Did you know?
Piri Reis’s last creation was a second world map, which included more detail than his first. This map included, for example, an increased number of ports, raising the number on the map from 130 to 210. Unfortunately, only a 1/4 of this map survives today.
A GREAT SEAFARER, A LEARNED CARTOGRAPHER... AND A SCOUNDREL!
Piri Reis is a well known Ottoman-Turkish admiral, geographer and cartographer from the 16th century who lived between 1470 and 1553. Setting out to sea at an early age under his uncle’s command, he lived for a while as a pirate in the Mediterranean. After a call for help from the Ottoman sultan, he decided to assist the Ottoman Navy, fighting side by side with them in famous victories. Tragically, he lost his uncle in a sea accident, leading to his decision to exile himself for two years, during which time he gave himself over to learning and to research of naval knowledge. This led to perhaps his greatest victory: what is today the oldest scientific world map, created as a result of research and study of many historical writings from different countries and from different centuries. His drawing contained numerous details of the west coasts of Africa and Europe and the east coasts of America and the Atlantic Ocean, as well as, amazingly, mountains in the Antarctic. In fact, how Piri Reis created some of the map’s stunning detail and accuracy remains a mystery to this day. This milestone of maps, colorfully painted on parchment, now proudly lays claim to being the oldest map of the world. Unfortunately, only about 1/6 of the map remains in existence, housed in the great Ottoman bastion, Topkapı Palace. The map was finished in 1513—fitting then that UNESCO chose 2013, the 500th anniversary, to commemorate the Piri Reis Map. Not content merely with mapmaking, Piri Reis created his Kitabi Bahriye (Book of Navigation), which he dedicated to the peoples of the Mediterranean, demonstrating his great sense of humanity and understanding that skin color, language, and beliefs do not, or at least should not, separate peoples of the world.
Piri Reis would eventually lose his life thanks to the Governor of Egypt. Reis’s refusal to obey certain rules resulted in him being beheaded in Cairo. Perhaps today we can view his demise as a ‘romantic’ end to such a colorful and productive life. But what is undeniable is that Piri Reis’s creations stand as beacons of knowledge from his era.