Hayreddin Barbarossa

Hayreddin Barbarossas Flag 



Hayreddin Barbarossa (Khizr Reis) was born on the island of Lesbos in 1478 and died in Constantinople in 1546. He was named Pasha or Admiral in the Ottoman Navy and was a powerful force in the Mediterranean seas for decades. He is the second of the “Barbarossa” brothers, this name meaning, “Red beard was inherited from his older brother Aruj who is the only one of his brothers to actually have a red beard. The name also stuck with him because it was similar to his Turkish name Barbarous.

Early Career

All four of the brothers became sailors early in their lives. Initially they were merchants but turned to privateering to combat the knights of St. John who were based on the Island of Rhodes. While returning from a trading expedition in Tripoli His brothers Aruj and Ilyas were attacked by the Knights of St. John. Ilyas was killed in the fight and Aruj was wounded and captured. But Hayreddin was able to learn the location of his brother and rescue him.

Career with Aruj

During the Years from 1503-1508 the brothers worked together to combat the Knights and the Spanish and to protect ottoman interests at sea. They captured many ships including one, the Cavalleria which had three hundred and eighty Spanish soldiers and sixty knights on board. These victories made them famous among the ottomans and Europeans alike.
         In 1509 they were joined by their older brother, Ishak. Then in 1512 the brothers had a series of very successful raids against the Spanish. They captured twenty three ships in less than a month and then returned to their port of operations.

Later Career and Death

After the death of his brothers Hayrettin inherited everything Aruj had, his position and the nickname. In December of 1518 he took a group of Turkish soldiers and recaptured Tlemcen, the city Aruj and Ishak had been killed in. He continued his domination of the Mediterranean and sent ships to aid in the ottoman conquest of Rhodes in 1523 forcing the knights of St. John out of the Mediterranean.

By 1534 when Barbarossa returned to Constantinople he had a total of 44 ships under his command. He was named Grand Admiral of the Ottoman Navy and governor of North Africa. While Admiral he continued to raid ports and attack cities. In 1538 Pope Paul III assembled a fleet to challenge the ottomans with the help of the Spanish but Barbarossa defeated them in the battle of Preveza.

         So impressed by Barbarossa’s ability as a naval captain emporer Charles V asked him to switch sides and be supreme commander of his navy against the Spanish. Barbarossa refused but this was the beginning of an Ottoman/ French alliance against the Spanish.

         After years of successful Naval battles Hayreddin retired to Constantinople leaving his son Hasan Pasha as his successor. He dictated his memoirs and after a short retirement died in 1546.