Sinan Reis

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Sinan Reis
Engraving of Sinan Reis
Nickname(s)The Great Jew
Sinan the Chief
The Famous Jewish Pirate
Sinan the Jew
Bornc. before 1533
Ottoman Empire
Allegiance Ottoman Empire
Service/branch Ottoman Navy
Years of servicec. before 1533-unknown
Battles/warsBattle of Preveza
Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha's force defeats the Holy League of Charles V under the command of Andrea Doria at the Battle of Preveza in 1538. Sinan Reis' leadership was key to the Ottoman victory.

Sinan Reis, also Ciphut Sinan, (Hebrew: סנאן ראיס, Sinan Rais; Arabic: سنان ريس, Sinan Rayyis;)[1] "Sinan the Chief", and Portuguese: Sinão o Judeo, "Sinan the Jew", was a Barbary corsair who sailed under the famed Ottoman admiral Hayreddin Barbarossa.


While Ottoman sources are generally silent about his origins, most modern works assert that he was born to a Sephardic Jewish family which fled Spain or Portugal and possibly relocated to the then Ottoman ruled Smyrna, Sinan sailed as a Barbary corsair, a type of privateer or pirate, under the Ottoman flag. There are several cases of Jews who upon fleeing Iberia turned to attacking the Empire's shipping, a profitable strategy of revenge for the Inquisition's religious persecution.[1][2]

There are other sources though which claim that Sinan's epithet, "the Jew" does not refer to his Jewish origins. The sixteenth-century chronicler Francisco Lopez Gomarra argued that he was named so because he once escaped from an encounter with Christian ships while the nineteenth-century editor of his text speculated, not so quite understandably, that interest in astrology earned him his nickname.[3]

Sinan was based out of Mediterranean points including Santorini, and fought in several key battles against the Spanish and the Holy Roman Empire, at the time ruled by the same man, Charles V.

The English State Papers of 1533 bear evidences of his actions:

As to Coron, it was reported at Rome a few days ago that Andrea Doria was informed that the famous Jewish pirate had prepared a strong fleet to meet the Spanish galleys which are to join Doria's nineteen[4]

His moniker "the Great Jew", appears in a 1528 reference by the Governor of Portuguese India, who mistakenly believed that Sinan was sent by Suleiman the Magnificent to aid the King of Calicut.[1]

Sinan sailed under the famed Ottoman admiral Hayreddin Barbarossa at the 1538 Battle of Preveza against Charles' Imperial fleet and its commander, Andrea Doria.[1][2][5][6] Sinan suggested landing troops at Actium on the Gulf of Arta near Preveza, an idea which Barbarossa initially opposed, but which later proved to be important for securing the Ottoman victory.[1]

Sinan Reis died in 1556 after a heavy illness. It is said that he died just days before a planned departure for a raiding mission to the coast of India.[7]

Sinan (the pirate) is not the Sinan buried in a Jewish cemetery in Albania,[8] because that refers to the grave of Kapudan Sinan (Sinanüddin Yusuf) Pasha (admiral of the Ottoman fleet 1550–1553) who lies buried near his mosque in Üsküdar (Istanbul).[9] (The Turkish word for Scutari in Albania is also Üsküdar).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Kritzler, Edward (November 3, 2009). Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean. Anchor. pp. 59–60. ISBN 978-0-7679-1952-4. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
  2. ^ a b Plaut, Steven (October 15, 2008). "Putting the Oy Back into 'Ahoy'". Retrieved 2010-04-27. [1][2][3]
  3. ^ Gomara, Francisco Lopez (1853). Crónica de los Barbarrojas, in Memorial histórico español: Collección de documentos, opúsculos y antigüedades. Madrid: La Real Academia de la Historia. pp. 388–9.
  4. ^ Abrahams, Israel (1932). "Jewish Life in the Middle Ages". Edward Goldston. Retrieved 2010-04-28. ; Abrahams writes mistakenly 1521 for 1533 ([4])
  5. ^ "Where Did the Jews Expelled from Spain Go?". Retrieved 2010-05-02.
  6. ^ "Sinan "The Great Jew" - Jewish Pirate". Retrieved 2010-05-02.
  7. ^ Brett, Michael (October 1983). "Eliezer Bashan and Robert Attal (eds.), A History of the Jews in North Africa, Vol. II: From the Ottoman conquests to the present time, series editor: H. Z. (J. W.) Hirschberg, Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1981, 351 pp". Africa. 53 (4): 93–94. doi:10.2307/1159719. ISSN 0001-9720.
  8. ^ Famous Jewish Pirates, A history of Jewish pirates begins in Spain
  9. ^ Mitchell, James (1831). "The History of the Maritime Wars of the Turks" translated from the Turkish of Mustafa ben Abdulla Haji Khalifeh (KÂTIP ÇELEBI). Oriental Translation Fund. pp. 70–71.