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Lepanto Comes Home: Commemorating the Battle of Lepanto (1571) in Nafpaktos, Western Greece
(University of Helsinki)
Paper short abstract:
This paper examines the annual re-enactment of the 1571 Battle of Lepanto in Nafpaktos, to argue that the celebration of 'Europe's' invasion in the Ottoman lands that Nafpaktos once occupied, both asserts the town's relationship to Europe and imbues it with ambivalence.
Paper long abstract:
The Battle of Lepanto took place in 1571, when the allied naval forces of the Holy League engaged the Ottoman fleet at the gulf of Corinth-Patras, near modern Nafpaktos, a Western Greek town of 20,000 people. The Catholic victory resonated across Europe, to capture the imagination of renaissance composers and poets, to inspire artwork by Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese, and to leave an indelible mark on Miguel de Cervantes, whose left hand 'became useless at the Battle of Lepanto, to glorify the right one', as he is quoted to have said. Today, the Battle of Lepanto holds a prominent place in Islamophobic and alt-right formations and discourses across Europe and North America. While, however, such commemorators of the Battle rejoice in clearcut divisions between the West and barbaric rest, my Nafpaktian interlocutors were more ambiguously positioned vis-a-vis these binaries. In fact, rather than celebrating the Battle's contemporary political symbolism, Nafpaktos' claim to the Battle is premised on location, and the town's proximity to the site of the naval engagement. This paper examines the annual commemoration and re-enactment of the Battle of Lepanto in Nafpaktos, to argue that the celebration of 'Europe's' invasion in the Ottoman lands that Nafpaktos once occupied, both asserts the town's relationship to Europe and imbues it with ambivalence. I suggest that while these flamboyant and exuberant performances confirm the town's Europeanness, Nafpaktos nonetheless needs to transform into Lepanto in order to indulge it.
Knowing Historical Traces, Eliciting Possible Futures