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Piri Reis Database Image

Born somewhere in the Ottoman Empire, sometime around 1467 - give or take a few years - Haci Ahmet Muhiddin Piri was not quite so mysterious as his vague origins may imply. He was an accomplished seafarer and officer in the Ottoman Navy. Sea-bound by his early teens, he got his first experience as a privateer, sailing on expeditions of dubious legality with his uncle Kemal in and around the Mediterranean. By the time he was in his twenties he and his uncle had both joined the Ottoman Navy, trading their rough freedom for respectability.

In 1503, at the close of the Ottoman-Venetian conflict, Piri's taste for military adventures waned for a time, and he shifted his interests to intellectual pursuits, beginning a serious study of cartography. In 1506, after some initial and unfortunate disagreements with the Assassins, Piri joined their ranks - not as a warrior, however, but as a scholar and technician. For all that he had seen in his years as a sailor, he had grown bored of the artificial boundaries that separate nations from one another and felt the Assassins offered the truest intellectual freedoms.

In late 1511, after the sudden death of his uncle, Piri took to the seas once again to study navigation and hone his drafting skills. By 1513 he had produced what would eventually be considered his most famous map - a small work best known for containing one of the earliest accurate depictions of the eastern shore of South America. Throughout the next few decades, Piri continued to make maps and perfect his skills as a craftsman of rare artistic and technical talent. It wasn't until Piri was in his early 80s that he officially earned the rank of "Reis" or Admiral, by which point he was a legend in the Ottoman Navy.

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