The European Seaborne Empires II: Malacca and Tenochtitlan
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The Battle of Diu (1509)

One of the great might-have-beens in world history concerns the 1509 Battle of Diu. What if it had gone the other way? Or what if Sultans Beyezid II, Selim the Grim, Suleiman the Lawgiver, and Selim the Sot, and Murad III had shifted a small additional part of the military effort they were making in the Balkans and the Mediterranean into the Indian Ocean?

From Wikipedia:

The Battle of Diu took place on 2-3 February, 1509 near the port town of Diu, India... between Portugal and a joint fleet of the Mamlûk Burji Sultanate of Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, the Zamorin of Calicut and the Sultan of Gujarat, with technical maritime assistance from the Republic of Venice and the Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik)... marks the beginning of the dominance of the Europeans in the Asian naval theatre, and a defeat for the then dominant power -- the Ottoman Empire... set the stage for domination of trade in the Indian Ocean by the Portuguese for the next century... parallels others like Lepanto (1571), Abu Qir (1798), Trafalgar (1805) and Tsushima (1905) in terms of its impact, though not in scale....

The Portuguese followed this battle by rapidly capturing key ports/coastal areas around the Indian Ocean like Mombasa, Socotra, Muscat, Ormuz, Goa, Ceylon and Malacca....

The Samoothiri Raja (anglicised to Zamorin), was incensed at the Portuguese because of their conduct since Vasco da Gama had landed in his kingdom in 1498, and hence had joined forces with the Sultan of Gujarat. The Egyptian fleet, manned mostly by Turks, was sent by the Mamlûk Burji Sultan of Cairo, Al-Ashraf Qānsūh al-Ghauri, in 1507 to support, at his invitation, the then Muslim Sultan of Gujarat, Mahmud Begada....

The following were the important participants in this battle:

  • Dom Francisco de Almeida, first Portuguese Viceroy in India
  • Amir Husain Al-Kūrdī, Turkish Commander of the Egyptian-Gujarat naval squadron (known as Mirocem in Portuguese chronicles)
  • Selman Reis, Ottoman naval Captain
  • Malik El Hissa, Governor of Diu for the Sultan of Gujarat
  • The Zamorin of Calicut....

Since Portuguese naval patrols regularly interdicted supplies of Malabar timber for the Mamlûk Red Sea fleet, the Ottoman Sultan, Beyazid II therefore supplied Egypt with Mediterranean-type war galleys manned by Greek sailors. These vessels, which Venetian shipwrights helped disassemble in Alexandria and reassemble on the Red Sea coast... had to brave the Indian Ocean. The galley warriors could mount light guns fore and aft, but not along the gunwales because these cannon would interfere with the rowers. The native ships (dhows), with their sewn wood planks, could carry no heavy guns at all. Hence, most of the coalition's artillery was archers, whom the Portuguese could easily outshoot.

The new Mamlûk fleet set out for India in 1507, first fortifying Jeddah against a possible Portuguese attack. It then passed through Aden at the tip of the Red Sea, where it received support from the Tahirid sultan, and then, in 1508, crossed the Indian Ocean to the port of Diu....

[A]t the first battle of Chaul in March 1508... Dom Lourenço de Almeida, son of the Viceroy, [had been] killed. The Viceroy was so enraged at this death that he is supposed to have said, "He who ate the chick has also to eat the rooster, or pay for it"... the recently arrived Egyptian fleet, along with the fleet from the Sultan of Gujarat, had surprised a smaller Portuguese fleet... eight vessels... predominantly trade cargo bound for Portugal led by Lourenço....

The Portuguese [at Diu] had eighteen ships commanded by the Viceroy, with about 1,500 Portuguese soldiers and 400 natives from Cochin. The Allied side had one hundred ships, but only twelve were major vessels.... [T]he Egyptians decided to take advantage of the port of Diu and its fort, which had its own artillery... stay anchored at this port and await an attack from the Portuguese... the Egyptians/Turks... were used to the more sheltered bays in the Mediterranean... [where] they also relied upon land-based artillery reinforcements....

Portuguese ships

  • Five large naus: Flor do Mar (Viceroy's flagship), Espírito Santo (captain Nuno Vaz Pereira), Belém (Jorge de Melo Pereira), Great King (Francisco de Távora), and Great Taforea (Fernão de Magalhães)
  • Four smaller naus: Small Taforea (Garcia de Sousa), Santo António (Martim Coelho), Small King (Manuel Teles Barreto) and Andorinho (Dom António de Noronha)
  • Four caravelas redondas: (captains António do Campo, Pero Cão, Filipe Rodrigues and Rui Soares)
  • Two caravelas Latinas: (captains Álvaro Peçanha and Luís Preto)
  • Two gales: (captains Paio Rodrigues de Sousa and Diogo Pires de Miranda)
  • One bergantim: (captain Simão Martins)....

Mamluk Egyptian/Gujarat Fleet - Major vessels

  • Four naus (Gujarat)
  • Four naus (Mamluk Egyptian)
  • Two caravelas
  • Four galeotas
  • Two gales

The Viceroy extracted a payment of 300,000 gold xerafins, but rejected the offer of the city of Diu which he thought would be expensive to maintain, although he left a garrison there.... The treatment of the Egyptian/Turkish captives by the Portuguese was brutal. The Viceroy ordered most of them to be hanged, burnt alive or torn to pieces by tying them to the mouths of the cannons, in retaliation for his son's death.... Dom Francisco de Almeida left for Portugal in November, 1509, and in December, 1509 was himself killed by the Khoikhoi tribe, near the Cape of Good Hope....

This battle did not end the rivalry... a second naval battle, again at Diu, in 1538 when the Turks laid siege to the fortress built by the Portuguese in 1535 with 54 ships, but then for some reason lifted the siege... Suleiman I the Magnificent... had sent his emissary Hussein Pasha to attack Diu... another siege of the fortress at Diu in 1547 which marked the end of Ottoman attempts to expand their influence in the Indian Ocean...