Battle of Meloria, 1284

Lithograph of the battle, showing a boarding action. Original believed to be in the public domain.

Location Meloria, Ligurian Sea, Northern Mediterranean

The island of Meloria is a tiny shoal located due north of Elba off the Italian coast. It has been the site of two major naval engagements, both between the Republics of Genoa and Pisa. The second, 6 August, 1284, resulted from Genoa's rise in power, due to expanding overseas colonies, and an alliance with the resurrected Byzantine Empire. Pisa felt the sting as its trade declined, and made a move to gain control of Corsica. Preparations on both sides lasted over a year, and resulted in a fleet of seventy-two Pisan galleys meeting a Genoese fleet of eighty-four. The Pisans were baited out to attack a portion of the Genoese fleet, and were caught in a pincer maneuver by the remainder. As usual for the period, the action consisted of ramming and boarding, and the outnumbered Pisans felt the numbers difference acutely. Half their fleet was lost, while the Genoese admiral described his own losses as "moderate". The defeat broke Pisan naval power, and eventually led to their conquering by Genoa and Florence.

Fun Fact: As was traditional, when the Pisans sortied to meet the Genoese, the Archbishop with them was blessing the fleet. The crucifix on his staff reportedly fell into the sea, but the Pisans continued despite the bad omen, supposedly saying that they had no need of divine aid if the wind was on their side. Well, the wind was in their favor, but it apparently didn't suffice...