Sea battle at Meloria

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Sea battle at Meloria
Part of: Genoese-Pisan conflict
The Genoese fleet in the home port, 1481
The Genoese fleet in the home port, 1481
date August 6, 1284
place near the island of Meloria
output Genoese victory
Parties to the conflict




Oberto Doria

Alberto Morosini

Troop strength
100 ships 120 ships


5000 dead, 11000 prisoners,
7 ships sunk, 28 lost

The naval battle at Meloria , fought on August 6, 1284 between Genoa and Pisa , was the largest naval battle of the Middle Ages . The small rock island of Meloria is only a few nautical miles from the Italian city of Livorno . Almost 100 ships of the Maritime Republic of Genoa, under the command of Oberto Dorias, beat the Pisan fleet of around 120 ships, which was led by the Venetian admiral Alberto Morosini .


In the Middle Ages , the so-called “ Maritime Republics ” of the Republic of Venice , Republic of Genoa , Republic of Pisa , Duchy of Amalfi , Republic of Ancona , Republic of Ragusa , Gaeta and the small Republic of Noli emerged in Italy and Dalmatia . At first they fought, sometimes together, against the Saracens , Moors and other Arab peoples who made the Mediterranean and especially the coasts of Italy unsafe in the Middle Ages . They also took part in the Crusades and gradually built up a dense network of trading posts throughout the Mediterranean, making them wealthy and ruling the Mediterranean at different times. Since they operated primarily economically, but also militarily in the same area, a strong competitive relationship between the four republics soon developed. The sometimes intense tensions erupted repeatedly in bloody wars.

The Maritime Republic of Pisa had eliminated its adversary Amalfi as early as the 12th century. On behalf of the Pope, Pisa and Genoa liberated the Saracen-occupied islands of Sardinia and Corsica , which were then to be administered jointly by both republics, which, however, led to wars between Pisa and Genoa due to permanent disputes. The Pope finally enfeoffed the Spanish house of Aragon with both islands, which took Sardinia from the Pisans from 1323, but was unable to assert its claim to rule against the Genoese in Corsica.

After several minor sea battles between Pisa and Genoa, the decisive battle took place on August 6, 1284. Pisa was defeated by Genoa. The Pisan port at the mouth of the Arno also silted up later . Eventually the city lost its independence to Florence .

Course of the battle

The Pisan fleet sacked the city of Rapallo in July 1284 and then appeared in front of the port of Genoa . The city was defenseless at the time, as the Genoese fleet was cruising off Sardinia. The Pisans shot some arrows with provocative messages at Genoa. Some claim that the Pisans limited themselves to this action out of respect for the defenseless city, others claim that they were afraid of the return of the Genoese fleet. Some Genoese ships pursued the Pisans on their onward journey. When the two fleets met four nautical miles from the Tuscan coast, they deliberately embarked on a decisive battle.

August 6th was Saint Sixtus Day, the Pisan national holiday, on which the city won several sea battles and wars (for example against the Moors in the Balearic Islands and against other Arabs in the Holy Land ). With this incentive and the certainty of numerical superiority, the Pisans went into battle with their three squadrons and fought with fierce determination against the two squadrons Oberto Dorias and Corrado Spinolas. First they shot at each other with arrows and stones, then the enemy ships were boarded. But during the fight another Genoese squadron appeared under Benedetto Zaccaria, hiding behind a rocky outcrop on the coast, and headed for the flank of the Pisans. Zaccaria captured the Pisan flagship and captured Morosini. 20 Pisan ships under Count Ugolino della Gherardesca no longer intervened in the fight.


The victory of the Genoese was clear. They had sunk seven Pisan ships and captured 28. 5,000 Pisans died in the battle, 11,000 remained prisoners of war in Genoese dungeons for a long time, including Rustichello da Pisa , who met Marco Polo in captivity and wrote his autobiography Il Milione , which changed the world forever in the long term. The Genoese were of the opinion that the population of Pisa could be reduced in the long term by withdrawing men. When asked where to find Pisans, Pisa's rivals in Tuscany mockingly replied for a long time: “in Genoa”. 13 years after the battle, a peace agreement was reached between the two cities, which also provided for the return of the prisoners. Of the former 11,000 Pisan prisoners of war, around 1,000 returned to their homeland alive.

As far as the initially stronger Republic of Genoa is concerned, it was able to be one of the dominant naval powers in the Mediterranean for a long time, but was later defeated by the rising Venice 100 years later in the Chioggia War .