(Turkish: Barbaros Hayreddin Paşa or Hızır Hayreddin Paşa; also Hızır Reis before being promoted to the rank of Pasha and becoming the Kaptan-ı Derya (Fleet Admiral) of the Ottoman Navy) (c. 1478 – July 4, 1546), was a Turkish privateer and Ottoman admiral who dominated the Mediterranean for decades. He was born on the island of Midilli (Lesbos in today's Greece) and died in Istanbul.
His original name was Yakupoğlu Hızır (Hızır son of Yakup). Hayreddin or Khair ad-Din, which literally means "Goodness of the Faith", was an honorary name given to him by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. He became known as Barbarossa (Redbeard) in Europe, a name he inherited from his older brother Baba Oruç (Father Aruj) after Oruç was killed in a battle with the Spanish in Algeria. Coincidentally, this name sounded like "Barbarossa" (Redbeard) to the Europeans, and he did have a red beard.
Hızır was one of four brothers who were born in the 1470s on the island of Lesbos (Λέσβος) to their Muslim Turkish father, Yakup Ağa, and his Christian Greek wife, Katerina. According to Ottoman archives Yakup Ağa was a Tımarlı Sipahi, i.e. a Turkish feudal cavalry knight, whose family had its origins in Eceabat and Balıkesir and later moved to the city of Vardar, near Thessaloniki. Yakup Ağa was among those appointed by Sultan Mehmed II to capture Lesbos from the Genoese in 1462, and he was granted the fief of Bonova village as a reward for fighting for the cause. He married a local Greek girl from Mytilene named Katerina, and they had two daughters and four sons: Ishak, Oruç, Hızır and Ilyas. Yakup became an established potter and purchased a boat to trade his products. The four sons helped their father with his business, but not much is known about the sisters. At first Oruç helped with the boat, while Hızır helped with pottery.
All four brothers became seamen, engaged in marine affairs and international sea trade. The first brother to become involved in seamanship was Oruç, who was joined by his brother Ilyas. Later, obtaining his own ship, Hızır also began his career at sea. The brothers initially worked as sailors, but then turned privateers in the Mediterranean to counteract the privateering of the Knights of St. John of the Island of Rhodes. Oruç and Ilyas operated in the Levant, between Anatolia, Syria, and Egypt. Hızır operated in the Aegean Sea and based his operations mostly in Thessaloniki. Ishak, the eldest, remained on Mytilene and was involved with the financial affairs of the family business.
Death of Ilyas, Captivity and Liberation of Oruç
Oruç was a very successful seaman. He also learned to speak Italian, Spanish, French, Greek and Arabic in the early years of his career. While returning from a trading expedition in Tripoli, Lebanon with his younger brother Ilyas, they were attacked by the Knights of St. John. Ilyas was killed in the fight, and Oruç was wounded. Their father's boat was captured, and Oruç was taken as a prisoner and detained in the Knights' castle at Bodrum for nearly three years. Upon learning the location of his brother, Hızır went to Bodrum and managed to help Oruç escape.
Oruç Reis the Corsair
Oruç later went to Antalya, where he was given 18 galleys by Shehzade Korkud, an Ottoman prince and governor of the city, and charged with fighting against the Knights of St. John who were inflicting serious damage on Ottoman shipping and trade. In the following years, when Shehzade Korkud became governor of Manisa, he gave Oruç Reis a larger fleet of 24 galleys at the port of İzmir and ordered him to participate in the Ottoman naval expedition to Puglia in Italy, where Oruç bombarded several coastal castles and captured two ships. On his way back to Lesbos, he stopped at Euboea and captured three galleons and another ship. Reaching Mytilene with these captured vessels, Oruç Reis learned that Shehzade Korkud, brother of the new Ottoman sultan, had fled to Egypt in order to avoid being killed because of succession disputes -- a common practice at that time. Fearing trouble due to his well-known association with the exiled Ottoman prince, Oruç Reis sailed to Egypt, where he met Shehzade Korkud in Cairo and managed to get an audience with the Mamluk Sultan Qansuh al-Ghawri, who gave him another ship and appointed him with the task of raiding the coasts of Italy and the islands of the Mediterranean that were controlled by Christians. After passing the winter in Cairo, he set sail from Alexandria and frequently operated along the coasts of Liguria and Sicily.
Hızır's Career under Oruç Reis
In 1503 Oruç Reis managed to seize three more ships and made the island of Djerba his new base, thus moving his operations to the Western Mediterranean. Hızır joined Oruç Reis at Djerba. In 1504 the brothers contacted Abu Abdullah Mohammed Hamis, Sultan of Tunisia from the Beni Hafs dynasty, and asked permission to use the strategically located port of La Goulette for their operations. They were granted this right with the condition of leaving one third of their gains to the sultan. Oruç Reis, in command of small galliots, captured two much larger Papal galleys near the island of Elba. Later, near Lipari, the two brothers captured a Sicilian warship, the Cavalleria, with 380 Spanish soldiers and 60 Spanish knights from Aragon on board, who were on their way from Spain to Naples. In 1505 they raided the coasts of Calabria. These accomplishments increased their fame and they were joined by several other well-known Muslim corsairs, including Kurtoğlu (known in the West as Curtogoli.) In 1508 they raided the coasts of Liguria, particularly Diano Marina.
In 1509 Ishak also left Mytilene and joined his brothers at La Goulette. The fame of Oruç Reis increased when between 1504 and 1510 he transported Muslim Mudejars from Christian Spain to North Africa. His efforts of helping the Muslims of Spain in need and transporting them to safer lands earned him the honorific name Baba Oruç (Father Aruj), which eventually - due the similarity in sound - evolved in Spain, France and Italy into Barbarossa (meaning Redbeard in Italian).
In 1510 the three brothers raided Cape Passero in Sicily and repulsed a Spanish attack on Bougie, Oran and Algiers. In August 1511 they raided the areas around Reggio Calabria in southern Italy. In August 1512 the exiled ruler of Bougie invited the brothers to drive out the Spaniards, and during the battle Oruç Reis lost his left arm. This incident earned him the nickname Gümüş Kol (Silver Arm in Turkish), in reference to the silver prosthetic device which he used in place of his missing limb. Later that year the three brothers raided the coasts of Andalusia in Spain, capturing a galliot of the Lomellini family of Genoa who owned the Tabarca island in that area. They subsequently landed on Minorca and captured a coastal castle, and then headed towards Liguria where they captured four Genoese galleys near Genoa. 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.
There they built three more galliots and a gunpowder production facility. In 1513 they captured four English ships on their way to France, raided Valencia where they captured four more ships, and then headed for Alicante and captured a Spanish galley near Málaga. In 1513 and 1514 the three brothers engaged the Spanish fleet on several other occasions and moved to their new base in Cherchell, east of Algiers. In 1514, with 12 galliots and 1,000 Turks, they destroyed two Spanish fortresses at Bougie, and when the Spanish fleet under the command of Miguel de Gurrea, viceroy of Majorca, arrived for assistance, they headed towards Ceuta and raided that city before capturing Jijel in Algeria, which was under Genoese control. They later captured Mahdiya in Tunisia. Afterwards they raided the coasts of Sicily, Sardinia, the Balearic Islands and the Spanish mainland, capturing three large ships there. In 1515 they captured several galleons, a galley and three barques at Majorca. Still in 1515 Oruç Reis sent precious gifts to the Ottoman Sultan Selim I who, in return, sent him two galleys and two swords embellished with diamonds. In 1516, joined by Kurtoğlu (Curtogoli), the brothers besieged the Castle of Elba, before heading once more towards Liguria where they captured 12 ships and damaged 28 others.
Rulers of Algiers
In 1516 the three brothers succeeded in liberating Jijel and Algiers from the Spaniards, but eventually assumed control over the city and surrounding region, forcing the previous ruler, Abu Hamo Musa III of the Beni Ziyad dynasty, to flee. The Spaniards in Algiers sought refuge on the island of Peñón off the Moroccan coast and asked Charles V, King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor, to intervene, but the Spanish fleet failed to force the brothers out of Algiers.
Algiers joins the Ottoman Empire
After consolidating his power and declaring himself Sultan of Algiers, Oruç Reis sought to enhance his territory inlands and took Miliana, Medea and Tenes. He became known for attaching sails to cannons for transport through the deserts of North Africa. In 1517 the brothers raided Capo Limiti and later the Island of Capo Rizzuto in Calabria.
For Oruç Reis the best protection against Spain was to join the Ottoman Empire, his homeland and Spain's main rival. For this he had to relinquish his title of Sultan of Algiers to the Ottomans. He did this in 1517 and offered Algiers to the Ottoman Sultan. The Sultan accepted Algiers as an Ottoman Sanjak (Province), appointed Oruç Governor of Algiers and Chief Sea Governor of the Western Mediterranean, and promised to support him with janissaries, galleys and cannons.
Final Engagements and Death of Oruç Reis and Ishak
The Spaniards ordered Abu Zayan, whom they had appointed as the new ruler of Tlemcen and Oran, to attack Oruç Reis from land, but Oruç Reis learned of the plan and pre-emptively struck against Tlemcen, capturing the city and executing Abu Zayan. The only survivor of Abu Zayan's dynasty was Sheikh Buhammud, who escaped to Oran and called for Spain's assistance.
In May 1518, Emperor Charles V arrived at Oran and was received at the port by Sheikh Buhammud and the Spanish governor of the city, Diego de Cordoba, marquess of Comares, who commanded a force of 10,000 Spanish soldiers. Joined by thousands of local Bedouins, the Spaniards marched overland towards Tlemcen. Oruç Reis and Ishak awaited them in the city with 1,500 Turkish and 5,000 Moorish soldiers. They defended Tlemcen for 20 days, but were eventually killed in combat by the forces of Garcia de Tineo.
Hızır Reis, now given the title of Beylerbey by Sultan Selim I, along with janissaries, galleys and cannons, inherited his brother's place, his name (Barbarossa) and his mission.
Pasha of Algiers
With a fresh force of Turkish soldiers sent by the Ottoman sultan, Barbarossa recaptured Tlemcen in December 1518. He continued the policy of bringing Mudejars from Spain to North Africa, thereby assuring himself of a sizeable following of grateful and loyal Muslims, who harbored an intense hatred for Spain. He captured Bone, and in 1519 he defeated a Spanish-Italian army that tried to recapture Algiers. In a separate incident he sank a Spanish ship and captured eight others. Still in 1519 he raided Provence, Toulon and the Îles d'Hyères in southern France. In 1521 he raided the Balearic Islands and later captured several Spanish ships returning from the New World off Cadiz. In 1522 he sent his ships, under the command of Kurtoğlu, to participate in the Ottoman conquest of Rhodes which resulted in the departure of the Knights of St. John from that island on 1 January 1523.
In June 1525 he raided the coasts of Sardinia. In May 1526 he landed at Crotone in Calabria and sacked the city, sank a Spanish galley and a Spanish fusta in the harbor, assaulted Castignano in Marche on the Adriatic Sea and later landed at Cape Spartivento. In June 1526 he landed at Reggio Calabria and later destroyed the fort at the port of Messina. He then appeared on the coasts of Tuscany, but retreated after seeing the fleet of Andrea Doria and the Knights of St. John off the coast of Piombino. In July 1526 Barbarossa appeared once again in Messina and raided the coasts of Campania. In 1527 he raided many ports and castles on the coasts of Italy and Spain.
In May 1529 he captured the Spanish fort on the island of Peñón that controlled the north Moroccan coast. In August 1529 he attacked the Mediterranean coasts of Spain and later helped 70,000 Moriscos to escape from Andalusia in seven consecutive journeys. In January 1530 he again raided the coasts of Sicily and in March and June of that year the Balearic Islands and Marseilles. In July 1530 he appeared along the coasts of the Provence and Liguria, capturing two Genoese ships. In August 1530 he raided the coasts of Sardinia and in October appeared at Piombino, capturing a barque from Viareggio and three French galleons, before capturing two more ships off Calabria. In December 1530 he captured the Castle of Cabrera, in the Balearic Islands, and started to use the island as a logistic base for his operations in the area.
In 1531 he encountered Andrea Doria, who had been appointed by Charles V to recapture Jijel and Peñón, and repulsed the Spanish-Genoese fleet of 40 galleys. Still in 1531 he raided the island of Favignana, where the flagship of the Maltese Knights under the command of Francesco Touchebeuf unsuccessfully attacked his fleet. Barbarossa then sailed eastwards and landed in Calabria and Puglia. On the way back to Algiers he sank a ship of the Maltese Knights near Messina before assaulting Tripoli which had been given to the Knights of St. John by Charles V in 1530. In October 1531 he again raided the coasts of Spain.
In 1532, during Suleiman I's expedition to Habsburg Austria, Andrea Doria captured Coron, Patras and Lepanto on the coasts of the Morea (Peloponnese). In response, Suleiman sent the forces of Yahya Pashazade Mehmed Bey, who recaptured these cities. But the event made Suleiman realize the importance of having a powerful commander at sea. He summoned Barbarossa to Istanbul, who set sail in August 1532. Having raided Sardinia, Bonifacio in Corsica, the Islands of Montecristo, Elba and Lampedusa, he captured 18 galleys near Messina and learned from the captured prisoners that Doria was headed to Preveza. Barbarossa proceeded to raid the nearby coasts of Calabria and then sailed towards Preveza. Doria's forces fled after a short battle, but only after Barbarossa had captured seven of their galleys. He arrived at Preveza with a total of 44 galleys, but sent 25 of them back to Algiers and headed to Istanbul with 19 ships. There he was received by Sultan Suleiman at Topkapı Palace. Suleiman appointed Barbarossa Kaptan-ı Derya (Fleet Admiral) of the Ottoman Navy and Beylerbey (Chief Governor) of North Africa. Barbarossa was also given the government of the Sanjak (Province) of Rhodes and those of Euboea and Chios in the Aegean Sea.
Kaptan-ı Derya of the Ottoman Navy
In 1534 Barbarossa set sail from Istanbul with 80 galleys and in April he recaptured Coron, Patras and Lepanto from the Spaniards. In July 1534 he crossed the Strait of Messina and raided the Calabrian coasts, capturing a substantial number of ships around Reggio Calabria as well as the Castle of San Lucido. He later destroyed the port of Cetraro and the ships harbored there. Still in July 1534 he appeared in Campania and sacked the islands of Capri and Procida, before bombarding the ports in the Gulf of Naples. He then appeared in Lazio, shelled Gaeta and in August landed at Villa Santa Lucia, Sant'Isidoro, Sperlonga, Fondi, Terracina and Ostia on the River Tiber, causing the church bells in Rome to ring the alarm. He then sailed south, appearing at Ponza, Sicily and Sardinia, before capturing Tunis in August 1534 and sending the Hafsid Sultan Mulei Hassan fleeing. He also captured the strategic port of La Goulette.
Mulei Hassan asked Emperor Charles V for assistance to recover his kingdom, and a Spanish-Italian force of 300 galleys and 24,000 soldiers recaptured Tunis as well as Bone and Mahdiya in 1535. Recognizing the futility of armed resistance, Barbarossa had abandoned Tunis well before the arrival of the invaders, sailing away into the Tyrrhenian Sea, where he bombarded ports, landed once again at Capri and reconstructed a fort (which still today carries his name) after largely destroying it during the siege of the island. He then sailed to Algiers, from where he raided the coastal towns of Spain, destroyed the ports of Majorca and Minorca, captured several Spanish and Genoese galleys and liberated their Muslim oar slaves. In September 1535 he repulsed another Spanish attack on Tlemcen.
In 1536 Barbarossa was called back to Istanbul to take command of the naval attack on the Habsburg Kingdom of Naples. In July 1537 he landed at Otranto and captured the city, as well as the Fortress of Castro and the city of Ugento in Puglia.
In August 1537, Lütfi Pasha and Barbarossa led a huge Ottoman force which captured the Aegean and Ionian islands belonging to the Republic of Venice, namely Syros, Aegina, Ios, Paros, Tinos, Karpathos, Kasos and Naxos. In the same year Barbarossa captured Corfu from Venice and once again raided Calabria. These losses caused Venice to ask Pope Paul III to organize a "Holy League" against the Ottomans.
In February 1538, Pope Paul III succeeded in assembling a Holy League (comprising the Papacy, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, the Republic of Venice and the Maltese Knights) against the Ottomans, but Barbarossa defeated its combined fleet, commanded by Andrea Doria, at the Battle of Preveza in September 1538. This victory secured Turkish dominance over the Mediterranean for the next 33 years, until the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.
In the summer of 1539 Barbarossa captured the islands of Skiathos, Skyros, Andros and Serifos and recaptured Castelnuovo from the Venetians, who had taken it from the Ottomans after the battle of Preveza. He also captured the nearby Castle of Risan and later assaulted the Venetian fortress of Cattaro and the Spanish fortress of Santa Veneranda near Pesaro. Barbarossa later took the remaining Christian outposts in the Ionian and Aegean Seas. Venice finally signed a peace treaty with Sultan Suleiman in October 1540, agreeing to recognize the Turkish territorial gains and to pay 300,000 gold ducats.
In September 1540, Emperor Charles V contacted Barbarossa and offered him to become his Admiral-in-Chief as well as the ruler of Spain's territories in North Africa, but he refused. Unable to persuade Barbarossa to switch sides, in October 1541, Charles himself laid siege to Algiers, seeking to end the corsair threat to the Spanish domains and Christian shipping in the western Mediterranean. The season was not ideal for such a campaign, and both Andrea Doria, who commanded the fleet, and the old Hernan Cortes, who had been asked by Charles to participate in the campaign, attempted to change the Emperor's mind but failed. Eventually a violent storm disrupted Charles' landing operations. Andrea Doria took his fleet away into open waters to avoid being wrecked on the shore, but much of the Spanish fleet went aground. After some indecisive fighting on land, Charles had to abandon the effort and withdraw his severely battered force.
In 1543 Barbarossa headed towards Marseilles to assist France, then an ally of the Ottoman Empire, and cruised the western Mediterranean with a fleet of 210 ships (70 galleys, 40 galliots and 100 other warships carrying 14,000 Turkish soldiers, thus an overall total of 30,000 Ottoman troops.) On his way, while passing through the Strait of Messina, he asked Diego Gaetani, the governor of Reggio Calabria, to surrender his city. Gaetani responded with cannon fire, which killed three Turkish sailors. Barbarossa, angered by the response, besieged and captured the city. He then landed on the coasts of Campania and Lazio, and from the mouth of the Tiber threatened Rome, but France intervened in favor of the Pope's city. Barbarossa then raided several Italian and Spanish islands and coastal settlements before laying siege to Nice and capturing the city on 5 August 1543 on behalf of the French king Francois I. He later landed at Antibes and the Île Sainte-Marguerite near Cannes, before sacking the city of San Remo, other ports of Liguria, Monaco and La Turbie. He spent the winter with his fleet and 30,000 Turkish soldiers in Toulon, but occasionally sent his ships from there to bombard the coasts of Spain. The Cathedral of St. Mary in Toulon was transformed into a mosque for the Turkish soldiers, and Ottoman money was accepted for transactions by the French salesmen in the city.
In the spring of 1544, after assaulting San Remo for the second time and landing at Borghetto Santo Spirito and Ceriale, Barbarossa defeated another Spanish-Italian fleet and raided deeply into the Kingdom of Naples. He then sailed to Genoa with his 210 ships and threatened to attack the city unless it freed Turgut Reis, who had been serving as a galley slave on a Genoese ship and then imprisoned in the city since his capture in Corsica by Giannettino Doria in 1540. Barbarossa was invited by Andrea Doria to discuss the issue at his palace in the Fassolo district of Genoa, and the two admirals negotiated the release of Turgut Reis in exchange for 3,500 gold ducats. Barbarossa then successfully repulsed further Spanish attacks on southern France, but was recalled to Istanbul after Charles V and Suleiman had agreed to a truce in 1544.
After leaving the Provence from the port of Île Sainte-Marguerite in May 1544, Barbarossa assaulted San Remo for the third time, and when he appeared before Vado Ligure, the Republic of Genoa sent him a substantial sum to save other Genoese cities from further attacks. In June 1544 Barbarossa appeared before Elba. Threatening to bombard Piombino unless the city released the son of Sinan Reis who had been captured 10 years earlier by the Spaniards in Tunis, he obtained his release. He then captured Castiglione della Pescaia, Talamone and Orbetello in the province of Grosseto in Tuscany. There he destroyed the tomb and burned the remains of Bartolomeo Peretti, who had burned his father's house in Mytilene the previous year, in 1543. He then captured Montiano and occupied Porto Ercole and the Isle of Giglio. He later assaulted Civitavecchia, but Leone Strozzi, the French envoy, convinced Barbarossa to lift the siege.
The Turkish fleet then assaulted the coasts Sardinia before appearing at Ischia and landing there in July 1544, capturing the city as well as Forio and the Isle of Procida before threatening Pozzuoli. Encountering 30 galleys under Giannettino Doria, Barbarossa forced them to sail away towards Sicily and seek refuge in Messina. Due to strong winds the Turks were unable to attack Salerno but managed to land at Cape Palinuro nearby. Barbarossa then entered the Strait of Messina and landed at Catona, Fiumara and Calanna near Reggio Calabria and later at Cariati and at Lipari, which was his final landing on the Italian peninsula. There he bombarded the citadel for 15 days after the city refused to surrender, and eventually captured it.
He finally returned to Istanbul, and in 1545 left the city for his final naval expeditions, during which he bombarded the ports of the Spanish mainland and landed at Majorca and Minorca for the last time. He then sailed back to Istanbul and built a palace on the Bosphorus, in the present-day district of Büyükdere.
Retirement and Death
Barbarossa retired in Istanbul in 1545, leaving his son Hasan Pasha as his successor in Algiers. He then dictated his memoirs to Muradi Sinan Reis. They consist of five hand-written volumes known as "Gazavat-ı Hayreddin Paşa" (Memories of Hayreddin Pasha). Today they are exhibited at the Topkapı Palace and Istanbul University Library. They are prepared and published by BKY-Babıali Kültür Yayıncılığı as "Kaptan Paşa'nın Seyir Defteri" (The Logbook of the Captain Pasha) by Prof. Dr. Ahmet Şimşirgil, a Turkish academic. They are also fictionalised as "Akdeniz Bizimdi" (The Mediterranean was Ours) by M. Ertuğrul Düzdağ.
Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha died in 1546 in his palace in Istanbul.
Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha established Turkish supremacy in the Mediterranean which lasted until the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. But even after their defeat in Lepanto, the Ottoman Turks quickly rebuilt their fleet, regained Cyprus and other lost territories in Morea and Dalmatia from the Republic of Venice between 1571 and 1572, and conquered Tunisia from Spain in 1574. Furthermore, the Turks ventured into the northern Atlantic Ocean between 1585 and 1660, and continued to be a major Mediterranean sea power for three more centuries, until the reign of Sultan Abdülaziz, when the Ottoman fleet, which had 21 battleships and 173 other types of warships, ranked as the third largest naval force in the world after the British and French navies (see the main article History of the Turkish Navy).
However, during these centuries of great seamen such as Kemal Reis before him; his brother Oruç Reis and other contemporaries Turgut Reis, Salih Reis, Piri Reis and Kurtoğlu Muslihiddin Reis; or Piyale Pasha, Murat Reis, Seydi Ali Reis, Uluç Ali Reis and Kurtoğlu Hızır Reis after him, few other Turkish admirals ever achieved the overwhelming naval power of Barbaros Hayreddin Paşa.
His mausoleum is in the Barbaros Park of Beşiktaş, Istanbul, where his statue also stands, right next to the Turkish Naval Museum. On the back of the statue are verses by the Turkish poet Yahya Kemal Beyatlı which may be translated as follows:
Whence on the sea's horizon comes that roar?
Can it be Barbarossa now returning
From Tunis or Algiers or from the Isles?
Two hundred vessels ride upon the waves,
Coming from lands the rising Crescent lights:
O blessed ships, from what seas are ye come?
(translation by John Freely in Strolling through Istanbul, p. 467, Sev Yayıncılık, 1997)
Barbaros Boulevard starts from his mausoleum on the Bosphorus and runs all the way up to the Levent and Maslak business districts and beyond.
In the centuries following his death, even today, Turkish seamen salute his mausoleum with a cannon shot before leaving for naval operations and battles.
Several warships of the Turkish Navy and passenger ships have been named after him.