“Dragut was superior to Barbarossa. A living chart of the Mediterranean, he combined science with audacity. There was not a creek unknown to him, not a channel that he had not sailed. Ingenious in devising ways and means, when all around him despaired, he excelled above all in escaping by unexpected methods from situations of great peril. An incomparable pilot, he had no equal in sea warfare except the Chevalier Romegas. On land he was skilful enough to be with the finest generals of Charles V and Philip II. He had known the hardship of captivity and he showed himself humane to his own captives. Under every aspect he was a character. No one was more worthy than he to bear the title of King.”

Admiral Jurien de la Graviere of France (1812 – 1892),
as quored in “Malta 1565, by Tim Pickles”


Cerbe Piri Reis


When Turgut Reis was the Master of the Seas, once, he was greasing his seven or eight pieces of ships at the Island of Djerba and at the Port of Qantara. So it happened that the Captain of the Infidels, Dzagala [His family was the famous renegade dynasty of the Visconte di Cigala, the Istanbul Quarter of Cagaloglu is named after them, YC] and the Admiral of Venice came with hundred and fifty vessels that way and laid siege to the narrows.

And thus Turgut was beset.

They sat in satisfaction, saying “All is made. Once his stores are used up we will have him and his ships.”

They even despatched a note to Genoa and wrote “Dragut, the Master of the Seas, who has put our household on fire and who has demolished our property – he and his ships are all now ours.”

And many a high born hurried towards Djerba saying “Let us fit up a ship and let us watch.”

And Master Turgut relied in God. By His mystery there happened to be a river – a river shedding into the sea and with just enough draught that a pinnace may walk on it. Immediately he put his privates and some slaves on cutting a road. He cut about two miles and passed over his ships to the open sea.

And, he left a pitched tent at the shores. Whenever the Infidels saw the tent they would imagine Dragut in it. Alas, sixty miles away the Master was in a harbour and greasing the rest of his fleet.

And then he sailed out.

On his way he happened to meet those high born, he attacked and took them all.

As of then the Infidels used to say “No doubt that Dragut has witchcraft. He can make ships walk on hard.” And they keep wondering.

From Katip Çelebi, also known as Hadzi Qalfa, Tuhfetül Kibar fi Efsaril Bihar, Tercüman 1001 Temel Eser, İstanbul 1980, Published by late Orhan Şaik Gökyay

Portrait of Turgut Reis in his youth as “Dragut, Corsaro di Barberia” (Dragut, Corsair of the Barbary Coast). Oil on canvas by Feyhaman Duran (1886-1970), 1948, 81 cm x 63 cm, Istanbul Naval Museum painting Collection, DB:1082


The lamentations of his victims roused Doria, who had the good fortune to surprise the Corsair as he was greasing his keels in the strait behind Jerba.

This strait was virtually a cul-de-sac.

Between the island and the great lake that lay behind it, the sea had worn a narrow channel on the northern side, through which light vessels could pass, with care ; but to go out of the lake by the southern side involved a voyage over what was little better than a bog, and no one ever thought of the attempt.

Doria saw he had his enemy in a trap, and was in no hurry to venture in among the shoals and narrows of the strait.

He sent joyous messages to Europe, announcing his triumph, and cautiously, as was his habit, awaited events.

Dragut, for his part, dared not push out against a vastly superior force; his only chance was a ruse.

Accordingly, putting a bold face on the matter, he manned a small earthwork with cannon, and played upon the enemy, with little or no actual injury, beyond the all-important effect of making Doria hesitate still more.

Meanwhile, in the night, while his little battery is perplexing the foe, all is prepared at the southern extremity of the strait. Summoning a couple of thousand field labourers, he sets them to work; here a small canal is dug — there rollers come into play; and in a few hours his small fleet is safely transported to the open water on the south side of the island.

Calling off his men from the illusive battery, the Corsair is off for the Archipelago. By good luck he picks up a fine galley on the way, which was conveying news of the reinforcements coming to Doria.

The old Genoese admiral never gets the message. He is rubbing his eyes in sore amazement, wondering what had happened to the imprisoned fleet.

Never was admiral more cruelly cheated, never did Doria curse the nimble Corsair with greater vehemence or better cause.

From: Stanley Lane-Poole, The Barbary Corsairs, London 1984, Darf Publishers Ltd