Sinan Reis

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Note: There were several prominent military and government officers with the name Sinan in Ottoman history. See Sinan Pasha (disambiguation) for details. Particularly, Sinan Reis, the 16th century Barbary corsair and Jewish pirate treated in this article, should not be confused with Sinanüddin Yusuf Pasha, the 16th-century admiral, or Sinanüddin Fakih Yusuf Pasha, a 14th-century first vizier.
Sinan Reis
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Sinan Reis
Nickname(s) The Great Jew
Sinan the Chief
The Famous Jewish Pirate
Sinan the Jew
Born c. before 1492
Died 1558
Istanbul, Ottoman Empire
Allegiance  Ottoman Empire
 Ottoman Navy
Service/branch  Ottoman Navy
Years of service c. before 1521–1558
Rank Admiral
Battles/wars Conquest of Tunis (1534)
Conquest of Tunis (1535)
Battle of Preveza
Invasion of Gozo (1551)
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; d. 1558)[1]mor "Sinan the Chief", and Portuguese: Sinao o Judeo, "Sinan the Jew", was a Barbary corsair and Jewish pirate who sailed under famed Ottoman admiral Hayreddin Barbarossa.


Born to a Sephardic Jewish family which fled Spain 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] He 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.

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[3]

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 famed Barbary corsair and Ottoman admiral Hayreddin Barbarossa at the 1538 Battle of Preveza against Charles' Imperial fleet and its commander, Andrea Doria.[1][2][4][5] 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]

Around 1540, Sinan's son was travelling by sea to meet him after one of Sinan's victories. The boy was taken captive by Emperor Charles' forces and was ultimately handed over to the Lord of Elba, who baptized him and raised him at court.[1] Barbarossa made several unsuccessful attempts to ransom Sinan's son. While sailing nearby in 1544, Barbarossa sent an envoy to Elba to again attempt to free the boy. The island's Lord replied that his "religious scruples forbade him to surrender a baptized Christian to an infidel"[this quote needs a citation]. Infuriated, Barbarossa landed men at Piombino, sacked the town, and blew up the fort, after which the ruler agreed to release his "boy-favorite".[1] The news from Barbarossa reached Sinan at Suez on the Red Sea, where the "Great Jew" was constructing a fleet to aid an Indian ruler expel the Portuguese.[1]

Sinan (the pirate) is not buried in a Jewish cemetery in Albania.[6] because that fact refers to the grave of Kapudan Sinan (Sinanüddin Fakih Yusuf) Pasha (admiral of the Ottoman fleet 1550-1554) who lies buried near his mosque in Üsküdar (Istanbul).[7] Note that the Turkish word for Scutari (in Albania) is also Üsküdar).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h 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. ^ Abrahams, Israel (1932). "Jewish Life in the Middle Ages". Edward Goldston. Retrieved 2010-04-28.  ; Abrahams writes mistakenly 1521 for 1533 ([4])
  4. ^ "Where Did the Jews Expelled from Spain Go?". Retrieved 2010-05-02. 
  5. ^ "Sinan "The Great Jew" - Jewish Pirate". Retrieved 2010-05-02. 
  6. ^ Famous Jewish Pirates, A history of Jewish pirates begins in Spain
  7. ^ 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.