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

  • Introduction
  • Archival Sources
  • Catalogues
  • Bibliographies
  • Dictionaries
  • General References
  • Books of Proceedings
  • Emergence and Rise of the Ottoman Navy
  • Naval Geography and Maps
  • Naval Policy and Diplomacy
  • 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
  • Manning of the Ottoman Navy

Military History Ottoman Navy
Tuncay Zorlu
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 July 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 July 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0172


This article deals with the literature dedicated to the history of the Ottoman navy from the early 14th century up to the making of the modern Turkish Republic in 1923. The Ottoman acquaintance with the seas started following their capture of the coastal principalities along the Aegean and the Sea of Marmara. Preliminary shipbuilding facilities were established in Karamürsel and Gallipoli (1390) under Bayezid I (1389–1402), which facilitated the Ottomans to further 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 (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 brought under taxation. Important victories were won against Venice, and Otranto in Italy was conquered. However, real progress was made during the reign of Bayezid II (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 the Ottoman service. Selim I (1512–1520) enlarged the Admiralty and also had many new ships built. During the reign of Suleyman I (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 (1774–1789), Selim III (1789–1807), and Mahmud II (1808–1839). Yet, naval disasters continued at Navarino (1827) and at Sinop (1853). During World War I, the Ottoman navy resisted against the naval operations in the Dardanelles, which were mainly carried out by the Royal Navy with substantial support from the French and minor contributions from 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.

Archival Sources

Archival documents are important sources since they offer primary information about the machinery of the Ottoman navy. It is possible to trace back the story of the Ottoman navy mainly through the valuable official documents in the Ottoman Prime Ministry Archives (Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivleri) located in Kağıthane/Istanbul and Naval History Archives of Naval Museum Command (Deniz Müzesi Komutanlığı Deniz Tarihi Arşivi) in Beşiktaş/Istanbul.

  • Naval History Archives of Naval Museum Command (Deniz Müzesi Komutanlığı Deniz Tarihi Arşivi).

    It covers the period between 1867 and 1923, which represents the replacement of the post of Kaptan-ı Derya (Grand Admiralty) by the Bahriye Nezareti (Ministry of Navy) and Declaration of the Turkish Republic. This center holds various documents on such topics as naval correspondence, schools, regulations, ships, shipyards, medicine and hospitals, factories, administrative units and so on. It is possible to search online for summaries of the documents, maps, and publications archived by the center.

  • Ottoman Prime Ministry Archives (Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivleri).

    It is the first place to visit for academics studying the Ottoman navy. The naval documents, all in Ottoman Turkish language, relating to the period preceding the abolition of the post of the Grand Admiral (Kapudan-ı Derya) are kept here while those from 1867 up to the Republican period are held in the Archives in the Naval Museum in Beşiktaş/Istanbul. Researchers can get information through the official guidebook of the archives, Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi Katalogları Rehberi (A guidebook to the Ottoman prime ministerial archives). (Ankara: Başbakanlık Devlet Arşivleri Genel Müdürlüğü 1995), or by accessing the online catalogue of these archives, where summaries of the documents are available.

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