Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 July 2013
Although traditionally considered more of a land than a sea power, maritime affairs, in the words of Katip Çelebi, mattered to the Ottomans, and by the later sixteenth century, they had become a major power in the Mediterranean, dominating the east, active in the west and with at least a level of authority over the North African coast to Morocco.
1451–1481: Expansion in the eastern Mediterranean
For Mehmed II, sea power was “a great thing”, domination of the sea “essential” and naval operations “of the first importance”. Without control of the Aegean, his territories, and his ships, remained vulnerable to attack from the sea. Latin-controlled islands such as Rhodes, a “source of evil and sedition and a gathering point for the people of immorality”, represented hostile bases within Ottoman territory from where effective enemies such as the Hospitallers, so skilful that they could attack a galley with a rowboat, and the hordes of pirates and corsairs who infested the waters of the Aegean, could operate. Certain territories represented strategic locations for Ottoman advance, the Peloponnese being conquered in 1460 in part because of its situation on the route of Mehmed’s planned expedition against Italy, and Rhodes being attacked unsuccessfully in 1480 because of the island’s location, which made it an ideal naval base from which to attack, and control, lands to the east.