Piri Reis (full name Hadji Muhiddin Piri Ibn Hadji Mehmed) (about 1465–1554 or 1555) was
an Ottoman-Turkish admiral, privateer, geographer and cartographer born between 1465 and 1470
in Gallipoli on the Aegean coast of Turkey.
He is primarily known today for his maps and charts collected in his Kitab-ı Bahriye (Book of
Navigation), a book which contains detailed information on navigation as well as extremely
accurate charts describing the important ports and cities of the Mediterranean Sea. He gained fame
as a cartographer when a small part of his first world map (prepared in 1513) was discovered in
1929 at Topkapı Palace in Istanbul. The most surprising aspect was the presence of the Americas
on an Ottoman map, making it the oldest known Turkish map showing the New World, and one of
the oldest maps of America still in existence in the world (the oldest known map of America that's
still in existence is the map drawn by Juan de la Cosa in 1500, which is conserved in the Naval
Museum (Museo Naval) of Madrid, Spain.)
The most striking characteristic of the first world map (1513) of Piri Reis, however, is the level of
accuracy in positioning the continents (particularly the relation between Africa and South
America) which was unparalleled for its time. Even maps drawn decades later did not have such
accurate positioning and proportions; a quality which can be observed in other maps of Piri Reis in
his Kitab-ı Bahriye (Book of Navigation). Piri Reis' map is centered in the Sahara at the Tropic of
Cancer latitude. Pseudo-scholar Charles Hapgood argued that the Piri Reis map preserved
knowledge of Antarctica from an Ice Age civilization.
In 1528 Piri Reis drew a second world map, of which a small fragment showing Greenland and
North America from Labrador and Newfoundland in the north to Florida, Cuba and parts of
Central America in the south still survives.
Piri began to serve in the Ottoman navy when he was young, in 1481, following his uncle Kemal
Reis, a well-known seafarer of the time. He participated in many years of fighting against Spanish,
Genoese and Venetian navies, including the First Battle of Lepanto (Battle of Zonchio) in 1499
and Second Battle of Lepanto (Battle of Modon) in 1500. When his uncle Kemal Reis died in
1511, Piri returned to Gallipoli and began to write his book Kitab-ı Bahriye (Book of Navigation).
In 1513 he produced his first world map, based on some 20 older maps and charts which he had
collected, including charts personally designed by Christopher Columbus which his uncle Kemal
Reis obtained in 1501 after capturing seven Spanish ships off the coast of Valencia in Spain with
several of Columbus' crewmen on board.
By 1516 he was again at sea, as a ship's captain in the Ottoman fleet. He took part in the 1516-17
campaign against Egypt, and in 1517 was able to show his world map to Sultan Selim I. In 1521
he finished his Kitab-ı Bahriye. In 1522 he participated in the siege of Rhodes against the Knights
of St. John which ended with the island's surrender to the Ottomans on 25 December 1522 and the
permanent departure of the Knights from Rhodes on 1 January 1523. In 1524 he captained the ship
that took the Ottoman Grand Vizier Makbul Ibrahim Pasha to Egypt. Following the Vizier's
advice, he edited his book and was able to present it to Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in 1525.
Three years later he presented his second world map to Suleiman.
By 1547, Piri had risen to the rank of Reis (admiral) and was in command of the Ottoman fleet in
the Indian Ocean and admiral of the fleet in Egypt, headquartered at Suez. On 26 February 1548
he recaptured Aden from the Portuguese, followed in 1552 by the capture of Muscat, which
Portugal had occupied since 1507, and the important island of Kish. Turning further east, Piri Reis
captured the island of Hormuz in the Strait of Hormuz, at the entrance of the Persian Gulf. When
the Portuguese turned their attention to the Persian Gulf, Piri Reis occupied the Qatar peninsula
and the island of Bahrain to deprive the Portuguese of suitable bases on the Arabian coast.
He then returned to Egypt, an old man approaching the age of 90. When he refused to support the
Ottoman governor of Basra, Kubad Pasha, in another campaign against the Portuguese in the
northern Persian Gulf, Piri Reis was publicly beheaded in 1554 or 1555.
Several warships and submarines of the Turkish Navy have been named after Piri Reis.