July 15, 2024

Al-Tikriti Presents Paper at Turkish Maritime History Conference

On Sept. 28, Nabil Al-Tikriti offered a presentation entitled “Advocating for Release: The al-Darani Appeal” to the International Symposium on Piri Reis and Turkish Maritime History in Istanbul, Turkey. The conference, which brought together several dozen Ottoman maritime history experts from all over the world, was hosted by the new Prime Minister’s Ottoman Archives. Invited by the conference organizers, Prof. Al-Tikriti presented his analysis of two letters sent by a prisoner of the Knights of St. John, based in Rhodes. Organizers plan to complete an edited volume of conference presentations by the end of the year. This conference was hosted by the Turkish Historical Foundation, the Prime Minister’s Ottoman Archives, and the Ataturk Supreme Council for Culture, Language, and History. Here is a link to the conference program: http://sempozyum.ttk.gov.tr/eng/PiriReis_Program.pdf


Here is Prof. Al-Tikriti’s conference abstract:

“In 1504, in the midst of lengthy prisoner negotiations between Şehzade Korkud (d. 1513) and the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, the Ottoman prince demanded the immediate release of fourteen Muslim prisoners. One of those he named was a certain “Hajji Abu Bakr.” It is probable that this individual was Abū Bakr al-Dārānī, who had sent a letter to Korkud appealing for his rescue from these Knights of Rhodes. His letter, probably written at some point in 1502-1503, was transcribed and inserted into Korkud’s 1508 magnum opus, Da‘wat al-nafs al-āliha.  Steeped in the rhetorics of ghazā’, al-Dārānī used arguments which combined the imperatives of militant piety, real world enrichment, and political calculation. As this prisoner saw it, the Knights were perfidious infidel pirates who never honor their agreements, pillage throughout the region, enrich themselves at the expense of Muslims, enslave ten Muslims for each one that they release, and oppress the Greeks (Rūm) who populate Rhodes. According to al-Dārānī, their harm to Islamdom was so severe that even if the Ottomans were to capture all of Christendom yet fail to capture Rhodes, they would have accomplished nothing. Al-Dārānī also set out to counter two widely-held beliefs concerning the Knights in Rhodes – that they would be difficult to conquer and that they possessed nothing worthy of the expense. Considering that only 600 Knights resided on the island, the prisoner insisted that the islanders would help the Muslims take the island, and that it would be easy to take. Not only were the Knights vulnerable, but they possessed great wealth, and their wealth was more than sufficient to compensate for any costs incurred by invading the island. Closing with political arguments concerning the dangers the Knights posed to Ottoman sovereignty, al-Dārānī, concluded that the Ottomans should waste no time invading Rhodes. Sources provide no sure indication whether al-Dārānī and the other prisoners listed in Korkud’s 1504 request were ever freed. However, another undated letter by a certain Taīyüddīn Dārānī of rablus-i Şām also urging an invasion of Rhodes provides several hints as to what might have ensued with these prisoners.

In my presentation, I examine these two letters in some depth and elaborate on what they tell us about Ottoman-Knights relations around the turn of the 16th century. I also explore some of the broader implications concerning enslavement, raiding, piracy, and Muslim-Christian conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean during the same period.