Battle of Meloria (1284)
|Battle of Meloria|
The Isle of Meloria
|Republic of Genoa||Republic of Pisa|
|Commanders and leaders|
| Oberto Doria
| Alberto Morosini (POW)
|88 galleys||72 galleys|
|Casualties and losses|
|Doria calls the losses of
the Genoese moderate 
35-37 galleys lost
The Battle of Meloria was fought between 5 and 6 August 1284 near the Meloria islet, in the Tyrrhenian Sea between the Genoese and the Pisan fleet, as part of the Genoese-Pisan War. The victory of Genoa, and the destruction of the Pisan fleet marked the decline of the Republic of Pisa.
In the 13th century the Republic of Genoa conquered numerous settlements in Crimea, where the Genoese colony of Caffa was established. The alliance with the restored Byzantine Empire increased the wealth and power of Genoa, and simultaneously decreased Venetian and Pisan commerce. The Byzantine Empire had granted the majority of free trading rights to Genoa. In 1282 Pisa tried to gain control of the commerce and administration of Corsica, when the judge of Cinarca, Sinucello, revolted against Genoa and asked for Pisan support.
In August 1282 part of the Genoese fleet blockaded Pisan commerce near the river Arno. During 1283 both Genoa and Pisa made war preparations. Pisa gathered soldiers from Tuscany and appointed captains from its noble families. Genoa built 120 galleys, sixty of which belonged to the Republic, while the other sixty galleys were rented to individuals. For this fleet at least 15,000 to 17,000 rowers and seamen were necessary (all freemen and using their arms in battle).
Prelude to battle 
In early 1284 the Genoese fleet tried to conquer Porto Torres and Sassari in Sardinia. A part of the Genoese merchant fleet defeated a Pisan force, while travelling to the Byzantine Empire. The Genoese fleet blocked Porto Pisano, and attacked Pisan ships travelling in the Mediterranean sea. A Genoese force of thirty ships led by Benedetto Zaccaria travelled to Porto Torres, to support Genoese forces which were besieging Sassari.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (August 2012)|
The Genoese, desiring to draw their enemy out to battle, and to make the action decisive, arranged their fleet in two lines abreast. The first was composed, according to Agostino Giustiniani, of fifty-eight galleys, and eight panfili, a class of light galleys of eastern origin named after the province of Pamphylia. Oberto Doria, the Genoese admiral, was stationed in the center and in advance of his line. To the right were the galleys of the Spinola family, among those of four of the eight "companies" into which Genoa was divided: Castello, Piazzalunga, Macagnana and San Lorenzo. To the left were the galleys of the Dorias and of the other four companies, Porta, Soziglia, Porta Nuova and Il Borgo.
The second line of twenty galleys, under the command of Benedetto Zaccaria, was placed so far behind the first that the Pisans could not see whether it was made up of war-vessels or of small craft meant to act as tenders to the others. Yet it was near enough to strike in and decide the battle when the action had begun.
The Pisans, commanded by the Podestà Morosini and his lieutenants Ugolino della Gherardesca and Andreotto Saraceno, came out in a single body. It is said that while the Archbishop was blessing the fleet the silver cross of his archiepiscopal staff fell off, but that the omen was disregarded by the irreverence of the Pisans, who declared that if they had the wind they could do without divine help.
The Pisan fleet advanced in line abreast to meet the first line of the Genoese, fighting according to the medieval custom of ramming and boarding. The victory was decided for Genoa by the squadron of Zaccaria, which fell on the flank of the Pisans. Their fleet was nearly annihilated, the Podestà was taken, and Ugolino fled with a few vessels.
As Pisa was also attacked by Florence and Lucca it could never recover from the disaster. Two years later Genoa took Porto Pisano, the city's access to the sea, and filled up the harbor. As a permanent consequence of this defeat, Pisa lost once and for all its role as a major Mediterranean naval power and as regional power of Tuscany, being overshadowed and finally conquered, in 1406, by Florence.
The count Ugolino was afterwards starved to death with several of his sons and grandsons in the manner made familiar by the 32nd canto of Dante's Inferno. One famous captive of the battle was Rustichello da Pisa, who co-wrote Marco Polo's account of his travels, Il Milione.
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