İznik Mavi Çini The Legacy Reigning Over the Ottoman Seas: A Journey from Maritime to Art - İznik Mavi Çini
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The Legacy Reigning Over the Ottoman Seas: A Journey from Maritime to Art

The Legacy Reigning Over the Ottoman Seas: A Journey from Maritime to Art

3 February 2024

Throughout world history, maritime prowess has played a critical role in the rise and fall of civilizations. In this sense, the Ottoman Empire's dominance over the seas and its maritime legacy represent a significant milestone in its journey to becoming a great power. Starting in the 14th century with the first fleet established with the help of the Karesi Principality, Ottoman seafaring tells the story of a transformation from a small principality into a vast empire spanning three continents. In this article, we will explore the richness of the Ottoman maritime legacy, from how it established a sea power stretching from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, and even to the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf across to the Indian Ocean, to the impacts reflected in art and culture from historical ship types. The epic stories of sailors from Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha to Kilic Ali Pasha, the depictions of ships in artworks, and the strategic importance of cities related to maritime activities will paint a vivid picture of how the Ottomans conquered the waters.

Establishment and Development of the Ottoman Fleet

In the early 14th century, with the assistance of the Karesi Principality, the Ottoman Empire established a navy and constructed a shipyard in Karamursel, where it built its first warships. As the Ottoman borders expanded and it evolved into an empire that spanned three continents, it established dominance over the seas, from the Black Sea and the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf extending to the Indian Ocean. During this period, famous sailors like Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha and Kilic Ali Pasha reinforced the Ottoman's maritime strength. The Ottoman fleet included various ships that could be propelled by oars and sails; the smallest of these was called a "karamursel" and the largest a "bastarda."

Evolution of Ottoman Maritime Art

Over time, galleys, the main strength of the Ottoman navy, gave way to larger and more powerful galleons. From the 16th century onwards, ship types began to be depicted in miniature art in more detail, and this influence extended to other forms of art. Ship depictions in ceramics and embroideries are generally generalized as galleys and galleons, as it is difficult to precisely identify the ships in these works.

Maritime Motifs in Iznik and Çanakkale Ceramics

Single-masted galleys depicted in Iznik ceramics, sometimes with white or blue-striped sails billowing in the wind, have been portrayed. In the 17th century, the depiction of large single galleons in Iznik ceramics was considered an indicator of change in the fleet. After the cessation of tile production in Iznik, local ceramic centers like Çanakkale gained importance. Çanakkale, for centuries, was critical in protecting the capital from maritime attacks, and motifs of galleons and cannons in its ceramics reflect the city's strategic role.

Cultural Reflections of the Ottoman Maritime Legacy

From the 18th century onwards, cityscapes by the sea became popular in landscape paintings, and ship depictions found their way into various places, from mansions to mosques and silver vessels. Galleons symbolizing the power of the fleet with their crescent and star banners, both sailing and rowing boats, galleys with 13 pairs of oars, and barge-like vessels with a pavilion at the back decorated many locations. These details provide insight into the richness and diversity of the Ottoman Empire's maritime history.

This article deeply explores the impressive maritime legacy of the Ottoman Empire and how this legacy played a critical role in the rise of civilization. From the first fleet established with the help of the Karesi Principality in the 14th century to expanding dominance over the seas to form a wide empire encompassing three continents, key milestones in Ottoman maritime history are discussed. The leadership of historical figures like Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha and Kilic Ali Pasha, periods when Ottoman seafaring reached its peak using oared and sailing ships, are vibrant parts of this legacy. Additionally, the article details how ship depictions have held a significant place in artworks, ceramics, and penwork landscapes, and how deeply integrated they are into Ottoman culture. In conclusion, this article celebrates the Ottoman Empire's maritime history, its achievements in this field, and its cultural heritage, highlighting the role of this rich history in shaping civilization. The maritime history of the Ottoman Empire is not just a narrative of wars and dominance but also a mosaic of cultural richness and artistic expression. For new galleon designs prepared by palace artists for tiles and created in our business, click here.


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