Turgut Reis Biography

Picture Of Famous Pirate Turgut Reis

Turgut Reis (1485 - 23 June 1565) is today remembered as one of the greatest Ottoman naval admiral and privateer of all time. He was active between years of 1500 to 1565 when he served as Bey (chieftain) of Algiers, Beylerbey (Fleet Commander) of the Mediterranean and Pasha (Lord) of Tripoli. He was also responsible for the rise of the city of Tripoli, which was regarded as one of the most important cities on the North African Coast. Reis secured his reputation by his involvement in many famous battles, most notably Battle of Preveza, Battle of Ponza, Battle of Djerba, and Siege of Malta in which he died. Today he remains well respected in Turkey, where many ships and towns carry his name.

Turgut Reis was born in the village near Bodrum, on the Aegean coast of Asia Minor, as a son of Muslim parents of Greek descent. After he was captured by the pirates in the age of 12 he was converted to Islam and quickly became very skilled in naval combat and use of cannons. After increasing his knowledge of sea warfare during the Ottoman conquest of the Egypt, Reis became favorite disciple of the famous Turkish corsair Sinan Reis. Quickly enough he gained partial command of a small ship, and after a few successful campaigns he became captain on his own. Armed by the most advanced equipment of his time, Reis became respected member of the Ottoman naval fleet. In 1520 he joined with the fleet of Hayreddin Barbarossa which became his close friend. Together they fought in the central Mediterranean, raiding the cities and trade vessels across Sicily, Italy, Spain, and Albania.

Reis' first big battle happened in 1538 when he commanded right wing of the ottoman fleet that defeated Venetian army at the battle of Battle of Preveza. After winning the battle, Reis recaptured city Castelnuovo from the Venetians with the fleet of 36 ships. During next 2 years Turgut Reis served both as a Governor of Djerba and as Commander-in-Chief of the Ottoman Red Sea Fleet.He captured several Genoesse ships and sacked several of their cities, as well as the coasts of Sicily and Spain.

In 1540 Reis became captured by the Genoesse war fleet and has spent next four years as a galley slave on several ships. Finally in 1544 his longtime friend Hayreddin Barbarossa managed to free him (all of his ransom offers were rejected until he finally laid siege of the Genoa with the impressive fleet of 210 ships).

Turgut Reis continued to rise in the ranks of the Ottoman Military. After the death of Barbarossa in July 1546, Reis succeeded him as a supreme commander of Ottoman naval forces in the Mediterranean. He fought countless battles in those waters, gained many ranks and honors, sacked many cities and developed few another (such as Tripoli), but he finally met his death during the siege of Malta, when he was hit from cannonball debris. He lived until 23 June 1565, just long enough to hear that his forces won the battle (but eventually not the entire war).