|Battle of Djerba|
Historic map of Djerba by Piri Reis
|Commanders and leaders|
| 54 galleys,|
66 other vessels
200 ships total
|86 galleys and galliots|
|Casualties and losses|
| 60 ships sunk or captured, |
9,000 ~ 18,000 men,
5,000 prisoners (during siege)
| Few galliots lost,|
About 1,000 men
The Battle of Djerba (Turkish : Cerbe) took place in May 1560 near the island of Djerba, Tunisia. The Ottomans under Piyale Pasha's command overwhelmed a large joint Christian Alliance fleet, composed chiefly of Spanish, Papal, Genoese, Maltese, and Neapolitan forces. The allies lost 27 galleys and some smaller vessels as well as the fortified island of Djerba. This victory marked perhaps the high point of Ottoman power in the Mediterranean Sea.
Until about 1573 the Mediterranean headed the list of Spanish priorities under Philip II of Spain (1556–98); under his leadership the Habsburg galley fleet increased to about 100 ships, and more in wartime. Spain sent a major fleet against the Turks in 1560, aiming for the island of Djerba off the coast west of Tripoli. The Ottoman fleet won a resounding victory, killing more than 10,000 men and sinking many vessels. However, typical of the aftermath of Mediterranean battles, they did not follow up the victory. Spain was able to rebuild its fleet in the next two years and prepared a new offensive in 1563-64 with nearly 100 ships. Despite the Ottomans being victorious in the battle, they were unable to attack the Venetian center of gravity.[ clarification needed ]
Since losing against Barbarossa Hayreddin's Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Preveza in 1538 and the disastrous expedition of Emperor Charles V against Barbarossa in Algiers in 1541, the major European sea powers in the Mediterranean, Spain and Venice, felt more and more threatened by the Ottomans and their corsair allies. Indeed, by 1558 Piyale Pasha had captured the Balearic Islands and together with Turgut Reis raided the Mediterranean coasts of Spain. King Philip II of Spain appealed to Pope Paul IV and his allies in Europe to organize an expedition to retake Tripoli from Turgut Reis, who had captured the city from the Maltese Knights in August 1551 and had subsequently been made Bey (Governor) of Tripoli by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.
The historian William H. Prescott wrote that the sources describing the Djerba campaign were so contradictory it was impossible to reconcile them. Most historians believe that the fleet assembled by the allied Christian powers in 1560 consisted of between 50 and 60 galleys and between 40 and 60 smaller craft. For example, Giacomo Bosio, the official historian of the Knights of St John writes that there were 54 galleys.Fernand Braudel also gives 54 warships plus 36 supply vessels. One of the most detailed accounts is by Carmel Testa who evidently has access to the archives of the Knights of St. John. He lists precisely 54 galleys, 7 brigs, 17 frigates, 2 galleons, 28 merchant vessels, and 12 small ships. These were supplied by a coalition that consisted of Genoa, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the Papal States, and the Knights of S. John. Matthew Carr gives the number of 200 ships for the Christian Alliance. The joint fleet was assembled at Messina under the command of Giovanni Andrea Doria, nephew of the Genoese admiral Andrea Doria. It first sailed to Malta, where bad weather forced it to remain for two months. During this time some 2,000 men were lost to sickness.
On 10 February 1560, the fleet set sail for Tripoli. The precise numbers of soldiers aboard are not known. Braudel gives 10,000-12,000; Testa 14,000; older figures in excess of 20,000 are clearly exaggerations considering the number of men a sixteenth-century galley could carry.
Although the expedition landed not far from Tripoli, the lack of water, sickness and a freak storm caused the commanders to abandon their original objective, and on 7 March they returned to the island of Djerba, which they quickly overran. The Viceroy of Sicily, Juan de la Cerda, 4th Duke of Medinaceli, ordered a fort to be built on the island, and construction was begun. By that time an Ottoman fleet of about 86 galleys and galliots under the command of the Ottoman admiral Piyale Pasha was already underway from Istanbul. Piyale's fleet arrived at Djerba on 11 May 1560, much to the surprise of the Christian forces.
The battle was over in a matter of hours, with about half the Christian galleys captured or sunk. Andersongives the total number of Christian casualties as 18,000 but Guilmartin more conservatively puts the losses at about 9,000 of which about two-thirds would have been oarsmen.
The surviving soldiers took refuge in the fort they had completed just days earlier, which was soon attacked by the combined forces of Piyale Pasha and Turgut Reis (who had joined Piyale Pasha on the third day), but not before Giovanni Andrea Doria managed to escape in a small vessel. After a siege of three months, the garrison surrendered and, according to Bosio, Piyale carried about 5,000 prisoners back to Istanbul, including the Spanish commander, D. Alvaro de Sande, who had taken command of the Christian forces after Doria had fled. The accounts of the final days of the besieged garrison are irreconcilable. Ogier de Busbecq, the Austrian Habsburg ambassador to Constantinople, recounts in his famous Turkish Letters that, recognizing the futility of armed resistance, de Sande had tried to escape in a small boat, but was quickly captured.In other accounts, for instance Braudel's, he led a sortie on 29 July and was in that way captured. Through Busbecq's efforts, de Sande was ransomed and released several years later and fought against the Turks at the Siege of Malta in 1565.
The victory in the Battle of Djerba represented the apex of Ottoman naval domination in the Mediterranean, which had been growing since the victory at the Battle of Preveza 22 years earlier.
Of particular importance were the crippling losses of the Spanish fleet in experienced personnel: 600 skilled mariners (oficiales) and 2,400 arquebusier marines were lost, men who could not be quickly replaced.
After Djerba the Maltese channel lay open and it was inevitable that the Ottomans soon turned on the new base of the Knights of St John in Malta in 1565 (the Knights having previously been expelled from Rhodes in 1522), but did not succeed in taking it.
The victorious Ottomans erected a pyramid of skulls of the defeated Spanish defenders, which stood until the late nineteenth century. A small monument now stands in its place at Borj Ghazi Mustafa, Homt Souk.
The Battle of Djerba is given a prominent place in The Course of Fortune by Tony Rothman (2015), a novel that concerns the events leading to the Great Siege of Malta, 1565.
The Battle of Djerba is featured in Falcon's Shadow: A Novel of the Knights of Malta by Marthese Fenech (2020) the second novel in Fenech's Siege of Malta trilogy.
The Battle of Lepanto was a naval engagement that took place on 7 October 1571 when a fleet of the Holy League, a coalition of Catholic Christian states arranged by Pope Pius V, inflicted a major defeat on the fleet of the Ottoman Empire in the Gulf of Patras. The Ottoman forces were sailing westward from their naval station in Lepanto when they met the fleet of the Holy League which was sailing east from Messina, Sicily. The Spanish Empire and the Venetian Republic were the main powers of the coalition, as the league was largely financed by Philip II of Spain and Venice was the main contributor of ships.
The Battle of Preveza was a naval battle that took place on 28 September 1538 near Preveza in northwestern Greece between an Ottoman fleet and that of a Christian alliance assembled by Pope Paul III in which the Ottoman fleet defeated the allies. It occurred in the same area in the Ionian Sea as the Battle of Actium, 31 BC. It was one of the three largest sea battles that took place in the sixteenth century Mediterranean, along with the Battle of Djerba and the Battle of Lepanto.
Andrea Doria was a Genoese statesman, condottiero and admiral, playing a key role in the Republic of Genoa during his lifetime.
The Holy League of 1571 was arranged by Pope Pius V and included the major Catholic maritime states in the Mediterranean except France. It was intended to break the Ottoman Empire’s control of the eastern Mediterranean Sea and was formally concluded on 25 May 1571. Its members were:
Murat Reis the Elder was an Ottoman privateer and admiral, who served in the Ottoman Navy. He is regarded as one of the most important Barbary corsairs.
Occhiali was an Italian farmer, then Ottoman privateer and admiral, who later became beylerbey of the Regency of Algiers, and finally Grand Admiral of the Ottoman fleet in the 16th century.
The Great Siege of Malta took place in 1565 when the Ottoman Empire attempted to invade the island of Malta, then held by the Knights Hospitaller. The Knights, with approximately 2,000 footsoldiers and 400 Maltese men, women, and children, withstood the siege and repelled the invaders. This victory became one of the most celebrated events of sixteenth-century Europe, to the point that Voltaire said: "Nothing is better known than the siege of Malta." It undoubtedly contributed to the eventual erosion of the European perception of Ottoman invincibility, although the Mediterranean continued to be contested between Christian coalitions and the Turks for many years.
Hayreddin Barbarossa, also known as Hızır Hayrettin Pasha, and simply Hızır Reis , was an Ottoman corsair and later admiral of the Ottoman Navy. Barbarossa's naval victories secured Ottoman dominance over the Mediterranean during the mid 16th century.
Piali Pasha, was an Ottoman Grand Admiral between 1553 and 1567, and a Vizier (minister) after 1568. He is also known as Piale Pasha in English.
The Ottoman Navy, also known as the Ottoman Fleet, was established in the early 14th century after the Ottoman Empire first expanded to reach the sea in 1323 by capturing Karamürsel, the site of the first Ottoman naval shipyard and the nucleus of the future Navy. During its long existence, it was involved in many conflicts and signed a number of maritime treaties. At its height, the Navy extended to the Indian Ocean, sending an expedition to Indonesia in 1565.
The Holy League of 1538 was a short-lived alliance of Christian states arranged by Pope Paul III at the urging of the Republic of Venice.
Salah Rais was an Ottoman privateer and admiral. He is alternatively referred to as Sala Reis, Salih Rais, Salek Rais and Cale Arraez in several European sources, particularly in Spain, France and Italy.
The Fourth Ottoman–Venetian War, also known as the War of Cyprus was fought between 1570 and 1573. It was waged between the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Venice, the latter joined by the Holy League, a coalition of Christian states formed under the auspices of the Pope, which included Spain, the Republic of Genoa, the Duchy of Savoy, the Knights Hospitaller, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, and other Italian states.
The siege of Tripoli occurred in 1551 when the Ottomans besieged and vanquished the Knights of Malta in the fortress of Tripoli, modern Libya. The Spanish had established a fort in Tripoli in 1510, and Charles V remitted it to the Knights in 1530. The siege culminated in a six-day bombardment and the surrender of the city on 15 August.
The Battle of Ponza (1552) was a naval battle that occurred near the Italian island of Ponza. The battle was fought between a Franco-Ottoman fleet under Dragut and a Genoese fleet commanded by Andrea Doria. The Genoese were defeated and lost seven galleys captured. The battle made it easier for the Ottoman fleet to raid the coasts of Sicily, Sardinia, and Italy for the next three years.
The capture of Mahdia was an amphibious military operation that took place from June to September, 1550, during the struggle between the Ottoman Empire and the Spanish Habsburgs for the control of the Mediterranean. A Spanish naval expedition under the command of the Genoese condottiero and admiral Andrea Doria and the Spaniard Bernardino de Mendoza, supported by the Knights of Malta under their Grand Master Claude de la Sengle, besieged and captured the Ottoman stronghold of Mahdia or Mahdiye, defended by the Ottoman Admiral Turgut Reis, known as Dragut, who was using the place as a base for his piratical activities throughout the Spanish and Italian coasts. Mahdia was abandoned by Spain three years later, and all its fortifications were demolished to avoid a re-occupation of the city by the Ottomans.
Between April and June 1563 the Regency of Algiers launched a major military campaign to retake the Spanish military-bases of Oran and Mers el Kébir on the North African coast, occupied by Spain since 1505. The sieges of Oran and Mers El Kébir of 1563 represented a major Hispano-Algerian episode in the larger Ottoman-Habsburg wars of the Mediterranean. The Kingdom of Algiers, the Principalities of Kabyle, and other vassal tribes combined forces as one army under Hasan Pasha, son of Hayreddin Barbarossa, and Jafar Catania. The Spanish commander brothers, Alonso de Córdoba Count of Alcaudete and Martín de Córdoba, managed to hold the strongholds of Oran and Mers El Kébir, respectively, until the relief fleet of Francisco de Mendoza arrived to successfully defeat the offensive.
Don Álvaro de Sande was a Spanish nobleman and military leader.
Dragut, known as "The Drawn Sword of Islam", was a Muslim Ottoman naval commander, governor, and noble, of Greek or Turkish descent. Under his command, the Ottoman Empire's maritime power was extended across North Africa. Recognized for his military genius, and as being among "the most dangerous" of corsairs, Dragut has been referred to as "the greatest pirate warrior of all time", "undoubtedly the most able of all the Turkish leaders", and "the uncrowned king of the Mediterranean". He was described by a French admiral as "A living chart of the Mediterranean, skillful enough on land to be compared to the finest generals of the time. No one was more worthy than he to bear the name of king".
The Battle of Girolata was a naval action fought between Genoese, Spanish, and Ottoman ships on 15 June 1540 in the Gulf of Girolata, on the west coast of the island of Corsica, amidst the war between Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and Suleiman the Magnificent. A Spanish squadron of 21 galleys led by the Genoese Gianettino Doria and the Spaniard Berenguer de Requesens surprised an Ottoman squadron of 11 galleys, anchored at Girolata, led by the Ottoman admiral Dragut, whom the commander of the Ottoman Navy, Hayreddin Barbarossa, had committed to raid the Italian coast after his victories in the Adriatic sea the year before. As the crews of the Ottoman warships were ashore, distributing the booty from recent raids, the Spanish-Genoese fleet easily overtook them, taking all 11 Ottoman galleys and making 1,200 prisoners, among them Dragut, who was carried to Genoa and put, together with his captains, to row in Andrea Doria's galleys.