Piri Reis

Almost everyone has heard of him for his fantastic cartography skills and his ability to draw details of the World Map. Some details of this map include the animals, the climate conditions, geography information and some stories of the continent. All of them were made in 1513. He has known of his accomplished expeditions too. So, who is Piri Reis and what is his life story?

Childhood Years:
His real name is Muhyiddin Piri. It’s accepted that his family is one of the displaced families Karaman to Istanbul by that era’s Sultan’s (Fatih Sultan Mehmed) command. This was one of the tactics of the Ottoman Empire. The purpose is to make the area Turkishize and permanent for the Ottomans. Piri started living in Gelibolu with his uncle Kemal Reis, one of the famous sailors in the Ottoman. (Fact: In general, famous sailors of the Ottoman had grown up in Gelibolu.)

A Pirate Sailor:
Some of his pirate memories were recorded in his book: Kitab-ı Bahriye. Piri Reis had made piracy with Kemal Reis in different fields. One of those was about rescuing Muslims from Spain. The emirate of Girnata was under attack from Spanish Christians. The Ottoman Sultan Bayezid the Second couldn’t attack them directly because his brother Cem Sultan was in Papa’s control. This incident could potentially make a throne war. That will be difficult and a waste of time for Sultan Bayezid the Second. Also in that age, the Ottomans hadn’t had many warships for expeditions. So, he called Kemal Reis for help. Piri Reis was in that expedition too and they rescued injured Muslims and Jews.

Being An Ottoman Navy:
Bayezid the Second was preparing for the Venice expedition. He called pirates to join their navy. Piri Reis and Kemal Reis joined the navy in 1494. Venice had no strength left and finally, they did a peace agreement with the Ottomans. Piri Reis joined different island expeditions. He wrote information and instructions about places he visited. This will be the outline of Kitab-ı Bahriye.

First World Map:
Piri Reis came to Gelibolu after Kemal Reis died from an incident. He concentrated on writing Kitab-ı Bahriye and also drew the first World Map in 1513. The first piece of this map was found in the Topkapi Palace warehouse in the first years of the republic. The second piece was found but wasn’t been exhibited. However, now we can see it in the Topkapi Palace library made by Ahmed the Third.

On the other hand, Barbaros Brothers were one of the biggest navies and they did conquests. Piri Reis was one of the captains of Oruç Reis. He presented gifts to Yavuz Sultan Selim to get support and he came with two warships. He joined the Ottoman navy again and became a naval colonel. He did big success in capturing Alexandria and he got praised by Sultan. At this time, he presented the map to Sultan. We don’t know what the Sultan did with this map but it may have helped in the battles. After the expedition, Piri Reis assembled his notes and made a cruise instruction book (Kitab-ı Bahriye). After Yavuz died, Kanuni Sultan Süleyman enthroned. He entered the navy again in the Rhodes exhibition. Thanks to İbrahim Pasha, whom he helped in the Egypt exhibition, he presented Kitab-ı Bahriye to the Sultan. He drew a more detailed World Map in 1528. He worked for the government in the southern oceans rest of his year.

The Ottomans (Age of Kanuni Sultan Süleyman) were in a fight with Portugal. Piri Reis (age:80) was successful at suppressing the rebellion. That’s why Sultan gave him a new task. The task was to conquest Hormuz Island by going quietly. They surrounded the castle of the island. It’s accepted that the castle was well prepared for the battle. The Ottoman navy’s strength got weak and the siege lifted. Piri Reis got angry with the help of the locals to the Portuguese and plundered the place. The Governor of Basra wanted to arrest Piri Reis. The complaint of the Governor of Basra reached the Governor of Egypt. Piri Reis was arrested. He was executed by the order of the Ottoman Sultan due to lifting the siege. His grave place isn’t known. He made a big mistake in lifting the siege, but that doesn’t overshadow his past achievements.


Onur Hakan Akdoğan

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