One Battle Two Stances: Preveza (1538)

A contemporary description of the Battle of Preveza in 1540 by Antonio Salamanca

(It is a revised version of my article written in the framework of TUBITAK (The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey)’s Project Competition among High Schools in 2012. Originally in Turkish, I escaped removing my wording but a bit summarized the article in order not to bother readers through translation. I added portraits to visualize the battle better. After eight years, I can confidently say that this amateur attempt was a good beginning for me in the jungle of history. Even though it is not a favourable text because of its structure that misses socio-economic conditions and geographic dimensions; nonetheless, that article explores two dissimilar perceptions from Ottoman and Crusader glasses. I am planning to expand that work by filling its deficits and gaps in the following years)

The Development of the Battle

charles quint ile ilgili görsel sonucu"
Holy Roman Emperor (a title which the Ottomans refused) Charles V (Charles-Quint) played a crucial role by causing the battle because of his naval ambitions.

Oruç Reis’ brother Hızır Reis, who established his own state as a result of various struggles in Algeria, applied to Sultan Selim I and became the Ottoman bey. In 1534, he went to Istanbul with the ships in his hand. Suleiman the Magnificient will meet and respect Hizir Reis with a ceremony. Khidr Reis is called Hayreddin by the sultan and sent to the Grand Vizier Ibrahim Pasha in Aleppo. As a result of his approval, “Kaptan-ı Derya” Hizir Hayreddin Pasha’s first aim is to conquer Tunisia. Although he took Tunisia at first, he was not able to hold onto the Crusader Navy and retreat. In 1537, the struggle will become tenser and will cause Suleiman I to embark on an expedition. As a result of the Corfu campaign (called “Pulya” in the Ottoman sources), the Ottomans hit the shores of Southern Italy and conquered many islands, but they could not achieve the result they wanted. The dreams of the sultan who wanted to put an end to the Kingdom of Naples fell into the water.

According to Sayyid Muradi Reis, whom Hayreddin Barbarossa (a title given by their rivals in Europe at first, meaning Redbeard) wrote his memoirs, the development process of the war starts with the following event;

“Finally, when winter comes to an end and spring comes, Sultan Süleyman, with his Holiness, invited the pashas to his presence and said:

“Prepare one hundred and fifty ships for Hayreddin Pasha and send them to the sea again”

They also informed the Supreme Order of Hayreddin Pasha. He also came to the shipyard in gratitude feelings, began to work in accordance with the edict.”  1

Meanwhile, it was argued that the Crusader alliance against the Ottoman Navy was essential in Europe. As early as October 1, 1533, Pope III. The alliance was expressed by Girolamo Aleandro, Pius’ ambassador to Venice;

If peace can be achieved between Christians, we can both fight and defeat the Turks.” 2

 Whether France would join the Crusader Alliance was a separate enigma. Don Fadrique Enriquez, Admiral of Castilian, sent a letter to King Charles of Spain on 3 July 1537, stating that France was with the Great Turk (Suleiman) and betrayed Christianity.

“Now the aim of France has been to attack and destroy Christianity (which is the aim of the Great Turk) by cooperating with the Turks!” 3

françois 1er ile ilgili görsel sonucu"
Francis (François) I of France had a negative reputation and perception in many kingdoms due to his alliance with Istanbul.

Enriquez stated in his letter that the two rulers who were determined to fight God would never achieve their purpose and completed his letter by stating that he would help His Majesty with all kinds of help.

The French king, François I, was in an effort to consolidate his alliance with Suleiman the Magnificent at the time. Celalzade Mustafa Çelebi, who had been the marksman of Sultan for many years, describes the relationship of Sultan with Fransuva as follows4:

“When the French ambassador was meeting with the Sultan, he understood that the King of France loved the Turks.” It should be noted that the King of France, François was very good relationship with the Sultan.

 As a result, France did not participate in this Crusade alliance, which attracted Europe’s reaction. Venice, on the other hand, was sending ambassadors to other states and seeking their views. According to Ottoman sources, this alliance was successfully achieved and Portugal, Spain, the Papacy, and Venice united in the alliance against the Ottoman Empire. According to Ali Rıza Seyfi, who was the Marine Captain in the Ottoman Navy in the 1900s, the Knights and Genoa also joined this alliance. Historian Nicolae Jorga, who served as prime minister in Romania, describes this alliance process in a different way;

The Holy Alliance, which was renewed on 3 November, was expected to join Portugal, Hungary under the rule of King Ferdinand, perhaps Lehistan, Moscow and even Sultan Suleiman’s ally François I. (…) All of these plans were made to come true (only) to bring together 81 Venetian ships and 13 papal ships that did not dare anything.5

Despite all this, the Crusader world is certain of the victory of Admiral Andrea Doria, who will rule the ships in the alliance. According to Jorga, Charles envisions Istanbul, the Pope wants a state to be established in the east, the knights crave Rhodes and Venice is considering the lost islands during the reign of Suleiman I. Meanwhile, the works of Hayreddin Barbarossa in Istanbul continued. In a letter arriving from Ragusa to Rome on 30 April 1538, it was written that the Turks were planning an expedition to the Adriatic Sea. In a letter reaching Istanbul from Rome on May 9, a number of Turks were captured and “confessed” that Sultan would not go out of the Aegean this year after they were tortured6. The next day (May 10), a letter to Istanbul on March 31, arrived in Rome underlining that the Ottoman navy was being prepared. Barbarossa was said to be in the shipyard all day to direct the work. The letter wrote that Barbarossa was able to launch 150 galleys in April and 20 galleys were sent to protect the fleet sent to Portugal7.

battle of preveza ile ilgili görsel sonucu"
A portrait of the Battle of Preveza by a Turkish painter (Hasan Rıza)

According to Sayyid Muradi, Hayreddin Pasha wanted only 40 ships and had the idea of ​​leaving the others in Istanbul. Ayas Pasha, who was the grand vizier with the execution of İbrahim Pasha, insisted that he buy 150 ships.

Sayyid Muradi also claims that Barbarossa sent 12 of the 130 ships to Istanbul on the grounds that it was insufficient, and wrote that he left the island of Iskatos with 108 ships. Although Barbarossa was preparing for action with 150 galleys, it was written that he only left with 100 galleys from Gallipoli. The letter claimed that Barbarossa would attack Corfu. For Muradi, Hayreddin Pasha conquered some Greek islands such as Iskatos, Iskiri, Istendin, and Andira and approached Crete. This is confirmed by a letter written in Corfu on 14 June and arriving in Rome on 11 July.

Venetian ambassadors claimed that Barbarossa was in Heraklion on June 12, or according to Celalzade Mustafa Çelebi, on 15 Muharram 945 (June 13). Sayyid Muradi did not care about history. Katip Çelebi, in Tuhfetü’l-Kibar Fi Esfari’l-Bihar (A Gift to Seniors About the Naval Expeditions), describes all the events that have occurred so far in parallel to Sayyid Muradi. However, according to him, the date of Barbarossa’s arrival in Crete was 5 Safer 945 (3 July 1538)8.

Nicolae Jorga, with a very different interpretation, argues that all these events were not before, but after, the Preveza Sea War;

“Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha came back to the Archipelago after this victory and began to plunder the islands. The islands of this fate were the islands of Iskados, Iskire and Corranis. The Ottomans were also seen in front of Rethymno and Chania and landed in different parts of the Crete coast.”9

According to Ottoman sources, Hayreddin Barbarossa took Miloptamo castle after marching to Crete and marched on Chania castle (15 June). In a letter arriving in Rome on August 9, it was told that Barbarossa attacked two islands by leaving Heraklion and took 1500 prisoners from one. According to Katip Çelebi, the number of prisoners he took in Crete was more than 15000. The date of dispatch is unknown but another letter sent from Heraklion emphasizes that Barbarossa attacked the Settia Castle in Heraklion. The name of this castle in the Ottoman sources is referred to as “Istiya” Another issue that the Ottoman sources did not mention is the plague epidemic and the burning of ten ships.

In two letters sent from Heraklion to Venice, it was said that Barbarossa asked the Sultan for help because of the plague epidemic and ordered the burning of 10 ships that did not obey him. According to Ottoman sources, Hayreddin Pasha seized the villages of Iskalariye and Istilo in Crete and visited Kerpe Island. Barbarossa, who faced the Ottoman Navy that brought arms to Egypt, was written to arrive in Kos, Koron, and Modon, respectively. After all these developments, Barbarossa came to Preveze Castle (25 September). Meanwhile, the Crusader Navy was in Corfu. Barbarossa spies came from very interesting information. Accordingly, France and Charles made a ten-year cease-fire agreement and together they would attack the Ottoman Empire. Barbarossa, who does not like “infidels”, will say;

If such a thing happens, we will trust in Allah.10

However, it is understood that this news is fabricated. Meanwhile, the spies reported that the Crusader Navy consisted of 55 large 90 small ships.

Number of ships

barbaros hayreddin kanuni ile ilgili görsel sonucu"
Hayreddin Barbarossa meets with Sultan Suleiman in Istanbul (Arifi’s Süleymanname)

The war process continued with this and similar events. Historians’ most controversial issue is the number of ships and their soldiers.

According to Celalzade Mustafa, 80 pieces of the Crusader Navy’s Spanish Navy emerged as a mountain, followed by 52 pieces of ships. Venice, 80, Pope 30, Knights 10, Portugal, 19 large and small boats came and wrote about 300 ships.

According to Ali Rıza Seyfi, Genoa consisted of 53 ships, Venice 80, Papacy 30, Knights 10, Spain 80, and other states 49 ships, galleys or galleons. The total number of these was 302, but according to Seyfi, who stated that there were more boats, the total number of ships was 600.

According to some Italian sources, the number of Crusaders was 302. Katip Çelebi, in the title of “Ships of the Infidels”, says in Tufetü’l-Kibar;

“Anderya Doria with 52 galleys, 20 of Venice with 70 galley, 20 with 30 galleys, 21 with 10 galleys. Dorya had a big galleon, which didn’t count 23 fighting vehicles. Other parts of the ship appeared to be more than 600 sails with some 162 galleys and 140 pieces of 300 ships and other volunteer small ships.11

Muradi, who personally saw the war, had 252 large ships. However, the number surpasses 600 after regarding smaller boats. Sayyid Muradi in the conquest of the Crusaders in the aftermath of the number of ships while the ships “irreligious and dishonourable” describes. The presence of the Ottoman Navy is allied with 120-122 ships in almost all sources. It is seen that there are 60000 soldiers on Crusader ships, but the number of cannons in it varies. According to the Crusader sources, the number of cannons from 2500 to 2594 reaches up to 3000 in Ottoman sources. The number of soldiers on the Ottoman ships is also controversial. The number of 11000 people, which consist of 3000 janissaries and 8000 junkies, states that Peçevi İbrahim Efendi is 20000. Nicolae Jorga describes the number of soldiers as “several hundreds of sipahi”s. The number of cannons in ships varies between 160 and 366 cannons.

Days before the war

preveza ottoman map ile ilgili görsel sonucu"
A description of the Castle of Preveza

According to Ottoman sources, when the Crusader Navy came before them, many chiefs, especially Sinan Reis, offered Barbarossa to withdraw from the war, but their demands were rejected. Because of the seasonal conditions and location was a disadvantage for the Crusaders. Hayreddin Pasha says these words;

“O gentlemen! Your opinion is not an opinion. Because you are so cautiously standing under the castle and ship cannons!”13

The idea of ​​many sailors was that the Ottoman Navy would be defeated. However, Hayreddin Pasha’s wish to fight despite everything is mentioned in the Ottoman sources as an example of heroism. Ali Rıza Seyfi says;

“For him, this difference didn’t matter, he had often tried the enemy he was going to fight, learned all the strength and craftsmanship of his enemy. Therefore, he decided to fight as soon as he saw the enemy.”14

The French historian Jean-Paul Roux criticizes Barbarossa’s attitude as follows;

“From that time on, the book-based works were being replaced by dreaming and inexorable relations. Interest, like his rival Andrea Doria, Admiral Barbarossa, avoided winning a certain victory that would make him unnecessary. On the contrary, everyone was acting indispensable. Curiosity was replaced by apathy, creative genius imitation, and ambition to be content with the existing.”15

According to Ottoman sources, Hayreddin Barbarossa, after praying to Allah for the Isha prayer on the day before the war, dreamed that many fish came out of the sea and gathered all of them, and two of them were big and their bellies were cleft. At that moment, a few people came up and brought a fish and say it was sent by the sultan16. Barbarossa says this dream is that small ships will be obtained big booty, two hollow fish will be obtained from two hollow but very large ships, and the fish sent by the sultan is the conquest of new places by the sultan. Meanwhile, the wind had turned against the Ottoman Navy. Sayyid Muradi believes that the wind was cut off by the effect of Holy Qur’an verses16, which Barbarossa put two verses on his ship. None of the sources of the Crusade refers to such an event.


andrea doria amiral ile ilgili görsel sonucu"
Andrea Doria

The order of the navy is stated in some of the Ottoman and Crusader sources as follows. Before the war, the Ottoman navy had a crescent-shaped array. Barbarossa was in the centre with Sinan Reis, Cafer Reis, Saban Reis and his son Hasan Reis. Seydi Ali Reis commanded the left-wing and Salih Reis commanded the right-wing. Turgut, Murat, Guzelce Mehmet, and Sadik Reis were in the back section.

In the Crusader Navy, Sicilian governor Ferrante Gonzaga held the left-wing and the Maltese Knights held the right-wing. Doria placed four of her fastest galleys between the Knights of Gonzaga and Malta, under the command of her nephew Giovanni Andrea Doria. Doria’s galleys were behind them and in front of the papal and Venetian galleys under Grimani and Capello. At the back, the Venetian galleys under the command of Alessandro Condalmiero and the Spanish-Portuguese-Genoese galleys under the command of Francesco Doria were deployed along with bars and support ships. While the Ottoman sources did not mention the commander names in the Crusader Navy except for Andrea Doria, their names are given in detail in the Western sources.

The eight phases of the Battle of Preveza (taken from “Naval Clash at Preveza”, History of War in September 2018)

What happened in the war takes place in almost all sources in similar ways. According to Katip Çelebi, the war begins when the “infidels” desperately line up and throw their cannons36. Meanwhile, Andrea Doria tried to take 20000 troops to Preveza Castle in various ways but failed. After mutual cannon fires, the two navies began to fight each other. All sources agree that there is a violent collision. According to Sayyid Murad, the sky was black because of the smoke from the cannons.

 In Ottoman sources, the phases of Preveza are typical of storytelling historiography. These sources usually narrate the victory of Ottoman heroism. Crusader sources often pass war with a few sentences17. The great clashes lasted until late afternoon and Barbarossa was the winner of the intervening navy and Andrea Doria was defeated. Peçevi İbrahim Efendi briefly describes the end of the war in his famous book Tarih-i Peçevi;

“Barbarossa, in place of a precautionary measure, called Preveza castle in some places near the ambush. Long-range Ottoman cannons began to fire ships. Enemy ships began to be destroyed. Andrea Doria understood the gravity of the situation. In the center Barbarossa, counter-action, Turgut Reis’ and Barbarossa, the enemy fleet in the middle of a closed crescent. Andrea Doria realized that he could not bear any more began to escape with a galley.”17

According to Ottoman sources, this maritime war was not seen in the world. Sayyid Muradi, in his conquest, tells the story of the development of the war in detail. He mentions the conflicts in war as follows;

“The heavens were moaning from the sound of the cannons, the earth and the sky were shaking, and the world was booming. From the majesty of this collision, the world filled with fire. The earth and the sky burned to the fire. ”18

The victory of the result of the war in the conquest is mentioned as follows;

“The enemy at sea has not suffered so much defeat since Prophet Adam. No one had ever seen a defeat like this. Historians did not provide such news. ”19

According to many writers, the Ottomans had won this war, but their superiority only lasted until İnebahtı. All sources agree that Sultan, who suppressed the rebellion of Petru IV Rareş in Moldovia, is very happy about the victory. He used the following statements in his order;

You are my Hayreddin Pasha! May sea be blessed. Winter is close. You should hurry to come to Asitane (Istanbul) on foot. Here you can rest and prosper!20

Number of casualties

Historians propose different views on the losses of the parties during the Preveza Sea War. According to Hayreddin Barbarossa, the losses of the Crusader Navy are as follows;

“From 120 pieces of infidels’ navy (donanma-i menhuse), 36 boats were taken, the remaining deserted and gone. Frigates and sandals took some of the infidels on the surface, some fell and went to hell. 2175 infidels were taken prisoner.”21

According to Jorga, the Crusaders lost 6 galleys at the time of the war. According to Ali Rıza Seyfi, the number of Crusaders was 130 pieces. According to other Turkish sources, the number of Crusaders was 128-130 ships. The loss of soldiers by the Crusaders is unknown. All the sources that the Ottoman Empire did not lose a single ship are in alliance. According to Ottoman sources, the loss of soldiers of the Ottomans was 400 martyrs and 800 wounded.

Events after the war

abdication de charles quint ile ilgili görsel sonucu"
Charles-Quint (Şarlken in the Ottoman sources) abdicated from his throne after two decades of Preveza. He might have been negatively affected by the consequences of Preveza.

In a letter to Venice on 9 October 1538, it was written that Barbarossa left the Adriatic Sea with 120 galleys. Meanwhile, the Crusader Navy had taken over Castelnovo (Nova Castle). A letter dated October 18 states that Barbarossa travelled to Pachi Island, 40 miles from Koron, and the Crusaders were preparing to go to war against 150 ships. In a letter arriving in Rome on 14 December, it was written that Barbarossa’ ship sank, more than thirty ships sank and lost a large number of men. Sayyid Muradi mentions that such an event took place, but according to him, only eight galleys were damaged by the storm. After this, Barbarossa moved to Istanbul and was greeted with festivities.

Ferrante Gonzaga ile ilgili görsel sonucu"
Gonzaga was an Italian soldier and diplomat under Charles V. He fought as well as negotiated Barbarossa and was the ambassador to the Henry VIII of England.

Nova Castle, the only gain of the Crusader Navy, was re-entered into Ottoman rule in 1539 with 150 ships managed by Hayreddin Pasha. Meanwhile, peace negotiations between Andrea Doria and Barbarossa began. Ferrante Gonzaga, August 2, 1539, a letter sent to Charles in Spanish Spanish government officials had difficulty in negotiations with Barbarossa and much effort is mentioned. Andrea Doria, in a letter she sent to Charles II on September 2, 1539, mentions that Barbarossa betrayed Suleiman the Magnificent and changed the ranks;

“Giovan Gallego returned yesterday without negotiation with Barbaros. What Gallego points out is that in summary, Barbarossa is very eager to come to an agreement and is ready to be an eternal servant to His Majesty. I attach great importance to this, because until now, I was not sure of his good intentions. Now, as a part of Her Majesty, I can assure you. In relation to other matters, (Barbaros) emphasizes his former demands and gives the impression that he has left the service of the Great Turk and has chosen the side of His Majesty. That’s why we shouldn’t refuse his demands. As His Majesty understands correctly, he now wishes to offer you the services he offers to others”22

None of the Ottoman sources mentions that Barbarossa was a traitor. Hayreddin Pasha himself says that he wanted to save time by doing something like this and that he was playing against the Crusaders;

I told Andrea Doria that King Carlos (V) held me responsible for the negotiation with me. In vague words, I declare that I am ready to negotiate with your king. However, this work will not happen in Istanbul, the Sultan receives news. Send his envoys to my son Hasan Bey, my deputy in Algeria. I secretly sent Hasan the necessary commands. I wrote that King Carlos would distract the ambassadors and prepare for a major expulsion of the country.23

Barbarossa then sent a letter to Fernando (Ferrante) Gonzaga;

“My galleys are ready for anyone who will act against our Navy, and they will always be there for you. I will help you with all my forces… “24

Hayreddin Pasha gained considerable time with all these correspondences and later said that he was attached to Suleiman the First and threatened the ambassadors. Meanwhile, a peace agreement was signed with Venice on 2 October 1540. Venice was committed to paying 300,000 gold in three years. In Istanbul, Grand Vizier Lütfi Pasha was dismissed and Süleyman Pasha was replaced. In 1543, King François I of France asked the Ottoman Empire for help. As a result of the campaign of Barbarossa, a navy of 110 ships operated in Marseille, Nice, and Toulon for eight months. The Ottoman Navy set fire to Spain and the Italian coast and rescued Turgut Reis, a prisoner in Genoa. Hayreddin Barbarossa passed away on July 5, 1546, and was buried in the tomb built by Sinan the Architect. On the other hand, Andrea Doria passed away on November 25, 1560.


It will be provided as soon as possible.


Ali Rıza Seyfi. “Denizlerin Sultanı Barbaros Hayreddin Paşa”. Yediveren Press, 2011.

Celal Zâde Mustafa. “Tabakat’ül Memalik ve Derecet’ül Mesalik”. Kariyer Publications, 2011.

Jorga, Nicolae. “Ottoman History (Five Volumes)”. Yeditepe Publications, 2008.

Katip Çelebi. “Tuhfetü’l-Kibar Fi Esfari’l-Bihar”. Tercüman Publications. 1980.

Roux, J. Paul. “The History of the Turks”. Kabalcı Press, 2008

Seyyid Muradi. “Barbaros Hayreddin Paşa’nın Hatıraları”. Kapı Publications, 2007.

Toledo, Paolino and Arıkan, Muzaffer. “Documents Related to the Turkish Naval History” in Turkish. Ankara University Journal of the Center for Ottoman Studies. 1995.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *