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- The Sultan's Admiral: Barbarossa: Pirate and Empire Builder
- The Sultan's Admiral : Barbarossa, pirate and empire-builder - Ghent University Library
But overenthusiasm could be just as dangerous as a lack of appreciation. The large-scale fleet battle was an attractive vision for some Ottoman leaders. Luckily for the Ottomans, this worked in their favour after the defeat at Lepanto. Less than a year later, the Ottomans had managed to almost completely rebuild the fleet, showing off vessels to the Venetians. Simply put, a desirable policy outcome was reached through a naval strategy combining amphibious raids and the mere existence of a large fleet.
Guilmartin argues that Mahanians are wrong to interpret Mediterranean naval war from the perspective of sea control, as galleys simply cannot remain at sea in a manner that ensures long-term control. A key tenet was the importance of fleet concentration for direct engagement with the core enemy battle fleet. Clearly, the Ottomans held very closely to the former of those two elements, almost always basing their main fleet in Istanbul and sailing out in quantities numbering hundreds.
Excepting Lepanto, however, the Ottomans did not employ concentrated fleets for maximizing the chances of defeating an enemy counterpart in open battle.
Rather, the numbers were used for troop transportation during amphibious assaults in the struggle for coastal strongholds. But the Ottomans also engaged in Corbettian naval warfare. Corbett identified two non-transport roles for navies in amphibious assaults — protecting troops from seaward threats and supporting armies in their advances.
The former was used to mixed effect in the capture of Moton castle, where the Ottomans succeeded in repelling an initial naval counterattack, but failed to prevent the landing of further reinforcements for the enemy. The latter role is more difficult to apply as naval guns of this period did not have the range for significant fire support.
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Elmo on Malta in I had suggested above that the Ottomans appeared to do the exact opposite, taking instead a Mahanian approach with hundreds of galleys en masse. However, the Ottomans did not only operate in such a manner. These operated independently, in charge of specific areas. For example, the fleet at Rhodes was responsible for safeguarding the routes between Istanbul and Egypt, while the admiral in Egypt had fleets in Alexandria and Suez.
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In addition to these galley fleets, there were also smaller divisions of frigates and riverine warships, stationed in areas like southern Iraq and the Danube River. Rather, it was so one could address threats in different areas without sending the entire navy, leaving crucial regions unguarded. During the Portuguese challenges to Ottoman maritime trade in the Indian Ocean, Istanbul did not constantly drag its main fleet overland from the Mediterranean into the Red Sea or Persian Gulf. The Ottomans were thus able to secure the Red Sea from Portuguese intrusion, which could have threatened the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
In the s, Ottoman squadrons also raided Portuguese outposts along the east African coast, further demonstrating the flexibility of a dispersed fleet.
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Finally, Corbett advocated a solid understanding of the relationship between strategy and policy. If there was a single maxim that Clausewitz, via Corbett, wished to emphasize in the use of military force, it was that it be for political ends, not personal grievances and petty revenge.
They were in a weakly-armed ship as part of the hajj when Maltese pirates intercepted them. The fighters were martyred and the hajji s taken prisoner. It is clear from the above that the Ottomans cannot be said to have either a Mahanian or Corbettian way of naval strategic conception.
Rather, it was a mixture of both, exhibiting elements from each that reflected the realities of galley warfare in the Ottoman Empire. In The Balance of Truth , one major theme in the Ottoman approach to Islamism can be identified: pragmatism in both general attitudes towards conflict resolution and specific activities. The fathometer, for example, is crucial for preventing the destruction of vessels in shallow waters. After all, a compass is perfectly legitimate for finding the direction of prayer, and a map for pilgrimages to Mecca. Yet, it is how the map and compass are used at sea that intersects with the greater discussion of permitted and forbidden sciences, particularly that of astronomy versus astrology.
Thus, it is clear that although the science of astronomy may be legitimized in the Ottoman Empire by virtue of its religious utility, this legitimization has a very utilitarian consequence in enabling Ottoman naval power. Given the highly politicized role of the Islamic scholar in the Ottoman state, this would not be at all surprising. But perhaps more illustrative of Ottoman-style Islamism was its persistent adoption of methods and behaviour based on practical merits.
The rapid willingness to acquire the distant Algerian ports offered by Hayreddin Barbarossa is a perfect example. While it is true that Barbarossa constrained his piratical targets to vessels and territory of the Christian European states, there could not be a guarantee that he would never extend his activities to Ottoman targets, or act against Ottoman interests.
As the Caliph of the ummah the global Muslim community , the Ottoman head of state could not allow the prospect of a competing Caliphate. By bringing in Barbarossa, the Ottomans were able to prevent the possibility of challenges to their authority arising from a Barbarossa-led unified North Africa. Oar- and wind-powered warships each had their own advantages, representing extremes on the spectrum of pre-steam maritime propulsion methods.
The Ottomans, instead of sticking strictly to one or the other, built fleets combining both. This applied to individual vessels as well as fleet composition — galleys and galleases had both oars and sails, while the Ottoman navy as a whole gradually adopted more sailing ships.
The Sultan's Admiral: Barbarossa: Pirate and Empire Builder
However, they were not without risks, and it is possible to assess these two decisions together. It is well-known that galleons and their descendants surpassed galleys as the primary naval combat unit. Although much greater in material cost to produce, they were also capable of much longer voyages. While this advantage was not crucial to the Ottoman Empire, it resulted in a design that was very difficult to defeat by galleys. The low decks that enabled boardings as the prime combat tactic between galleys made them unsuitable for attacking the high-sided sailing men-of-war.
Ergo, it was tactically necessary for the Ottoman navy to transition to the large sailing ship even though they were not strictly necessary for its amphibious-centric strategy. However, the Ottoman navy was heavily dependent upon corsairs to train their sailors. Corsairs, however, were galley operators and had little incentive for transitioning to sail in the Mediterranean.
But the willingness to adopt unorthodox, yet logical if not always successful, methods was not limited to just the strategic and operational levels — tactically, there were instances of practical solutions as well. The fact that sailors were apparently willing to discard their turbans in order to fix a leak indicates a pragmatism that overrode religio-cultural traditions. The oarsmen of a galley could hold two basic status: free men though not necessarily willing or slaves.
His value was not only in shipbuilding skills, but also in life experiences. It was clear the Ottomans valued Dere despite his origins and, probably, differing religion. He was apparently treated very well, turning down an offer to return to Venice by saying simply he had served the Sultan for many years.
The Sultan's Admiral : Barbarossa, pirate and empire-builder - Ghent University Library
This paper has demonstrated that Mahan was wrong — at least, for the Ottomans. Instead, it is only necessary to have a mindset and culture promoting practical and rational thinking with a good sense of what is important and what is not. In essence, a strategic outlook. The idea that the Ottomans were backwards, stagnant, and unimaginative in military affairs is clearly wrong. Rather, it was the social-cultural approach to the issues that arise within an Islamist state and society. This created a framework of approach that permeated through multiple levels of Ottoman society, from the Sultan and his advisors to the officers of the navy.
This approach identified the key interests at stake and rationally devised solutions to such problems. While problem-solving proficiency is hardly unique to any particular country or people, the Ottomans do stand out in being uncompromisingly moderate about the solutions they consider. To conclude, the Islamist way of thought in the Ottoman Empire did indirectly affect their employment of seapower at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels.
The oft-invisible hand of Islam worked its way into how seapower fit into the overall imperial aspirations of Sultans, the way the Empire approached changing technologies, and even how to employ people to their utmost advantage. His life dominated the history of the Mediterranean in the 16th century. From the moment that he and his brother, Aruj, established themselves on the North African coast, the pattern of life and trade in the Mediterranean changed forever and for nearly years after it was affected by the activities of raiders from what came to be called the Barbary Coast.
His achievements in reorganizing the Ottoman Navy and his command of it helped the expansion of the Turkish Empire that threatened all of Europe. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages.
More Details Original Title. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Sultan's Admiral , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Mar 22, Aayan Mirza rated it liked it. A good, balanced account of a legendary Muslim sea figure of 16th century, constructed in an interesting manner.