Dardanelles Gun

Great Turkish Bombard at Fort Nelson.JPG
Dismantled Dardanelles Gun at Fort Nelson, Hampshire, overlooking Portsmouth
Service history
Used byOttoman Empire
WarsFall of Constantinople
Production history
DesignerMunir Ali[1]
Mass16,800 kg (37,000 lb)[2]
Barrel length518 cm (204 in)[1]
Diameter1,054 mm (41.5 in)

Actionslow match
Feed systemmuzzle loader

The Basillica[3] or Great Turkish Bombard[2] (Turkish: Şahi topu or simply Şahi) is a 15th-century siege cannon, specifically a super-sized bombard, which saw action in the 1807 Dardanelles operation.[4] It was built in 1464 by Turkish military engineer Munir Ali and modelled after the Orban bombard that was used for the Ottoman besiegers of Constantinople in 1453.


The Dardanelles Gun was cast in bronze in 1464 by Munir Ali with a weight of 16.8 tonnes and a length of 5.18 m (17.0 ft), being capable of firing stone balls of up to 0.63 m diameter (24.8 in).[1] The powder chamber and the barrel are connected by the way of a screw mechanism, allowing easier transport of the unwieldy device.

Such super-sized bombards had been employed in Ottoman warfare[5] and in Western European siege warfare since the beginning of the 15th century.[6] According to Paul Hammer and Gábor Ágoston, the technology could have been introduced from other Islamic countries which had earlier used cannons.[7] The Ottoman army successfully deployed large bombards at the siege of Salonica in 1430, and against the Hexamilion wall at the Isthmus of Corinth in 1446.[5]

At the siege of Constantinople in 1453, the Ottomans employed a number of cannons, anywhere from 12 to 62. They were built at foundries that employed Turkish cannon founders and technicians, most notably Saruca, in addition to at least one foreign cannon founder, Orban. Most of the cannons at the siege were built by Turkish engineers, including a large bombard by Saruca, while one cannon was built by Orban, who also contributed a large bombard.[8][9] Orban was from Brassó, Kingdom of Hungary, before working for the Ottoman army in 1453.[10] Ali's piece is assumed to have closely followed the outline of the large bombards used at the siege of Constantinople.[10]

Along with other huge cannons, the Dardanelles Gun was still present for duty more than 340 years later in 1807, when a Royal Navy force appeared and commenced the Dardanelles Operation. Turkish forces loaded the ancient relics with propellant and projectiles, then fired them at the British ships. The British squadron suffered 28 casualties from this bombardment.[4] A spheric round made of full iron, 63 centimetres (25 in) of diameter, has a weight of 1,027.5 kilograms (2,265 lb).

In 1866, on the occasion of a state visit, Sultan Abdülâziz gave the Dardanelles Gun to Queen Victoria as a present.[10] It became part of the Royal Armouries collection and was displayed to visitors at the Tower of London and was later moved to Fort Nelson, Hampshire, overlooking Portsmouth.[11]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Schmidtchen (1977b), pp. 226–228
  2. ^ a b c https://collections.royalarmouries.org/object/rac-object-6177.html
  3. ^ Ffoulkes (1930), pp. 217–227; Schmidtchen (1977b), pp. 226–228
  4. ^ a b Schmidtchen (1977b), p. 228
  5. ^ a b Ágoston, Gábor (2005). Guns for the Sultan: Military Power and the Weapons Industry in the Ottoman Empire. Cambridge University Press. pp. 64–6. ISBN 9780521843133.
  6. ^ Schmidtchen (1977a), pp. 153–157
  7. ^ Paul E. J. Hammer (2007), Warfare in Early Modern Europe 1450–1660, page 297, Ashgate Publishing
  8. ^ Steele, Brett D. (2005). The Heirs of Archimedes: Science and the Art of War Through the Age of Enlightenment. MIT Press. p. 106. ISBN 9780262195164.
  9. ^ Hammer, Paul E. J. (2017). Warfare in Early Modern Europe 1450–1660. Routledge. p. 511. ISBN 9781351873765.
  10. ^ a b c Schmidtchen (1977b), p. 226
  11. ^ "Geometry of War – Pg. 6" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 June 2011. Retrieved 7 September 2007.


  • Ffoulkes, Charles, "The 'Dardanelles' Gun at the Tower", Antiquarian Journal, Vol. 10 (1930), pp. 217–227
  • Schmidtchen, Volker (1977a), "Riesengeschütze des 15. Jahrhunderts. Technische Höchstleistungen ihrer Zeit", Technikgeschichte 44 (2): 153–173 (153–157)
  • Schmidtchen, Volker (1977b), "Riesengeschütze des 15. Jahrhunderts. Technische Höchstleistungen ihrer Zeit", Technikgeschichte 44 (3): 213–237 (226–228)

External links

Media related to Dardanelles Gun at Wikimedia Commons

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