Попаднах на доста добра статия за експедицията на Хадим Сюлейман паша, написана от Джанкарло Касале
In the spring of 1538, a great armada set sail for India from the Ottoman arsenal of Suez. Commanded by the future grand vizier Hadım Süleyman Pasha ( ? - 1547), it counted among the most powerful Ottoman fleetsever assembled until that time, and the first to be designed with the express purpose of sailing beyond the confines of the Red Sea into the Indian Ocean. Nearly five centuries later, the armada still ranks as by far the largest Ottoman armed force ever to operate in the Indian Ocean theatre, and its mission remains perhaps the most ambitious of any military operation undertaken in Ottoman history: to cross the full span of the Western Indian Ocean with over 10,000 men, and conquer the Portuguese fortress of Diu — at a distance, as the crowflies, of over 4,000 kilometres from the fleet’s point of departure.And yet, while the history of Hadım Süleyman Pasha’s campaign to India and Yemen have been relatively well studied, surprisingly little is known about the actual ships that composed his fleet.
Given the unprecedented nature of the mission that confronted them, did the shipwrights charged with the task of assembling this armada simplystick to what they knew, recreating in Suez a fleet more or less indistinguishable from those produced in their main arsenal in Istanbul? Or was the mission instead an occasion for experimentation and innovation, and if so, in what ways? These are the central questions that we will seek to answer in the pages below, through a systematic analysis of the most important contemporary descriptions of the armada and the vessels of which it was composed.
A point of departure: the Anonymous Venetian
Unfortunately, the task before us is made complicated by one unavoidable fact: there are no knowncontemporary Turkish-language accounts that describe the 1538 expedition in any detail.
However, what do exist are accounts by participants who sailed with the Ottoman fleet, but who wrote about their experiences in European languages rather than Turkish. Of these, by far the most well-known is an account by the so-called Anonymous Venetian, one of several hundred Venetians forcefully impressed into Ottoman service by Hadım Süleyman Pasha in 1537.Although the author never gives us his name, his account is commonly attributed to Benedetto Ramberti (1503 - 1547), a prominent Venetian diplomat, merchant, and man of letters. True or not, the author was certainly well placed in Venetian literary circles, for his account appeared in print for the first time only five years after the expedition itself, in 1543.
A few years later, a new version was included in the first volumeof the Navigationi et Viaggi, the celebrated collection of discovery literature published by Giovanni Battista Ramusio (1485 - 1557).
Thereafter, it was republished numerous times and in multiple languages, includingan English translation that has made it particularly accessible to Ottomanists.
Written in the form of a journal or ship’s log, with daily entries that were possibly drafted while the expeditionwas still in progress, the Anonymous Venetian’s account is a priceless historical source. But while rich in detailsabout the fleet’s slow progress from Suez to India, and the subsequent unfolding of the siege at Diu, it providesa frustratingly cursory overview of the fleet itself. In fact, the author devotes only one sentence of his account todescribing the ships in which the expedition sailed, which appears (in the original Italian) as follows:
“fanno detta armada da legni settantasei fra grandi e piccioli: e prima maone sei, bastarde dicesette, galee sottili ventisette,fuste nove, e galeoni due, navi quattro, e altre sorti de navilij sono al numero settantasei”.
How to interpret this passage? Note, first of all, that I have intentionally chosen to reproduce it in theoriginal Italian because the ambiguities inherent in its technical terminology defy simple translation and deserveto be dwelled upon. The passage begins simply enough, saying “they [the Ottomans] make the said armada of seventy-six vessels large and small” and then proceeds to give an inventory of the number of each kind ofvessel. These can be surmised (in an order that has been slightly rearranged for clarity) in the following chart:
Original text: Approximate Translation:
17 bastarde 17 bastard galleys
27 galee sottili 27 thin galleys
9 fuste 9 fustes
6 maone 6 mavna(Turkish)
2 galeoni 2 galleons
4 navi 4 sailing ships
11 altri sorti di navili 11 vessels of other kinds
76 Total vessels
Turning now to these individual types of ships, there are at least three that we can identify with a relativelyhigh degree of confidence.
Galee sottili or “thin galleys” are the most straightforward: these are almost certainly the standard Mediterranean-style oar-powered war galleys, the equivalent of the Ottoman Turkish kadırga.
Bastarde too have an obvious equivalent in Ottoman Turkish: baştarda, a term commonly used for the verylargest type of oared war vessels (with as many as 36 banks of rowers, compared to 25 or 26 on a standard wargalley).
Fusta, meanwhile, refers to a more general category of smaller oared vessels of indeterminate size(usually with between 10 and 18 banks of rowers).
Whatever their exact size and configuration, it is clear that all three of these vessel types are variations ofsame general category: the oar-powered warship that had been a hallmark of naval combat in the Mediterraneansince classical antiquity. But what of the other three types of ships, the maone, navi, and galeoni? The first, atleast, has an obvious equivalent in Ottoman Turkish: mavna.
But unfortunately, this is a notoriously unstableterm whose meaning has changed considerably over the centuries. In the early sixteenth century, it was usedto denote a type of large oared vessel used for transport rather than combat, more or less analogous to the Venetian galere grosse. Later in the century, after the battle of Lepanto, it acquired the meaning of a “galleass”,a large, multi-decked hybrid warship with both the oars of a galley and the hull of a tall-sided sailing ship.
Can we be sure which type of vessel is intended here? To date, modern scholars have been dismissive of thepossibility that true galleasses could have been found in an Ottoman fleet before the 1570s.
But as we shall see in the pages below, it is a prospect that may warrant more serious consideration in this particular case.Finally, the last two vessel types on our list, navi and galeoni, are the most technologically confounding, asboth refer unequivocally to tall-sided, sail-powered ships rather than oared vessels. And while the former of thesewas a general term for “sailing ship,” whose meaning might be open to some interpretation, galeone is a much moreprecise technical term: it refers unambiguously to the four-masted, highly manoeuvrable, tall-sided sailing ships thatrepresented the state-of-the-art of sixteenth-century European military technology at sea — precisely the type ofship that the Ottomans are supposed never to have been able to build (at least until the mid-seventeenth century).
So are we really ready to conclude, based on this solitary, abbreviated passage, that the Ottomans did, afterall, possess the technology to build tall-sided ocean-going sailing ships, and deployed their own galleons in theRed Sea fleet of 1538? Not surprisingly, scholars have proven sceptical. Colin Imber, for example, in his classicstudy of the navy of Süleyman the Magnificent, was among the first to notice the apparent presence of “galleons” in this fleet, as well as the occasional appearance of the Ottoman term kalyon in documents from the Mühimme Defterleri referring to later fleets in the Indian Ocean. But he dismissed the possibility that these could have been bona fide tall-sided warships like those deployed by the Portuguese. Instead, he surmised that all such referencesto ‘galleons’ and other Ottoman sailing ships in the Indian Ocean must be understood to be transport ships usedto carry munitions and supplies, rather than actual platforms for artillery to be used in combat.
Such scepticism certainly makes sense in the face of overwhelming evidence from both Ottoman andWestern sources that, at least in the Mediterranean, the Ottoman use of sailing ships for military purposes wasvirtually unknown. And indeed, the Anonymous Venetian himself, in a separate section of his account, makesreference to the large number of supplies that were carried on these vessels, including gunpowder, ammunition,sea biscuit, and “everything else needed for the fleet”.
Still, if the galeoni he refers to really were nothing more than transport ships, one is left to wonder why he chose, seemingly deliberately, to distinguish them from the other navi with such a precise technical term. In other words, if these galeoni weren’t galleons, what madethem special enough to be singled out in this way? A second opinion: Fernão Lopes de Castanheda
Had the report of the Anonymous Venetian remained our only contemporary source for the armada of1538, this question would probably remain forever unanswerable. But happily, we have another untapped bodyof evidence to which we shall now turn: the contemporary writings of the Portuguese of maritime Asia, whohad a natural interest in describing Hadım Süleyman Pasha’s fleet since they were its intended targets.
While several such sources exist, perhaps the most well-known is Fernão Lopes de Castanheda’s multi-volume History of the Discovery and Conquest of India, a work first published in Portuguese in the 1550s, andtranslated and republished in several other European languages (including English) within just a few decades.
Castanheda’s chronicle is of particular interest for two reasons. First, he spent 10 years in Portuguese Indiabefore writing his magnum opus — returning to Portugal in 1538, the same year as Hadım Süleyman Pasha’s expedition, after accumulating a wealth of first-hand experience. Thereafter, he was appointed to librarian atthe University of Coimbra, and in this position enjoyed good connections at court, and privileged access tostate documents.Much like the Anonymous Venetian, Castanheda’s account is heavy on details about the expedition itself but not the ships upon which it depended, as he limits himself to the following one-sentence inventory broken down by number and type of vessel:
“Fifteen ‘bastard galleys’ (galés bastardas) of thirty-three banks each,
twenty-five ‘royal galleys’ (galés reais) of thirty banks,
ten ‘thin galleys’ (galés sotis),
four ‘galleasses’ (albetoças), which they call maunas in their terminology,
four other smaller ships (navios), making a total of sixty-four sails in all”.
Even before delving into details about the individual ships, it will be apparent that the total number ofvessels given here (64) is much lower than the figure given above by the Anonymous Venetian (76). But this discrepancy is nicely accounted for in a separate passage a few pages later, when Castanheda mentions twelveadditional vessels that were added to the fleet in Jeddah after departing from Suez. He describes these new additions as 7 “sails” (velas) originally from Gujarat and 5 “carracks” (naos), three belonging to the Sharif of Mekkah and the other two to an Egyptian official.
Adding these to the original 64 vessels in Suez, we reacha total of 76, a figure that matches quite precisely the total given by the Anonymous Venetian (at least in termsof the total strength of the fleet), and also sheds some light on what this author may have had in mind when hecatalogued eleven “vessels of various types” at the end of his own inventory.For the sake of clarity, let us now revisit the totals of each type of ship presented in Castanheda’s accountin the following table:
Original Text: Approximate Translation:
15 galés bastardas 15 bastard galleys
25 galés reais 25 royal galleys
10 galés sotis 10 galleys
4 albetoças (maunas) 4 galleasses (?)
6 galeões 6 galleons
4 navios /mais pequenos/ 4 smaller vessels
5 naos 5 carracks
7 velas sails 7 transports
76 Total vessels
A direct, line-by-line comparison between this chart and that of the Anonymous Venetian reveals bothbroad areas of agreement and smaller points of disagreement. When combined with the brief but nevertheless meaningful qualitative details contained within Castanheda’s account, each of these allows us to refine — andin some cases revise — what we thought we knew about these vessels based on our earlier reading of the Anonymous Venetian.
To begin with an area of relative agreement, both authors list three types of vessels that belong unambiguously to the category of the oar-powered warship, and differ only marginally regarding the overallnumber of these vessels. Moreover, Castanheda employs virtually the same terminology as the Anonymous Venetian with respect to the largest warships on the list, the galés bastardas. By then describing these asvessels “with 33 banks of rowers each” (de trinta e tres bancos cada huma), he gives us a quite clear idea of what these ships were like, confirming our speculation that the Anonymous Venetian’s bastarde were indeed baştardas, the very largest type of Ottoman war galley. On the other hand, Castanheda’s descriptions of the following two types of oared vessels contain somesurprises. It will be remembered, for example, that the Anonymous Venetian had listed 27 “thin galleys” (galee sottili) and 9 “fustas” (fuste) in his inventory. By contrast, Castanheda lists 25 “royal galleys” (galésreais) and 10 “thin galleys” (galés sotis), and goes on to describe the royal galleys as having “30 banks ofrowers” (de trimta bãncos). If correct, this would mean that the overwhelming majority of oared vessels in Hadım Süleyman’s fleet (40 out of 50, or a full 80%) consisted of oversized vessels with 30 banks of oars or more, while the standard 25-banked kadırga played only a supporting role. I am unaware of another Ottomanfleet from the 16th-century Mediterranean being configured with anything close to such a high proportion ofoversized galleys. Thus, even by limiting our investigation to the most ‘traditional’ type of vessel — the oar-powered war galley — Castanheda’s account raises substantial doubts about the oft-repeated assertion that theOttoman fleets of the Indian Ocean were essentially the same as fleets in the Mediterranean.
Such doubts only increase when we turn to the other types of vessels on Castanheda’s list. Perhapsmost intriguing is the category of albetoças, which in Castanheda’s text is followed by the gloss “which they [the Ottomans] call maonas in their terminology.” This allows us to match these vessels with the maone (or Turkish mavna) that appeared in the Anonymous Venetian’s account, despite the fact that their numbers do not correspond exactly. What is particularly fascinating about Castanheda’s choice of words, however, is that in other contemporary contexts albetoçais known to have referred to hybrid ships, with both oars and sails and mounted artillery — and not large oared vessels used only for transport.
In other words, this would imply that mavna is being used here in a way that is more akin to its later meaning of “galeass”, despite the fact that suchvessels are not supposed to have been introduced into the Ottoman fleets of the Mediterranean until after the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.
Can this really be the case? Similarly, notice the insistent reappearance on Castanheda’s list of “galleons” (galeões), reinforcing ourearlier impression that the use of this precise technical term by the Anonymous Venetian was no accident. Buthow are we to interpret the fact that their number has here increased from 2 to 6? Has Castanheda grouped together both the “galleons” (galeoni) and the “saling ships” (navi) of the Anonymous Venetian’s list? And ifso, what made these vessels different from the other 5 “carracks” (naos) that he says joined the fleet at Jeddah? Or the four “smaller vessels” (navios mais pequenos) that accompanied them? What manner of vessel were theseven “sails” (velas) that arrived from Gujarat? And what kind of armaments did these ships carry?All of these are questions that Castanheda encourages us to ask, but for which he offers us no answers.With this in mind, let us turn to yet another contemporary Portuguese chronicle in the hopes of building a more complete picture.
An “unofficial” perspective: Gaspar Correia’s Lendas da ĺndia
In many respects, Gaspar Correia’s Lendas da ĺndia, or “Tales of India,” stands as the perfect complement to Castanheda’s History of the Discovery and Conquest of India.
Like Castanheda, Correia too spent many years in the Portuguese Indies. But unlike Castanheda, he was not a particularly learned man, nor was he well connected in Portugal itself. Rather than an “official history,” his chronicle therefore gives us an alternativeview, based at least in part on oral testimony and on the lived experience of individual soldiers and sailors in Portuguese India. As a testament to this alternative status, Correia remained an obscure figure in his own lifetime, and his work remained unpublished — only to be ‘rediscovered’ in the 19th century. Since then, it hasbecome one of the primary sources for the early history of Portuguese expansion in Indian Ocean.It is unlikely that Correia personally saw the Ottoman armada of 1538. But his chronicle includes a veryrich description of it that certainly has the flavour of eyewitness testimony, and which he claims was takendirectly from the account of a Christian galley slave who had served in the fleet and had then escaped to Goa.
In all, Correia devotes several full pages of text to this account, and the information he provides — particularlyregarding the individual ships constituting the fleet — are exponentially more detailed than any other known contemporary source. Indeed, because of the length of these descriptions and the fact that they are dividedup into more than one section of Correia’s narrative, it would be too unwieldy to reproduce the full text here.Instead, let us try to extract the most salient points of information, and present them in a form that can be most easily compared with the other sources already discussed above.In a contrast to both Castanheda and the Anonymous Venetian, Correia gives his most complete inventoryupon the fleet’s arrival in Mocha, at the southern end of the Red Sea. He claims that it was not until arrivingthere that the expeditionary force reached its full strength (additional vessels having joined the fleet at Tur,Jeddah, and Mocha itself), and this, at least in part, can explain why Correia gives a comparatively higher total ship count than either of the other sources consulted above. Specifically, he rates the full strength of the fleetat 85 vessels, which he then divides into the following individual figures:
Original text: Approximate Translation:
15 galés bastardas 15 /bastard galleys/
31galés reaes 31 /royal galleys/
9 galés sotys 9 /thin galleys/
6 galeotas 6 /galleots/
6 fustas 6 /fustes/
2 bargantis 2 /brigantins/
5 albetoças (elsewhere given as 6) 5 galleasses
5 galeões 5 /galleons/
6 naos de mantimentos 6 cargo ships
85 Total vessels
In looking over this list, various points of convergence and of divergence with our two previousinventories raise a number of obvious and important questions. But while serving as a useful starting point, it is also true that the list at it appears here fails to capture perhaps of the greatest attraction of Correia as a source, namely that alongside these raw figures, he goes on to give a much more lengthy qualitative description of eachof the individual vessels on his list. Many of these are so detailed — and in some cases so unexpected — that it is worth examining them one by one to get a clearer sense of the picture he draws for us.
(Galés bastardas): Unlike his description of other vessels in the fleet, Correia’s portrayalof the very largest oared warships, the “bastard galleys,” includes no information about the size or configurationof the ships themselves. Instead, his description is focused exclusively on the gunpowder weapons used to arm these vessels. He writes:
“There were fifteen bastard galleys, all of which carried a “basilisk” (basilisco) and two other large pieces of artillery(peças grossas) at the bow, and aft two “half camels” (meio camelos) and four iron stone-shooters (roqueiras) on eachside, and in the cabin and on each of the wings there were three “falconets” (falcões) mounted on swivels”.
Our analysis of the above description is complicated by two factors: a general lack of standardization in the casting of sixteenth-century artillery, and the absence of direct equivalence between contemporary Portugueseand Turkish technical language.
In the case of the “basilisk”, for example, indicated here as the main bowgun on each of the bastard galleys, we are left to wonder if the term is being used to denote the Ottoman şayka or balyemez, the two very largest types of Ottoman siege gun and the functional equivalents of a Spanish or Portuguese basilisco, or instead the comparatively smaller but deceptively similarly named bacaluska.
This is a matter of considerable consequence in understanding the overall firepower of these ships, forşayka and balyemez could be truly massive, weighing upwards of 10 metric tons and firing shot as heavy as 75 kg at their largest, while bacaluska were only medium-sized weapons, smaller in fact than those typically used as bowguns on Mediterranean galleys.
Fortunately, in this particular instance — in a way that has been exasperatingly impossible in our discussion until now — we are able to turn to a contemporary Ottoman archival source forclarification. According to a document first uncovered by Cengiz Orhonlu, 20 balyemez cannons firing shots of 20 okkas (25 kgs) were ordered to be cast in bronze for the Ottoman fleet in 1538.
We can safely assume thatthese were the same cannons described by Correia, and at that size they would have qualified as extremely largebow guns — certainly larger than any normally found on a contemporary Spanish or Venetian galley.Regrettably, the remaining ordnance on Correia’s list cannot be cross-referenced and defined with thesame precision, but can at least be ranked on a roughly descending scale of weight and calibre. “Camels”in Portuguese usage were smaller than basilisks but still very large cannon (reaching, at their upper limits, several tons in weight and throwing a ball as heavy as 15 kgs or more), and it is likely that the two un-named “big pieces” to which Correia refers belong either to this category or to the related culverin-style long gunsof comparable weight. “Half-camels”, as their name implies, were correspondingly smaller but still heftyweapons, weighing as much as a ton and capable of launching a projectile of perhaps 5 or 6 kgs. Falconets, toward the other end of the scale, were light guns weighing a few hundred kilograms and firing shot as small asa kilogram or less. An even smaller weapon, the berço or swivel gun, was found in other ships of the Ottomanfleet of 1538 (though apparently not on the bastard galleys).
Finally, the stone-shooter or roqueira refers not to a particular size of cannon but rather a differentcategory of weapon altogether: a gun designed to shoot balls made of cut stone rather than cast iron (allowingthem to be lighter, thinner, and shorter without sacrificing power or accuracy, but also much more expensive tooperate because of the difficulty of hewing stone balls by hand).
These guns could theoretically be any size, including the very largest siege weapons. But the fact that they appear here as the most numerous of all thebastard galleys’ ordnance, combined with the observation that they were mounted on the sides rather than at thebow, suggest that these particular exemplars were quite small guns, possibly even a type of mortar or bombard.With all of these details in place, let us now step back for a moment and consider them in the aggregate.Overall, Correia’s description of the bastard galleys’ weaponry leaves little doubt that these were exceptionallyheavily armed vessels. Even allowing for their larger size when compared to contemporary galleys of theMediterranean (with 33 as opposed to 25 banks of rowers), their armaments stand out for the range of different types and sizes of weapons on board, their total numbers (at 16 guns per vessel), and their overall configuration ondeck (the percentage of guns mounted at the rear and sides as opposed to the bow being particularly noteworthy).
As already noted above, the high proportion of oversized “bastard galleys” was a remarkable and unusualfeature of the 1538 armada. But if anything, their numbers alone understate the overall military importanceof these vessels, which becomes fully apparent only when the scale of their armaments is taken into account.As a unit, the fifteen “bastard galleys” of the 1538 armada carried no less than 240 pieces of ordnance, quite possibly representing the most concentrated force of seaborne firepower that had ever been assembled by theOttoman navy until that time.
Royal Galleys and ‘Thin’ Galleys (Galés reaes and Galés sotys): Given the general familiarity of galleys,their diffusion across the Mediterranean, and their centrality to the conduct of naval warfare throughout themedieval and early modern period, we would normally expect Correia’s description of “thin galleys”, thetechnical term for the standard, 25-banked war galley, to be straightforward. Instead, confusion reigns, as Correia appears to contradict both of our other sources regarding the number of vessels involved, and even the basic distinction between “royal” and “thin” galleys. He writes:
“There were forty royal galleys, nine of them “thin” galleys that all carried three camels at the bow and stone-shooters tothe rear and falconets. These were all galleys with twenty-five banks, with three rowers at each bank between the mastand the stern, and ahead of the mast with only two rowers at each bank. All of the heavy artillery fired cast-iron cannonballs made of solid metal, while the iron stone-shooters fired balls of stone”.
In evaluating this passage, it should be remembered that Castanheda and the Anonymous Venetian hadalready disagreed about these vessels: the former had listed ‘royal galleys’ as a separate category of ship,claiming that these were distinct from the ‘thin galleys’ because of their more numerous 30 banks of oars,while the Anonymous Venetian’s list had included only “thin galleys”. Now, rather than helping to resolvethis dilemma, Correia adds yet another layer of confusion, first agreeing with Castanheda by listing “narrow galleys” as a separate subcategory of the “royal galleys”, but then describing the vessels in a way that suggests both types had exactly the same number of oars and identical armaments.One way to at least partially reconcile this contradiction is to propose an alternative reading of Correia’stext, according to which his description refers not to all the “royal galleys”, but specifically to the subset of “thin galleys” that he singles out. This makes sense when we consider the way he describes these vessels: not as standard 25-banked warships, with banks of 3 rowers from bow to stern, but rather as a more experimental and ‘thinner’ shipthat was narrower at the prow and had a correspondingly smaller number of rowers in its foremost banks.In other words, it may be that Correia used “thin” in a literal rather than conventional sense, and choseto describe these ships in detail precisely because they were slightly strange and unfamiliar to him. Much thesame, in fact, could be argued of his accompanying emphasis on the armament of these vessels, whose big guns“all fired cast-iron balls of solid metal”. This is a detail of some significance, because the Ottomans (at least inthe Mediterranean) are known to have continued to favour stone-throwing artillery at this time, even as suchweapons had begun to be replaced by iron-shooting guns in the fleets of Venice, Spain, and Northern Europe.
All 51 galleys in Barbaros Hayreddin’s Mediterranean fleet of 1534, for example, had been armed exclusively with stone-throwing guns.
Can the fact that these galleys were so unusually equipped and configured help to explain the apparentlack of agreement between our three main sources about how to categorize (and even to count) these seemingly familiar vessels? Whatever the case, the one indisputable fact emerging from these details is that the Ottomans were quite eager to experiment as they prepared for their first major naval campaign in the Indian Ocean— even to the point of tinkering with the kadırga, the most tried and trusted workhorse of Ottoman naval warfare.Compared to the standard galleys of contemporary Mediterranean fleets, those of the 1538 armada were built according to different specifications, had a different number and configuration of rowers on board, and were armed using a different class of artillery.
Galleots, Fustes, and Brigantines (Galeotas, Fustas and Bargantis): One particularly intriguing aspectof the 1538 armada, originally hinted at by Castanheda but fully confirmed by Correia, is the presence of asignificant number of vessels that were not of Ottoman construction at all, but were rather of local IndianOcean manufacture. Correia writes:
“There were six galleots that were lightly armed with artillery, carrying only falconets and stone-shooters at the prow,as they were very thin. These were made in Mocha
The six fustas from Gujarat had stone-shooters at the bow and sixswivel-guns mounted on the sides; and the two brigantines, which were very thin and with fifteen banks of rowers, werearmed with only four falconets each”.
What is most surprising about this passage is the apparent ubiquity of heavy gunpowder weapons on allof these warships, seemingly regardless of either their size or their original point of construction. As far as we know from existing scholarship, the systematic use of heavy ordnance on galleys was completely unknown inthe Indian Ocean before the first decade of the 16th century.
Yet according to Correia, by the 1530s —before the Ottoman conquest of Yemen and the appearance of a significant Ottoman military presence in the region — gunpowder weapons had been fully integrated into the construction of locally built oar-powered warships throughout the Arabian Sea region, from Yemen in the west to Gujarat in the east. This serves as an importantreminder that the Ottomans were far from alone in their eagerness to experiment with new technologies andnew tactics in the rapidly changing military landscape of sixteenth-century maritime Asia. Galleasses (Albetoças):
Continuing with the themes of experimentation and hybridity, the next vessel type on our list — provisionally translated here as “galleass” — is perhaps the one most shrouded in mystery. As noted above, among scholars of Ottoman maritime history it stands as an article of faith that the “galleass,”a hybrid warship with both tall sides and oars, and capable of firing both broadsides and bowshots, was firstintroduced into the Ottoman navy only after the battle of Lepanto in 1571. Such vessels were referred to inOttoman sources as mavna, a term used in other contexts to refer to a kind of oversized, oar-powered cargo ship akin the Venetian galere grosse.
As we have seen, Castanheda’s account had already raised a surprising degree of uncertainty regarding the mavna deployed with the 1538 armada by describing them as equivalent to albetoças—a term signifyinga hybrid warship rather than simply an oared cargo ship. For his part, Correia goes quite a bit farther, not onlyaffirming Castanheda’s choice of the term albetoça but providing a full description of these vessels as follows: “The five albetoças had three masts and square sails, and carried at the bow ‘half-basilisks’ and at the sides four large pieces of ordnance and six stone-throwing falcons”.
With multiple masts and square-rigged sails, it is clear that this vessel was not an exclusively oar-powered cargo ship. Moreover, the number, size and position of the large guns “at the sides” all suggest that this was notonly a tall-sided sailing ship, but one designed to fire broadsides. Yet at the same time, while Correia makes noexplicit mention of oars, we can infer that they too must have been present because of the large “basilisk” stylebow guns — a kind of weapon that could only be feasibly mounted on an oar-powered ship.As it turns out, such ships were not entirely unknown in the Ottoman Mediterranean during the centurybefore Lepanto. In his famous treatise on Ottoman naval history, for example, Katip Çelebi included a drawingof just such a vessel from the late 15th century, which he labeled aköke and described (in the terminology of the 17th century) as “a mavna on the bottom and a galleon (kalyon) on top”.
For Katip Çelebi, this type of shipwas considered a curiosity rather than a mainstay of the fleet, and it is generally considered to have disappearedfrom the Ottoman fleets of the Mediterranean by the first decades of the 16th century. But once again, we see avery different picture emerging from the shipbuilders of Suez in 1538. Supply Ships (Naos dos Mantimentos): There are two important points to be made regarding the ‘supplyships’ in Correia’s account. The first, very simply is that they exist — or more precisely, they both appear onCorreia’s list, and are unequivocably described as separate from the “galleons” (to which we shall return shortly). This is an important distinction, corroborating a similar delineation made by Castanheda between “carracks”(naos) and “galleons” (galeões). And this, in turn, allows us to put to rest once and for all the oft repeatedassertion that, in the Ottoman fleets of the Indian Ocean, references to “galleons” should never be understood as meaning bona fide tall-sided warship, but simply a kind of roundship used exclusively for transport. At least inthis instance, it could not be more clear that we are dealing with both kinds of sail-powered vessels: roundshipsused for cargo (naos dos mantimentos), and galleons (galeões) that were designed for active combat.Beyond this, Correia gives us little information about how these vessels were actually configured, insteadlimiting himself to the following description of what they were used for:
“A great deal of [the fleet’s] artillery was stored in the holds of the supply ships, while the ‘basilisks’ were carried in thebastard galleys. In all, for a fleet of eighty-five vessels, there were more than four hundred large artillery pieces”.
Upon first reading, this passage might seem to indicate that the majority of the fleet’s ship-board artillerywere stored in the holds of these four supply ships for the crossing to India — suggesting, as a result, thatthey were never intended to be used in ship-to-ship combat at sea. A brief exercise in arithmetic, however, can exclude this possibility, as it is clear from the language Correia uses elsewhere that by “large artillery pieces”( peças grossas) he intends only the biggest categories of guns (i.e. basilisks, camels, and half-camels). Since no more than 255 of these are accounted for in his ship-by-ship inventory, the only way to reach the figure of “more than four hundred” is to conclude that the supply ships were being used to transport nearly two hundredlarge guns in their holds in addition to the guns mounted on the decks of the other ships in the fleet.
In fact, we know that the transport of an additional siege train for use on land was standard practice forOttoman fleets in the Mediterranean as well. In his fleet of 1534, for example, Barbaros Hayreddin had carrieda siege train of “up to thirty-four pieces of bronze... for battery on land and for the breaching of castles” in addition to the guns mounted on his 51 galleys — a figure considered by contemporary observers to be quite large indeed.
Nevertheless, when turning to Hadım Süleyman Pasha’s armada of only four years later, we are confronted with firepower of a completely different order of magnitude, with a siege train numbered in thehundreds of pieces rather dozens. This serves as yet further confirmation — if any more were needed at this point — that the armada of 1538 was, in terms of the number and range of gunpowder armaments deployed,an entirely unprecedented undertaking in the history of Ottoman naval warfare.
Finally, let us turn to the most tantalizing item on Correia’s list, the five “galleons”.In some sense these are already familiar to us, having appeared (albeit in varying numbers) in the accounts ofboth the Anonymous Venetian and Castanheda. But because neither of these authors provided any qualitativedescription of these vessels — and because of the very deeply entrenched belief among most modern scholars that Ottoman fleets of the sixteenth century simply did not include galleons — we held off from making a firm judgement about what these ships might actually have been like.Such agnosticism is difficult to maintain once confronted with the account by Correia. His description of the“galleons,” in fact, is the most detailed of any of the vessels in his account — a possible indication of his own surpriseat seeing such incontrovertible evidence for the presence of tall-sided sailing ships in the Ottoman fleet. He writes:
“There were also five galleons, each one with four masts, with a mizzen and counter-mizzen and three square sails. Eachcarried four large artillery pieces on each side, and above deck 20 stone-shooting falconets. These were dangerous shipsto navigate because they had a shallow draft and no keel”.
This description fits perfectly the basic requirements of a sixteenth-century Portuguese galeão: a tall-sided, 4-masted, multi-decked sail-powered vessel specifically designed as an ocean-going warship. Heavily armed with multiple large pieces of side-mounted artillery, these were ships designed to maximize theirfirepower by firing broadsides rather than bowshots — a characteristic that put them in a completely differentcategory of vessel from galleys or even the hybrid albetoças (which, as we have seen, were outfitted with amassive galley-style bow gun in addition to their other armaments).Meanwhile, a less obvious set of characteristics differentiated galleons from the smaller carrack or nao, the workhorse of the Portuguese ocean-going fleet in the sixteenth century. In many respects, galleons weresimply modified versions of naos designed for warfare rather than transport, and the physical differences betweenthe two were therefore subtle enough that they were sometimes confused even by the Portuguese themselves.
Significantly, however, there was one distinguishing feature of the galleon that was considered truly unmistakable: the number of masts. For while naos had only three masts, the galleon had an additional fourth mast, known as acounter-mizzen, that was attached to the poop and rigged with an additional lateen sail.
It was the extra maneuverability gained from this fourth mast that made galleons so useful as warships.And by no means coincidentally, it is precisely this feature that Correia has chosen to single out in describing these vessels, leaving us with no room to doubt that when he says “galleons”, he intends the term in the most precise and technical sense possible. Of course, this does not necessarily imply that they were identical to — oreven as good as — Portuguese galleons. On the contrary, the mizzen mast of these vessels seems to have beenrigged with a square rather than a lateen sail — a most unusual configuration — and Correia notes that theships’ shallow draft and lack of a keel made them dangerously top-heavy. This, however, is hardly surprisingwhen we consider that such vessels were being built by Ottoman shipwrights for what seems to have been thevery first time in history.
A final snapshot:
D. João do Castro’s Roteiro do Mar Roxo
Having gleaned as much information as we can from the accounts of Correia, Castanheda, and theAnonymous Venetian, there is still one more contemporary author who merits our attention: D. João de Castro.A seaman, a soldier, and a statesman, de Castro was a towering figure of sixteenth-century Portuguese India,who by the time of his death in 1548 had attained the rank of viceroy. At the same time, de Castro was a manof letters and, unusually for a man of his station, an accomplished artist as well. And thanks to this unique combination of artistic talents, technical know-how, and life experience, de Castro has left us with some of themost uniquely revealing visual records of seafaring in the sixteenth-century Indian Ocean. D. João de Castro is known to have first sailed to India in 1538, his own arrival coinciding with thearrival of Hadım Süleyman Pasha’s armada. Then, two years later in the winter of 1541, he participated in a daring Portuguese retaliatory mission against the Ottomans, in which he sailed with a Portuguese fleet into theRed Sea and directly attacked the Ottoman arsenal in Suez. Militarily, the mission was an almost total failure.
But during the course of his journey from the Bab al-Mandab to Suez, de Castro compiled a remarkableillustrated log of his voyage known as the Roteiro do Mar Roxo or “Logbook of the Red Sea”, a work whoseoriginal autographed manuscript is today housed at the University of Minnesota’s James Ford Bell Library.
Among the many artistic treasures included in this manuscript is a full-color illustration of thePortuguese attack on Suez in April 1541 — an image that ranks as by far the earliest known visual depictionof Ottoman Suez and its arsenal (Fig. 1). The scene shows the entire bay of Suez, with the main Portugueseassault force (composed of 13 galleys) at the center of the picture. The Ottoman arsenal appears to the upper left, while to lower left we see two large companies of Ottoman sipahis, including several individual mountedsoldiers separated from the main company who are patrolling the shoreline.Let us now zoom in to the section of the drawing depicting the arsenal itself (Fig. 2). Here we see afortified quay, defended by three stone towers (one round and the other two square in shape). In the foreground,guns mounted in one of these towers are shown exchanging fire with three Portuguese galleys approaching theshore, while roughly a dozen Ottoman galleys can be seen beached on the narrow strip of land surrounding thetowers. Meanwhile, in the protected harbor behind the quay, we see three more Ottoman ships of an obviouslydifferent type of construction. Could these be ships left over from the 1538 expedition? And if so, what type?In exploring this question, it is important to remember the visual context in which this harbor scene appears:rather than a stand-alone image, it is a tiny illustrative detail in a large panoramic view of Suez and its environs.As a result, in the original manuscript none of the individual ships featured are more than a centimeter in length,and at such a small scale there are obvious limits to their usefulness as representations of actual vessels.Even so, D. João de Castro is known to have been extremely meticulous in his drawings of ships, toan extent unmatched by any other Portuguese draftsman of the sixteenth century.
And in scrutinizing hisdrawing, it is remarkable how much detail he has managed to conveyed despite the miniscule dimensions inwhich he worked. Not only has he made obvious the vessels’ tall sides (in contrast to the low-riding galleysof the Portuguese strike force), but also their absence of oars (again unlike the Portuguese galleys, on whichthese are quite identifiable). Moreover, we can clearly discern multi-decked fore- and aft-castles on each of theships, lined by what appear to be gunports. Putting these elements together — tall sides, the lack of oars, andthe presence of gunports — would seem to exclude the possibility that these are either albetoças or transportships. This leaves us with only one reasonable conclusion: that these vessels are none other than our mysteriousgalleons, safely docked in the fortified harbor of Suez (and with their mainmasts removed for service) morethan two years after their return from India.
Towards a conclusion
The four accounts presented in this article by no means constitute a comprehensive body of sources forthe history of the Ottoman armada of 1538. Others certainly exist, some already well known to scholars, andsome that are still in the process of being discovered. For that matter, it is entirely possible that there are yetmore sources waiting to be uncovered — perhaps even in the Ottoman archives — that will shed new light onthe fleet of Hadım Süleyman Pasha and help us to resolve the many questions left unanswered by the sources covered in the preceding pages. Even so, it is important not to undervalue the four authors detailed above, who already present us witha well-rounded and remarkably complementary set of perspectives on a topic that has until now remainedshrouded in mystery. And despite the many discrepancies and lacunae of their respective accounts, by placingthem together we are in a position to draw a number of quite firm conclusions about the composition of theOttoman armada of 1538:
1) Compared with contemporary Ottoman fleets of the Mediterranean, the armada of 1538 had an usually highpercentage of oversized oar-powered warships, characterized by larger numbers of rowers, more banks of oars, and morespace for heavy artillery than standard 25-banked kadırgas. Even among the oared vessels that were not oversized, boththe onboard artillery and the oar banks on these ships seem to have been configured differently, and in different numbers,than on standard Mediterranean galleys.2) By historical standards, the 1538 armada was extraordinarily well equipped with gunpowder weapons. Both the oar-powered and sailing vessels had guns mounted on deck in much higher numbers than on Mediterranean fleets, and with anunexpected predominance of iron as opposed to stone-throwing ordnance. Below deck, the fleet also carried a massive train of heavy artillery, dwarfing the siege trains of contemporary Ottoman fleets in the Mediterranean (which were already largeby the standards of Venice and Spain). The vessels described by the Ottomans as mavnasand by the Portuguese as albetoças were hybrid, multiple-decked,tall-sided ships, and powered by both oars and sails. Specifically designed as mobile platforms for artillery, they werecapable of firing both broadsides and bowshots. They were not transport ships analogous to the Venetian galere grosse but rather warships that were the functional equivalent of galleasses (a type of vessel previously thought to have beenintroduced to the Ottoman fleet only after the Battle of Lepanto).4) There is a universal consensus in all the sources consulted that the Ottoman armada included “galleons” in the mostspecific technical meaning of the term: four-masted, tall-sided, multi-decked, exclusively sail-powered warships capableof firing broadsides of heavy artillery. These vessels were not transport ships (although the fleet also included a separate group of sailing ships that were used as transport rather than warships).
Having set down these conclusions in the most unequivocal way, we are left to address just one lastunanswered question: how did the armada of 1538 compare with the fleets of the contemporary Portuguese Estado da ĺndia.
Until recently, a central tenet of maritime history has held that Portuguese success in the Indian Ocean was based almost exclusively on their mastery of tall-sided sailing ships. But one of the mostimportant scholarly developments of the past decade or so has been the discovery of a surprisingly robust rolefor oar-powered ships in the establishment of Portuguese sea-power in early sixteenth-century maritime Asia. In this regard, an especially apt comparison with the Ottoman armada of 1538 can be found in the so-called Alardo of 1525, a uniquely comprehensive document that gives a full description of the naval and military power of Portuguese Asia in that year. As José Virgílio Amaro Pissarra has shown in a careful study of this source, the Alardo reveals not only that large numbers of oared vessels were present in the Portuguese fleet,but also that these vessels featured an extremely high level of hybridization and experimentation (includingunusual sizes, unorthodox configurations of oars and armaments, and inordinately high concentrations offirearms).
Most surprisingly, even the ships that ranked as the largest and most heavily armed in all of Portuguese Asia turned out not to have been sailing ships. Rather, they were two vessels, labeled bastardas,that were multi-decked, hybrid, oar-powered warships, each equipped with an astonishing total of 63 pieces of artillery. Eerily similar to Hadım Süleyman Pasha’s albetoças in conception, these vessels were capable offiring both broadsides and bowshots, and were defined by Pissarra as a sort of “galleass” avant la lettre. But if such vessels really played an important role in the history of Portuguese maritime expansion, howhave they remained forgotten for so long? In the conclusion to his study, Virgílio Pissarra argued that the memoryof these oar-powered vessels has not been lost entirely by accident. Instead, he suggested that their memory hasbeen systematically suppressed by modern historiography, since the sanitized image of galleons sailing serenelyacross the sea fit so much more easily into a triumphant narrative of discovery and scientific progress.
By the same token, Ottomanists must take care to avoid making the same mistake in reverse. Have Hadım Süleyman Pasha’s galleons and galleasses remained invisible for so long simply for lack of evidence? Orbecause their absence fits more easily into a comfortable narrative of Ottoman stagnation?