The Life Of Khaireddin Barbarossa [HIZIR REİS]

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The Life of

Khaireddin Barbarossa [HIZIR REİS]

Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha (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 (Arabic: Khair ad-Din ‫خير الدين‬, which literally means "Goodness of the Religion (of Islam)". This 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 (Greek: Λέσβος) to their Muslim Turkish father, Yakup Ağa, and his 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 Yenice 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.

Early Career

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.

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 SpanishItalian 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.

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.

Sultan Suleiman and Barbarossa

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 Cortés, 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.

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