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The Black Sea – the hub of the Ottoman navy

black sea old map

Map of the Black Sea and the Surrounding Areas, 1590

The map covers the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov and the adjoinng regions in Europe and Asia. Latin term “Pontus Euxinus” (=Hospitable Sea) is used for Black Sea.

At the end of the 16th century, the Black Sea (referred to in the map as Pontus Euximus – a hospitable sea) was fully under the control of the Ottoman Navy at the main access points, i.e. the Straits of Bospohorus and Dardanelles while the mouth of the Danube River was seized by the Turks.

Despite its supremacy, these were not easy times for the Ottoman Empire. In 1571, the Ottoman navy was defeated in the Battle of Lepanto (near what is today Patras, Greece) by the European coalition, which slowed down the Turkish invasion of the west. At that time, the Battle of Lepanto was one of the largest navy battles in history, involving over 400 vessels. Most of the Ottoman fleet was destroyed, which resulted in a large shipbuilding boom; however, the positions of Ottoman Navy in the Black Sea had been weakened as a consequence. In addition, since the second half of the 16th century, the Cossacks from the region of today’s Ukraine and Russia were organising raids against the Turks and attacked several Ottoman ports on the Black Sea coast.

Caroline Finkel’s “Osman’s Dream: The History of the Ottoman Empire” is a great reading for anyone interested in the Ottoman Empire.