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The name Nafpaktos derives from nafs which comes boat in ancient Greek. The privileged location of Nafpaktos not only benefited the shipbuilding activity but located so close to the Peloponnese made it a nice spot to have control over the western side of the Corinthian bay. During the Peloponnesian War in 455 BC, Nafpaktos became a chief naval station. In Medieval times, in spite of the many earthquakes, it also worked as one of the most important ports in the area, as it served as a connection between Europe and the Holy Land.
Nafpaktos became one of the most important harbors of the Byzantine fleet and it was also used as a proper station for diplomatic communications to the West and at the same time to Constantinople. Then, in 1204, Nafpaktos was captured by the Venetians and was recorded as Lepanto on their documents, a name that became very famous after the Battle of Lepanto, an important point in the history of Nafpaktos. In the 13th century, the city was ceded to Michael Doukas Komnenos. During this same century, he offered Nafpaktos to Philip of Taras, the fiance of his daughter as a marriage dowry. The following century, the control of the city passed to the Ottomans.
In 1407, Nafpaktos fell under the Venetians again who repaired the old Byzantine walls and fortified the port with a strong castle in order to create a safe station. The Ottomans finally invaded the city in 1499. In October of 1571, the legendary Battle of Lepanto took place between the Ottomans and Europeans, leading to the victory of the Europeans. According to historians, this battle marked the decline of the Ottoman Empire. Among the soldiers to participate in this fight was Miguel de Cervantes, the famous writer who was fighting in the Spanish fleet that time and in fact, he lost his left arm in the battle. His statue is found today at the port of Nafpaktos.
Many fights followed to set the town free. Nafpaktos had an important contribution to the Greek War of Independence and many heroes acted there. In fact, the statue of Anemogiannis, a Revolution personality, stands today at the port of Nafpaktos. Finally, in 1829, Nafpaktos got its freedom and became part of the first Greek State.