Who Was Hayreddin Barbarossa

Who Was Hayreddin Barbarossa
Who Was Hayreddin Barbarossa


We will get into the detail of Hayreddin Barbarossa¬†later but first we’re going through some short introduction. It was a golden period of the Ottoman Empire. Many heroes were playing their part to expand and strengthen the Ottomans. But a hero was needed to establish the dominancy of the Ottomans in the Mediterranean Sea. Because at that time though Turkish Empire had become much flourished, strengthened, and expanded but wasn’t powerful enough to get hold of the sea. This sea wasn’t only strategically essential but also the necessary route for trade and business. So for the Ottoman Empire to continue flourishing, this sea was of high significance. The realm this need of admiral was fulfilled by a pirate whose name was Hayreddin Barbarossa. The most feared pirate of the Mediterranean Sea then became a most respected admiral of Ottomans no doubt still holds the same level of reputation by some as a ruthless pirate and by some as a great admiral.

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Birth of a Pirate

Hayreddin Barbarossa was born on the island of Lesbos, which lay under Turkish control from 1462 to 1912. This pirate was given different names during his career, such as Khidr, Hayreddin Pasha, the Pirate of Algiers, and the Sea King. He inherited the title Barbarossa from his brother, by which he is known to all.

Click here to read about Seljuk Sultan Ahmad Sanjar

Barbarossa’s brothers were pirates of the Mediterranean Sea. In his youth, he joined them in their expeditions in the sea. Ultimately he was prepared for the purpose for which he was born, and that was something more than a pirate.

The Turning Point of Life

Then an event occurred which changed the life of the Barbarossa brothers’. That was the conquest of Granada in1492 by the Spanish. Islamic rule was put to the end in Granada by victorious Spain. Many Muslims were compelled to migrate, and they took refuge in North Africa. No doubt it was a very rough time for the Muslims of that territory.
In 1505, the Spanish and Portuguese forces started to attack the coastal cities of North Africa for some territorial gains. These attacks were not minor incidents to turn a deaf ear. The Ottoman was also aware of it. These attacks needed to be stopped to relieve Muslims of their misery. One of the sons of the sultan Bayezid(2), Korkut, hired the Barbarossa brothers to disrupt those attacks. It was the first time that the Barbarossa brothers contacted the Ottomans for a great purpose. From this moment starts the life which turns the pirate into an admiral.

The journey from a Pirate to the Admiral Begins

After the sultan’s death, the Ottoman Empire became a subject to chaos when sons of the sultan were fighting each other for the throne. They were fighting and executing each other. Korkut was also murdered by his brother in the suspected greed for the throne. This situation was very disappointing to the Barbarossa brothers. They fled to North Africa and led campaigns against the Spanish.
Barbarossa brothers planned several successful attacks and hunted at the Spanish and the Portuguese shipping as independent pirates. In 1516, the forces under their command attacked Algiers, and it fell to them. The Ottomans were looking to expand their rule to North Africa. This conquest of the Barbarossa brothers’ appealed to them, and they promised them political and economic support. The Ottomans then awarded them the titles of Governor to Aruj (Brother of Hayreddin Barbarossa) and Chief Sea Governor of the Western Mediterranean Sea to Khidr (Hayreddin Barbarossa).

The Death of Aruj

Aruj died in a battle against the Spanish in 1518. Algiers fell to Spanish control in the following year. Hayreddin inherited the title Barbarossa from his brother. After his brother’s death, Barbarossa didn’t quit his struggle against the Spanish. He also sought help from the Ottomans. Algiers proved to be challenging territory to keep under control. The world’s first corsair state was established in Algiers, which seem to be independent but depended on the Ottoman military for its defense. This dependency grew more and more with time. With it, Barbarossa’s association with the Ottomans also kept on strengthening.

The Grand Admiral

Suleiman the Magnificent, who had become sultan after Selim’s departure, conquered Rhodes in 1522 and made Barbarossa the Governor of it. Barbarossa and his forces conquered Tunis in 1531, after which he was made the Grand Admiral of the Ottoman Empire.

The Most Famous Battle

The battle against a big alliance of Venice, Genoa, Spain, Portugal, Malta, and the Papal States tested the abilities that turned him into a Grand Admiral. Now was the time to prove faithful to those who trusted him, admired him, honored him, and considered him worthy of his titles. They were not disappointed as Barbarossa proved himself something more than they had expected of him. He used galleys instead of sailing ships, which was apart from conventional naval wars. This use of galleys proved to be a vital element of his victory. The galleys are driven by oars and don’t rely on the wind. They were depended more on the sides of bays and islands protected from the winds than sailing ships were. He defeated a potent force by using 122 galleys against 300 crafts. His conquest paved the path for Tripoli and the eastern Mediterranean to the Ottoman Empire.


Finally, the death shows its merciless claws upon him. The King of the Sea, The Master of Waves, The Slayer of Tides, The Terror of the Enemy, and The Ottoman’s Honor, Hayreddin Barbarossa, was retired in 1545. He could live just a year without his heroic adventures and died in 1546.


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