Ottoman–Portuguese conflicts (1538–1559)

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Ottoman–Portuguese conflicts
Part of the Ottoman–Portuguese confrontations
Persian Gulf z1507-1750.gif
Portuguese presence in the Persian Gulf from 1500 to 1750
(19 years)
Flag of Portugal (1521).svg Portuguese Empire
Ethiopian Pennants.svgEthiopian Empire
Kingdom of Hormuz
 Ottoman Empire
Gujarat Sultanate Flag.gif Gujarat Sultanate
Muzzaffar (Mogadishu area) flag according to 1576 Portuguese map.svgAjuran Sultanate
Flag of Adal Sultanate.svgAdal Sultanate
Flag of Adal Sultanate.svgSultanate of Harar
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Portugal (1521).svg Estêvão da Gama
Flag of Portugal (1521).svg Cristóvão da Gama Executed
Flag of Portugal (1521).svg Diogo de Noronha
Flag of Portugal (1521).svg António de Noronha
Ethiopian Pennants.svg Dawit II of Ethiopia
Ethiopian Pennants.svg Gelawdewos of Ethiopia
Ottoman Empire Piri Reis Executed
Ottoman Empire Seydi Ali Reis
Ottoman Empire Sefer Reis
Ottoman Empire Murat Reis
Flag of Adal Sultanate.svg Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi 

The Ottoman-Portuguese conflicts (1538 to 1559) were a period of conflict during the Ottoman–Portuguese confrontations and series of armed military encounters between the Portuguese Empire and the Ottoman Empire along with regional allies in and along the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf, and Red Sea.


This war took place upon the backdrop of the Ethiopian–Adal War. Ethiopia had been invaded in 1529 by the Ottoman Empire and local allies. Portuguese help, which was first requested by Emperor Dawit II in 1520, finally arrived in Massawa during the reign of Emperor Galawdewos. The force was led by Cristóvão da Gama (second son of Vasco da Gama) and included 400 musketeers, several breech-loading field guns, and a few Portuguese cavalrymen as well as a number of artisans and other non-combatants.

Course of war[edit]

Major hostilities between Portugal and the Ottoman Empire began in 1538,[1] when the Ottomans assisted the Sultanate of Gujarat with about 80 vessels to lay siege to Diu, which had been built by the Portuguese in 1535. The Ottoman fleet was led by Suleiman I's governor of Egypt Suleiman Pasha, but the attack was not successful and the siege was lifted.

The Portuguese under Estêvão da Gama (first son of Vasco da Gama) organized an expedition to destroy the Ottoman fleet at Suez, leaving Goa on 31 December 1540 and reaching Aden by the 27th of January 1541. The fleet reached Massawa on 12 February, where Gama left a number of ships and continued north. The Portuguese then sacked the Ottoman port of Suakin. Reaching Suez, he discovered that the Ottomans had long known of his raid, and foiled his attempt to burn the beached ships. Gama was forced to retrace his steps to Massawa, although pausing to attack the port of El-Tor (Sinai Peninsula).

Ethiopian campaign[edit]

At Massawa, governor Estevão da Gama responded to an appeal to assist the Christian Ethiopian Empire against invading Adalite forces.[citation needed] An expeditionary corps of 400 men was left behind, commanded by the governors' brother, Cristóvão da Gama. In February 1542, the Portuguese were able to capture an important Adalite stronghold at the Battle of Baçente. The Portuguese were again victorious at the Battle of Jarte, killing almost all of the Turkish contingent. However, Gragn then requested aid from the Ottoman governor of Yemen in Aden, who sent 2000 Arabian musketeers, 900 Turkish pikemen, 1000 Turkish foot musketeers, some Shqiptar foot soldiers (with muskets) and Turkish horsemen. In the Battle of Wofla, Somali and Turkish forces defeated the Portuguese, De Gama was captured, and upon refusing to convert to Islam, executed.[citation needed]

Gelawdewos was eventually able to reorganize his forces and absorb the remaining Portuguese soldiers, defeating and slaying Gragn at the Battle of Wayna Daga, marking the end of the Ethiopian-Adal war (although warfare would resume not long after, at a much diminished scale).

Persian Gulf campaigns[edit]

Elsewhere in the Indian Ocean naval combat was also intense. In 1547, the Admiral Piri Reis took command of the Ottoman-Egyptian fleet in the Indian Ocean and on 26 February 1548 recaptured Aden, in 1552 sacked Muscat. Turning further east, Piri Reis failed to capture Hormuz,[2] at the entrance of the Persian Gulf. Following these events, the Portuguese dispatched considerable reinforcements to Hormuz, and the following year defeated an Ottoman fleet at the Battle of the Strait of Hormuz.

In 1554, the Portuguese soundly defeated an Ottoman fleet led by Seydi Ali Reis in the Battle of the Gulf of Oman and in 1557 the Ottoman captured the port of Massawa to the province of Habesh. In 1559 the Ottomans laid siege to Bahrain, which had been conquered by the Portuguese in 1521 and ruled indirectly since then,[3] but the forces led by the Governor of Al-Hasa were decisively beaten back.[4] After this, the Portuguese effectively controlled the entirety of the naval traffic in the Persian Gulf. They raided the Ottoman coastal city of Al-Katif during this time, in 1559.[5]


Unable to decisively defeat the Portuguese or threaten their shipping, the Ottomans abstained from further substantial action, choosing instead to supply Portuguese enemies such as the Aceh Sultanate, and things returned to the Status quo ante bellum.[6] The Portuguese for their part enforced their commercial and diplomatic ties with Safavid Persia, an enemy of the Ottoman Empire. A tense truce was gradually formed, wherein the Ottomans were allowed to control the overland routes into Europe, thereby keeping Basra, which the Portuguese had been eager to acquire, and the Portuguese were allowed to dominate sea trade to India and East Africa.[7] The Ottomans then shifted their focus to the Red Sea, which they had been expanding into previously, with the acquisition of Egypt in 1517, and Aden in 1538.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Özbaran, Salih; de Lyma, Dom Manuell (1972). "The Ottoman Turks and the Portuguese in the Persian Gulf, 1534–1581". Journal of Asian History. 6 (1): 45–87. ISSN 0021-910X.
  2. ^ Holt, Lambton, Lewis, p. 332
  3. ^ Larsen 1983, p. 68.
  4. ^ Nelida Fuccaro (2009). Histories of City and State in the Persian Gulf: Manama Since 1800. Cambridge University Press. p. 60. ISBN 9780521514354.
  5. ^ İnalcık & Quataert 1994, p. 337.
  6. ^ Mesut Uyar, Edward J. Erickson, A military history of the Ottomans: from Osman to Atatürk, ABC CLIO, 2009, p. 76, "In the end both Ottomans and Portuguese had the recognize the other side's sphere of influence and tried to consolidate their bases and network of alliances."
  7. ^ Dumper & Stanley 2007, p. 74.
  8. ^ Shillington 2013, p. 954.