Famous Pirate: Turgut Reis
The Great Ottoman
Turgut Reis (1485 – 23 June 1565) was a famous Ottoman admiral and privateer who successfully operated in the waters of the Mediterranean and Black Sea. Today he is remembered as one of the greatest Turkish leaders and commanders (often called as Torgut Reis, where “reis” means captain), and many ships and towns carry his name. During his active years from of 1500 to 1565 he was one of the biggest influences of Turkish expansion to the Northern Africa, and numerous naval battles brought great fame to his name (Battle of Preveza, Battle of Ponza, Battle of Djerba and Siege of Malta). In addition to serving as a naval officer, Reis was also Bey (chieftain) of Algiers, Beylerbey (Fleet Commander) of the Mediterranean and Pasha of Tripoli. His tenure as a lord of Tripoli brought great wealth to this city, which affirmed itself as one of the most important cities on the shore of Northern Africa.
Turgut Reis was born as a son of Muslim parents of Greek descent in 1486, in the village near Bodrum, on the Aegean coast of Asia Minor. After being captured by slavers on the age of 12, he quickly became well versed in the sea life, and especially naval combat, navigation and cannon use. The most important phase of this early career came with the Turkish expansion to the territory of Egypt. During those years he continued to improve his naval skills, and became favorite disciple of Turkish corsair Sinan Reis. After seeing the impressive skills of his protege, Sinan Reis gave young Turgut partial command over small warship. Turtut Reis soon managed to be successful in several small war campaigns, and gained full control over his first ship. The fame that surrounded him continued to rise with each battle won, and soon Turgut Reis found himself in possession of all the most advanced naval war equipment of his time. During those time Turgut became close friend with famous Ottoman admiral Hayreddin Barbarossa, who soon promoted Reis to the rank of chief lieutenant and received command over 12 galliots.
Military career of Turgut Reis was filled with success. He successfully fought against Venetians in the famous 1538 Battle of Preveza. He raided cities across Sicily, Italy, Spain, Albania, and most notably captured city of Castelnuovo from the Venetians. In 1540 Reis became enslaved after being captured by Genoesse war fleet. He spent the next four years as a galley slave, until he became freed when his friend Hayreddin Barbarossa laid siege to the Genoa with an impressive fleet of 210 ships. In 1546, Reis became the supreme commander of Ottoman naval forces in the Mediterranean after the death of Hayreddin Barbarossa. In the following 20 years he continued to serve Ottoman Empire, both as naval commander and as a pasha of Tripoli. He finally found his death during his campaign for the conquest of Malta in 1565
Body of Turgut Reis was taken and buried in Tripoli.