Selman Reis was an Ottoman admiral and former corsair who was active in the Mamluk Navy of Egypt and later in the Ottoman Navy against the Portuguese in the first half of the 16th century. Selman Reis was originally from the Aegean island of Lesbos.
Mercenary for the Mamluk regime
Following the disruption of the spice trade between India and Mamluk Egypt by the Portuguese, Selman Reis led a Mamluk fleet of 19 ships into the Indian Ocean in 1515. He left Suez leading the fleet on 30 September 1515. The fleet also included 3,000 men, 1,300 of whom were Turkish soldiers. The fleet built a fortress in Kamaran, but failed to take Yemen and Aden on 17 September 1516.
Selman Reis came back in favour with the arrival of Ibrahim Pasha in Egypt in 1524. He was able to make a detailed report of the situation of the Indian Ocean at the time, suggesting the occupation of Ethiopia, Yemen and the Swahili Coast, and the eviction of the Portuguese from Hormuz, Goa and Malacca. In 1525, the Portuguese raided the Red Sea, further bringing the threat of their fleet closer to Egypt.
In 1525, Selman Reis was put at the head of an Ottoman fleet of 18 ships and 299 cannons as its admiral, with ships taken from the derelict Jiddah fleet and refurbished in Suez. He was in association with Hayreddin al-Rumi, leading around 4,000 infantry. They left Suez in 1526, and first returned Jiddah back to order. Landing in Mocha in January 1527, they led an expedition into the interior of Yemen to subdue the area, which they succeeding in doing after beheading Mustafa Beg. Aden remained independent but recognized suzerainty to Ottoman rule. The fleet then left to establish a naval base in Kamaran. This allowed the Ottomans to retake control of the Red Sea, and for the first time the Portuguese could not send a fleet in the Red Sea in 1527.
After that time however, Selman Reis fell into a dispute with Hayreddin al-Rumi, which greatly weakened these efforts.
Selman Reis was later involved in defending Muslim possessions in India against the Portuguese and their Hindu allies. He installed Pro-Ottoman forces under Captain Hoca Sefer in Diu, until the failed Ottoman attempt to expel the Portuguese in the 1538 Siege of Diu.
- The Ottoman Age of Exploration Giancarlo Casale p.39
- The Ottoman Age of Exploration Giancarlo Casale p.32
- An Economic and Social History of the Ottoman Empire, Volume 1" by Halil İnalcik p.321ff
- The Ottoman Age of Exploration, p. 42, at Google Books Giancarlo Casale
- İnalcik, Halil. An Economic and Social History of the Ottoman Empire. p. 324ff.