Vizier in the Mediterranean
Currently fighting on Cyprus
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Piyale Pasha (c. 1515-1578), born in Viganj on the Pelješac peninsula, was a Croatian123 Ottoman admiral (Kapudan Pasha) between 1553 and 1567 and an Ottoman Vizier after 1568. He was also known as Piale Pasha in the West or Pialí Bajá in Spain; Turkish: Piyale Paşa).
Piyale Pasha received his formal education at the Enderun (Imperial Academy) in modern-day Istanbul (Constantinople), Ottoman Empire. He graduated from the Enderun with the title of Kapıcıbaşı and was appointed Sanjak Bey (Province Governor) of Gallipoli.
Admiral of the Ottoman Fleet
He was promoted to Bahriye Beylerbeyi (i.e. First Lord of Admiralty) and became Admiral-in-Chief of the Ottoman Fleet at the age of 39.
In 1554 he captured the islands of Elba and Corsica with a large fleet which included famous Ottoman admirals like Turgut Reis and Salih Reis. The following year Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent assigned him with the task of helping France against the Spaniards upon request by the mother of King Francois II, and Piyale Pasha set sail on 26 June 1555. The Ottoman fleet met the French fleet at Piombino and successfully repulsed a Spanish attack on France while conquering several Spanish fortresses on the Mediterranean Sea.
Battle of Djerba
In June 1558, joined by Turgut Reis, Piyale Pasha sailed to the Strait of Messina and the two admirals captured Reggio Calabria. From there, they went to the Aeolian Islands and captured several of them, before landing at Amalfi, the Gulf of Salerno, and capturing Massa Lubrense, Cantone and Sorrento. They later landed at Torre del Greco, the coasts of Tuscany, and Piombino. In September 1558 they assaulted the coasts of Spain before capturing Minorca and inflicting particular damage on the island’s ports.
This caused fear throughout the Mediterranean coasts of Spain, and King Philip II appealed to Pope Paul IV and his allies in Europe to bring an end to the rising Ottoman threat. In 1560 King Philip II succeeded in organizing a Holy League between Spain, the Republic of Venice, the Republic of Genoa, the Papal States, the Duchy of Savoy and the Knights of Malta. The joint fleet was assembled at Messina and consisted of 54 galleys and 66 other types of vessels under the command of Giovanni Andrea Doria, nephew of the famous Genoese admiral Andrea Doria.
On 12 March 1560, the Holy League captured the island of Djerba which had a strategic location and could control the sea routes between Algiers and Tripoli. As a response, Suleiman the Magnificent sent an Ottoman fleet of 86 galleys and galliots under the command of Piyale Pasha, which arrived at Djerba on 11 May 1560 and destroyed the Christian fleet in a matter of hours at the Battle of Djerba. Giovanni Andrea Doria managed to escape with a small vessel, but the surviving Christians, now under the command of D. Alvaro de Sande, took refuge in the fort on the island of Djerba which they had constructed during the expedition. Piyale Pasha and Turgut Reis eventually forced the garrison to surrender and Piyale Pasha took 5,000 prisoners, including de Sande, to Constantinople, where he was met by joyous crowds. He married Sultana Gevher Han, daughter of Suleiman’s son Selim II.
In 1563 Piyale Pasha captured Naples and the fortresses around the city on behalf of France, but after the Ottoman forces left the city the French could not hold on to these and the Spaniards eventually took them back.
Siege of Malta
In 1565 Piyale Pasha, together with the general Lala Mustafa Pasha and Turgut Reis, was charged by Suleiman to capture Malta, but the effort failed in the face of determined resistance by the Maltese Knights and cost the Ottoman fleet not only large numbers of casualties, but also the life of Turgut Reis.
In 1566 Piyale captured the island of Chios and brought an end to the Genoese presence in the Aegean Sea. He later landed on Puglia in Italy and captured several strategic fortresses.
In 1568 he was promoted to Vizier, becoming the first admiral in Ottoman history to reach this rank.
Conquest of Cyprus
For more details on this topic, see Turkish–Venetian War (1570–1573).
In 1570 he set sail for Cyprus, then a Venetian possession, with a large invasion force on board his ships. Having left Constantinople on 15 May 1570, the fleet arrived at Cyprus on 1 July 1570. On 22 July the Turks, under the command of Lala Mustafa (the Fifth Vizier, who had five years previously failed to capture Malta), commenced the siege of Nicosia, capturing the city on 9 September. After capturing Pafos, Limassol and Larnaca in rapid succession, they surrounded Magosa (Famagusta), the final Venetian stronghold on the island, on 18 September 1570 and finally took it on 1 August 1571, completing the conquest of Cyprus.
After the defeat of the Ottoman fleet under the command of Müezzinzade Ali Pasha at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, Piyale Pasha was called to take back the command of the Ottoman navy. The Ottomans managed to rebuild a fleet as large as that lost at Lepanto in less than a year, and Uluç Ali Reis reconquered Tunisia from Spain and their Hafsid vassals in 1574.
In 1573 Piyale Pasha once again landed on Puglia in Italy. This was his final naval expedition.
Piyale Pasha died on 21 January 1578 and is buried at the Piyale Pasha Mosque in Istanbul which he had built, under the direction of the architect Sinan, in his final years.