Sailor hero (B. 1485, Seroluz / Menteşe / Izmir – D. 1565, Malta). His father was a small farmer named Veli. Thereby, Turgut, who was a poor peasant child, spent his youth by shepherding. He had a burly and very robust body. Because he was very strong, he developed passion for Turkish wrestling and beat everybody he competed with. At that period, pehlivans (wrestlers) and archers were recorded as daredevil (who undertakes risks and is not afraid of dying). Children of seashore became the levent (T. N. Seaman) of pirate ships. One day, Turgut quit being a shepherd and went to Izmir. While he was walking around in the city, he heard a crier shouting loudly “Any pirate wishing to die of sweating, panting, get registered!” and registered as a pirate.
He was employed as artillery at a pirate ship. Thereby, the biggest desire of Turgut, who started pirating in the Mediterranean Sea as a levent at an early age, was having a ship. In time, he obtained his goal, owned a ship and rose to being captain. His first victory was seizing two Venetian ships when he ran across with them at Cape Matapan. After a while, he seized a larger pirate ship and replaced his wherry with a galiot. This opened broad horizons of piracy to him. He travelled all the coasts from Gibraltar to the Aegean Sea. In a little while, he owned a fleet consisting of twenty galiots and smaller ships. Also, his fame slowly reached through Mediterranean. After these achievements, he went to Algeria and recognized Barbarossa Hayreddin as his master. Barbarossa loved Turgut so much. He praised Turgut’s achievements, and even one day he complemented Turgut by saying “Turgut is ahead of me!”. Barbarossa Hayreddin took Turgut Reis along as his assistant.
One day in year 1540, the fleet commanded by Turgut Reis, which was anchored in a harbor on the shore of Corsica, saw an enemy fleet getting closer to them. This frightening fleet was a fleet sent by Emperor Charles V, who was the biggest foe of Kanunî Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, in order to capture Turgut Reis. The commander of the fleet was Jenatin Doria, who was the nephew of the famous Venetian Admiral Andrea Doria. Turgut Reis felt himself trapped. In the battle started between Turks and the fleet coming upon, Turks could not pass the barrier in front of them. At the same time, soldiers from two enemy ships edging in with the ship of Turgut Reis went aboard the ship and took him captive.
After hearing that Turgut Reis was taken as captive, Barbarossa Hayreddin took his fleet and went to the shores of Italy and threatened everywhere, and then he bombarded Genoa. Italians delivered Turgut Reis to Barbarossa. Thereafter, Turgut Reis joined the Battle of Preveze with Barbarossa. After the war was won, Turgut Reis put out to Mediterranean Sea and started striking all the shores. In 1548, he went to Naples with his fleet and captured a castle. After this, he captured the galiots of Knights of Malta, which were shipping money to Tripoli. Although Europeans surrounded Island of Djerba, where Turgut Reis headquartered, to entrap Turgut Reis, Turgut Reis went to the other side of the island by having the ships carried over the land by using oiled sledges at the Djerba war (1560) and sailed to the Mediterranean Sea. After, as stated by historian Hammer, “He made Christian shores and ships shiver.”
During the Siege of Nice, when the fleet of Ottoman Empire was in Toulon in winter months of 1543-44, Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha went to Genoa fronts with his fleet and discussed the conditions of release of Turgut Reis, who was a captive at that time, with Andrea Doria. The Ottoman fleet left the city on May 23rd, 1544 after eight months of quartering. Francois I, King of France, paid 800 thousand francs to Barbarossa for his service and in addition, he released all the Turkish captives in the French fleet. The Ottoman fleet, which was turning back, was accompanied by five galleons and the French ships were commanded by Antoine Escalin des Aimars. The French left Barbarossa, who attacked Italy on a return trip, and came to Istanbul separately for a diplomatic mission. This journey was the last sea voyage of Barbarossa, who died in Istanbul in 1546 two years later. Turgut Reis stayed in Toulon for a few months in 1546 until he escaped from Andrea Doria’s fleet.
When Kanunî Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent heard about Turgut Reis’s fame, he employed Turgut Reis in civil service and gave the Sanjak (T. N. District) of Karlıeli to him. However, Grand Vizier Rüstem Pahsa, who was jealous of Turgut Reis, saw Turgut Reis as a rival for his brother Chief Admiral Sinan Pasha. Turgut Reis felt sad because of machinations and went to Tunisia. However, Kanunî Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent sent him gifts and propitiated him. In addition, he appraised that if Turgut Reis conquers Tripoli, he will appoint Turgut Reis as governor of Tripoli. Turgut Reis fulfilled the request of the padishah. Upon this, Turgut Reis was appointed as the Governor of Tripoli. Thereby, he attained the rank of pasha. He governed Tripoli for eleven years.
When Turgut Reis was governing Tripoli and Benghazi, the knights in Malta were causing problems. This place became a place of pirates. One day, pirates of Malta captured a Turkish ship coming from Egypt. Upon hearing this, Kanunî Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent said “Frighten these wasps away from Malta hive!” and had a fleet prepared (1564). Piyale Pasha was appointed as the fleet commander. Kızıl Ahmetli Şemsi Pasha and his brother Fourth Vizier Mustafa Pasha were selected as the commander in chief. Turgut Reis, at the age of 80, also set out to Malta with his fleet. A bloody war was fought in Malta when the fleet arrived. A piece of rock, which was drawn apart by a cannonball coming from the enemy, hit Turgut Reis’s head and martyred him. He was buried in a mausoleum built in Tripoli. Turgut Reis is the biggest hero of the naval history after Barbarossa. By being one of the biggest Turkish seamen, Turgut Reis gained a great fame due to his achievements in the Mediterranean Sea. After Barbarossa, he made the whole Europe shiver by gaining great victories against the Venetian and Spanish fleets. He decorated the pages of history with his achievements. Southern Europeans called Turgut Reis as “Dragut”. The fear and terror caused by Turgut Reis’s fearsome trips in the Mediterranean Sea, which badgered the Christians, resulted in the creation of the word “Dragut”; the word was created by using the audio similarity between Dragon and Turgut. He is still mentioned in Western resources as “Dragut Reis”.
In the republican period, the town dependent to the village Saoros, where he was born, named Turgutreis. Today, there is a park bearing his name at the coast of the town, and there is a sculpture in the park that represents Turgut Reis pointing out the horizon with his sword on the nose of a galiot.
REFERENCE: İbrahim Alaeddin Gövsa / Türk Meşhurları (1946), Şerafettin Turan / “Barbaros Hayreddin” (Küçük Türk-İslâm Ansiklopedisi, 1981), Büyük Larousse Sözlük ve Ansiklopedisi (c. 4, s.11758, 1986), Fahir İz / Barbaros Hayreddin Paşa Gazavatnamesi Üzerinde Yeni Bir Araştırma (TDAY Belleten,1972), TDV İslâm Ansiklopedisi (c. 5, 1992), Ana Britannica (c. 21, s. 229, 2005), İhsan Işık / Ünlü Devlet Adamları (Türkiye Ünlüleri Ansiklopedisi, C. 1, 2013) - Encyclopedia of Turkey’s Famous People (2013).