What was the Battle of Imbros (1347)?


The Battle of Imbros occurred in spring 1347 between the fleets of a Christian naval league formed as part of the Smyrniote crusades, and of a Turkish raiding fleet, possibly from the beyliks of Aydin and Sarukhan. The Turks abandoned their ships and landed on the island of Imbros, where most were captured.

Opposing Forces

The battle is mentioned in two letters sent in June 1347 by Pope Clement VI. The size and composition of the Christian fleet is unknown. The 1343 agreement for the naval league stipulated a force of twenty galleys: six each from Venice and the Knights Hospitaller, and four each from the Papal States and the Kingdom of Cyprus. However, according to the archives of the Venetian Senate, for the first half of 1347, Venice only armed five galleys for participation in the league.

The Turks reportedly had 118 vessels, apparently considerably outnumbering the Crusader fleet. However, modern historians it is likely that most of the Turkish vessels were relatively light craft, such as commandeered fishing boats or light transport ships, compared to the war galleys of the Crusaders, as the Turks were geared towards raiding. The Turks are usually mentioned as belonging to the two beyliks of Aydin and Sarukhan, but Kenneth Setton doubts the presence of the Aydinids in this battle, and that the Turks were simply led by “some Turkish emir or captain”.

The Battle

Around the end of April, the Crusader fleet met the Turks off the island of Imbros in the northeastern Aegean. Taken by surprise, the Turks abandoned their ships and landed on the island, but they were surrounded by the Crusaders, who sent for reinforcements to the Hospitallers headquarters on Rhodes. The Hospitallers sent two galleys and one lighter vessel, as well as troops and cavalry, which proved crucial in the ensuing land engagement: most of the Turks were captured and enslaved.


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