Siege of Tripoli (1551)

Last updated
Siege of Tripoli
Part of the Ottoman-Habsburg wars
Capture of Tripoli by the Ottomans 1551.jpg
Date15 August 1551
Result Ottomans capture Tripoli
Flag of the Order of St. John (various).svg Order of Saint John Ottoman red flag.svg Ottoman Empire
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the Order of St. John (various).svg Gaspard de Vallier Ottoman red flag.svg Sinan Pasha
~630 mercenaries
Casualties and losses
630 enslaved Unknown

The siege of Tripoli occurred in 1551 when the Ottomans besieged and vanquished the Knights of Malta in the fortress of Tripoli, modern Libya. [1] The Spanish had established a fort in Tripoli in 1510, and Charles V remitted it to the Knights in 1530. [2] [3] The siege culminated in a six-day bombardment and the surrender of the city on 15 August.


The siege of Tripoli succeeded an earlier attack on Malta in July, which was repelled, and the successful invasion of Gozo, in which 5,000 Christian captives were taken and brought on galleys to the location of Tripoli.


French ambassador to the Ottoman Porte Gabriel de Luetz d'Aramont, was present at the siege. Ritratto dell ambasciatore Gabriel de Luetz d Aramont Tiziano Vecellio 1541 1542 oil on canvas 76 x 74 cm.jpg
French ambassador to the Ottoman Porte Gabriel de Luetz d'Aramont, was present at the siege.

The city was under the command of Fra' Gaspard de Vallier, with thirty knights and 630 Italian and Sicilian mercenaries. [3] The Ottomans had a base since 1531 in the city of Tajura, 20 kilometers to the east, where Khayr al-Din had been based. [4] The Ottomans encircled the fort, and established 3 batteries of 12 guns each. [3]

The French Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Gabriel d'Aramon, joined the Ottoman fleet at Tripoli, with two galleys and a galliot, [3] [5] The declared mission of the ambassador was to dissuade the Ottomans from capturing the city, at the request of the Grand Master of Malta, as Malta was not identified as an enemy in the Franco-Ottoman alliance against the Habsburgs. [6] [7] According to later reports, when Sinan Pasha (Sinanüddin Yusuf Pasha) and Dragut refused to lift the siege, on grounds that they were under order to eradicate the Knights of Malta from the African continent, d'Aramon threatened to sail to Constantinople to appeal to Sultan Suleiman, but he was then barred from leaving the city until the end of the siege. [6] [7]

Soon the soldiers in the fort mutinied, and negotiation for surrender started. [3] The city was captured on 15 August 1551 by Sinan Pasha after six days of bombardment. [8] [9] [5] The Knights, many of them French, were returned to Malta upon the intervention of the French ambassador, [5] and shipped on board his galleys, while the mercenaries were enslaved. [3] (some authors say 200 men were freed [5] ). Murād Agha, the Ottoman commander of Tajura since 1536, was named as the Pashalik of the city. [4]

Nicolas de Villegagnon, the future explorer of Brazil, was present at the siege of Tripoli in 1551, and wrote an account about it in 1553. [10]


Historical map of Tripoli by Piri Reis Tripoli by Piri Reis.jpg
Historical map of Tripoli by Piri Reis

From Malta, d'Aramon wrote a letter about his intervention to Henry II. [5] The role of d'Aramon was widely criticized by Charles V and Julius III on suspicion that he had encouraged the Ottomans to take the city. [5] It appeared that d'Aramon had participated in the victory banquet of the Ottomans, raising further suspicions about his role in the siege, and leading to claims by Charles V that France participated in the siege. [6] [7] In any instance, d'Aramon had a special relationship with the Ottomans, and was clearly aware that the fall of Tripoli represented a major setback for Charles V. [5]

Nicolas Villegaignon was at the Siege of Tripoli as a Knight of Malta Nicolas de Villegagnon.jpg
Nicolas Villegaignon was at the Siege of Tripoli as a Knight of Malta

Upon his return to Malta, Gaspard de Vallier was heavily criticized by the Grand Master Juan de Homedes y Coscon who wished to assign all the blame for the defeat on him. He was brought in front of a tribunal, and stripped from the habit and cross of the Order. [11] He had been however staunchly defended by Nicolas de Villegagnon, who exposed the duplicity of de Homedes. [12]

The siege was the first step of the all-out Italian War of 1551–1559 in the European theater, and in the Mediterranean the French galleys of Marseilles were ordered to join the Ottoman fleet. [3]

In 1553, Dragut was nominated commander of Tripoli by Suleiman, making the city an important center for piratical raids in the Mediterranean and the capital of the Ottoman province of Tripolitania. [4] In a famous attack from Tripoli, in 1558, Dragut attacked Reggio, and took all its inhabitants as slaves to Tripoli. [4] [13]

In 1560, a powerful naval force was sent to recapture Tripoli, but that force was defeated in the Battle of Djerba. [14]

See also


  1. Cervantes in Algiers: a captive's tale by María Antonia Garcés p. 25
  2. A history of Islamic societies Ira Marvin Lapidus p. 255
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean world in the age of Philip II by Fernand Braudel pp. 920–
  4. 1 2 3 4 A history of the Maghrib in the Islamic period Jamil M. Abun-Nasr p. 190
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Setton, Kenneth M. (1984). The Papacy and the Levant (1204–1571), Volume III: The Sixteenth Century to the Reign of Julius III. Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society. p. 555. ISBN   0-87169-161-2.
  6. 1 2 3 The biographical dictionary of the Society for the diffusion of Knowledge p. 230
  7. 1 2 3 A Universal Biography, John Platts p. 49:
  8. The Middle East and North Africa 2003, p. 748
  9. History of the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey by Ezel Kural Shaw p. 106
  10. The Jew of Malta by Christopher Marlowe, N. W. Bawcutt p. 6
  11. Achievements of the Knights of Malta Alexander Sutherland p. 108
  12. Ancient and modern Malta by Pierre Marie Louis de Boisgelin de Kerdu p. 47
  13. The History of England Sharon Turner, p. 311
  14. A History of the Ottoman Empire to 1730: chapters from the Cambridge history by Vernon J. Parry p. 101

Coordinates: 32°54′8″N13°11′9″E / 32.90222°N 13.18583°E / 32.90222; 13.18583

Related Research Articles

Nicolas Durand de Villegaignon

Nicolas Durand, sieur de Villegaignon, also Villegagnon was a Commander of the Knights of Malta, and later a French naval officer who attempted to help the Huguenots in France escape persecution.


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.

Great Siege of Malta Ottoman Empires invasion of Malta in 1565

The Great Siege of Malta occurred in 1565 when the Ottoman Empire attempted to conquer the island of Malta, then held by the Knights Hospitaller. The siege lasted nearly four months, from 18 May to 11 September 1565.

The Lymond Chronicles is a series of six novels written by Dorothy Dunnett and first published between 1961 and 1975. Set in mid-16th-century Europe and the Mediterranean area, the series tells the story of a young Scottish nobleman, Francis Crawford of Lymond, from 1547 through 1558.

Battle of Djerba

The Battle of Djerba 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.

Juan de Homedes

Fra' Juan de Homedes y Coscón was a Spanish knight of Aragon who served as the 47th Grand Master of the Order of Malta, between 1536 and 1553.

Piali Pasha Ottoman admiral

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.

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.

Gabriel de Luetz

Gabriel de Luetz, Baron et Seigneur d'Aramon et de Vallabregues, often also abbreviated to Gabriel d'Aramon, was the French Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1546 to 1553, in the service first of Francis I, who dispatched him to the Ottoman Empire, and then of the French king Henry II. Gabriel de Luetz was accompanied by a vast suite of scientists, Jean de Monluc, philosopher Guillaume Postel, botanist Pierre Belon, naturalist Pierre Gilles d'Albi, the future cosmographer André Thévet, traveler Nicolas de Nicolay who would publish their findings upon their return to France and contribute greatly to the development of early science in France.

Gaspard de Vallier

Gaspar de Vallier was a Marshall of the Knights of Malta, who was in command of the fortress of Tripoli during the Siege of Tripoli (1551). He was French, from the region of Auvergne. In Tripoli, he commanded 30 knights and 630 Calabrian and Sicilian mercenaries. The city was captured on 15 August 1551.

Invasion of Corsica (1553)

The Invasion of Corsica of 1553 occurred when French, Ottoman, and Corsican exile forces combined to capture the island of Corsica from the Genoese.

Battle of Ponza (1552)

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.

Capture of Mahdia (1550)

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.

Sieges of Oran and Mers El Kébir

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.

Invasion of Gozo (1551)

The Invasion of Gozo took place in July 1551, and was accomplished by the Ottoman Empire against the island of Gozo, following an unsuccessful attempt to conquer nearby Malta on 18 July 1551. It was followed by a victorious campaign with the Siege of Tripoli.

Dragut Ottoman admiral, warrior and governor (1485–1565)

Dragut, known as "The Drawn Sword of Islam", was a Muslim Ottoman naval commander, governor, and noble, of Turkish or Greek 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".

Jean Parisot de Valette

Fra' Jean "Parisot" de la Valette was a French nobleman and 49th Grand Master of the Order of Malta, from 21 August 1557 to his death in 1568. As a Knight Hospitaller, joining the order in the Langue de Provence, he fought with distinction against the Turks at Rhodes. As Grand Master, Valette became the Order's hero and most illustrious leader, commanding the resistance against the Ottomans at the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, sometimes regarded as one of the greatest sieges of all time.

The Conquest of Tripoli was a maritime campaign led by Pedro Navarro which captured the city of Tripoli in North Africa in the name of the Crown of Aragon in 1510.

Sidi Darghut Mosque Mosque in Tripoli, Libya

The Sidi Darghut Mosque or Jama Sidi Darghut is a mosque in Tripoli, Libya. It was built in around 1560 by Dragut on the site of a Hospitaller church, parts of which were incorporated into the mosque. The mosque was damaged in World War II but it was subsequently repaired, although the reconstruction was not completely faithful to its original design.

Hospitaller Tripoli

Tripoli, today the capital city of Libya, was ruled by the Knights Hospitaller as their only territory in North Africa between 1530 and 1551. The city had been under Spanish rule for two decades before it was granted as a fief to the Hospitallers in 1530 along with the islands of Malta and Gozo. The Hospitallers found it difficult to control both the city and the islands, and at times they proposed to either move their headquarters to Tripoli or to abandon and raze the city. Hospitaller rule over Tripoli ended in 1551 when the city was captured by the Ottoman Empire following a siege.