Ottoman invasion of the Balearic Islands (1558)

Last updated
Raid of the Balearic islands
Part of the Ottoman-Habsburg wars
Minorca by Piri Reis.jpg
Historic map of Menorca by Piri Reis.
Result Ottoman victory;
Ottomans occupy parts of the Balearics
Flag of Cross of Burgundy.svg Spain Flag of the Ottoman Empire.svg  Ottoman Empire
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Cross of Burgundy.svg Philip II Flag of the Ottoman Empire.svg Turgut Reis

800 men [1]

40–100 soldiers
150 ships
15,000 men
Casualties and losses
4,000 inhabitants enslaved Unknown

An Ottoman raid of the Balearic islands was accomplished by the Ottoman Empire in 1558, against the Spanish Habsburg territory of the Balearic islands.

Ottoman Empire Former empire in Asia, Europe and Africa

The Ottoman Empire, historically 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.

Habsburg Spain Reigning dynasty in Spain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries

Habsburg Spain refers to Spain over the 16th and 17th centuries (1516–1700), when it was ruled by kings from the House of Habsburg. The Habsburg rulers reached the zenith of their influence and power. They controlled territory that included the Americas, the East Indies, the Low Countries and territories now in France and Germany in Europe, the Portuguese Empire from 1580 to 1640, and various other territories such as small enclaves like Ceuta and Oran in North Africa. This period of Spanish history has also been referred to as the "Age of Expansion".

Habsburg Monarchy former Central European empire (1526–1804)

The Habsburg Monarchy, also Austrian Monarchy or Danube Monarchy, is an unofficial umbrella term among historians for the kingdoms and countries in personal union with the Habsburg Archduchy of Austria between 1526 and 1804, when it was succeeded by the Austrian Empire. The Monarchy was a composite state of territories within and outside the Holy Roman Empire, united only in the person of the monarch. The dynastic capital was Vienna, except from 1583 to 1611, when it was moved to Prague. From 1804 to 1867 the Habsburg Monarchy was formally unified as the Austrian Empire, and from 1867 to 1918 as the Austro-Hungarian Empire.



Letter from Henry II of France to Suleiman the Magnificent and ambassador Jean Cavenac de la Vigne, dated 22 February 1557. Letter from Henry II of France to Suleiman and ambassador de la Vigne 22 February 1557.jpg
Letter from Henry II of France to Suleiman the Magnificent and ambassador Jean Cavenac de la Vigne, dated 22 February 1557.

The Ottomans had already attacked the Balearic Islands many times previously, as in the 1501 Ottoman raid on the Balearic islands. Then followed the sacks of Pollença (in 1531 and 1550), the Sack of Mahon in 1535, Alcúdia (1551), Valldemossa (1552), Andratx (1553), and Sóller (1561). Ottoman attacks only decreased after the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, although they continued until the 17th century. [2] [3]

Pollença Municipality in Balearic Islands, Spain

Pollença is a town and municipality situated in the northern part of the island of Majorca, near Cap de Formentor and Alcúdia. It lies inland, about 6 km (4 mi) west of its port, Port de Pollença.

Alcúdia Municipality in Balearic Islands, Spain

Alcúdia (Catalan pronunciation: [əlˈkuðiə]) is a municipality and township of the Spanish autonomous community of the Balearic Islands. It is the main tourist centre in the North of Majorca on the eastern coast. It is a large resort popular with families. Most of the hotels are located in Port d'Alcúdia and Platja d'Alcúdia along the 14 km long beach that stretches all the way to Can Picafort. In Alcúdia the old town is well preserved with houses dating back to the 13th century. The old town is surrounded by a medieval wall.

Valldemossa Municipality in Balearic Islands, Spain

Valldemossa is a village and municipality on the island of Majorca, part of the Spanish autonomous community of the Balearic Islands. It is famous for one landmark: the Royal Charterhouse of Valldemossa, built at the beginning of the 14th century, when the mystic and philosopher Ramon Llull lived in this area of Majorca.

On 30 December 1557, Henry II of France, who was in conflict with the Habsburgs in the Italian War of 1551–1559, wrote a letter to Suleiman, asking him for money, saltpeter, and 150 galleys to be stationed in the West. Through the services of his ambassador Jean Cavenac de la Vigne, Henry II obtained the dispatch of an Ottoman fleet in 1558. [4]

Henry II of France 16th-century King of France

Henry II was King of France from 31 March 1547 until his death in 1559. The second son of Francis I, he became Dauphin of France upon the death of his elder brother Francis III, Duke of Brittany, in 1536. Henry was the tenth king from the House of Valois, the third from the Valois-Orléans branch, and the second from the Valois-Orléans-Angoulême branch.

Italian War of 1551–1559 1550s war between France and the Holy Roman Empire

The Italian War of 1551–1559, sometimes known as the Habsburg–Valois War and the Last Italian War, began when Henry II of France, who had succeeded Francis I to the throne, declared war against Holy Roman Emperor Charles V with the intent of recapturing Italy and ensuring French, rather than Habsburg, domination of European affairs. The war was the last of a series of wars between the same parties since 1521. Historians have emphasized the importance of gunpowder technology, new styles of fortification to resist cannon fire, and the increased professionalization of the soldiers.

Potassium nitrate chemical compound

Potassium nitrate is a chemical compound with the chemical formula KNO3. It is an ionic salt of potassium ions K+ and nitrate ions NO3, and is therefore an alkali metal nitrate.

Suleyman the Magnificent sent his fleet as a diversion to help his French allies against the Habsburgs. The Ottoman armada left Constantinople in April 1558. On 13 June 1558 the Ottoman fleet ravaged Italy, with little effect however apart from the sack of Sorrento, then part of the possessions of Spain in southern Italy, where they took 3,000 captives. [5]

Franco-Ottoman alliance

The Franco-Ottoman alliance, also Franco-Turkish alliance, was an alliance established in 1536 between the king of France Francis I and the Turkish sultan of the Ottoman Empire Suleiman the Magnificent. The strategic and sometimes tactical alliance was one of the most important foreign alliances of France, and was particularly influential during the Italian Wars. It lasted intermittently for more than two and a half centuries, until the Napoleonic campaign in Ottoman Egypt, in 1798–1801.

Italy republic in Southern Europe

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a European country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Italian Alps and surrounded by several islands. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean sea and traversed along its length by the Apennines, Italy has a largely temperate seasonal climate. The country covers an area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and shares open land borders with France, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland and the enclaved microstates of Vatican City and San Marino. Italy has a territorial exclave in Switzerland (Campione) and a maritime exclave in the Tunisian Sea (Lampedusa). With around 60 million inhabitants, Italy is the fourth-most populous member state of the European Union.

Sorrento Comune in Campania, Italy

Sorrento is a town overlooking the Bay of Naples in Southern Italy. A popular tourist destination due to its variety of small antique shops and location on the Amalfi Coast, it can be reached easily from Naples and Pompeii as it is at the south-eastern end of the Circumvesuviana rail line. The town is most commonly known for its small shops selling an arrangement of ceramics, lacework and marquetry (woodwork).


In July, the fleet then started to ravage the Balearic islands. [6] The Ottoman force consisted of 15,000 soldiers on 150 warships. The Ottomans, after repulsing an attack on Mahón, attacked the citadel of Ciutadella in Menorca, which was only garrisoned with 40 soldiers. [7]

Mahón Municipality in Balearic Islands, Spain

Maó-Mahón, sometimes written in English as Mahon is a municipality, the capital city of the island of Menorca, and seat of the Island Council of Menorca. The city is located on the eastern coast of the island, which is part of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands, Spain. Maó-Mahón has one of the largest natural harbours in the world: 5 km (3.1 mi) long and up to 900 metres wide. The water is deep but it remains mostly clear due to it being slightly enclosed. It is also said to be the birthplace of mayonnaise.

Ciutadella de Menorca Municipality in Balearic Islands, Spain

Ciutadella de Menorca or simply Ciutadella is a town and a municipality in the western end of Menorca, one of the Balearic Islands (Spain). It is one of the two primary cities in the island, along with Maó.

Menorca one of the Balearic Islands

Menorca or Minorca is one of the Balearic Islands located in the Mediterranean Sea belonging to Spain. Its name derives from its size, contrasting it with nearby Majorca.

Port of Ciutadella. CiutadellaPort.jpg
Port of Ciutadella.

On 9 July 1558, the Ottomans under Piyale Pasha and Turgut Reis put the town under siege for eight days, then entered and decimated the town. After the fall of the citadel, the city was ravaged and the population enslaved. [7] All of Ciutadella's 3,099 inhabitants who survived the siege were sold into slavery in the Ottoman Empire, along with people from surrounding villages. In total, 3,452 locals were sold at the slave markets of Constantinople. The Balearic islands were ravaged, and 4,000 people were taken as prisoners. [8]

Siege military blockade of a city or fortress

A siege is a military blockade of a city, or fortress, with the intent of conquering by attrition, or a well-prepared assault. This derives from Latin: sedere, lit. 'to sit'. Siege warfare is a form of constant, low-intensity conflict characterized by one party holding a strong, static, defensive position. Consequently, an opportunity for negotiation between combatants is not uncommon, as proximity and fluctuating advantage can encourage diplomacy. The art of conducting and resisting sieges is called siege warfare, siegecraft, or poliorcetics.

Slavery in the Ottoman Empire

Slavery in the Ottoman Empire was a legal and significant part of the Ottoman Empire's economy and traditional society. The main sources of slaves were wars and politically organized enslavement expeditions in North and East Africa, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the Caucasus. It has been reported that the selling price of slaves decreased after large military operations. In Constantinople, became the administrative and political center of the Ottoman Empire, about a fifth of the population consisted of slaves in 16th - 17th century. Sixteenth- and 17th-century customs statistics suggest that Istanbul's additional slave import from the Black Sea may have totaled around 2.5 million from 1453 to 1700.

Constantinople capital city of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire, the Latin and the Ottoman Empire

Constantinople was the capital city of the Roman Empire (330–395), of the Byzantine Empire, and also of the brief Crusader state known as the Latin Empire (1204–1261). It was the capital of the Ottoman Empire (1453–1923). In 1923 the capital of Turkey, the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, was moved to Ankara and the name Constantinople was officially changed to Istanbul. The city was located in what is now the European side and the core of modern Istanbul.

An obelisk was set up in the 19th century by Josep Quadrado in the Plaza d'es Born in memory of the offensive, with the following inscription:

Here we fought until death for our religion and our country in the year 1558. [7]

Every year on 9 July a commemoration takes place in Ciutadella, remembering "l’Any de sa Desgràcia", or "the Year of the Disaster". [1]


As a later consequence of the 1553 Franco-Ottoman Invasion of Corsica, the same Ottoman fleet was delayed from joining a French fleet in Corsica near Bastia, possibly due to the failure of the commander Dragut to honour Suleiman's orders. Suleiman apologized in a letter to Henry at the end of 1558. [9] [10]

See also


  1. 1 2 Balears Cultural Tour Archived 2011-07-20 at the Wayback Machine
  2. Pitcher, D.E., An Historical Geography of the Ottoman Empire (Leiden, 1972), p.99.
  3. Lee, Phil, The rough guide to Mallorca & Menorca (New York, 2004), p. 275.
  4. Setton, Kenneth M., The Papacy and the Levant (1204–1571) (Philadelphia, 1984), p. 698 ff
  5. Setton p.698 ff.
  6. "In 1558, after the battle of St. Quentin, Souleiman I, the old ally of Francis I, had made a diversion useful to France by sending his fleet against Italy and the Balearic Isles, which it ravaged.": Duruy, Victor, History of modern times: from the fall of Constantinople to the French revolution (New York, 1894), p.237.
  7. 1 2 3 "In the middle soars an obelisk commemorating the futile defense against the Turks in 1558, a brutal episode that was actually something of an accident. The Ottomans had dispatched 15,000 soldiers and 150 warships west to assist their French allied against the Habsburg": Lee, p. 171 ff.
  8. Carr, Matthew, Blood and Faith: the Purging of Muslim Spain (Leiden, 1968), p. 120.
  9. Setton p. 696 ff.
  10. Setton p. 700 ff.

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