The sailor and cartographer (B. 1465-70, Gallipoli - D. 1554, Cairo). His real and full name was Ahmed Muhiddin Pirî, Ahmed İbn-i el-Haç Mehmed El Karamanî. He was the son of Karamanlı Hacı Ali Mehmed and a nephew of the famous Ottoman admiral Kemal Reis. Pirî Reis, who was an Ottoman sailor, was famous with his maps of the world showing America and his naval book “Kitab-ı Bahriye”. In addition to being a unique cartographer and master of marine sciences, he was a captain who was remarkable in the Ottoman sea history. The family of Ahmed Muhiddin Pirî, who was a child of a family from Karaman, had migrated to Istanbul by the order of the sultan in the Fatih Sultan Mehmet pediod. After having lived for some time in Istanbul the family emigrated to Gallipoli. The father of Pirî Reis was Karamanlı Hacı Mehmed and his uncle was the famous sailor Kemal Reis.
Pirî Reis started marine works nearby his uncle Kemal Reis; they pirated in the Mediterranean between the years of 1487-1493: They took part in Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia raids and the ones done to coast of France. When the Muslims were massacred in Granada, which was the last city in Andalusia dominated by Muslims in 1486 and wanted help from the Ottoman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, without a navy to sail overseas, sent Kemal Reis to Spain under the Ottoman flag. Pirî Reis, who participated in this excursion, moved the Muslims from Spain to North Africa with his uncle.
Upon the call of Bayezit II who started preparing to an excursion onto Venetian for the sailors who were pirating in the Mediterranean in order to join the Ottoman Navy, they appeared before the Padishah again with his uncle in Istanbul in 1494 and they entered the official service of the Ottoman navy. Pirî Reis took part as the ship commander in the Ottoman navy, in the control that Ottoman Navy tried to maintain against the Venetian Navy and thus he became the war captain for the first time. As a result of his successful wars, the Venetians asked for peace and a peace treaty was made between the two countries. In the introduction part of the “Kitab-ı Bahriye”, written by verses and where all the information about marine is collected, islands of the Aegean and Mediterranean are introduced after the general statements, the importance of observation and experience on the sea is highlighted. The ratio of the seas and the land that cover the world is indicated after the description of the storm, wind varieties, the compass and the map. The advances and discoveries of the Portuguese in maritime, the winds in the China Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea and the Persian Gulf, the Atlantic Ocean are told in detail. The section with mapping, where the book began with the writing, forms the actual text. These sections start at the Dardanelles and continues by giving historical, geographical information about the coast and the islands of the Aegean Sea, the Adriatic Sea coast, Western Italy, Southern France, Eastern Spain costs and islands and tracks the coast of North Africa, Palestine, Syria, Cyprus, and following the coast of Anatolia it ends in Marmaris with the whole Mediterranean basin.
Pirî Reis took part in Lepanto, Moto, Koroni, Navarino, Lesbos, Rhodes sea excursions in 1495-1510. Pirî Reis moved to Gallipoli after the death of his uncle in a marine accident in 1511. Even though he marched into the sea with aunt's son Muhiddin Reis under the management of the Barbarossa Brothers, he rather stayed in Gallipoli and worked on his maps and book. He had some maps he seized, which had belonged to Christopher Columbus and other pirates, from the dates he pirated. He drew the first map of the world in 1513 by making use of these maps and his own observations. Pirî Reis, who was a great cartographer (mapmaker) as well as being a great sailor, told and drew maps of the places he had seen with their historical and geographic features by also making use of foreign sources from the days of his piracy. He indicated that he had made use of the America map drawn by Christopher Columbus in 1498, the Portugal and the Arab maps in the first map he drew in 1513. The remaining part shows the western coasts of Europe and Africa, the Atlantic Ocean, Antillean islands, Central and South America. The surviving piece of the second map drawn in 1528 is the north-west corner of a large map of the world and includes the north of the Atlantic Ocean, then newly discovered coasts of North and Central America and the coastal strip from Greenland to Florida. The islands and coastlines were drawn closer to reality based on recent discoveries. The undiscovered places were left white and it was indicated that they were not drawn since they were not known. The second map, which has a larger scale and which is advanced, was the most advanced example of its period technically.
Barbarossa brothers formed one of the world's largest naval forces in 1515 and had made conquests in North Africa. When Pirî Reis, one of the captains of Oruç Reis, was sent to Yavuz Sultan Selim, whom they were expecting help from, to present a gift, he returned with the two warships given by Yavuz as for help. When Pirî Reis arrived in Istanbul in 1516-17, he joined the Ottoman navy again and he received the rank of commander of the ship and participated in the excursion to Egypt as a ship commander. He found the opportunity to transfer to Cairo and draw the river Nile with a part of the navy.
The famous sailors received the praise of the sultan with the success in the seizure of Alexandria and he presented his map to the sultan during the excursion. There are some parts of this map remaining, the other parts are missing. According to some historians, the Ottoman Padishah looked at the map and then divided the map into two after saying “What a small world” and he commanded “We will keep the eastern side in our hands”. The sultan threw away the second part of the map, which would be found in 1929. Some sources claim that the eastern part of the map, which is still missing today, would be used by the Padishah in order to seize control of the Indian Ocean and its Spice Road for a possible excursion of the Padishah. After the excursion, Pirî Reis returned back to Gallipoli in order to make a book for shipping, based on his notes. He collected his shipping notes in “Kitab-ı Bahriye”, which is a Marine Book (Cruising Guide). The answer of the secret of how Pirî Reis drew the World Map in 1513 is not in the map itself but in this book. Because he explained how he had drawn that map as well as his own identity in “Kitab-ı Bahriye”.
In the Ottoman History, the Kanûnî Sultan Süleyman period was the period of great conquests. Pirî Reis joined the Ottoman Navy during its Rhodos excursion in 1523. He presented his book “Kitab-ı Bahriye” that he reviewed in 1525 to Kanûnî Sultan Süleyman through İbrahim Pasha when he received the appreciation and support of grand vizier Pargalı Damat İbrahim Pasha, whom he made guidance in the Egypt excursion in 1524. The life of Pirî Reis until 1526 can be tracked in “Kitab-ı Bahriye”. Pirî Reis drew a second world map, which was more comprehensive than the first one in 1528. When Barbaros Hayrettin Pasha became the Chief Admiral of the Navy Forces in 1533, Pirî Reis took the title of Rear Admiral. In subsequent years, he served to the state in the South Seas. Following the death of Barbaros in 1546, Pirî Reis served as the Egypt Captain (also called as Indian Captainship). He got old during his services in Arabian Sea, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. His final task was the Egypt Captainship which resulted with his execution.
In the excursion that Pirî Reis set on Oman and the Persian with thirty ships in 1552, he surrounded the Castle of Hormuz. He lifted the siege upon the exaction he received from the Portuguese and returned to Basra with his navy. Leaving the fleet in need of repair, he returned to Egypt with three ships loaded with booty, however one of the ships sank on the way. He was imprisoned in Egypt since leaving the fleet in Basra was considered a mistake. In addition, a negative report about him was presented to the sultan due to not having given the exaction that the governor of Basra Kubat Pasha wanted from the plunder and the political ambitions of the Egypt governor Mehmed Pasha, and upon the command of Kanûnî Sultan Süleyman, he was executed by being beheaded in 1554. The patrimony (inheritance) of Pirî Reis, who was 80 years old when he died, was confiscated by the state. There is a rumor claiming that Hürrem Sultan had played a role in the execution of Pirî Reis.
It is claimed that Hürrem Sultan was brought to Istanbul from Crimea with the ship of Pirî Reis and Kemal Reis. A part of the map of the world of Pirî Reis was found in Topkapı Palace Harem. It is claimed that Hürrem Sultan had torn the map of the world in order to prevent the success of the Pirî Reis and send the pieces to Russia and then had Pirî Reis executed by convincing Kanûnî. His name was given to a square in Gallipoli and Pirî Reis Museum was founded.
6-9 Ekim 2009), İhsan Işık / Ünlü Bilim Adamları (Türkiye Ünlüleri Ansiklopedisi, C. 2, 2013) - Encyclopedia of Turkey’s Famous People (2013).