Turkish Naval Forces

Eminent Sailors


Çaka BEY

The Turks were first introduced to seas by Çaka Bey. When he was captured by the Byzantines in 1078, he was sent to İstanbul, where he was passionately interested in sailing.

As the Byzantine Emperor was dethroned in 1081, Çaka Bey was able benefit from disorder and escaped from İstanbul. After meeting his comrades, Çaka Bey took İzmir and began to expand the borders of his principality. He had a shipyard built there, regarded as a "modern" one during its age. From then on, a number of ships including rowboats and sailing ships were constructed. The first Turkish Fleet of 50 sailing boats and rowboats was built in 1081. That year is extremely important in the history of the Turkish Navy, since it has been regarded as the “foundation of the Turkish Naval Forces.”

Sailing in warm waters of the Aegean Sea, Emir Çaka Bey captured Urla, Çeşme and Foça. After taking Midilli in 1089 and Sakız in 1090, the Turkish fleet entered into the world of seas rapidly.

The first Turkish fleet under the command of Çaka Bey confronted the Byzantines in the vicinity of Koyun Islands, between Karaburun and Sakız Island in May 1090.

In the Battle of Koyun Islands, regarded as "the first battle at sea", the Byzantine Fleet was forced to retreat, suffering heavy loss. The death of Çaka Bey in 1095 struck a blow against development of Turkish maritime. 


Umur BEY

When Anatolian Seljuks were broken up due to the suppression by the Mongols, it turned into various principalities, especially in the west part of Anatolia. Those (Karesioğulları, Saruhanoğulları, Aydınoğulları, Menteşeoğulları, Candaroğulları) principalities revitalized Turkish Maritime, which had been weakened by the Mongolian attacks before.

The Principality of Aydınoğulları was established in Aydın in 1308, growing rapidly at the sea during the reign of Umur Bey. He attained a great success against the Byzantines and the Genoese in the Aegean Sea between 1334 and 1348, taking full control of an area extending from Rhodes to Çanakkale Strait, including Morean and Rumelian shores. Managing highly successful tactical manoeuvres and raids against the Crusaders, Umur Bey who managed to execute tactical manoeuvres and raids against the Crusaders,  was martyred in 1348.


Karamürsel BEY

: Caique ‘Marmara’, with one and a half masts and without deck,  built by Karamürsel Bey.Reaching the Sea of Marmara with the conquest of Karamürsel in 1323, Ottoman Principality was introduced to seas when Karesi Principality, a neighbor in the west, sent reinforcements consisting of 24 ships under the command of Mürsel Bey in 1324. That support paved the way for establishing a powerful fleet.  

It was initiated to institutionalize the concept of sea power when the Ottoman Principality dominated Eastern Marmara. The first shipyard was built in Karamürsel in 1327. The first warship was also built there. While the fleet was organized according to a system in which people are arranged hierarchically, the fleet commander was renamed as ‘Derya Beyi’ in Turkish.  He took place among the pioneers of the Ottoman naval history as the ‘first fleet commander.’ After his death, he was buried in the place where his name was given to. 

Mürsel Bey attained an invaluable fame for his outstanding success at sea battles and also deep knowledge on seamanship. He was given the title of ‘Kara (black in English) for his bravery. 


PİRİ REİS (1465-1554)

Piri Reis

Piri Reis was born in Gelibolu which gained fame as the ‘home of sailors’ after most of eminent sailors, admirals as well as cartographers were born.  With  the help of his uncle Admiral Kemal Reis, Piri Reis  attended the fleet at a very young age. It is not known when he was born, but probably between the years 1465 and 1470. He navigated through the Mediterranean Sea for a long while, observing and recording all coasts and ports meticulously.      

Piri Reis, as the commanding officer,  fought with the Venetians between 1499-1502. When Kemal Reis was martyred in 1511, he went back to Gelibolu and began his studies on nautical sciences. He is primarily known today for his maps and charts collected in his

‘Kitab-ı Bahriye (Book of Navigation),’ a book that contains detailed information on navigation as well as very accurate charts for their time describing ports and cities of the Mediterranean Sea. He was known worldwide. He drew his first world map in 1513 and had the opportunity to present it to Selim I (known as Yavuz) during his Ottoman Campaign in Egypt in 1517. That map is the oldest known Turkish atlas showing the ‘New World.’   8 years after his first masterpiece, he wrote ‘Kitab-ı Bahriye.’ After having completed his book, he presented it to Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent in 1526.      

Piri Reis depicted cities and countries located in the coasts of the Aegean Sea and the Mediterrenean Sea, drew their pictures and maps, referring to notable information on navigation and seamanship.  He then served for the Ottoman Empire in the South. During this period,  he was the commander of the Ottoman Fleet in the Indian Ocean. This was the greatest honor of his life, although the position would also prepare his bitter fate.    

While he was in the Persian Gulf, he was imprisoned for having gone back to Egypt with 3 ships loaded with booty, leaving the fleet which was in need of repair and rest. So, Piri Reis was perceived as a fleeing commander, having left his navy in the battlefield by the Ottoman Governor of Egypt and this along with the complaints against him resulted in him being beheaded in Egypt with the approval of Suleyman the Magnificent in 1554.  

TURGUT REİS (1485- 1565)

Turgut Reis

Born in Menteşe/Muğla in 1485, Turgut Reis worked as a crewmember onboard corsair ships. He joined the fleet of Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha in the Battle of Preveza, which was also a turning point for him. He played an important role during the battle. Captured by the Genoese in 1540, he worked in a ship as a slave for 3 years. He was rescued by Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha, who then established a fleet for him. Following this, he became the Governor of Djerba and conquered Candia. After Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha’s death in 1546, Turgut Reis took the place of him in the Mediterranean and maintained Ottoman dominance  at seas.  

 Achieving many successes  in the west of the Mediterranean Sea, he  became the nightmare of the Europeans. After conquering Tripoli in August 1551, he was known as the ‘Conqueror of Tripoli.’ 

In recognition of his services, Sultan Süleyman awarded Tripoli and the surrounding territory to Turgut Reis along with the title of ‘Beylerbeyi (Chief Governor).’ He then sailed with Commander in Chief Piyale Pasha, attending a number of sea campaigns. He was one of the most significant sailors who played a great part in the victory of Djerba. He was martyred in June 1565 when he attended the Siege of Malta.

KEMAL REİS (1440-1511)The first Turkish galleon named ‘Göke,’ built by Kemal Reis in 1495.

Uncle of a famous cartographer and admiral Piri Reis, Kemal Reis  was most probably born in Gelibolu in 1440, but some sources on Ottoman history say that he was the son of a Karamanlı family. When he was young, he worked as a privateer. After that, he attended the Ottoman fleet as a mariner and later became ‘Azap Reisi (chief of a troop in Ottoman navy).’ Nearly in 1473, he began to sail with his own ship, ‘kalite’ in Turkish, making raids at seas. 

In 1481, he took his nephew Piri Reis with him to begin new naval expeditions. From then on, he began one of the most famous commanders. Kemal Reis started his professional career when Sultan Bayezid II appointed him  with the task of defending the lands of the ruler of Granada. As he served for the Ottoman Empire, a new age of the ‘Great Turkish Fleet Captains’ began.  

Kemal Reis, after beginning to serve for the Ottoman Empire, a great change was observed on the Ottoman seamanship and especially the ship building. In 1495, two big ships, fairly large at their time and with sails and oars and 3 decks, were constructed. They were Venetian- style ships named ‘Göke.’ One of the ships was commanded by Kemal Reis and the other one was by Burak Reis.

When Kemal Reis began to serve for the Ottoman Empire, the fleet was also reorganized and reached a very high level. During battles started in 1499, Kemal Reis played an important role in capturing Modon, Koron, Navarino and Lephanto. The Venetian Fleet, cooperating  with the French ships,  was also  defeated. 

In 1511, Ottoman ships were wrecked by a severe storm, including the ship of Kemal Reis, who died with his men. The Mediterranean was deeply saddened by his death. It is also noteworthy that ‘long range cannons’ were first used at his time. 

BURAK REİS (...-1499)

Burak Reis during the battle with the Venetians (12 August 1499). The two ships in the front belong to Venetian Fleet. The ship at the back is Göke, Ottoman ship.  Hardly no information about his life, Burak Reis assumed the duty of galley commander during Egyptian Campaign in 1488. Upon invitation by Sultan Bayezid II, he came from the West Mediterranean with Kemal Reis in order to serve for the Ottoman fleet. He fought with the Venetian fleet in the Aegean Sea in August 1499. When his ship was caught in the middle of two enemy ships, he burned both his ship and the enemy ones, which resulted in  catching fire all of them as well. After that he was martyred. His name was given to Brodano Island, where he fought against the Venetians.               


Barbaros Hayreddin Paşa

Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha, one of the most eminent sailors throughout Ottoman history, established a Turkish sovereignty in the Mediterrenean. He became better known as "Barbaros", which meant "redbeard", after being named by the Europeans. His other name "Hayreddin" was given by Yavuz Sultan Selim.

His fame was quickly spread within the Mediterrenean as he and his brother Oruç Reis were acting piracy in the Northern Africa. The Barbaros Brothers, after capturing Algeria in 1515, established Kingdom of Algeria there. Succeeded to the throne, Oruç Reis (Oruç Barbaros) was martyred at war done with the Spanish in 1518.

Barbaros Hayreddin, upon his brother's death, came to the throne and the war with the Spanish went on.

With his magnificent glories, Barbaros Hayreddin was invited to carry on his service under the Ottomans by Süleyman the Magnificent in 1533. He was then assigned as the Commander in Chief of the Ottoman Navy.

The Turkish Maritime enjoyed its golden age during his service. He made many significant campaigns, including Tunisia, Majorca, Korfu, Pulya, Venice as well as Sea of Islands and the Mediterrenean in 12 year's duty,  which started in 1534 virtually. He was best known by the Victory of Preveza on 27 September 1538, and the expedition to Nice to support the King of France.       

Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha raised many renowned sailors. Turgut Reis, Salih Reis, Piri Reis, Murat Reis, Seydi Ali Reis and Kılıç Ali Reis are among those ones. The famous Turkish sailor died in İstanbul, 1546. His tomb is in Beşiktaş, İstanbul.


Kılıç Ali Paşa One of eminent sailors raised by Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha, Uluç Ali Reis fought near Turgut Reis in the Battle of Djerba in 1560, playing a crucial role in the victory. He then took place in the Siege of Malta in 1565. After death of Turgut Reis in 1565, he was promoted to the title of ‘Governor General’ of Tripoli and Algeria respectively.  

In the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, two thirds of the Ottoman fleet was destroyed by the Crusaders, except the commander of right wing and the ships of Governor General of Algeria Uluç Ali Reis. Although the Ottoman fleet was heavily defeated, he was rewarded for his  services during the battle with the title of ‘Kaptan-ı Derya (Commander in Chief of Navy)’ and renamed as ‘Kılıç Ali Pasha’ by the Sultan Selim II in 1571.

Large amount of the Ottoman fleet was destroyed during the Battle of Lepanto. Kılıç Ali Pasha worked very hard to rebuild and reinforce the fleet. The shipyards in İstanbul and Gelibolu also made great effort to vitalize the fleet. Eventually, his efforts bore fruit and the fleet was reorganized in 5 months.  In 1574, Tunisia was recaptured by the Ottoman fleet under the command of Kılıç Ali Pasha. The fleet was regarded as one of the most powerful fleets until his death in 1587.


Salih Reis

Salih Reis was one of eminent sailors raised by Commander in Chief Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha.

Salih Reis was one of famous sailors raised by the Commander in Chief Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha. He was born most probably in 1486. Due to his interest in seas, he made a number of raids in his early years. He then began to serve for Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha, having much success in battles. He was also one of 18 admirals (‘reis’ in Turkish) brought by Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha. Salih Reis commanded the right wing of the ships that were under the command of Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha in the battle of Preveza, making great efforts to win it.

When Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha was on a naval expedition to France in 1543, he sent Salih Reis and Hasan Reis to the coasts of Spain and Catalonia to make raids and the Ottomans attained a great amount of booty. After Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha died in 1546, Salih Reis was promoted to the rank of Beylerbeyi (Chief Governor) of Algeria in 1551. He died in 1556.



Commander in Chief Hasan Pasha is known to have been enslaved at an early age within the borders of Iran and bought by a merchant of Tekirdağ who raised him with his own children.

Set free at the age of 17 or 18 by his master, he went to Algeria, where he worked for a number of years.

At the Battle of Chesma (Çeşme) in 1770, the ship that he was in caught fire. He was able to come alongside the Russian flagship, which caused a big fire of more than one ship. Meanwhile, he jumped into the sea and remained alive. The Ottoman fleet was heavily defeated. After that battle, he arrived at the Ottoman capital with the bad news, but was highly praised for his own accomplishment. He dislodged the Russian fleet which had established a base on the island of Limni. Therefore, he was promoted to the rank of ‘Kapudan Pasha’ and given the title of ‘Gazi’ by Sultan Mustafa III in 1770.

Acting as the Commander in Chief of Ottoman Navy during the reign of Mustafa III and Abdülhamit I, Hasan Pasha was in charge of commander of Ottoman  fleet which was in despair.

Hasan Pasha was a reformist who wanted to renovate the fleet. He started with establishing the Naval Engineering Golden Horn Shipyard (later Turkish Naval Academy). He received the approval of constructing 100 galleons from Sultan Mustafa III.

Hasan Pasha was not only a hero who fought at sea and land, but also very successful in the areas of management and organization.

Of those highly regarded services, ‘Mühendishane-i Bahri-i Hümayun,’ origin of the Naval Academy, was remarkable.   

Hasan Pasha ordered to construct the barracks named ‘Kalyoncu’ in Kasımpaşa and enabled the personnel to work in order. This building now serves as the North Sea Area Command.

Hasan Pasha died in 1790 after a short while when he was promoted to the duty of Grand Vizier.


Piyale Paşa

Piyale Pasha assumed the duty of Grand Admiral for 14 years during the reign of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent and won remarkable victories. He was a Croatian or Hungarian descent. In the reign of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent he was brought to the palace and was raised by the rules of Enderun School (Ottoman Palace school).

After a long term education and training, Piyale Pasha completed Enderun School and became ‘Kapıcıbaşı (a ruler at palace)’ in 1547. Upon the death of Sinan Pasha in 1554, he was promoted to the rank of ‘Sanjak Bey (an administrative commander of a district)’  and Grand Admiral. Piyale Pasha was aware of his responsibility of keeping Turkish sovereignty in the Mediterranean Sea  during the reign of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, the period of which was full of glorious victories.  

In the spring of 1553, Piyale Pasha and Turgut Reis sailed towards the Mediterranean Sea with a fleet of 60 ships. During the expedition, fortresses  in the vicinity of Italy and Spain were besieged. Then the port of Bizerte and the castle within the borders of Tunisia were annexed by him in 1555.  

When Piyale Pasha was sailing through the Mediterranean Sea with a fleet of 150 ships in 1556, he was able to capture Island of Majorca, which was under the control of the Spanish and arrived in İstanbul, receiving a great amount of booty.

The Crusaders were defeated in the Victory of Djerba by the Ottoman fleet on 14 May 1560. The Ottomans were able to maintain sovereignty in the Mediterranean Sea. In recognition of his services, he was promoted to the rank of Beylerbeyi of Algeria by Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent.

Piyale Pasha fought near Turgut Reis in the siege of Malta in 1565. The Chios Island was captured after a year. Piyale Pasha was commissioned as Vizier by Selim II, the successor of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. Müezzinzade Ali Pasha,  was promoted to the rank of Kapudan Pasha (formerly known as Captain Pasha).  

Grand Mosque of Piyale Pasha and the masjid is situated in Kasımpaşa, İstanbul. His tomb is near that complex together with his sons and daughters.

ORUÇ REİS (1474 - 1518)Oruç Reis

One of 4 sons of Ebu Yusuf Nurullah Yakup Ağa living in Midilli Island, Oruç Reis is the brother of Hızır and İlyas Reis. He learned Greek, Arabic, Italian, Spanish and French. He began to work as a merchant at seas with his brother İlyas Reis. He was taken prisoner by the knights of Rhodes  while on an expedition. When he was rescued by Hızır Reis, he began to serve for Gansu Gavri, Sultan of Memluks. 

He was then promoted to the rank of Commander of River Ships in Egypt (İnce Donanma in Turkish).  When he was off the coasts of İskenderun, his fleet was attacked by the knights of Rhodes. He worked on a pirate ship which was given by Korkut, elder brother of Sultan Selim (Yavuz). The ship was also seized by the knights of  Rhodes.  After that, he plundered on the coasts of Italy. When Yavuz Sultan Selim came to the throne, he went to Alexandria, quitting Anatolian coasts. Following this, he used Djerba as a naval base. Hızır Reis (Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha) joined him while he was on Djerba Island. During a series of expeditions, he captured some Spanish and Italian ships. In 1500s, his fame spread throughout the Mediterranean together with his brother Hızır Reis. They were called ‘Barbaros Brothers.’   

He was wounded while he was at war with the Spanish ships, which resulted in losing his arm. He sent the ships to İstanbul, which were under the command of Piri Reis. In 1515, Oruç Reis sent precious gifts to Yavuz Sultan Selim who, in return, sent him two swords embellished with diamonds.    

In 1515, Barbaros Brothers succeeded in liberating Algiers from the Spaniards and took control over the city and the surrounding region with his brother Hızır Reis. On the other hand, the year 1518 was disastrous. His brother İshak was killed at war with the Spaniards; then Oruç Reis lost his life while trying to defend the city of Tlemcen, Algeria. His remaining brother Hızır Reis inherited his place and the mission.       

MURAT REİS (16.Yüzyıl)

Murat Reis

Murat Reis began seamanship as a corsair in Algeria. He was raised near Turgut Reis. In the reign of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, he began to serve for the Ottoman fleet. He fought near Piri Reis and Murat Ali Reis.    

Murat Reis took part in naval campaigns of Turgut Reis. He also joined and played an important role in the Ottoman victory at the Battle of Preveza in 1538. He continued to accompany Turgut Reis at sea battles. 

He was then assigned as Sanjak Bey (a high ranking officer)  in Necit. At that time the Ottomans began Indian campaign. Hadım Süleyman Pasha was in charge of the fleet in Basra. Muslim merchants of India who were under the pressure of the Polish fought near the Ottomans.

When  Piri Reis was promoted to the rank of Captain of Suez after Hadım Süleyman Pasha, Murat Reis was in Katif and assumed the duty of Sancak Beyi of Katif, a small city on the Persian Gulf. He was then assigned as the Captain of Suez.

The fleet was based in Suez with other homeports in Aden and Basra on the Persian Gulf. He was ordered to repair the ships of the fleet in Basra and take them to the Red Sea. In 1554, he had 26 ships repaired, leaving 8 of them for the operation in Basra. The remaining ships set sail from Shatt al-Arab.   

The fleet took a route from the Persian Gulf to the Strait of Hurmuz and the Gulf of Aden. While sailing along the coasts of Oman, the fleet encountered the Portugese fleet of 25 ships. No winner for this battle, the Ottomans were able to sink some Portuguese ships nevertheless. On the other hand, Murat Reis lost his two ships. Giving up hopes, the Portuguese moved back to India.    

Murat Reis was discouraged by this incident. Seeing that passing the Red Sea was impossible, he went back to Basra. He was removed from his office of Captain of Suez.

During the reigns of Sultan Selim II and Murat III, he attended a number of sea battles. He was promoted to the rank of Sancak Beyi of Mora in the reign of Ahmed I.

His last battle was with the Maltese in front of Port of Paphos in Cyprus. Murat Reis died at this confrontation which was known as ‘Battle of Black Hell.’ He was buried at Rhodes.


Mezamorta Hüseyin Paşa

Hüseyin Pasha was an Ottoman sailor who later became Kaptan Pasha, commander in chief of navy. His epithet ‘mezzomorto’ is the Italian word which means ‘half dead’ and was acquired during a battle with the Venetians, when he was gravely wounded.

Hüseyin Pasha was in charge of Beylerbeyi of Algeria (Chief Governor) in 1683. Meanwhile, he won a victory against the French. When the Venetians occupied Chios Island, his fleet of 44 ships  headed towards Koyun Islands, where the enemy ships were deployed.     

He defeated the Venetian fleet which consisted of more than 60 ships, sinking most of them in 1695. Served as Kaptan Pasha between 1696-1701, Admiral Hüseyin Pasha was a reformist. He knew about incapabilities of the fleet, that’s why he tried to reorganize both the fleet and the institutional laws on navy.

ALİ MACAR REİS (16 th century)Atlas by Ali Macar Reis (the Black Sea)

Ali Macar Reis is regarded as one of the most important sailors living in the 16th century.     

 He was better known by his maps and works on seamanship. He presented his works to Sultan Selim II who ascended the throne in 1566. During Lepanto War, he was in charge of captain of one of Ottoman fleet ships.   

His most famous atlas consists of 7 maps: ‘the Black Sea’, ‘Eastern  Mediterranean and the Aegean’, ‘Italy’, ‘Western Black Sea and Iber Peninsula’, ‘British Islands and Europe’s Atlantic coasts’,’ the Aegean Sea, Western Anatolia, Greece’ and ‘the world’ maps. The Atlas has Ottoman binding style embellishment, ‘şemse,’  on the front and back covers. It has a golden frame. Consisted of 18 pages, maps were drawn onto leather sheets and cover an area of 31x43 cm in 7 pairs. The first 6 maps of atlas are typical of the 16th century Ottoman sea charts. The last one is a world map.  

SEYDİ ALİ REİS (1498 – 1562)


Seydi Ali Reis was an Ottoman admiral. He is famous today for his books of travel, astronomy and and navigation, dating back to 1550s. He was one of the most versatile figures of Ottoman naval history. When he was young, he was interested in seamanship, receiving education on positive sciences such as mathematics, geography and astronomy.

He participated in major naval campaigns in the Mediterranean Sea, including  the siege of Rhodes (1522).  He commanded the left wing of the Ottoman fleet under the command of Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha at the naval Battle of Preveza in 1538. He then commanded several ships of the fleet of Sinan Pasha and was promoted to the Fleet Commander. Katip Çelebi wrote that he was a highly influential figure in Ottoman history. He notably said that no other man could take place of him after his death.   

He was later promoted to the rank of Commander of the Ottoman Indian Ocean Fleet in 1553 and was appointed to bring the Indian Ocean Fleet to Egypt, which was based in Basra. While he was carrying out that post, he provided unique masterpieces on geography and cartography. Seydi Ali Reis wrote ‘Kitab ül Muhit,’ Book of the Regional Seas and the Science of Astronomy and Navigation, collecting information from  various books as well as adding his own experience and knowledge.  

This work of 10 parts includes: designating direction, calculating time, calendars, division of compass, name and location of various stars, location of important ports and islands based on the North Star, astronomical information, beginning time of winds and monsoon rains, navigation routes, huge floods and precautions to be taken. The book is a kind of atlas which depicts the Indian Ocean.     

His book, Muhit, which means ‘ocean’ was highly regarded by the Western World and some parts were interpreted into several languages.In his famous book,’ Cihannüma,’ Katip Çelebi quoted from ‘Muhit’, including some islands in the Indian Ocean such as Jawa, Sumatra and Ceylon. Seydi Ali Reis wrote ‘Mirat’ül Memalik (Mirror of the Countries in Turkish)’ in 1557. In his work, he mentioned his 3 year and 7 month adventurous journey starting from Basra to İstanbul. His work also hints his biography.      

Apart from his two books, ‘Muhit’ and ‘Mirat’ül Memalik,’ he had books one of which is ‘Hulasatü’l Hey’e (Summary of Astronomy in Turkish).’ It is an interpretation of the book, ‘Fethiye,’ which was written by Ali Kuşçu. His other book, named Mir’at-ı Kainat (Mirror of Universe in Turkish) includes some information about measuring the height of stars and the sun, measuring time and designating kiblah (direction to Mecca). He died in İstanbul in 1562.

Number of Visitors :6311
Updated : 18-07-2014