Uluj Ali (Turkish language: Uluç Ali Reis, later Uluç Ali Paşa and finally Kılıç Ali Paşa; 1519 - 21 June 1587), a convert to Islam, was a corsair (privateer) who later became an Ottoman admiral (Reis), Bey of Algiers, and finally Grand Admiral (Kapudan Pasha) of the Ottoman Fleet in the 16th century.
Born Giovanni Dionigi Galeni, he was also known by several other names in the Christian countries of the Mediterranean and in the literature also appears under various names. He was often, especially in Italy, referred to as Occhiali, and Miguel de Cervantes called him Uchali in chapter XXXIX of his Don Quixote de la Mancha. Elsewhere he was simply called Ali Pasha. John Wolf, in his The Barbary Coast, refers to him as Euldj Ali.
Uluj Ali was born to the seaman Birno Galeni and his wife Pippa de Cicco, in the village of Le Castella (near modern Isola Capo Rizzuto) in Calabria, southern Italy. His father wanted him to receive a religious education, but on 29 April 1536, Giovanni was captured by Ali Ahmed, one of the corsair captains of Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha, and was forced to serve as a galley slave. After several years, he converted to Islam and joined the corsairs. This was by no means unusual; many Muslim corsairs (privateers) were captured slaves who later converted to Islam.
He was a very able mariner and soon rose in the ranks, gaining sufficient prize booty to buy a share in a corsair brigantine sailing out of Algiers. Further success soon enabled him to become the captain and owner of a galley, and he gained a reputation as one of the boldest corsair reis on the Barbary Coast. He joined Turgut Reis, who was then the most feared corsair in the Mediterranean as well as an Ottoman admiral and Bey of Tripoli. Sailing with Turgut Reis, he also impressed the Ottoman admiral Piyale Pasha, with whom Turgut joined forces on a number of occasions. Due to his success in battles, the administration of the island of Samos in the Aegean Sea was awarded to him in 1550. In 1565 he was promoted to the rank of Beylerbey (Chief Governor) of Alexandria. The same year he joined the Siege of Malta with the Ottoman Egyptian fleet, and when Turgut Reis was killed during the siege, Piyale Pasha appointed Uluj Ali to become Turgut's successor as Bey of Tripoli. Uluj took Turgut's body to Tripoli for burial, assumed control of the province, and was subsequently confirmed as Pasha of Tripoli by Sultan Suleiman I. In the following years he conducted numerous raids on the coasts of Sicily, Calabria and Naples.
Pasha of Algiers
In March 1568, the vice-regency of Algiers fell vacant, and upon the recommendation of Piyale Pasha, Sultan Selim II appointed Uluj Ali to become the Pasha and Beylerbey of Algiers, the most powerful of the increasingly autonomous Ottoman eyalets in North Africa, which were governed by the corsair-admirals appointed by the Sultan. In October 1569 he turned upon the Hafsid Sultan Hamid of Tunis, who had been restored to his throne by Spain. Marching overland with an army of some 5000, he quickly sent Hamid and his forces fleeing and made himself ruler of Tunis. Hamid found refuge in the Spanish fort at La Goulette outside Tunis.
In July 1570, while ostensibly en route to Constantinople to ask the Sultan for more ships and men in order to evict the Spaniards from all of North Africa, Uluj Ali encountered five Maltese galleys, commanded by Francisco de Sant Clement, then the captain-general of the Order's galleys, near Cape Passaro in Sicily and captured four of them. (Sant Clement escaped, but on returning to Malta was condemned, strangled and his body put in a sack and dumped into the harbor.) This victory caused Uluj to change his mind and return to Algiers in order to celebrate. There, in early 1571, he was faced with a mutiny of the janissaries who demanded overdue pay. He decided to put to sea, leaving the mutinous soldiers to take their pay from anyone they could find and rob. Having learned of the presence of a large Ottoman fleet at Coron in the Morea, he decided to join it. It was the fleet commanded by Müezzinzade Ali Pasha that was to meet disaster at Lepanto a few months later.
On 7 October 1571, Uluj Ali commanded the left flank of Ali Pasha's fleet in the Battle of Lepanto. He kept his squadron together in the melee, outmaneuvered his direct opponent, Gian Andrea Doria, and captured the flagship of the Maltese Knights with its great banner. When the Ottoman defeat became obvious, he succeeded in extricating his ships, and gathered up the scattered remaining ships of the Ottoman fleet (some forty galleys and fustas) and others along the way to Constantinople, where he arrived with 87 vessels. There he presented the great flag of the Maltese Knights to the Sultan who gave him the honorary title of Kılıç ("Sword") and on 29 October 1571 appointed him as Kapudan Pasha (Grand Admiral) and Beylerbey of the Isles. He was subsequently known as Kılıç Ali Pasha.
Kapudan Pasha (1572 – 1587)
Piyale Pasha and Kılıç Ali Pasha almost immediately began to rebuild the Ottoman fleet. Kılıç Ali placed special emphasis on the construction of a number of heavier ships modeled upon the Venetian galleasses, heavier artillery for the galleys, and firearms for the soldiers on board. In June 1572, now Chief Admiral, he set out with 250 galleys and a large number of smaller ships to seek revenge for Lepanto. He found the Christian fleet anchored in an inlet of Morea, but his strategy of trying to lure the enemy out and inflicting damage through repeated quick thrusts meant that a full-fledged battle never materialized, because the Christian fleet was too cautious to be trapped and encircled.
In 1573 Kılıç Ali Pasha commanded the naval campaign on the coasts of Italy. In that same year, the regency of Algiers was transferred to Arab Ahmed, and Don Juan of Austria, the victor of Lepanto, recaptured Tunis. In 1574 Kılıç Ali sailed to Tunis with a fleet of 250 galleys and a large army under the command of Cigalazade Sinan Pasha, captured the port fortress of La Goleta on 25 August and city of Tunis on 13 September. He then proceeded to Morocco and on 26 July 1574 constructed an Ottoman castle on the coastline facing Spain. In 1576 he raided Calabria and in 1578 put down another mutiny of the janissaries at Algiers who had assassinated Arab Ahmed. In 1584 he commanded a naval expedition to Crimea. In 1585 he put down revolts in Syria and Lebanon with the Ottoman Egyptian fleet based in Alexandria.
Kılıç Ali Pasha died on 21 June 1587 in Constantinople. He is buried at the Kılıç Ali Paşa Mosque (1580), designed by the architect Mimar Sinan.
- He built the Kılıç Ali Paşa Mosque (1580) and Baths (1583) in Istanbul.
- Several warships and submarines of the Turkish Navy have been named after him (see Kılıç class fast attack missile boat and Oruç Reis class submarine).
- His statue is in the center square of Le Castella in Calabria, Italy, where he was born.
References and sources
- The Gelis Family History — ancestry of Kılıç Ali Pasa, San Francisco.
- Miguel de Cervantes, in chapter XXXIX of his classic El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha, mentions Uluç Ali under the name of "Uchali", describing briefly his rise to the regency of Algiers.
- John B. Wolf, The Barbary Coast: Algeria under the Turks, W.W. Norton, New York/London, 1979, ISBN 0-393-01205-0.
- Hugh Bicheno, Crescent and Cross: The Battle of Lepanto 1571, Phoenix Paperback, 2004, ISBN 1-84212-753-5
- E. Hamilton Currey, Sea-Wolves of the Mediterranean, London, 1910
- Bono, Salvatore: Corsari nel Mediterraneo (Corsairs in the Mediterranean), Oscar Storia Mondadori. Perugia, 1993.
- Corsari nel Mediterraneo: Condottieri di ventura. Online database in Italian, based on Salvatore Bono's book.
- Bradford, Ernle, The Sultan's Admiral: The life of Barbarossa, London, 1968.
- The Ottomans: Comprehensive and detailed online chronology of Ottoman history in English.
- Turkish Navy official website: Historic heritage of the Turkish Navy (in Turkish)[dead link]
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