In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Ottoman Navy

  • Introduction
  • Catalogues and Archives
  • Bibliographies
  • Dictionaries
  • General References
  • Books of Proceedings
  • Emergence and Rise of the Ottoman Navy
  • Naval Geography and Maps
  • Naval Policy, Diplomacy, and Strategy
  • Shipyards, Naval Arsenals, and Harbors
  • Naval Technology
  • Naval Modernization and Reforms
  • Naval Education
  • Biographies of Grand Admirals and Personalities
  • Foreign Missions in the Ottoman Navy
  • Pirates, Corsairs, and Privateers

Military History Ottoman Navy
Tuncay Zorlu
  • LAST REVIEWED: 20 February 2024
  • LAST MODIFIED: 20 February 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0172


This article deals with the literature dedicated to the history of the Ottoman navy from the early fourteenth century up to the making of the modern Turkish Republic in 1923. The Ottoman acquaintance with the seas started following the capture of the coastal principalities along the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara. Preliminary shipbuilding facilities were established in Karamürsel and Gallipoli (1390) under Bayezid I (r. 1389–1402), which facilitated the ability of the Ottomans to march toward the Balkans and Europe with the aim of controlling the straits. After the conquest of Constantinople, a naval arsenal was established in the Golden Horn during the reign of Mehmed II (r. 1444–1446 and 1451–1481). For the security of the western Anatolian coastlines, a significant number of the islands in the Aegean Sea were conquered or made subject to Ottoman taxation. Important victories were won against Venice, and Otranto in Italy was conquered. However, real progress was made during the reign of Bayezid II (r. 1481–1512). Large warships were built and famous Turkish sea captains like Kemal Reis and Burak Reis, who were independently operating in the Mediterranean, were brought under Ottoman service. Selim I (r. 1512–1520) enlarged the Admiralty and also had many new ships built. During the reign of Suleyman I (r. 1520–1566) the power of the Ottoman navy reached its peak. The ruler of Algeria, Barbaros Hayreddin, entered the service of the Ottomans. Important wars were waged against the Order of St. John, Venice, Portugal, and the Habsburgs of Spain. Although the victories at Preveza of 1538 and at Cyprus in 1570 made the Ottoman navy an important player in the Mediterranean, the war against the Holy League was lost at Lepanto (1571). Ottoman conquest of Crete (1645–1670) gave another impetus to the Ottoman navy until the subsequent disasters starting with the one in Chesme Bay (1770). In the aftermath of Chesme, the Ottoman Empire embarked on a comprehensive reform movement during the reigns of Abduhamid I (r. 1774–1789), Selim III (r. 1789–1807), and Mahmud II (r. 1808–1839). Yet, naval disasters continued at Navarino (1827) and at Sinop (1853). During World War I, the Ottoman navy fought naval operations in the Dardanelles, which were mainly carried out against the Royal Navy with substantial support from the French navy and minor contributions from the navies of Russia and Australia. Throughout the campaign, attempts were made by submarines to pass through the Dardanelles and disrupt Ottoman shipping in the Sea of Marmara. For the sake of providing a well-balanced view of the Ottoman navy to the reader, this article is organized thematically under general categories and various subcategories.

Catalogues and Archives

Some libraries, centers, and archives have their own catalogues directly or indirectly related to the Ottoman navy. In this context, Istanbul Naval Museum has four important catalogues regarding the materials within its building; Bal 2008, Çetin 2009, Deniz Müzesi Tarihi Kayıklar Galerisi, and Kubilay 2001. These four catalogues present lists of books, visual materials, illustrations, maps, exhibitions, and models about the Turkish navy. Another important source for the Ottoman navy is the Presidency of the Republic of Türkiye Directorate of State Archives (Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Cumhurbaşkanlığı Devlet Arşivleri Başkanlığı) (former Prime Ministry Ottoman Prime Ministry Archives) (Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivleri) located in Kağıthane/Istanbul. It is possible to trace back the story of the Ottoman navy mainly through the valuable official state documents there. It is important to know that former Naval History Archives of Naval Museum Command (Deniz Müzesi Komutanlığı Deniz Tarihi Arşivi) in Beşiktaş/Istanbul has been transferred to the state archives as well.

  • Bal, Nurcan. İstanbul Deniz Müzesi Osmanlıca Bahriye Mühür ve Damga Koleksiyonu. Istanbul: Dz.K.K., 2008.

    Translated as: “Collections of Ottoman naval seals and stamps in Istanbul Naval Museum.” Two-volume comprehensive illustrated book of the seals and stamps used on the Ottoman naval documents in the Istanbul Naval Museum. While the first volume covers the meaning and history of seals and stamps as well as the artisans dealing with their production, the second volume focuses on various seals and stamps as classified under different periods.

  • Çetin, Ece. İstanbul Deniz Müzesi Katalogu. Istanbul: Dz.K.K., 2009.

    Translated as: “Catalogue of Istanbul Naval Museum.” This is a comprehensive catalogue of the Istanbul Naval Museum. The rich museum collection with almost twenty thousand objects (ship models, guns, maps, figureheads, furniture, clocks, monograms, signs, uniforms, flags, seals, medals, coins, tombstones, photographs, and Atatürk’s objects) is described in over three hundred pages along with archival documents, illustrations, and special exhibitions, including the richest collection of sultanate caiques and a history of the Naval Museum as well as the Piri Reis Research Center.

  • Ergin, A. Muhlis, and Deniz Musehi. Deniz Müzesi Tarihi Kayıklar Galerisi. Istanbul: Dz.K.K., 1998.

    Translated as: “The gallery of historical caiques.” This is a catalogue of the maritime vessels such as galleys, caiques, and boats in the Istanbul Naval Museum. The catalogue includes text in both Turkish and English.

  • Kubilay, Ayşe Yetişkin. Türk Deniz Müzesi Harita Kataloğu. Istanbul: Dz.K.K., 2001.

    Translated as: “Catalogue of charts and maps in Turkish Naval Museum.” This catalogue consists of three parts both in English and in Turkish along with ninety-six illustrations: (1) naval charts, (2) foreign land maps, and (3) atlases and manuscripts. The first part dedicated to the naval charts includes three sub-parts: Turkish maps and portolans; foreign maps and portolans; maps and portolans done by Turkish chamber of hydrography. This is an important source for those interested in the history of Ottoman maps and explorations.

  • Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Cumhurbaşkanlığı Devlet Arşivleri Başkanlığı Osmanlı Arşivi

    Translated as: “Presidency of the Republic of Türkiye Directorate of State Archives, Ottoman Archive.” Researchers can search online for catalogues, maps, summaries, and full texts of the state documents regarding naval correspondence, schools, regulations, ships, shipyards, medicine and hospitals, factories as well as administrative units via the website of the institution online, which covers the Ottoman period.

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