of Ottoman Empire. After leading several daring raids in the Mediterranean and essentially taking over the cities of Djerba and Algiers, he was appointed commander and chief of the Ottoman Navy.
In this position he fought the united fleets of the Christians at Preveza, helping to establish Ottoman domination of the Mediterranean. The defeat at Preveza, combined with the utterly disastrous Spanish siege of Algiers several years later, dealt two serious blows the Christian fleets in the Mediterranean, and established a firm alliance between the Ottoman Empire and the Barbary corsairs.
Dragut was another leading pirate captain who later became an Ottoman Admiral, and so for a time the Barbary pirates were protected and encouraged by the Ottoman navy. The most well-known Christian sea captains who fought pirates during this period were Andrea Doria of Genoa, and Don John of Austria, both of whom fought under the Spanish flag.
Barbary Slave Trade
Their piracy extended throughout the Mediterranean, south along West Africa's Atlantic seaboard and even South America, and into the North Atlantic as far north as Iceland, but they primarily operated in the western Mediterranean. In addition to seizing ships, they engaged in Razzias, raids on European coastal towns and villages, mainly in Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal, but also in the British Isles, the Netherlands and as far away as Iceland. The main purpose of their attacks was to capture Christian slaves for the Ottoman slave trade as well as the general Muslim market in North Africa and the Middle East.
While such raids had occurred soon after the death of Muhammad (632) with the Muslim conquest of the North African region throughout the 670’s, and pirate activity by Muslim populations had been known in the Mediterranean since at least the 9th century, the terms “Barbary pirates” and “Barbary corsairs”, are normally applied to the raiders active from the 1500’s onwards.
It was at this time that the frequency and range of the slavers' attacks increased and Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli came under the sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire, either as directly administered provinces, or as autonomous dependencies known as the Barbary States. Similar raids were undertaken from Salé and other ports in Morocco. During the first period (1518–1587), the beylerbeys (meaning “commanders of commanders”) were admirals of the sultan, commanding great fleets and conducting war operations for political ends. They were slave-hunters and their methods were ferocious.
Muslim Fury for Christian Slaves
The trans-Atlantic trade in negroes was strictly commercial, but for Arabs, memories of the Crusades and fury over expulsion from Spain in 1492, seem to have fueled an almost jihad-like Christian-stealing campaign. “It may have been this spur of vengeance, as opposed to the bland workings of the marketplace, that made the Islamic slavers so much more aggressive and initially (one might say) successful in their work than their Christian counterparts,” writes Prof. Davis. During the 16th and 17th centuries more slaves were taken south across the Mediterranean than west across the Atlantic.
What is most striking about Barbary slaving raids is their scale and reach. Pirates took most of their slaves from ships, but they also organized huge, amphibious assaults that practically depopulated parts of the Italian coast. Italy was the most popular target, partly because Sicily is only 125 miles from Tunis, but also because it did not have strong central rulers who could resist invasion.
Massive Numbers Enslaved
Large raiding parties might be essentially unopposed. The appearance of a large fleet could send the entire population inland, emptying coastal areas.
In 1566, a party of 6,000 Turks and Corsairs sailed up the Adriatic and landed at Fracaville. The authorities could do nothing, and urged complete evacuation, leaving the Turks in control of over 500 square miles of abandoned villages all the way to Serracapriola.
In 1544, Barbary pirates captured the island of Ischia, taking 4,000 prisoners, and enslaved some 9,000 inhabitants of Lipari, almost the entire population.
In 1551, the Barbary pirates enslaved the entire population of the Maltese island Gozo, between 5,000 and 6,000, sending them to Ottoman Tripolitania.
In 1554, the pirates raided Vieste in southern Italy and took an estimated 7,000 slaves. In 1555, they raided Bastia, Corsica, taking 6,000 prisoners.
In 1558, Barbary pirates captured the town of Ciutadella (Minorca), destroyed it, slaughtered the inhabitants and took 3,000 survivors to Constantinople as slaves. In 1563, they landed on the shores of the province of Granada, Spain, and captured coastal settlements in the area, such as Almuñécar, along with 4,000 prisoners.
Algerians took 7,000 slaves in the Bay of Naples in 1544, in a raid that drove the price of slaves so low it was said you could “swap a Christian for an onion.” Spain, too, suffered large-scale attacks.
After a raid on Granada in 1566 netted 4,000 men, women, and children, it was said to be “raining Christians in Algiers.” Barbary pirates often attacked the Balearic Islands, and in response many coastal watchtowers and fortified churches were erected. The threat was so severe that the island of Formentera became uninhabited. For every large-scale raid of this kind there would have been dozens of smaller ones.
When they came ashore, Muslim corsairs made a point of desecrating churches. They often stole church bells, not just because the metal was valuable but also to silence the distinctive voice of Christianity.
In the more frequent smaller raiding parties, just a few ships would operate by stealth, falling upon coastal settlements in the middle of the night so as to catch people “peaceful and still naked in their beds.” This practice gave rise to the modern-day Sicilian expression, pigliato dai turchi, or “taken by the Turks,” which means to be caught by surprise while asleep or distracted.
Constant predation took a terrible toll. Women were easier to catch than men, and coastal areas could quickly lose their entire child-bearing population. Fishermen were afraid to go out, or would sail only in convoys. Eventually, Italians gave up much of their coast. As Prof. Davis explains, by the end of the 17th century, “the Italian peninsula had by then been prey to the Barbary corsairs for two centuries or more, and its coastal populations had largely withdrawn into walled, hilltop villages or the larger towns like Rimini, abandoning miles of once populous shoreline.”
More than 20,000 captives were said to be imprisoned in Algiers alone. Most of the slaves destined for the Muslim Middle East were for sexual exploitation as concubines, in harems, and for military service on land or at sea.
Those slaves who had rich families were often able to secure release through ransom, but the poor were condemned to slavery. Their masters would, on occasion, allow them to secure freedom by professing Islam and denying their Christian Faith. Some were put to hard labor in North Africa, and the unluckiest worked themselves to death as galley slaves.
Before being appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Christian Fleet, Don John of Austria had been fighting the Barbary pirates along the Barbary Coast. He was well-acquainted with their tactics and methods of warfare.
THE CHIEF WEAPONS
THE SHIPS OF THE BATTLE OF LEPANTO
The Galleass was a broadside-cannon-armed oared warship. The galleass was an attempt to upgrade the galley with cannon and square-sail technology. It was not a spectacular success, as it was a transitional kind of ship that would evolve into the Galleon a little later on; but had its day and was a great success at Lepanto.
The Christian fleet at Lepanto was the first to employ this new naval weapon: enormous galleasses, newly launched from the Arsenal at Venice, bristling with cannon and capable of delivering as much firepower as six standard galleys. They had anywhere from 30 to 40 large cannon on deck, pointing in all directions—forwards, backwards, and each side of the ship. Six of these unwieldy floating behemoths (which had to be towed into position) were to lay waste to the Turkish fleet as it crossed their path.
A galley is a type of ship that is propelled mainly by rowing. The galley is characterized by its long, slender hull, shallow draft and low clearance between sea and railing. Virtually all types of galleys had sails that could be used in favorable winds, but human strength was always the primary method of propulsion. This allowed galleys freedom to move independently of winds and currents, and with great precision. The galley originated among the seafaring civilizations around the Mediterranean Sea in the early first millennium BC and remained in use in various forms until the early 19th century in warfare, trade and piracy.
From the 12th century, the design of war galleys evolved into the form that would remain largely the same until the building of the last war galleys in the late 18th century. The length to breadth-ratio was a minimum of 8:1 and could be longer. It was based on the form of the galea, the smaller Byzantine galleys, and would be known mostly by the Italian term gallia sottila (literally "slender galley"), which we call, in English, a galley.
A second, smaller mast was added sometime in the 13th century and the number of rowers was rose from two to three rowers per bench as a standard from the late 13th to the early 14th century. The gallee sottili, or galley, would make up the bulk the main war fleets of every major naval power in the Mediterranean, assisted by the smaller galliot, as well as the Christian and Muslim corsairs fleets using an even smaller ship called the fusta. Ottoman galleys were very similar in design, though in general smaller, faster under sail, but slower under oars.
The standard size of the galley remained stable from the 14th until the early 16th century, when the introduction of naval artillery began to have effects on design and tactics.
Galleys were the warships used by the early Mediterranean naval powers, including the Greeks, Phoenicians and Romans. They remained the dominant types of vessels used for war and piracy in the Mediterranean Sea until the last decades of 16th century.
As warships, galleys carried various types of weapons throughout their long existence, including ram, catapults and cannons, but also relied on their large crews to overpower enemy vessels in boarding actions. They were the first ships to effectively use heavy cannons as anti-ship weapons. As highly efficient gun platforms they forced changes in the design of medieval seaside fortresses as well as refinement of sailing warships.
The zenith of galley usage in warfare came in the late 16th century with battles like that at Lepanto in 1571, one of the largest naval battles ever fought. By the 17th century, however, sailing ships and hybrid ships like the xebec displaced galleys in naval warfare.
The Galliot and Fusta
The Galliot andr Fusta or Fuste, were a narrow, light and fast ships with shallow draft, powered by both oars and sail—in essence a small galley.
The galliot was anywhere from half to two-thirds of the length of the galley, while the fusta was at the most half the length of the galley or less. The galliot typically had 12 to 20 two-man rowing benches on each side, a single mast with a lateen (triangular) sail, and usually carried two or three guns. The sail was used to cruise and save the rowers’ energy, while the oars propelled the ship in and out of harbor and during combat. The fusta had no more than 10 rowing benches on each side.
The fusta was the favorite ship of the North African corsairs of Salé and the Barbary Coast. Its speed, mobility, capability to move without wind, and its ability to operate in shallow water—crucial for hiding in coastal waters before pouncing on a passing ship—made it ideal for war and piracy.
It was mainly with fustas that the Barbarossa brothers, Baba Aruj and Khair ad Din, carried out the Ottoman conquest of North Africa and the rescue of Mudéjars and Moriscos from Spain after the fall of Granada, and that they and the other North African corsairs used to wreak terror upon Christian shipping and the islands and coastal areas of the Mediterranean in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Arquebus versus the
Bow & Arrow
The arquebus (sometimes spelled harquebus, harkbus or hackbut; Italian Archibugio, Dutch haakbus, meaning "hook gun"), or "hook tube", is an early muzzle-loaded firearm used in the 15th to 17th centuries. Its predecessor was the hand cannon, and its successor was the musket, which then evolved into the rifle. It is therefore a forerunner of the rifle and other longarm firearms. An improved version of the arquebus, the caliver, was introduced in the early 16th century.
Developed to Penetrate Armor
As a low-velocity firearm, the arquebus was used against enemies who were often partially or fully protected by steel-plate armor. Plate armor, worn upon the torso, was standard in European combat, from about 1400 until the middle of the 17th century. Good suits of plate would usually stop an arquebus ball at long range.
It was a common practice to "proof" (test) armor by firing a pistol or arquebus at a new breastplate. The small dent would be circled by engraving to call attention to it. However, at close range, it was possible to pierce even heavy cavalry armor, heavily dependent on the power of the arquebus and the quality of the armor.
However, the Turkish soldiers did not wear armor, and so they were very vulnerable to whatever type of shot the Christians would use in their arquebus.
Constant Stream of Fire by Rotation
The development of volley fire by the Dutch in Europe, and by the Chinese and the Portuguese in Asia, made the arquebus of practical advantage to modern armies. Volley fire allowed armies to turn their usual formation into a rotating firing squad, with each row of soldiers firing a shot, then marching to the back of the formation to reload while the next line of soldiers fired their shot. The first usage of the arquebus in large numbers was in Hungary under King Matthias Corvinus (reigned 1458–1490).
Advantages of the Arquebusier over the Archer
► The arquebus was unable to match the accuracy of a bow in the hands of a highly skilled archer. The arquebus did, however, have a faster rate of fire than the most powerful crossbow, a shorter learning curve than a longbow, and was more powerful than either.
► The arquebus did not rely on the physical strength of the user (necessary for an archer) for propulsion of the projectile, making it easier to find a suitable recruit. It also meant that, compared to an archer or crossbowman, an arquebusier lost less of his battlefield effectiveness due to fatigue, malnutrition or sickness.
► The arquebusier also had the added advantage of frightening enemies (and horses) with the noise. Wind could reduce the accuracy of archery, but had much less of an effect on an arquebus.
► Perhaps most important, producing an effective arquebusier required much less training than producing an effective bowman. During a siege it was also easier to fire an arquebus out of loopholes than it was a bow and arrow.
► It was also possible to load an arquebus (and indeed any smooth bore gun) with small shot rather than a single ball. Small shot did not pack the same punch as a single round ball, but the shot could hit and wound multiple enemies.
► The arquebus required a much lower level of skill than the typical archer. Most archers spent their whole lives training to fire with accuracy, but, with drill and instruction, the arquebusier was able to learn his profession in months as opposed to years. This low level of skill made it a lot easier to outfit an army in a short amount of time, as well as expand the small arms ranks. This idea of lower skilled, lightly armored units, was the driving force in the infantry revolution that took place in the 16th and 17th centuries and allowed early modern infantries to phase out the longbow.
► An arquebusier could carry more ammunition and powder than a crossbowman or longbowman could with bolts or arrows. Once the methods were developed, powder and shot were relatively easy to mass-produce, while arrow making was a genuine craft requiring highly skilled labor.
Disadvantages of the Arquebus
►The arquebus could not shoot its next round as quickly as an archer could shoot his next arrow.
► The archer was usually more accurate, if he was skilled, than the someone using an arquebus.
► The arquebus was more sensitive to humid weather. At the Battle of Villalar, rebel troops lost the battle badly partially due to having a high proportion of arquebusiers combined with the battle taking place in a rainstorm which rendered the weapons almost useless.
► Gunpowder also ages much faster than a crossbow bolt or an arrow, particularly if improperly stored.
► Also, the resources needed to make gunpowder were less universally available than the resources needed to make bolts and arrows. Finding and reusing arrows or bolts, was a lot easier than doing the same with arquebus bullets. This was a useful way to reduce the cost of practice, or resupply oneself, if control of the battlefield after a battle was retained. A bullet must fit a barrel much more precisely than an arrow or bolt must fit a bow, so the arquebus required more standardization and made it harder to resupply by looting bodies of fallen soldiers.
► Gunpowder production was also far more dangerous than arrow production.
► An arquebus was also significantly more dangerous to its user. The arquebusier carries a lot of gunpowder on his person and has a lit match in one hand. The same goes for the soldiers next to him. Amid the confusion, stress and fumbling of a battle, arquebusiers are potentially a danger to themselves.
► Early arquebuses tended to have a drastic recoil. They took a long time to load making them vulnerable while reloading unless using the 'continuous fire' tactic, where one line would shoot and, while the next line shot, would reload.
► An arquebus also tended to overheat. During repeated firing, guns could become clogged and explode, causing pieces of metal and wood to break off, which could be dangerous to the gunner and even those around him.
► In this context it should be added that reloading an arquebus requires more fine motor skills and movements than reloading a bow or crossbow. This is a disadvantage in a combat situation since stress has a very negative impact on fine motor skills.
► An arquebuser fires his weapon amidst the smoke produced by his neighboring comrades. Furthermore, the amount of smoke produced by black-powder weapons was considerable, making it hard to see the enemy after a few salvos, unless there was enough wind to disperse the smoke quickly. Yet, conversely, this cloud of smoke also served to make it difficult for any archers to accurately target the opposing soldiers that were using handguns.
The invention of the cannon, driven by gunpowder, was first developed in China and later spread to Islamic world and Europe. Like small arms, cannon are a descendant of the fire lance, a gunpowder-filled tube attached to the end of a spear and used as a flamethrower in China. Shrapnel was sometimes placed in the barrel, so that it would fly out along with the flames. The first documented battlefield use of fire lances took place in 1132. Eventually, the paper and bamboo of which fire lance barrels were originally constructed came to be replaced by metal.
Cannon were among the earliest forms of gunpowder artillery, and over time replaced siege engines—among other forms of ageing weaponry—on the battlefield. In the Middle East, the first use of the hand cannon is argued to be during the 1260 Battle of Ain Jalut, between the Mamluks and Mongols.
Explodes on the European Scene in 11th Century
The first cannon in Europe were probably used in Iberia (Spain) in the 11th and 12th centuries. On the African continent, the cannon was first used by the Adal Sultan in his conquest of the steppes of Ugaden in 1529. It was during this period, the Middle Ages, that cannon became standardized, and more effective in both the anti-infantry and siege roles. After the Middle Ages most large cannon were abandoned in making most defenses obsolete; this led to the construction of stronger forts, specifically designed to withstand artillery bombardment, though these too would find themselves rendered obsolete when explosive and armor piercing rounds made even these types of fortifications vulnerable.
Cannons on Ships
Cannon also transformed naval warfare in the early modern period, as European navies took advantage of their firepower. As rifling became commonplace (making the cannon ball or shell spin as it leaves the cannon), the accuracy and destructive power of cannon was significantly increased, and they became deadlier than ever, both to infantry who belatedly had to adopt different tactics, and to ships, which had to be armored.
Explodes on the Scene in 14th Century
The earliest known illustration of a cannon is dated to 1326. Sixty-eight super-sized bombards referred to as Great Turkish Bombards were used by Mehmed II to capture Constantinople in 1453. The largest of their cannon was the Great Turkish Bombard, which required an operating crew of 200 men and 70 oxen, and 10,000 men to transport it. Orban, a Hungarian cannon engineer, is credited with introducing the cannon from Central Europe to the Ottomans. These cannon could fire heavy stone balls a mile, and the sound of their blast could reportedly be heard from a distance of 10 miles. The first confirmed use of cannon in Europe was in southern Iberia, by the Moors, in the Siege of Cordoba in 1280. While still a relatively rarely used weapon, cannon were employed in increasing numbers during the war. The battle of Arnemuiden, fought on September 23rd, 1338, was the first naval battle using artillery, as the English ship Christofer had three cannon and one hand gun.
More Powerful Cannons
The end of the Middle Ages saw the construction of larger, more powerful cannon, as well their spread throughout the world. By the end of the 15th century, several technological advancements made cannon more mobile. Wheeled gun carriages became common and facilitated transportation. By the 16th century, cannon were made in a great variety of lengths and bore diameters, but the general rule was that the longer the barrel, the longer the range.
Some cannon, made during this time, had barrels exceeding 10 ft. in length, and could weigh up to 20,000 pounds. Consequently, large amounts of gunpowder were needed, to allow them to fire stone balls several hundred yards. The Russian Tsar Cannon is a large 20 ft. long cannon on display on the grounds of the Moscow Kremlin. It was cast in 1586 in Moscow. The Tsar Cannon is made of bronze and weighs over 86,000 pounds.
By mid-century, European monarchs began to classify cannon to reduce the confusion. Henry II of France opted for six sizes of cannon,but others settled for more; the Spanish used twelve sizes, and the English sixteen. Better powder had been developed by this time as well.
Before the advent of gunpowder and cannons on ships, naval warfare was to a large extent much like warfare on land—where two armies met and 'slugged-it-out' in close-quarter fighting. The basic tactics of warfare were as follows:
(1) You first had to sail your ship within range of the enemy ship. This would require that your ship be a fast sailing ship that could out-sail and out-maneuver the ship you targeted. Ships with sails were dependent upon the wind—and when there was no wind in their sails, they became a sitting duck that could not move. Even with the wind in their sails, they were largely dictated by the wind-direction as to what maneuvers and direction the ship could make and take. Ships with oars were independent of the wind and could take any direction they wanted, even going into reverse if needed—which would be case sometimes, after ramming the enemy.
(2) Once you caught up with the enemy ship or came to a head-to-head confrontation, you would then use your archers to bombard them with arrows to kill as many as possible of the crew and troops that were on board—since the warships were largely open decked galleys, many of the enemy were vulnerable to this downpour of arrows. The aim was not to sink ships, but to deplete the ranks of the enemy crews before the boarding commenced, which decided the outcome.
(3) Once the enemy strength was judged to have been reduced sufficiently, the fleets closed in, the ships grappled each other, and the marines and upper bank oarsmen boarded the enemy vessel and engaged in hand-to-hand combat. On Byzantine galleys, the brunt of the fighting was done by heavily armed and armored troops. These would attempt to stab the rowers through the oarports to reduce mobility, and then join the melée. If boarding was not deemed advantegous, the enemy ship could be pushed away with poles.
(4) Naval warfare in the Mediterranean rarely used sails, and the use of rams specifically required oarsmen over sails in order to maneuver with accuracy and speed, and particularly to reverse the movement of a ramming ship to disentangle it from its sinking victim, lest it be pulled down when its victim sank. As galleys were intended to be fought from the bows, and were at their weakest along the sides, especially in the middle, the crescent formation employed by the Byzantines continued to be used throughout the Middle Ages. It would allow the wings of the fleet to crash their bows, with their ramming prows, straight into the sides of the enemy ships at the edge of the formation.
You would try maneuver your ship into a position where you could ram the enemy ship to disable its mobility—in earlier centuries, the prow (the bettering ram jutting forward out of the bow of the ship) was under the water line, because the tactic was to ram a hole in the hull under the water line of the enemy ship, so that it would fill with water. In later centuries, the prow (battering ram) was at a certain height above the water level for the tactic then was to punch a hole in the hull at the level of the oars, so as immobilize the oarsmen and restrict the ships mobility.
The speed necessary for a successful impact depended on the angle of attack; the greater the angle, the lesser the speed required. At 60 degrees, 4 knots was enough to penetrate the hull, but this increased to 8 knots at 30 degrees. If the target for some reason was in motion towards the attacker, less speed was required, especially if the hit came amidships. War galleys gradually began to develop heavier hulls with reinforcing beams at the waterline, where a ram would most likely hit.
(5) One the enemy ship had been rammed (or if you decided not to or were unable to ram) you would seek to board the enemy ship by throwing across grappling-irons, in order to pull and fasten your boat to theirs, so that you could board them.
Artillery, on early gun galleys, was not used as a long-range standoff weapon against other gun-armed galleys. The maximum distance at which contemporary cannons were effective, being only 1,600 ft. or 300 yards, could be covered by a galley in about two minutes, much faster than the reload time of any artillery piece. Gun crews would therefore hold their fire until the last possible moment, somewhat similar to infantry tactics in the pre-industrial era of short range firearms. The guns on the bow (the front of the ship) would often be loaded with scatter shot and other anti-personnel ammunition. The effect of an assault with a gun-armed galley could often be dramatic, as exemplified by an account from 1528, where a galley of Genoese commander Antonio Doria, with a single volley from a basilisk, two demi-cannons and four smaller guns, killed 40 men.
(6) Once you boarded (and they would also have their soldiers boarding your ship), you would try kill the enemy in hand-to-hand fighting—which could get very savage at times.
The estimated average speed of Renaissance-era galleys was fairly low, only 3 to 4 knots, and a mere 2 knots when holding formation. Short bursts of up to 7 knots were possible for about 20 minutes, but only at the risk of exhausting rowers. This made galley actions relatively slow affairs, especially when they involved fleets of 100 vessels or more.
The weak points of a galley remained the sides and especially the rear, which was the command center, and were therefore the preferred targets of any attacker. Unless one side managed to outmaneuver the other, battle would be met with ships crashing into each other head on. Once the fighting began with galleys locking on to one another bow to bow, the fighting would be over the front line ships. Unless one was completely taken over by a boarding party, fresh troops could be fed into the fight from reserve vessels in the rear. In a defensive position with a secure shoreline, galleys could be beached stern first with its guns pointing out to sea. This made for a very strong defensive position, allowed rowers and sailors to escape to safety on land, leaving only soldiers and fighting men to defend against an assault.
So the requirements were speed to catch (or escape from) the enemy; some form of long-distance bombardment (until muskets, arquebuses, guns and cannon took over, it was the bow and arrow and the crossbow); an ability to ram and damage the enemy ship; troops to board and fight the enemy. These were the essential tactics and all the vessels carried a large number of troops, with swords, pikes, muskets, arquebuses, and bows and arrows and/or crossbows. The main purpose in later centuries was, if possible to capture the enemy ship rather than sink it—why not take a ship for free, tow it home, and make a few repairs, when it avoids having to build one! At times, however, the desire was destroy the enemy ship, and in this case ramming or trying to set the enemy ship on fire, by hurling incendiary missiles or by pouring the content of fire pots attached to long handles, is thought to have been used, especially since smoke below decks would easily disable rowers.