Thursday, January 7, 2016


If I told you that today's Immortal Nobody was born in Calabria, Italy as Giovanni Dionigi Galeni, the son of seaman Birno Galeni and wife Pippi, and that he died in Constantinople, Turkey with the name Kilic Ali Pasha, you might be surprised that this nobody was also named in Miguel de Cervantes' notable book 'Don Quixote de la Mancha."  And that he also built a mosque that even today carries his name.

Giovanni was born in 1519 and died in June of 1587.  His dad wanted him to receive a religious education, but around his 17th year he was captured by one of the pirate Barbarossa's corsair captains and forced to serve as a galley slave.  It was during these slave years that he converted to Islam and became an able mariner with a reputation as one of the boldest of the Mediterranean corsairs.

Now I learned a little about Ali Pasha when I was living in Turkey, and later read the book "Constantinople Old and New" by H. B. Dwight, Chas. Scribner  Sons, N.Y., 1915 where Dwight, a former missionary with the ABCFM shared his understanding about today's Immortal Nobody.

Kilic Ali Pasha Mosque was built by an Italian who was born in Calabria.  Captured by Algerian pirates, he turned Turk after 14 year in the galleys and changed his name of Ochiali to Oulouj Ali – Big Ali.  He then became a commander of Galleys.  At the battle of Lepanto he saved a shred of Turkish honor by capturing the flagship of the Knights of Malta, turning the squadron of Doria and bringing 40 galleys safely back to Constantinople.  For this exploit he was made high admiral of the fleet, and his name was turned into "Sword" Ali – Kilij Ali.

An interesting sidelight is thrown on this picturesque character from so unexpected a source as the novel  "Don Quixote."  In Chapter 32 of the first part of that book, in which the captive relates his life and adventures, Cervantes tells with very little deviation from the fact, how he himself lost his left hand at the battle of Lepanto, how 4 years later he was captured by pirates and then taken to Algiers, and how he lived there five years as the slave of a cruel Albanian master.  Trying then to escape, he was caught and brought for trial before a personage whom he calls Uchali, but who was none other than our friend Kilij Ali.  The upshot of the matter was that the builder of our beautiful mosque bought the author of our immortal novel, whom he treated with great kindness and presently accepted for him, in 1581, the very moderate ransom of 500 crowns.  So might a half-forgotten building in Tophane be brought back to light as the mosque of Don Quixote.

Kilic Ali Pasha's legacy is thus:
     1) He built the Kilic Ali Pasa Mosque (1580) and Baths (153) in Istanbul;
     2) Several warships and submarines of the Turkish Navy have been named
            after him, and
     3) His statue is in the center square of Le Castella in Calabria, Italy.

Now this story, a true one, shows you the width of the net that holds Immortal Nobodies.

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