The Ottoman-Portuguese War
The second Ottoman-Portuguese War (1538–1559) was an armed military conflict between the Portuguese Empire, the Kingdom of Hormuz and the Ethiopian Empire against the Ottoman Empire, Ajuran Sultanate, and Adal Sultanate, into the Horn of Africa, the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and in East Africa.
This war took place upon the backdrop of the Ethiopian-Adal War. Ethiopia had been invaded in 1529 by the Somali Imam Ahmed Gragn. Portuguese help, which was first asked by Emperor Lebna Dengel in 1520 to help defeat Adal while it was weak, finally arrived in Mitsiwa on February 10, 1541, 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 few Portuguese cavalry as well as a number of artisans and other non-combatants.
Major hostilities between Portugal and the Ottoman Empire began in 1538, when the Ottomans with 54 ships laid 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 December 31, 1540 and reaching Aden January 27, 1541. The fleet reached Massawa on February 12, 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).
On February, 1542, Cristóvão da Gama and his forces 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, the 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, Gama was captured and killed by Gragn himself upon refusing to convert to Islam.
Gelawdewos was eventually able to reorganize his forces and absorb the remaining Portuguese soldiers and defeated Gragn (who was killed) at the Battle of Wayna Daga, marking the end of the Ethiopian-Adalite war (although warfare would resume not long after, at a much diminished scale).
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, at the entrance of the Persian Gulf. 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. Finally, in 1559 the Ottomans lay siege to Bahrain but the Portuguese successfully repel the attack.
Unable to decisively defeat the Portuguese or threaten their shipping, the Ottomans abstained from further substantial action in the near future, choosing instead to supply Portuguese enemies such as the Aceh Sultanate. The Portuguese on their part enforced their commercial and diplomatical ties with Safavid Persia, an enemy of the Ottoman Empire.
- 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.”
- Holt, Lambton, Lewis, p. 332
- Peter Malcolm Holt, Ann K. S. Lambton, Bernard Lewis The Cambridge history of Islam 1977.
- Attila and Balázs Weiszhár: Lexicon of War (Háborúk lexikona), Athenaum publisher, Budapest 2004.
- Britannica Hungarica, Hungarian encyclopedia, Hungarian World publisher, Budapest 1994.
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