06 June 2013

Evliya writes of the channels of Egriboz/Negroponte

The channels of the Euripos at Egriboz/Negroponte. 
Detail from Camoccio etching, ca. 1571.

Kiliç Ali Pasa became admiral of the Ottoman fleet shortly after this story took place. His personal story began when young Giovan Dionigi Caleni was taken captive from a coastal town in Italy, Capo Rizzuto at the SW corner of the gulf of Taranto,  and enslaved.   After some resistance, he converted to Islam, and his natural abilities allowed him to rise rapidly in the Ottoman fleet. He became famous as the pirate Occhiali, alternating periods as a corsair with naval service, and Capo Rissuto now has a memorial to him. .  He was the only Ottoman commander to escape from Lepanto, bringing out with him the remnants of the Ottoman fleet. He was a patron of the aged architect Mimar Sinan who built the  important Istanbul mosque named for him.

Evliya appears to be the only discoverable source for this story. Pierre MacKay is my source and the translator. 

* * * * * *

(SN VIII250a23) A wonderful story  
In the year … in the time of Sultan Khan the second, Kiliç Ali Pasa, the supreme commander on the island of Cyprus, came to the aid of Kara Mustafa Paşa and, with four galleys of his own Uluç Ali Pasa chanced on 10 infidel galleons. He fought a fierce battle with the infidel, lasting all day and all night, until finally, making it appear that he would easily be worsted, “he took flight from the pursuit of infidels,” and with a dash forward at full stroke came into the harbor of Kızıl Hisar. But right behind the place where he intended to drop anchor, up came the wretched infidels in pursuit, so Ali Paşa could not stay there. He went on into the gulf of Negropont and dropped anchor beneath the castle and lay there without fear or apprehension. But the infidel with his ten galleons came into the mouth of the strait and lay at anchor there, saying, “Whenever the Turk leaves, he is mine!" 

 Note "Molini" to the right of the little castle, and the mill wheels behind.
With the genius of an Aristotle, Ali Paşa took the marines and galley slaves out of his four galleys in the middle of one night and, at either side of the water in the channel that flows beside the mills of the castle bridge, the ones we have already mentioned, he massed a group of prisoners at the rock, with the picks of Ferhad in their hands. Then he had them cut away at the rock on either side until the channel was wide enough for a galley to pass through and, in the middle of the night, he took out the awnings from the four galleys they belonged to and set them up on land. Then he went out with the four ships through the afore-mentioned mill channels he had cut, on past the point of Oreos, at the far end of the island, and back down around the point of Kızıl Hisar. In the early morning, the infidels, seeing from their ships that the Turkish awnings still remained in the harbor, were off their guard but, at that very time of morning, while all the infidels lay drunk and besotted in sleep, Ali Paşa, with his four galleys, entered the infidel ships crying, "Allah! Allah!" and rounded up the infidels from both bow and stern.

Thus, Ali Paşa herded the infidels up into their own ships at sword’s point, in the twinkling of an eye and, by the will of God, he captured ten enemy ships with four galleys. When he returned victorious and successful to the royal palace, having overturned the idols of the infidels, with their crosses, he was received with a great celebration of cannon and musketry fire by Selim Khan himself. Afterwards he held the fully independent post of Grand Admiral, with three horsetails and, near the Arsenal, he built a luminous mosque out of the great booty he won. Even now, in the place where Ali Paşa cut away the rock, at the channel for the Egriboz mill, if it were desired, one could remove the mill wheels from the channel, and it would be possible for a (/5/) galley to pass through. So much for that.

Kiliç Ali Pasa's channel, much widened, is the channel now seen at Halkis.  The previous, main channel was closed up over several centuries, and the island castle and city walls destroyed in the late 19th century. Pierre MacKay is currently preparing a study of the history of the dual channels at Negroponte for which previous authors have made assumptions, mis-citations, and unsubstantiated claims.


  1. Delightful adventure story (unless one is rooting for the infidels). What does a man have to do to earn the nickname "Kiliç"? Cut somebody, I suppose. Or just be really sharp. I'm thinking about Turkey once again, reading and preparing to write something about the recent disturbances.

    1. I wish I could have adopted either of those suggestions, but I guess I have to go along with the the usual colorless interpretation that the court thought it was appropriate for the grand admiral of the fleet. Pity.


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