|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.
Turkish, also referred to as Istanbul Turkish, and sometimes known as Turkey Turkish, is the most widely spoken of the Turkic languages, with around ten to fifteen million native speakers in Southeast Europe and sixty to sixty-five million native speakers in Western Asia. Outside Turkey, significant smaller groups of speakers exist in Germany, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Northern Cyprus, Greece, the Caucasus, and other parts of Europe and Central Asia. Cyprus has requested that the European Union add Turkish as an official language, even though Turkey is not a member state.
Djerba, also transliterated as Jerba or Jarbah, is, at 514 square kilometres (198 sq mi), the largest island of North Africa, located in the Gulf of Gabès, off the coast of Tunisia. It had a population of 139,544 at the 2004 Census, while the latest official estimate is 163,726. Citing the long and unique Jewish minority's history on Djerba, Tunisia has sought UNESCO World Heritage status protections for the island.
Tunisia, officially the Republic of Tunisia, is a country in the Maghreb region of North Africa, covering 163,610 square kilometres. Its northernmost point, Cape Angela, is the northernmost point on the African continent. It is bordered by Algeria to the west and southwest, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Tunisia's population was 11.435 million in 2017. Tunisia's name is derived from its capital city, Tunis, which is located on its northeast coast.
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, typically 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.
Philip II of Spain was King of Castile and Aragon (1556–98), King of Portugal, King of Naples and Sicily, and jure uxoris King of England and Ireland. He was also Duke of Milan. From 1555 he was lord of the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands.
Tripoli is the capital city and the largest city of Libya, with a population of about 1.158 million people in 2018. It is located in the northwest of Libya on the edge of the desert, on a point of rocky land projecting into the Mediterranean Sea and forming a bay. It includes the port of Tripoli and the country's largest commercial and manufacturing centre. It is also the site of the University of Tripoli. The vast Bab al-Azizia barracks, which includes the former family estate of Muammar Gaddafi, is also located in the city. Colonel Gaddafi largely ruled the country, from his residence in this barracks.
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 Ottoman Empire, historically known to its inhabitants and the Eastern world as Rome (Rûm), and known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire or simply Turkey, was a state that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Söğüt by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.
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.
Charles V was Holy Roman Emperor from 1519, King of Spain from 1516, and ruling prince of the Habsburg Netherlands from 1506. Head of the rising House of Habsburg during the first half of the 16th century, his dominions in Europe included the Holy Roman Empire extending from Germany to northern Italy with direct rule over Austria and the Low Countries, and a unified Spain with its southern Italian kingdoms of Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia. Furthermore, his reign encompassed both the long-lasting Spanish and short-lived German colonizations of the Americas. The personal union of the European and American territories of Charles V was the first collection of realms labelled "the empire on which the sun never sets".
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.
William Hickling Prescott was an American historian and Hispanist, who is widely recognized by historiographers to have been the first American scientific historian. Despite suffering from serious visual impairment, which at times prevented him from reading or writing for himself, Prescott became one of the most eminent historians of 19th century America. He is also noted for his eidetic memory.
Giacomo Bosio (1544–1627) was a brother of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem and the historian of this order. He was the uncle of the Maltese antiquary Antonio Bosio.
The Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, also known as the Order of Saint John, Order of Hospitallers, Knights Hospitaller, Order of Malta, Knights Hospitalier or Hospitallers, was a medieval and early modern Catholic military order. It was headquartered in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, on the island of Rhodes, in Malta and Saint Petersburg.
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.
Juan de la Cerda, 4th Duke of Medinaceli, Grandee of Spain, was a Spanish nobleman.
Istanbul, formerly known as Byzantium and Constantinople, is the most populous city in Turkey and the country's economic, cultural and historic center. Istanbul is a transcontinental city in Eurasia, straddling the Bosporus strait between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. Its commercial and historical center lies on the European side and about a third of its population lives in suburbs on the Asian side of the Bosporus. With a total population of around 15 million residents in its metropolitan area, Istanbul is one of the world's most populous cities, ranking as the world's fourth largest city proper and the largest European city. The city is the administrative center of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. Istanbul is a bridge between the East and West.
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 (J. Boylston, 2015), a novel that concerns the events leading to the Great Siege of Malta, 1565.
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