Hızır, better known as Khayreddin, or to the west Barbaros because of his orange beard was born in either 1477 or 1467 on Midilli (Lesbos) Island. Khayreddin’s name was given by Sultan Selim I because of his services in the name of Islam. His father Yakup was a Sipahi in the service of the Ottoman Sultan. He had two older brothers Ishak and Oruç, and a younger brother Ilyas. His brother Oruç used the name Barbaros too. According to Halil Inalcik, Barbaros’ name actually derived from the name “Baba Oruç”, father Oruç.
The brothers were initially involved in naval trading. Their fate changed when Oruç and the younger brother Ilyas were attacked by Saint John Knights of Rhodes. Ilyas was killed in combat and Oruç was taken prisoner. After his escape, he went on to become a Ghazi. Oruç Reis worked for Şehzade Korkut, brother of Sultan Selim I, and with Mamluk Sultan Qansuh al-Ghuri. Later on, Hızır (Khayreddin) joined his brother.
In 1511, they captured the island of Djerba on the coast of Tunis from the Spaniards. In 1518, during a battle in Tlemcen, Algiers Oruç Reis was killed and his head was cut from his body and taken to Spain as evidence of his death. His other brother İshak was also killed in the same battle.
Hayreddin Barbarossa as the Sultan of Algiers
Hayreddin Barbarossa is most known for his allegiance as “Sultan of Algiers” to Ottoman Sultan Selim I. He practically gave his kingdom to the Ottomans. He then was appointed “Beylerbeyi”, governor of Algiers by Sultan Selim I.
On 27 December 1533, Khayreddin and his admirals arrived in Constantinople. He was paraded through the streets with hundreds of prisoners, bags of gold, silver, money and exotic animals. The next day, he was received by Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. On a rare occasion, Khayreddin was allowed to seat with the Sultan, usually, it is prohibited that a guest sits with the Sultan. But the respect and love for Khayreddin allowed a change in protocol rules. He was appointed “Kaptanı Derya”, Grand Admiral, never before given to a person in Ottoman history. He quickly reorganized the Ottoman fleets and dockyards.
Tunis was captured in 1534 by Khayreddin but was lost again in 1535. On 28 September 1538, he destroyed the majority of the Christian fleet at the Battle of Preveza. He had approximately 120 galleys with 20,000 soldiers, with them he faced a combined Crusader Christian fleet of more than 200 galleys, galleons, barques and 60,000 soldiers from Venice, Papal States, Portugal, Spain, Genoa, Mantua and Hospitaller Malta.
In 1542, Khayreddin met up with the French ally navy and took Nice from The Holy Roman Empire. It was part of the Italian War of 1542-1546 where France and the Ottoman Empire fought England and Spain.
Khayreddin became a menace for the Christian navies and defeated the Genoese admiral Andrea Doria multiple times.
Furthermore, Khayreddin took the Aegean islands from Venice and took part in numerous raids and sea battles. Khayreddin died on 4 July 1546 in Constantinople. His biography was written by his officer Seyyid Muradi, “Gazavat-ı Hayrettin Paşa”, commissioned by the Sultan and Barbaros Khayreddin.
The Turkish navy, throughout the centuries, developed a tradition in which they salute Barbaros Khayreddin at his tomb at Beşiktaş shore before embarking on a campaign or setting out to the sea. This tradition is still in place. Turkish and Ottoman navies have given the name of Barbaros Khayreddin to several warships to honour him and his brothers. His legacy is still very much alive.
Hayreddin Barbarossa in Popular Culture
In popular culture, there is also a lot of attention to the beloved Barbaros. Many books have been written about him, series have been made and even a military song was composed.
Deniz ufkunda bu top sesleri nerden geliyor.
Barbaros, belki donanmayla seferden geliyor.
Adalardan mı, Tunus’tan mı, Cezayir’den mi.
Where is that cannon fire on the sea horizon coming from?
Perhaps it is Barbaros, returning from a campaign.
From the Islands, from Tunis, or from Algiers.
Last updated on May 3rd, 2023 at 10:50 pm
Mükremin Ümit Gül is a history enthusiast. He writes on Ottoman history.