The Tale of Barbarossa: From Pirate to Admiral

The Tale of Barbarossa From Pirate to Admiral
The Tale of Barbarossa From Pirate to Admiral

In Aegean Sea there is an Island called the “Island of Lesbos” or “Midilli” which is the part of Greece now but back then between 1462 and 1912 was the part of Ottoman Caliphate. But Lesbos is not popular in the history just because of Ottoman Caliphate. Its status in history is preserved because of the great heroes that this piece of land gave birth. One of them is the Mediterranean pirate who’s being remembered as Barbarossa and “Redbeard” in Italian. He is remembered by many names like Hayreddin Pasha, Pirate of Algiers, Hayreddin Barbarossa and even the King of the Sea. But the name Barbarossa is widely adopted.

Click here to read more about Hayreddin Barbarossa

Barbarossa brothers named “Aruj and Khirj” was experienced pirates in the Mediterranean. When Spain took over Granada in 1492 and destroyed the last Islamic rule in Iberian Peninsula, Muslim immigrants from this region became refuge in North Africa. Around 1505 the Portuguese and Spanish were trying to capture the coastal cities and they began to attack the cities.

In the Mediterranean, the Barbarossa brothers were the ones who had the most experience in 1492. This was the time when Spain took control of Granada. Spain defeated the last Islamic rule in the Iberian Peninsula. The Muslims from captured land manage to take refuge in North Africa. These attacks on Muslims made them grieved and urged them to start resistance against them.  One of the sons of the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II named Sehzade Korkut approached them and made them agree to act under his direction against Portuguese and Spanish to disrupt shipping in the western Mediterranean. Following the death of Sultan Bayezid II in 1512 there was succession fight between his sons Ahmed and Selim. Selim became the Sultan and began to get rid of Ahmed’s supporters. Selim was also against of Sehzade Korkut and at the end he executed him. Observing all that Barbarossa brothers parted their ways from the government that could made them hostile.  They decided to join other regional likeminded kingdoms in their struggles against Spain.

Click here to read the real history of Seljuk Sultan Ahmad Sanjar

Barbarossa brothers become prominent figure among deprived North African communities in 3 years. They prayed Spanish and Portuguese shipping independently.  Under the brothers’ command, their forces attacked Algiers in 1516. They conquered the city. This was the time when Ottomans took this as an opportunity to get influence in North Africa. They made a contact with brothers’ and offered them the funding and political support that they need. The Ottomans offered them with nominal titles of governor of Algiers to Aruj and “Chief Sea Governor of the western Mediterranean” to Khirj but till now the brothers were not the main subjects of the Ottoman Empire.

Aruj got martyred during the battle against Spanish’s in 1518 and in the nest year Spanish got hold of Algiers. After the Aruj, Khirj also known as Hayreddin took charge and got the title Barbarossa and continue his struggle. He called Ottomans for help. Over the next decade no one could get full control of Algiers and in this period Algiers became autonomous state. But with the passage of time it became dependent upon Ottoman military for protection. Later on Ottomans used Algiers as their main base of operations in the western Mediterranean.

Over the same time period Barbarossa associated himself with the Ottomans. After the Salim’s death, Süleyman the Magnificent became the Sultan and conquered Rhodes in 1522. There he made Barbarossa as the Governor beylerbeyi in Turkish. After the success to capture Tunis in 1531, Süleyman made him the grand admiral (kapudan pasha) of the Ottoman Empire in return of his service. He also served as admiral in chief of the Ottoman navy.

Click here to read the Elcin Hatun in Uyanis Buyuk Selcuklu

His victory at Preveza Greece in 1538 over the combined fleet backed with Venice, Genoa, Spain, Portugal, Malta, and the Papal States made him famous. We can say that this victory made him that Barbarossa who we know today. He used galleys instead of sailing ships because galleys were not dependent on the wind and they were maneuverable and reliable on the sides of bays and islands. That was the plus point that made him victorious over the strong fleet. He used only 122 galleys against 300 sailing ships. His victory made Tripoli and the eastern Mediterranean under the Ottoman rule. The great era that Barbarossa build ended with his death in Constantinople in 1546.


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