Hello everyone, this is the historiographer.Today we will be discovering the fascinating life and times of the ottoman empire’s finest admiral and one of, if not , history’s greatest admirals, the man who saved tens of thousands of Muslim Andalusians from Spanish persecution and halted catholic Habsburg aggression into north Africa, the man who won stunning victories against mighty fleets and transformed the Mediterranean sea into an ottoman lake – meet Hayreddin Barbarossa. Hayreddin Barbarossa as he would be become known in his later years was born as Khizr on the island of Lesbos, today’s Greece , in 1476. His father was probably an
Albanian cavalryman who was awarded a fiefdom in the island by Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror while his mother was a greek native of the island. He had 3 elder brothers : Ishak , Oruc and Ilyas. His father purchased a boat via which they could sell their pottery throughout the Agean sea. His brother, Oruc, who was a brilliant tradesman and seaman, saught to expand his father’s trading base from the agean sea to the broader Mediterranean basin. Thus, Oruc and Ilyas set out on a trading endeavor to Tripoli in the levant. While on their way the trade ship of the brothers was attacked by the pirates of the infamous knights Hospitallier,
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remnants since crusader times who made the Island of Rhodes their base of operations from which they would prey on Islamic trade ships in the eastern mediterannean. In the brief raid, Ilyas was killed while Oruc was taken into captivity. Upon hearing the news, Khizr was devastated. Nevertheless, Khizr helped liberate his brother Oruc from the hands of the Hospitalliers after nearly three years of Captivity.This experience changed the brothers, and Oruc travelled to the Mamluk sultan of Egypt offering him his services as a reis, or captain. EXPEDITIONS IN AFRICA In 1503, and after some brief time in the services of the mamluk sultan , Oruc and
Khizr travelled together to Hafsid sultan of Tunis, asking him to grant them docking rights in the port of La Goulette for their ships.To understand this crucial decision , we must take a step back and analyze the political situation in north Africa and in the broader Mediterranean. By 1415, Portugal had occupied the city of ceuta from morocco and fortified it,
seeking to tap in on the crucial trade routes of west Africa and establish a base in north Africa. Similar efforts were undertaken in the Spanish union, which controlled vast amounts of territory in the mediterannean such as the Balearic islands, Sardinia, and the kingdom of naples in southern italy. By 1492, the final Islamic stronghold in the Iberian peninsula, the emirate of Granada, fell to the Spaniards. That same year,
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thousands of jews were expelled to north Africa and to the ottoman empire by the Alhambra decree .At the same time, the muslim population living in Andalusia was suffering under the Spanish inquisition, which was a brutal method of forcing muslims and jews to leave their faith and convert to Christianity through horrific methods such as torture .Spain was eyeing the north African coast, taking the cities melila, oran and Algiers by the start of the 16th century. Its neighbor to the north,
The kingdom of France, was locked in its own dynastic feuds and the Valois kings were focused on centralization efforts. Northern Italy was home to various squabbling italian city states while the pope controlled rome and teritoies in Romagna since the times of charlemgne. By this time, an interesting rivalry was occuring between two Italian maritime trading republics. The republic of Genoa and the republic of venice. Both had overseas territories and conducted trade with the various Islamic territories,
mainly with Egypt to acquire the highly sought for Indian spices and silk. Speaking of Islamic territories, by the early 16th century, north Africa was home to the wattasid dynasty , which controlled the sultanate of morocco. The weakened zayanids, controlling the emirate telmcen and Algiers, and the hafsid sultanate of tunis, owning turnis and parts of eastern Algeria and northern lybia. Egypt and the levant was still under the rule of the ailing mamluk sultanate based in cairo, while Anatolia and the Balkans were newly acquired by the rising ottoman wave.
The agean sea harbored the notorious Knights Hospitalliers, which were remnants of the last crusaders expelled from the levant. These so called knights turned into piracy and caused havoc in the eastern meditareannean and on both mamluk and ottoman shipping from their base of operations in the island of Rhodes. These were the same pirates that captured hayreddins brother oruc and executed his second brother ilyas. Now that we have looked into the political situation, it is not hard to understand the motive behind the brothers oruc and khizr’s journey to the sultan of tunis : they wanted to act as a barrier and protect the Islamic inhabitants and cities of north Africa against the increasing incursions of the Christian powers and help the helpless sultanates and emirates of north Africa. In fact, there is an interesting quote from Barbarossa’s own diaries. He told his brother when they arrived in tunis : “ If death is the end of each human being let it be for the sake of Allah”
Thus, from 1504 to 1510, Oruc and his brother khidr started rescuing operations which saved tens of thousands of andlausian muslims from the brutality of Spanish inquisition. At this time, the Europeans took to calling oruc barbaros, meaning the one with the red beard. Given that all of the brothers had crimson facial hair, the nickname stuck and was even used by the turks themselves in the form of barbaros to refer to the brothers. In 1509, Ishak , the eldest brother, also left the island of Lesbos and joined his brothers at La Goulette port in tunis.In 1510, the three brothers raided Sicily and repulsed Spanish attacks on the cities of Bejaia,
Oran and Algiers in the Algerian coast. In August 1511, they responded to the Spanish attack by raiding the areas around Calabria in southern Italy .In the autumn of 1512, the exiled muslim ruler of Bejaia asked the brothers to drive out the Spaniards, and during the battle Oruç lost his left arm.Later that same year, the brothers raided the coasts of Andalusia, landed at the island of Menorca and captured a coastal castle and then headed towards Liguria in Genoa, where they raided the hinterlands and captured four Genoese galleys. The Genoese sent a fleet to liberate their ships, but the brothers captured their flagship as well. After capturing a total of 23 ships in less than a month, the brothers sailed back to La Goulette, where they built three more galliots and a gunpowder production facility. In 1513, they launched a raid on Valencia , Alicante and Malaga,
capturing 5 ships in the process.From 1513–14, the brothers engaged the Spanish fleet on several occasions and moved to their new base to Cherchell, just east of Spanish occupied Algers. In 1514, with 12 galliots and 1,000 Turks, they destroyed two Spanish fortresses at Bejaia, and when another Spanish fleet arrived as reinforcement , they ambushed and crushed it. By now, Oruc reis realized that he could not take on the mighty Spanish empire all by himself , thus he started to build favors with the ottomans to enhance his diplomatic position and gain an edge over the Spanish empire. In fact, in 1515, Oruç sent precious gifts to the Ottoman Sultan Selim I, who, in return, sent him two galleys and two swords encrusted with diamonds. RULER OF ALGIERSIn 1516, the three brothers finally succeeded in recapturing the city of Algiers from the Spaniards after a tense assault .
This gave them unprecedented prestige and fame in the muslim world and with each victory their prestige grew more and more. Eventually , the barbarossas assumed full control over the city and surrounding region.The Spanish exiled garrison of Algiers sought refuge on the island of Peñón in the mediterannean and asked Charles V, King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor to intervene, but the Spanish fleet which had been sent by the emperor failed to expel the brothers from Algiers.Algiers annexed by the ottoman empire After consolidating his power and being asked to become the ruler of the emirate of Algiers by the elite of the city of algers, Oruç sought to expand his territory inland to create a greater buffer zone into which they could retreat in case of Spanish attack. For Oruç, the best protection against Spain was to join the Ottoman Empire, his homeland and Spain’s main rival,
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which is a move he was planning on for years. For this, he had to relinquish his title of ruler of Algiers to the Ottomans. He did this in 1517 and offered Algiers to the Ottoman Sultan Selim I. The Sultan, who had just conquered the levant , the hejaz and Egypt from mamluk sultanate and proclaimed himself Caliph of all muslims had by now become acquainted with the barbarossas. Consequently, he accepted Algiers as an Ottoman sanjak (“province”) and appointed Oruç Governor of Algiers and Chief Sea Governor of the West Mediterranean. Most importantly however, Sultan Selim promised to support the brothers with janissaries,
which were elite ottoman troops, galleys ,cannons and gunpowder.Final engagement of oruc and ishakOruc Reis now set his sight on the city of telmcen, and succeeded in capturing it from the Spanish in 1517. However, he and his eldest brother , Ishak, lost their lives in the defense of the city later that year after a Spanish counter-attack. After the death of his brothers, Khizr Reis was now given the title of Beylerbey by Sultan Selim I, and he inherited his brother’s position, his name (Barbarossa) and his mission to save north Africa against the unrelenting waves of catholic assaults. Stay tuned for part 2, where Barbarossa would lead actions and win battles , such as the legendary battle of Preveza, which would forever enshrine his name into the annals of history.