“I AM THE THUNDERBOLT OF HEAVEN, MY VENGEANCE WILL NOT BE ASSUAGED UNTIL I HAVE KILLED THE LAST ONE OF YOU AND ENSLAVED YOUR WOMEN, YOUR DAUGHTERS AND YOUR CHILDREN” – Hayreddin Barbarossa
Barbarossa is shown lavishly dressed as befits his position of grand admiral of the Ottoman Imperial Fleet. The barrel-chested former corsair sports the full red beard that prompted Europeans to call him Barbarossa (Redbeard). He wears a ceremonial turban that is decorated with jewels, topped by a miniature crown denoting his high rank. He also wears a surcoat adorned with the Ottoman crescent over a luxurious caftan with matching sash, under which is protection, consisting of a composite of mail with small plates protecting his torso. At his waist is a hawk-handled scimitar in a jewelled scabbard.
which prompted the Europeans to call them the ‘Barbarossa’ (redbeard) brothers. While living on Lesbos, Oruç had been captured by the Knights of St. John and forced to serve for three years as a galley slave. He escaped and returned to Lesbos with a burning hatred of Christians. Shortly thereafter, he and Khizr sailed to Tunis.
By dint of exhaustive raiding, the brothers amassed considerable wealth. During the period in which the Spanish established control of the principal ports of the Maghreb, the Barbarossas shifted their operations to Djerba, an island
480 kilometres (300 miles) south of Tunis with a deepwater lagoon on the west side that could shelter an entire fleet. Unlike in Tunis, they could operate in Djerba free of interference from local rulers. Although the heavily gunned Spanish vessels that prowled the Barbary Coast were too strong for the Barbarossas to engage, they focused their efforts instead on plundering vessels of Genoa, Tuscany, Sicily, Naples and the Papacy.
Oruç thirsted for greater power, and it proved his undoing. When the city of Bougie in central Maghreb requested assistance in ousting the Spanish, he made an amphibious attack against it in August 1512. While leading a charge through a breach in the city’s walls, his arm was torn off by a cannonball.
Oruç received a silver prosthetic arm, and he continued fighting the Spanish in the hope of carving out his own fiefdom. He captured the ancient Maghreb capital of Tlemcen in 1516, but the Spanish viceroy of Oran, Diego de Vara, retook it after a six-month siege. Oruç fled with his followers, but the Spanish overtook them and slaughtered them. De Vara sent Oruç’s skull and crimson cloak to Spain, where they were displayed in Córdoba Cathedral. Following his brother’s death, Khizr Barbarossa became the top sea wolf in the Mediterranean Sea.
“WHILE LIVING ON LESBOS, ORUÇ HAD BEEN CAPTURED BY THE KNIGHTS OF ST. JOHN AND FORCED TO SERVE FOR THREE YEARS AS A GALLEY SLAVE. HE ESCAPED AND RETURNED TO LESBOS WITH A BURNING HATRED OF CHRISTIANS”
Bey of Algiers
Realising he was outgunned by the Spanish with their royal galleys and near-impregnable presidios, Barbarossa sent an envoy to Ottoman Sultan Selim I with an appeal for protection. Selim agreed in 1519 to accept Algiers as a sanjak, or province, in exchange for military support. This elevated Barbarossa to the post of bey of Algiers. He received 2,000 janissaries and 4,000 other troops, as well as artillery, to form the initial core of his provincial army. The following year Sultan Suleiman I succeeded Selim. He kept a watchful eye on Barbarossa to see how well he performed his duties.
Barbarossa had a broad chest, thick beard and dark, piercing eyes. He could be as brutal and sadistic as his late brother Oruç, but he also possessed sharp political skills. Unlike Oruç, Khizr had no desire to carve out his own fiefdom – he was entirely devoted to the Ottoman sultan. The most pressing problem he faced as bey of Algiers was how to drive the Spanish from the presidio that controlled Algiers harbour.
In August 1519, King Charles, who had been elected Holy Roman emperor two months earlier, dispatched the viceroy of Naples,
Hugo de Moncada, with a Spanish fleet of 40 ships and 5,000 troops against the port-city of Algiers. The Spanish still held their presidio, known as the Peñón of Algiers, situated on a small islet 275 metres (300 yards) offshore from the picturesque port-city. Barbarossa repulsed Moncada’s attempts to storm the port-city. A fierce gale also arose that wrecked 26 of the 40 Spanish ships. Moncada had no choice but to withdraw, leaving the Ottoman corsairs in possession of the city.
Restless Berbers who were disgruntled by the presence of the corsairs in Algiers revolted in 1524, driving Barbarossa out. He returned to Djerba, from where he could continue raiding Spanish and Italian shipping and also launch amphibious assaults to capture the remaining Spanish presidios scattered throughout the Maghreb. By that time, Barbarossa had 40 captains serving under him.
Barbarossa bided his time, waiting for an opportunity to return to Algiers. He made his move in May 1529 when he landed with troops and artillery and retook the city of Algiers. He intended, upon recapturing the city, to
Portrait of Hayreddin Barbarossa from the 16th century
The swift-moving Ottoman galleasses and galliots swarmed the sail-driven Holy League ships at the Battle of Preveza when the wind dropped