In this article, Timothy Choi argues that in the study of naval history and strategy, little attention has been paid to the Ottoman navy during its height between the mid-15th to 17th centuries. The existing literature has primarily focused on naval warfare itself, with little consideration of the Ottoman Empire’s religiously-driven character. A condensed version of a more detailed paper, this essay argues that the complexities of running an Islamist state creates an approach towards problem solving that emphasizes pragmatism, which was applied to the Empire’s naval matters just as it was to religious ones and was crucial to the navy’s success. In so doing, it rejects Alfred Thayer Mahan’s claim that a specific “Character of the People” is necessary for the effective employment of seapower.
Sometime between June and October of 1657, Katib Çelebi presented a lavishly illustrated manuscript of some 260 pages to the Ottoman sultan, Mehmed IV.i This work, Tuhfetü’ l–kibar fi esfari’ l-bihar, or The Gift to the Great Ones on Naval Campaigns (hereafter simply Naval Campaigns), was the first comprehensive literary work on the history of the Ottoman navy. Though often neglected by Western military and naval historians, the Ottomans’ naval supremacy over the Mediterranean lasted, to put it into perspective, approximately the same period as has the United States Navy’s pre-eminence since the Second World War. Such a sea power deserves to be more richly examined, and this paper uses the frameworks laid out by Alfred Thayer Mahan and Sir Julian Corbett to, firstly, assess whether the Ottomans favoured particular approaches to naval force.
Secondly, this essay challenges the claim by Mahan that a particular “Character of the People” is crucial to a political body’s ability to be a successful sea power. Citing Dutch and English examples, Mahan thought a long history of sea dependence and a willingness to invest in foreign mercantilist ventures were fundamental to those countries’ creation and sustainment of seapower. However, if this is taken as absolute truth, then the rise of the Ottoman Empire as a significant naval power would be difficult to explain given the Turks’ origins in landlocked Central Asia. I argue that if Mahan’s argument has merit, it lies in not some universal truth about a particular type of societal character, but rather contextually-dependent types of character. In testing this hypothesis, this paper focuses on the most clearly identifiable character of the Ottoman Empire and its people: the caliphate’s unique brand of Islamism.
Two primary sources are used to assess the Ottoman Empire’s naval operations and its Islamist character: the aforementioned Naval Campaigns and Çelebi’s contemporaneous The Balance of Truth. This latter source was Çelebi’s attempt to assess the tension between certain Islamic cultural and social practices with the actual living habits of Ottoman citizens at the time. By engaging these two works in conversation with each other, I identify at least corollary links between the Islamist “character” of the Ottoman Empire and the way in which it viewed and employed seapower.
The Gift to the Great Ones
In Naval Campaigns, Çelebi details two centuries of Ottoman naval history. Although naval warfare has changed significantly in the two hundred years leading up to the 21st century, such was not the Ottoman case between the late 1400s and early 1600s, when several common strategies and tactics appeared to apply, notwithstanding occasional variations.
One particular feature of warfare stands out Çelebi’s record of the Ottoman naval experience. From the 1522 takeover of Rhodesii to the raid against the Mafrodonia Castle in the Adriatic, coastal strongholds played a dominant role in the struggle for power in the Mediterranean and Black Seas.
The strategic and operational importance of permanent coastal fortifications reflected the means available to the belligerents of this period. As John F. Guilmartin, Jr., notes, “the Mediterranean system of warfare at sea” was a “form of amphibious warfare in which the relationship of the fleet to the shore was at least as important as its relationship to the opposing fleet.”iii Strategically, coastal strongholds were the only realistic method by which effective control over an area of the sea could be maintained on a consistent basis, particularly in the Mediterranean context. In an age before warships could loiter on the open seas for weeks, never mind months, navies could not establish credible sea control due to the lack of endurance for maintaining constant patrols in the numbers necessary to defeat a concentrated attack by an enemy fleet.iv Thus, permanent “anchors” were necessary to control the area of interest. Castles and fortresses provided these points of control, serving as guards for not only sea lanes within cannon range, but also the more important role of being bases for landward control: providing protection over adjacent port settlements as well as staging areas for controlling the rest of the island or ports further along the coastline.
The role of ports was crucial. The naval prowess of the Ottomans in the 1500s was manifest in its fleet of galleys. Though equipped with sails, their primary mode of propulsion was oars. In addition to thirty-five crew members and one hundred fighters, the average galley was powered by nearly 200 rowers.v Given that each ship was only approximately twenty-six metres long and five metres wide, there was little room for provisions.vi Although oar-powered vessels could set up rotation schedules for their rowers to alleviate muscle fatigue, there was no way to remain at sea for more than several days given the lack of water and food.vii Ergo, it was imperative that the fleet be able to resupply on land; the farther away from homeport (frequently Istanbul), the shorter the amount of time it can spend in an area. Thus, forward bases in the form of ports protected by nearby fortresses were crucial for extending a fleet’s time nearer the potential point of action. Furthermore, establishing a chain of such bases throughout the Mediterranean enabled the Ottomans to use the otherwise short-ranged galleys for expeditions as far away as Spain.viii
Operations to seize these bases often took the form of surrounding the target with a large fleet coinciding with a landward approach by an army. By besieging the fortress from land and sea, the defenders had little chance of survival once their supplies run out. Although allies might come to the defenders’ aid, this was by no means certain especially if distress calls were prevented from reaching their recipients. Recognizing this, defenders often surrendered with barely a fight – examples include the 1462 capture of Lesbos Island as well as the 1475 and 1480 captures of the Black Sea castles at Kafa and Mota.ix In the Lesbos case, the island’s ruler had requested, and was granted, mercy for him and his family who were allowed to return to their country with personal belongings.x
However, not all sieges proceeded so smoothly. The August 1500 operation against Moton fortress on Peloponnese faced considerable sustained opposition. After a period of bombardment from the ships’ guns, victory appeared “imminent” but was thwarted by the arrival of the “infidel” navy. Though the Ottoman fleet dealt substantial casualties to its enemy counterpart, four additional Venetian galleys arrived, dropping off “a few thousand” riflemen to reinforce the castle. As the Europeans were busy moving their siege and heavy weapons into the castle, Ottoman troops attacked. With the castle partially on fire, the defenders were apparently “frightened”, allowing Ottoman soldiers to seize it. No amnesty was given to the defenders and they were put to the sword.xi This successful, albeit difficult, takeover further solidified the Ottoman military’s credibility – the operation against the other castle on Peloponnese, Coron, proceeded smoothly with its inhabitants surrendering as during 1462 Lesbos.xii
But kinetic engagements were not always necessary for port acquisition. The Ottomans actively recruited the allegiance of corsair enclaves along the North African coast and the 1540s Franco-Ottoman cooperation saw operations out of French Toulon.xiii
Perhaps the most famous example of the relationship between Istanbul and the southern Mediterranean littorals was Hayreddin Barbarossa. Along with his brother Oruç, the two pirates made a name for themselves in the early 1500s, leading numerous attacks on Christian shipping throughout the Mediterranean. Their success was such that the rulers of Tunis granted them the use of Halkulvad Castle in return for a 20% cut on captured goods.xiv Their success in driving the Europeans away from Algiers re-established it as a base from which to control other castles along the modern coast. Eventually, upon the request of Algiers’ citizens, Hayreddin (brother Oruç having been killed in battle) petitioned Sultan Selim I to bring Algeria under Ottoman rule and jurisdiction, which was readily accepted.xv In so doing, the Ottoman navy now had an extensive choice of forward bases in the western Mediterranean, drastically increasing its operational range in that region for decades to come.
This type of “from the shore” sea control in the quest for Mediterranean power was the dominant method of operations and was certainly a most rational approach given the means available. Yet, Ottoman rulers did not always recognize its strategic appropriateness. In one disagreement between Sultan Selim I and Piri Reis, navy captain and Grand Vizier, the former was noted as saying: “The stallion of my determination is used to conquering countries, yet your determination is directed towards the conquest of a castle.”xvi Sultan Süleyman was apparently also given to such disdain towards maritime strongholds – the conquest of Iraq and defeat of the Safavids overshadowed his concern over losing Tunis at the chokepoint separating the eastern and western halves of the Mediterranean.xvii Implicit in these attitudes is a lack of understanding regarding the importance of maritime lines of communication, as emphasized in Çelebi’s prescription: ‘It is no secret that the greatest support of the Ottoman State is the affairs of the sea…keeping [parts of Europe] and guarding them depended on controlling the seas.’xviii
But overenthusiasm could be just as dangerous as a lack of appreciation. The large-scale fleet battle was an attractive vision for some Ottoman leaders. During discussions leading to the 1571 Lepanto battle, the Captain Pasha, who was Commander-in-Chief of the navy despite lacking any maritime experience, decreed “wherever the fleet of the infidels is, attack and fight them; otherwise, you shall be reprimanded.”xix However, the Captain Pasha missed the fact that the relative ease of galley replacement makes their destruction of minimal contribution to enduring sea control. Luckily for the Ottomans, this worked in their favour after the defeat at Lepanto. Although often portrayed as being the definitive end of Ottoman naval supremacy, the reality was that the event resulted in hardly any change to either side’s geopolitical situations or military balance. Less than a year later, the Ottomans had managed to almost completely rebuild the fleet, showing off 242 vessels to the Venetians.xx In 1573, the Sultan ordered even more ships to be built. Noting this development and the active Ottoman raids along Venetian territory, the Venetians were forced to “apologiz[e] for their past crimes, and they have shown their servitude”. The Ottomans were willing to “let bygones be bygones for the comfort of the subjects…and abide by the words ‘peace is good’”.xxi Ergo, peace on Ottoman terms was established without the destruction of the enemy fleet. Simply put, a desirable policy outcome was reached through a naval strategy combining amphibious raids and the mere existence of a large fleet.
These examples of Ottoman naval “behaviour”, as it were, can be assessed from a “Mahanian” view of naval strategy. Guilmartin argues that Mahanians are wrong to interpret Mediterranean naval war from the perspective of sea control, as galleys simply cannot remain at sea in a manner that ensures long-term control.xxii The Ottomans’ “from the shore” success aside, there was more to Mahan than just the idea of sea control. A key tenet was the importance of fleet concentration for direct engagement with the core enemy battle fleet. Clearly, the Ottomans held very closely to the former of those two elements, almost always basing their main fleet in Istanbul and sailing out in quantities numbering hundreds. Excepting Lepanto, however, the Ottomans did not employ concentrated fleets for maximizing the chances of defeating an enemy counterpart in open battle. Rather, the numbers were used for troop transportation during amphibious assaults in the struggle for coastal strongholds.
This leads us to one of Mahan’s other major observations on naval strategy – the importance of ports. Katib Çelebi actually echoes Mahan in this regard. Çelebi extensively discussed the role of successive ports in enabling fleets to reach forward operating areas. Much as Mahan made the distinction between ports that are used for replenishment while enroute and ports that are used as forward bases, so does Çelebi in his observation of the role that the various ports between Istanbul and “Avarin” (Navarin) play, and how “Avarin” itself is “a major location of assembly” – exactly that of a forward base for localized operations.xxiii The island base of Djerba, off the Tunisian coast, also exemplified the idea of a forward staging base; Turgut Reis, Hayreddin Barbarossa’s successor, frequently mounted raids from there towards the north and west.xxiv A Mahanian appreciation for fleet concentration and overseas ports, but not fleet engagements, can thus be concluded.
But the Ottomans also engaged in Corbettian naval warfare. Perhaps the most prominent was the “combined operations” that saw close coordination between land and sea forces directed towards a singular objective. Corbett identified two non-transport roles for navies in amphibious assaults – protecting troops from seaward threats and supporting armies in their advances. The former was used to mixed effect in the capture of Moton castle, where the Ottomans succeeded in repelling an initial naval counterattack, but failed to prevent the landing of further reinforcements for the enemy. The latter role is more difficult to apply as naval guns of this period did not have the range for significant fire support.xxv However, while galley guns could not defeat fortresses, they could be used to distract defenders and provide some cover for troops on land, as was done against St. Elmo on Malta in 1565.xxvi Additionally, warriors sometimes took with them their galley’s guns to support sieges, sacrificing firepower at sea for firepower on land.xxvii As well, while Çelebi’s coverage focused on the combat vessels of the Ottoman navy, he neglected to mention auxiliaries. Three vessel types were used to transport artillery – top gemisi, taş gemisi, and örtülü, used, respectively, to bring the gun itself, the stone ammunition, and gunpowder.xxviii Although my sources do not specify whether these were used tactically to bring artillery to battle or as strategic sealift between areas firmly in Ottoman hands, the 1565 Malta siege involved extremely heavy artillery that could have been landed only with the assistance of such dedicated auxiliary ships.xxix The Corbettian emphasis on amphibious operations is thus distinct in the Ottoman way of naval warfare.
Another major Corbettian feature of naval strategy is the dispersal of one’s combat fleet. I had suggested above that the Ottomans appeared to do the exact opposite, taking instead a Mahanian approach with hundreds of galleys en masse. However, the Ottomans did not only operate in such a manner. Although the “core” Istanbul fleet was under the direct command of the Captain Pasha, several other squadrons based throughout the empire had their own commanders. These operated independently, in charge of specific areas. For example, the fleet at Rhodes was responsible for safeguarding the routes between Istanbul and Egypt, while the admiral in Egypt had fleets in Alexandria and Suez. Further south, the captain of Yemen guarded the Red Sea’s entrance. In addition to these galley fleets, there were also smaller divisions of frigates and riverine warships, stationed in areas like southern Iraq and the Danube River.xxx We can thus say the Ottomans adopted a Corbettian approach to the navy’s overall distribution.
But distribution was not just for distribution’s sake. Rather, it was so one could address threats in different areas without sending the entire navy, leaving crucial regions unguarded. During the Portuguese challenges to Ottoman maritime trade in the Indian Ocean, Istanbul did not constantly drag its main fleet overland from the Mediterranean into the Red Sea or Persian Gulf.xxxi Instead, with fleets at Basra and Suez, the navy was in a position to respond to regional threats without leaving its other flanks exposed. The Ottomans were thus able to secure the Red Sea from Portuguese intrusion, which could have threatened the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. In the 1580s, Ottoman squadrons also raided Portuguese outposts along the east African coast, further demonstrating the flexibility of a dispersed fleet.xxxii
Finally, Corbett advocated a solid understanding of the relationship between strategy and policy. While the “from the shore” sea control employed by the Ottomans was a logical means to regional power, we also noted that human emotion occasionally betrayed this rational approach. If there was a single maxim that Clausewitz, via Corbett, wished to emphasize in the use of military force, it was that it be for political ends, not personal grievances and petty revenge. Yet, the Ottomans appeared to have violated this in the 1644 Crete campaign, which stemmed, according to Çelebi, from the martyrdom of a group of Muslims. They were in a weakly-armed ship as part of the hajj when Maltese pirates intercepted them. Although the ship’s crew and warriors fought back, they could not prevail against the pirates’ six galliots. The fighters were martyred and the hajjis taken prisoner. Crete’s ruler then accepted gifts (taken from the hajj vessel) from these pirates. In the words of Çelebi, the “sultan was hurt by this and he resolved to take revenge from the infidels for those martyrs. This caused the conquest of Crete”.xxxiii But while vengeance may have been the Sultan’s reason for backing the campaign, the Mahanian importance of seizing Crete should not be underplayed: Svat Soucek suggests that vengeance was played up by palace officials looking for an excuse to take Crete.xxxiv
It is clear from the above that the Ottomans cannot be said to have either a Mahanian or Corbettian way of naval strategic conception. Rather, it was a mixture of both, exhibiting elements from each that reflected the realities of galley warfare in the Ottoman Empire.
Relationship to the Ottoman Empire’s Islamist Character
In The Balance of Truth, one major theme in the Ottoman approach to Islamism can be identified: pragmatism in both general attitudes towards conflict resolution and specific activities. In particular to the naval discussion, the issue of “innovations”, or the religious acceptability of certain post-Muhammad activities and inventions, is extremely poignant. Çelebi mentions the necessity of several instruments and sciences for successful naval campaigns. The fathometer, for example, is crucial for preventing the destruction of vessels in shallow waters.xxxv But more importantly for successful navigation were the map and compass. On their own, they may not be particularly interesting from the perspective of “good” versus “bad” innovation. After all, a compass is perfectly legitimate for finding the direction of prayer, and a map for pilgrimages to Mecca. Yet, it is how the map and compass are used at sea that intersects with the greater discussion of permitted and forbidden sciences, particularly that of astronomy versus astrology. In the context of oceanic navigation, astronomy becomes not just useful for finding the direction of prayer, but for the ship and crew’s very survival due to the relationship between the stars and the map and compass; a lost crew’s lack of astronomic knowledge can cause their deaths due to starvation and thirst. Thus, it is clear that although the science of astronomy may be legitimized in the Ottoman Empire by virtue of its religious utility, this legitimization has a very utilitarian consequence in enabling Ottoman naval power. Çelebi holds “the science of navigation” in such regard that he calls on naval captains to “give much importance” to navigational training and to respect those who know how to use a map and compass. Furthermore, the captains themselves should know how to employ the map and compass – if they do not, they should “take an interest in them and learn them”.xxxvi An avenue for further research would be to examine if fatwas on whether an innovation was “good” or “bad” depended on its perceived non-religious utility in the Empire. Given the highly politicized role of the Islamic scholar in the Ottoman state, this would not be at all surprising.
But perhaps more illustrative of Ottoman-style Islamism was its persistent adoption of methods and behaviour based on practical merits. Just as Çelebi recognized the need for a flexible approach to enjoining (promoting) right and forbidding wrong, so too the Ottoman officials in increasing the Empire’s naval power. The rapid willingness to acquire the distant Algerian ports offered by Hayreddin Barbarossa is a perfect example. Despite the fact that he was an outlaw, the Sultan was very quick to recognize the low cost and high benefits of accepting Barbarossa’s offer of Algeria. While it is true that Barbarossa constrained his piratical targets to vessels and territory of the Christian European states, there could not be a guarantee that he would never extend his activities to Ottoman targets, or act against Ottoman interests. After all, not all pirates who attacked Ottoman shipping were Christians, such as Kara Durmuş, an ex-Ottoman navy sailor.xxxvii Thus, from Istanbul’s perspective, it was logical to not only accept nominal jurisdiction over Algeria, but to also bring Barbarossa into the Ottoman navy, where he became its command-in-chief.xxxviii It is important to note Barbarossa’s ambition was not just to take prizes and slaves, but to assert political control over the North African coast from the Strait of Gibraltar to Tripoli for him and his descendants.xxxix While this desire may not have been articulated to the Sultan, Barbarossa’s political actions prior to submitting to the Ottoman Empire could hardly have escaped Istanbul’s notice. As the Caliph of the ummah (the global Muslim community), the Ottoman head of state could not allow the prospect of a competing Caliphate. By bringing in Barbarossa, the Ottomans were able to prevent the possibility of challenges to their authority arising from a Barbarossa-led unified North Africa.
Çelebi’s focus on the Ottoman tendency to reach “balance” between extreme views may also explain their retention of galley warfare well into the 1600s. Oar- and wind-powered warships each had their own advantages, representing extremes on the spectrum of pre-steam maritime propulsion methods. The Ottomans, instead of sticking strictly to one or the other, built fleets combining both. This applied to individual vessels as well as fleet composition – galleys and galleases had both oars and sails, while the Ottoman navy as a whole gradually adopted more sailing ships.xl By employing both sails and oars on galleys, the Ottoman fleet could engage in cross-Mediterranean voyages by wind power while maintaining superior maneuverability and littoral performance by virtue of oars and shallow draft.xli The gradual adoption of sail allowed the Ottoman navy to more accurately assess the drawbacks and benefits of such a changexlii, enabling a “wait and see” attitude in case changes in technology or geostrategic circumstances favoured galleys, sailing ships, or something in between.
The “adoption” of Hayreddin Barbarossa and the lack of wholesale switch to sailing ships represented rational decisions on the part of Ottoman authorities, reflecting a generally moderate mindset. However, they were not without risks, and it is possible to assess these two decisions together. It is well-known that galleons and their descendants surpassed galleys as the primary naval combat unit. Although much greater in material cost to produce, they were also capable of much longer voyages. While this advantage was not crucial to the Ottoman Empire, it resulted in a design that was very difficult to defeat by galleys. The low decks that enabled boardings as the prime combat tactic between galleys made them unsuitable for attacking the high-sided sailing men-of-war. Meanwhile, the plethora of cannon on sailing ships’ lower decks could easily destroy the fragile galleys. Ergo, it was tactically necessary for the Ottoman navy to transition to the large sailing ship even though they were not strictly necessary for its amphibious-centric strategy. However, the Ottoman navy was heavily dependent upon corsairs to train their sailors. Corsairs, however, were galley operators and had little incentive for transitioning to sail in the Mediterranean. Lacking trainers, the Ottomans’ full transition to sail was delayed, with its attendant consequences.xliii
But the willingness to adopt unorthodox, yet logical if not always successful, methods was not limited to just the strategic and operational levels – tactically, there were instances of practical solutions as well. In one striking example, Çelebi advises sailors to throw large pieces cloth, towels, and turbans into the water outside a leaking hole, noting historical instances where the inrushing water had pulled the cloths tight against the hole, sealing the leak.xliv This suggestion is innovative enough on its own, but is especially significant for its explicit mention of the turban. The fact that sailors were apparently willing to discard their turbans in order to fix a leak indicates a pragmatism that overrode religio-cultural traditions. Çelebi also suggested a balanced approach to the matter of crewing proportions in a galley. The oarsmen of a galley could hold two basic status: free men (though not necessarily willing) or slaves.xlv The former could be trusted to be both a rower and a warrior in amphibious operations, while the latter allowed for cheaper labour and thus greater numbers of vessels at the expense of trustworthiness.xlvi Çelebi suggested crews with equal numbers of both, citing the practice of “old captains” and lamenting the “innumerable” amount of ships stolen by galley slaves.xlvii Finally, as yet another example of pragmatic rationalism, the Ottomans were willing to hire foreign expertise in building their vessels. In the early 1500s, Andrea Dere became “the Sultan’s shipwright,” head of the Ottoman shipbuilding program. His value was not only in shipbuilding skills, but also in life experiences. An Italian who once roamed freely through various Aegean harbours, Dere was uniquely knowledgeable about those ports’ defences and layout, speaking at length about them with the Captain Pasha. It was clear the Ottomans valued Dere despite his origins and, probably, differing religion. He was apparently treated very well, turning down an offer to return to Venice by saying simply he had served the Sultan for many years.xlviii From these examples, it is clear that the Ottomans adopted an approach towards naval affairs that echoed their approach to Islamist issues – balanced approaches with critical rational assessments without being tied to any particular doctrinal values.
Conclusion – The Ottoman Empire: A Rational Way of War
This paper has demonstrated that Mahan was wrong – at least, for the Ottomans. It is evident that it is not necessary for the “Character of the People” to be historically aligned with the seas and oceans. Instead, it is only necessary to have a mindset and culture promoting practical and rational thinking with a good sense of what is important and what is not. In essence, a strategic outlook.
The idea that the Ottomans were backwards, stagnant, and unimaginative in military affairs is clearly wrong. Scholarship in the last decade have come out in favour of quite the opposite, and Agoston notes “flexibility and pragmatism” were key traits in the Ottoman adoption of gunpowder weaponry. Although I certainly agree with this, I am less willing to accept his simultaneous claim that Islam played “a negligible role”.xlix This attitude assumes Islam could only play a role in military affairs via explicit appeals, and that the absence of such indicates Islam’s backseat role compared to “historical challenges, social and economic conditions and cultural attitudes”.l
However, this paper has argued that the Ottoman Empire’s Islamist nature was, in fact, significant in affecting its conduct of naval warfare. This role was not, as Agoston’s assumption, direct. Rather, it was the social-cultural approach to the issues that arise within an Islamist state and society. This created a framework of approach that permeated through multiple levels of Ottoman society, from the Sultan and his advisors to the officers of the navy. This approach identified the key interests at stake and rationally devised solutions to such problems. While problem-solving proficiency is hardly unique to any particular country or people, the Ottomans do stand out in being uncompromisingly moderate about the solutions they consider. Their weighing of costs and benefits of the available solutions reflects the Ottoman state’s decades, if not centuries, of experience in determining when an innovation is “good” or “bad”, and when and to what extent rights should be promoted and wrongs forbidden. The Ottoman Empire’s extensive experience in learning how to reconcile modernity with religious fundamentals resulted in a set of balanced scales that was used not only in religious matters, but those of war as well.
To conclude, the Islamist way of thought in the Ottoman Empire did indirectly affect their employment of seapower at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. The oft-invisible hand of Islam worked its way into how seapower fit into the overall imperial aspirations of Sultans, the way the Empire approached changing technologies, and even how to employ people to their utmost advantage. That said, the actual methods of war were those of rationality quite removed from religious considerations – one may even call it “liberal”. While the Ottoman Empire had to adhere to an Islamist policy, sometimes the best strategy for making that happen was one of rational liberalism. Thus, we see an Empire whose actions can be explained by pragmatic decisions buoyed by an experienced approach to making a functioning Islamist state. This allowed it to adopt optimal approaches to naval warfare, taking elements from both the Mahanian and Corbettian schools, without being uncompromisingly adherent to one or the other.
Bibliography and References
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Çelebi, Katib. 1957. The Balance of Truth. Translated by G. L. Lewis. London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd.
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—. 2012. The History of the Maritime Wars of the Turks. Edited by Svatopluk Soucek. Translated by James Mitchell. Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers.
Corbett, Sir Julian S. 1988. Some Principles of Maritime Strategy. London: Brassey’s Defence Publishers.
Crowley, Roger. 2008. Empires of the Sea: The Final Battle for the Mediterranean 1521-1580. London: Faber and Faber.
Glete, Jan. 2000. Warfare at Sea, 1500-1650. London: Routledge.
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Guilmartin, John Frances, Jr. 2003. Gunpowder and Galleys: Changing Technology and Mediterranean Warfare at Sea in the 16th Century. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.
Mahan, Alfred Thayer. 1987. The Influence of Sea Power Upon History 1660-1805. London: Bison Books Ltd.
Perry, Illan. 1997. “Migration of Ship-building from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea: Shipwreck of Sharem el Sheikh.” In Ship-building and Navigation in the Indian Ocean Region AD 1400-1800, edited by Satish Chandra, 108-112. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt Ltd.
Soucek, Svat. 2009. “Certain Types of Ships in Ottoman-Turkish Terminology.” In Studies in Ottoman Naval History and Maritime Geography, by Svat Soucek, 181-192. Pistacaway, NJ: Gorgias Press.
Soucek, Svat. 2009. “Naval Aspects of the Ottoman Conquest of Rhodes, Cyprus and Crete.” In Studies in Ottoman Naval History and Maritime Geography, by Svat Soucek, 113-146. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press.
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i# Çelebi, Katib, The Gift to the Great Ones on Naval Campaigns, ed. Idris Bostan (Ankara: Prime Ministry Undersecretariat for Maritime Affairs, 2008), 32.
ii# Çelebi, Naval Campaigns, 73.
iii# John Francis Guilmartin, Jr., Gunpowder and Galleys: Changing Technology and Mediterranean Warfare at Sea in the 16th Century (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2003), 73.
iv# Guilmartin, Gunpowder and Galleys, 33.
v# Çelebi, Naval Campaigns, 145.
vi# Ibid. Metric values converted from terms “cubit” and “span” in Naval Campaigns but it is uncertain whether they correspond to modern-day understandings of their numerical values. Some sources suggest galleys as long as 42m – see Gabor Agoston, Guns for the Sultan: Military Power and the Weapons Industry in the Ottoman Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 2005), 53.
vii# Brummett, Ottoman Seapower and Levantine Diplomacy, 95.
viii# Çelebi, Naval Campaigns, 92; Svat Soucek, “Naval Aspects of the Ottoman Conquest of Rhodes, Cyprus and Crete,” in Studies in Ottoman Naval History and Maritime Geography (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2009), 114.
ix# Çelebi, Naval Campaigns, 65-66.
x# Ibid., 65; Katib Çelebi, The History of the Maritime Wars of the Turks, ed. Svatopluk Soucek, trans. James Mitchell (Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2012), 59. It is noted that Naval Campaigns uses “sent…to the country”, whereas Maritime Wars writes “his own country”. Which one of these is correct appears to be unknowable based on the English translations.
xi# Ibid., 69; Çelebi, Maritime Wars, 66.
xii# Çelebi, Naval Campaigns, 69.
xiii# Roger Crowley, Empires of the Sea: The Final Battle for the Mediterranean 1521-1580 (London: Faber and Faber: 2008), 74.
xiv# Çelebi, Naval Campaigns, 74.
xv# Ibid., 78.
xvi# Ibid., 72.
xvii# Soucek, “The Ottoman Conquest of Rhodes, Cyprus and Crete,” 120.
xviii# Çelebi, Naval Campaigns, 148.
xix# Ibid., 111.
xx# Ibid., 113.
xxii# Guilmartin, Gunpowder and Galleys, 33.
xxiii# Çelebi, Naval Campaigns, 143.
xxiv# Guilmartin, Gunpowder and Galleys, 137.
xxv# Ibid., 172-173.
xxvi# Ibid., 199.
xxvii# Ibid., 91.
xxviii# Agoston, Guns for the Sultan, 52.
xxix# Guilmartin, Gunpowder and Galleys, 198.
xxx# Agoston, Guns for the Sultan, 52.
xxxi# I use “constantly” to mark the fact that such overland transport of ships was, apparently, done on the occasion, as in 1520 when Piri Reis transported a portion of his Mediterranean fleet to Suez by land. Illan Perry, “Migration of Ship-building from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea: Shipwreck of Sharem el Sheikh,” in Ship-building and Navigation in the Indian Ocean Region AD 1400-1800, ed. Satish Chandra (New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt Ltd, 1997), 110.
xxxii# Jan Glete, Warfare at Sea, 1500-1650 (London: Routledge, 2000), 81-82.
xxxiii# Çelebi, Naval Campaigns, 123.
xxxiv# Soucek, ”The Ottoman Conquest of Rhodes, Cyprus and Crete,” 138.
xxxv# Çelebi, Naval Campaigns, 143.
xxxvi# Ibid, 149.
xxxvii# Brummett, Ottoman Seapower and Levantine Diplomacy, 94, 99.
xxxviii# Çelebi, Naval Campaigns, 137; Ernle Bradford, The Sultan’s Admiral: Barbarossa – Pirate and Empire Builder (London: Tauris Parke Paperbacks, 2009), 123-124.
xxxix# Bradford, The Sultan’s Admiral, 125.
xl# Çelebi, Naval Campaigns, 144-145.
xli# Guilmartin, Gunpowder and Galleys, 93.
xlii# Although the Captain Pasha began calling for the transition to sail by 1682, apparently this was still a “work in progress” by 1730. Molly Greene, “Ruling an Island Without a Navy: A comparative view of Venetian and Ottoman Crete,” in Oriente Moderno20, no. 1 (2001), 204, note 38.
xliii# Svat Soucek, “The Ottoman Merchant Marine,” in Studies in Ottoman Naval History and Maritime Geography (Pistacaway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2009), 179; Svat Soucek, “Certain Types of Ships in Ottoman-Turkish Terminology,” in Studies in Ottoman Naval History and Maritime Geography (Pistacaway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2009), 191-192.
xliv# Çelebi, Naval Campaigns, 150.
xlv# Miri Shefer Mossensohn, “Medical Treatment in the Ottoman Navy in the Early Modern Period,” in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 50, no. 4 (2007), 555-560.
xlvi# Guilmartin, Gunpowder and Galleys, 125-126.
xlvii# Çelebi, Naval Campaigns, 150.
xlviii# Brummett, Ottoman Seapower and Levantine Diplomacy, 93.
xlix# Agoston, Guns for the Sultan, 192.