The Barbary pirates, sometimes called Barbary corsairs or Ottoman corsairs, were Ottoman and Maghrebi pirates and privateers who operated from North Africa, based primarily in the ports of Salé, Rabat, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli. This area was known in Europe as the Barbary Coast, a term derived from the name of its ethnically Berber inhabitants. Their predation extended throughout the Mediterranean, south along West Africa's Atlantic seaboard and into the North Atlantic as far north as Iceland, but they primarily operated in the western Mediterranean. In addition to seizing merchant ships, they engaged in Razzias, raids on European coastal towns and villages, mainly in Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal, but also in the British Isles, the Netherlands, and as far away as Iceland. The main purpose of their attacks was to capture Christian slaves for the Ottoman slave trade as well as the general Arab slavery market in North Africa and the Middle East.
While such raids had occurred since soon after the Muslim conquest of Iberia, the terms "Barbary pirates" and "Barbary corsairs" are normally applied to the raiders active from the 16th century onwards, when the frequency and range of the slavers' attacks increased. In that period Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli came under the sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire, either as directly administered provinces or as autonomous dependencies known as the Barbary States. Similar raids were undertaken from Salé and other ports in Morocco.
Barbary corsairs captured thousands of merchant ships and repeatedly raided coastal towns. As a result, residents abandoned their former villages of long stretches of coast in Spain and Italy. Between 100,000 and 250,000 Iberians were enslaved by these raids.
The raids were such a problem coastal settlements were seldom undertaken until the 19th century. Between 1580 and 1680 corsairs were said to have captured about 850,000 people as slaves and from 1530 to 1780 as many as 1,250,000 people were enslaved. However, these numbers have been questioned by the historian Peter Earle. Some of these corsairs were European outcasts and converts (renegade) such as John Ward and Zymen Danseker. Hayreddin Barbarossa and Oruç Reis, Turkish Barbarossa Brothers, who took control of Algiers on behalf of the Ottomans in the early 16th century, were also notorious corsairs. The European pirates brought advanced sailing and shipbuilding techniques to the Barbary Coast around 1600, which enabled the corsairs to extend their activities into the Atlantic Ocean. The effects of the Barbary raids peaked in the early to mid-17th century.
Long after Europeans had abandoned oar-driven vessels in favor of sailing ships carrying tons of powerful cannon, many Barbary warships were galleys carrying a hundred or more fighting men armed with cutlasses and small arms. The Barbary navies were not battle fleets. When they sighted a European frigate, they fled.
The scope of corsair activity began to diminish in the latter part of the 17th century, as the more powerful European navies started to compel the Barbary States to make peace and cease attacking their shipping. However, the ships and coasts of Christian states without such effective protection continued to suffer until the early 19th century. Following the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna in 1814–15, European powers agreed upon the need to suppress the Barbary corsairs entirely and the threat was largely subdued. Occasional incidents occurred, including two Barbary wars between the United States and the Barbary States, until finally terminated by the French conquest of Algiers in 1830.
Piracy by Muslim populations had been known in the Mediterranean since at least the 9th century and the short-lived Emirate of Crete. Provence was plagued by Saracen slave raids in the Carolingian era; in 869, archbishop Rotlandus of Arles was captured, and died before he could be released after the payment of a ransom in weapons, treasure and slaves.
In 1198 the problem of Berber piracy and slave-taking was so great that a religious order, the Trinitarians, were founded to collect ransoms and even to exchange themselves as ransom for those captured and pressed into slavery in North Africa. In the 14th century Tunisian corsairs became enough of a threat to provoke a Franco-Genoese attack on Mahdia in 1390, also known as the "Barbary Crusade". Morisco exiles of the Reconquista and Maghreb pirates added to the numbers, but it was not until the expansion of the Ottoman Empire and the arrival of the privateer and admiral Kemal Reis in 1487 that the Barbary corsairs became a true menace to shipping from European Christian nations.
The Barbary pirates had long attacked English and other European shipping along the North Coast of Africa. They had been attacking English merchant and passengers ships since the 1600s. Regular fundraising for ransoms was undertaken generally by families and local church groups, who generally raised the ransoms for individuals. The government did not ransom ordinary persons. The English became familiar with captivity narratives written by Barbary pirates' prisoners and ransomed captives, as so many people were taken. After English colonists began to go to North America and be taken captive by Native Americans, both the colonists and people in England had some basis for considering the meaning of captivity for a Christian in an alien society.
During the American Revolution the pirates attacked American merchant vessels in the Mediterranean. But, on December 20, 1777, Sultan Mohammed III of Morocco issued a declaration recognizing America as an independent country, and that American merchant ships could enjoy safe passage into the Mediterranean and along the coast. The relations were formalized with the Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship signed in 1786, which stands as the U.S.'s oldest non-broken friendship treaty with a foreign power.
As late as 1798, an islet near Sardinia was attacked by the Tunisians, and more than 900 inhabitants were taken away as slaves. Throughout history, geography was on the pirates' side on the Northern coast of Africa. The coast was ideal for their wants and needs. With natural harbours often backed by lagoons, it provided a haven for guerrilla warfare, such as attacks on shipping vessels venturing through their territory. On the coast, mountainous areas provided ample reconnaissance for the corsairs as well. Ships were spotted from afar; the pirates had time to prepare their attacks and surprise the ships.
Moors and Turkish adventurers from the Levant, of whom the most successful were Hızır and Oruç, natives of Mitylene, increased the number of raids around the turn of the 15th century. In response, Spain began to conquer the coastal towns of Oran, Algiers and Tunis. But after Oruç was killed in battle with the Spanish in 1518, his brother Hızır appealed to Selim I, the Ottoman sultan, who sent him troops. In 1529, Hızır drove the Spaniards from the rocky, fortified island in front of Algiers, and founded the Ottoman power in the region. From about 1518 till the death of Uluç Ali in 1587, Algiers was the main seat of government of the beylerbeys of northern Africa, who ruled over Tripoli, Tunisia and Algeria. From 1587 to 1659, they were ruled by Ottoman pashas, sent from Constantinople to govern for three years; but in the latter year a military revolt in Algiers reduced the pashas to nonentities.
From 1659, these African cities, although nominally part of the Ottoman Empire, were in fact military republics that chose their own rulers and lived by war booty captured from the Spanish and Portuguese. There are several cases of Sephardic Jews, including Sinan Reis and Samuel Pallache, who upon fleeing Iberia turned to attacking the Spanish Empire's shipping under the Ottoman flag, a profitable strategy of revenge for the Inquisition's religious persecution.
During the first period (1518–1587), the beylerbeys were admirals of the sultan, commanding great fleets and conducting war operations for political ends. They were slave-hunters and their methods were ferocious. After 1587, the sole object of their successors became plunder, on land and sea. The maritime operations were conducted by the captains, or reises, who formed a class or even a corporation. Cruisers were fitted out by investors and commanded by the reises. Ten percent of the value of the prizes was paid to the pasha or his successors, who bore the titles of agha or dey or bey.
In 1544 Hayreddin captured the island of Ischia, taking 4,000 prisoners, and enslaved some 2,000–7,000 inhabitants of Lipari. In 1551 Turgut Reis enslaved the entire population of the Maltese island of Gozo, between 5,000 and 6,000, sending them to Ottoman Tripolitania. In 1554 corsairs under Turgut Reis sacked Vieste, beheaded 5,000 of its inhabitants, and abducted another 6,000. In 1555 Turgut Reis sacked Bastia, Corsica, taking 6,000 prisoners. In 1558, Barbary corsairs captured the town of Ciutadella (Minorca), destroyed it, murdered many inhabitants, and took 3,000 to Constantinople as slaves. In 1563 Turgut Reis landed on the shores of the province of Granada, Spain, and captured coastal settlements in the area, such as Almuñécar, along with 4,000 prisoners. Barbary corsairs often attacked the Balearic Islands, and in response many coastal watchtowers and fortified churches were erected. The threat was so severe that residents abandoned the island of Formentera.
Even at this early stage, the European states fought back: Livorno's monument Quattro Mori celebrates 16th-century victories against the Barbary corsairs won by the Knights of Malta and the Order of Saint Stephen, of which the Grand Duke of Tuscany Ferdinando I de' Medici was Grand Master. Another response was the construction of the original frigates; light, fast and maneuverable galleys, designed to run down Barbary corsairs trying to get away with their loot and slaves. Other measures included coastal lookouts to give warning for people to withdraw into fortified places and rally local forces to fight the corsairs. This latter goal was especially difficult to achieve as the corsairs had the advantage of surprise; the vulnerable European Mediterranean coasts were very long and easily accessible from the north African Barbary bases, and the corsairs were careful in planning their raids.
During the first half of the 17th century, Barbary raiding was at its peak. This was due largely to the contribution of Dutch corsairs, notably Zymen Danseker (Simon de Danser), who used the Barbary ports as bases for attacking Spanish shipping during the Dutch Revolt. They cooperated with local raiders and introduced them to the latest Dutch sailing rigs, enabling them to brave Atlantic waters. Some of these Dutch corsairs converted to Islam and settled permanently in North Africa. Two examples are Süleyman Reis, "De Veenboer", who became admiral of the Algerian corsair fleet in 1617, and his quartermaster Murat Reis, born Jan Janszoon. Both worked for the notorious Dutch corsair Zymen Danseker.
A notable counter action occurred in 1607, when the Knights of Saint Stephen (under Jacopo Inghirami) sacked Bona in Algeria, killing 470 and taking 1,464 captives. This victory is commemorated by a series of frescoes painted by Bernardino Poccetti in the "Sala di Bona" of Palazzo Pitti, Florence. In 1611 Spanish galleys from Naples, accompanied by the galleys of the Knights of Malta, raided the Kerkennah Islands off the coast of Tunisia and took away almost 500 Muslim captives. Between 1568 and 1634 the Knights of Saint Stephen may have captured about 14,000 Muslims, with perhaps one-third taken in land raids and two-thirds taken on captured ships.
Barbary corsair attacks were common in southern Portugal, south and east Spain, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, Sardinia, Corsica, Elba, the Italian Peninsula (especially the Tyrrhenian coast), Sicily and Malta. They also occurred on the Atlantic northwest coast of the Iberian Peninsula as in 1617, when the North African corsairs launched their major attack in the region. They destroyed and sacked Bouzas, Cangas do Morrazo and the churches of Moaña and Darbo.
Occasionally coastal raids reached farther afield. Iceland was subject to raids in 1627. Jan Janszoon (Murat Reis the Younger) is said to have taken 400 prisoners; 242 of the captives later were sold into slavery on the Barbary Coast. The corsairs took only young people and those in good physical condition. All those offering resistance were killed, and the old people were gathered into a church which was set on fire. Among those captured was Ólafur Egilsson, who was ransomed the next year. Upon returning to Iceland, he wrote an account about his experience. Such captivity narratives by Europeans who had been held in Muslim states eventually constituted a literary genre.
Ireland was subject to a similar attack. In June 1631 Murat Reis, with corsairs from Algiers and armed troops of the Ottoman Empire, stormed ashore at the little harbor village of Baltimore, County Cork. They captured almost all the villagers and took them away to a life of slavery in North Africa. The prisoners were destined for a variety of fates – some lived out their days chained to the oars as galley slaves, while women spent long years as concubines in harems or within the walls of the sultan's palace. Only two of these captives ever returned to Ireland.
More than 20,000 captives were said to be imprisoned in Algiers alone. The rich were often able to secure release through ransom, but the poor were condemned to slavery. Their masters would on occasion allow them to secure freedom by professing Islam. A long list might be given of people of good social position, not only Italians or Spaniards, but German or English travelers in the south, who were captives for a time. While the chief victims were the inhabitants of the coasts of Sicily, Naples and Spain, all traders of nations which did not pay tribute for immunity or force the Barbary States to leave them alone were liable to be taken at sea. Religious orders – the Redemptorists and Lazarists – worked for the redemption of captives, and in many countries the wealthy left legacies to support such redemptions.
Barbary piracy thrived on the competition among European powers. France encouraged the corsairs against Spain, and later Britain and Holland supported them against France. By the second half of the 17th century, the greater European naval powers were able to strike back effectively enough to intimidate the Barbary States into making peace with them. However, those countries' commercial interests benefited by the pirates continuing attacks on their competitors. As a result, they did not cooperate to impose a more general cessation of corsair activity.
England was the most successful of the Christian states in dealing with the corsair threat. From the 1630s onwards England had signed peace treaties with the Barbary States on various occasions, but invariably breaches of these agreements led to renewed wars. A particular bone of contention was the tendency of foreign ships to pose as English to avoid attack. However, growing English naval power and increasingly persistent operations against the corsairs proved increasingly costly for the Barbary States. During the reign of Charles II a series of English expeditions won victories over raiding Barbary squadrons and mounted attacks on their home ports; these actions permanently ended the Barbary threat to English shipping. In 1675 a Royal Navy squadron led by Sir John Narborough negotiated a lasting peace with Tunis and, after bombarding the city to induce compliance, with Tripoli. Peace with Salé followed in 1676.
Algiers, returned to war the following year, breaking a treaty made in 1671. After suffering defeats at the hands of an English squadron under Arthur Herbert, Algiers made peace again in 1682, in a treaty that lasted until 1816. France, which had recently emerged as a leading naval power, achieved comparable success soon afterwards. It bombarded Algiers in 1682, 1683 and 1688 to secure a lasting peace, and forced Tripoli to sue for peace by bombardment in 1686. A 2016 study found that Barbary corsairs were less militarily powerful after 1675 than they were at the start of the seventeenth century.
Piracy was enough of a problem that some states entered into the redemption business. In Denmark, "At the beginning of the 18th century money was collected systematically in all churches, and a so called 'slave fund' (slavekasse) was established by the state in 1715. Funds were brought in through a compulsory insurance sum for seafarers. 165 slaves were ransomed by this institution between 1716 and 1736." "Between 1716 and 1754 19 ships from Denmark-Norway were captured with 208 men; piracy was thus a serious problem for the Danish merchant fleet."
In the late 18th century piracy began to arise again. In 1783 and 1784 the Spanish bombarded Algiers to end piracy. The second time Admiral Barceló damaged the city so severely that the Algerian Dey asked Spain to negotiate a peace treaty. From then on Spanish vessels and coasts were safe for several years. Separately, the Danish attacked Tripoli in 1797.
Until the American Declaration of Independence in 1776, British treaties with the North African states protected American ships from the Barbary corsairs. Morocco, which in 1777 was the first independent nation to publicly recognize the United States, in 1784 became the first Barbary power to seize an American vessel after the nation achieved independence. The Barbary threat led directly to the United States founding the United States Navy in March 1794. While the United States did secure peace treaties with the Barbary states, it was obliged to pay tribute for protection from attack. The burden was substantial: in 1800 payments in ransom and tribute to the Barbary states amounted to 20% of United States federal government's annual expenditures. The United States conducted the First Barbary War in 1801 and the Second Barbary War in 1815 to gain more favorable peace terms; it ended the payment of tribute. But, Algiers broke the 1805 peace treaty after two years, and refused to implement the 1815 treaty until compelled to do so by Britain in 1816.
The Congress of Vienna (1814–15), which ended the Napoleonic Wars, led to increased European consensus on the need to end Barbary raiding. The sacking of Palma on the island of Sardinia by a Tunisian squadron, which carried off 158 inhabitants, roused widespread indignation. Britain had by this time banned the slave trade and was seeking to induce other countries to do likewise. States that were more vulnerable to the corsairs complained that Britain cared more for ending the trade in African slaves than stopping the enslavement of Europeans and Americans by the Barbary States.
In order to neutralise this objection and further the anti-slavery campaign, in 1816 Britain sent Lord Exmouth to secure new concessions from Tripoli, Tunis, and Algiers, including a pledge to treat Christian captives in any future conflict as prisoners of war rather than slaves. He imposed peace between Algiers and the kingdoms of Sardinia and Sicily. On his first visit, Lord Exmouth negotiated satisfactory treaties and sailed for home. While he was negotiating, a number of Sardinian fishermen who had settled at Bona on the Tunisian coast were brutally treated without his knowledge. As Sardinians they were technically under British protection, the government sent Exmouth back to secure reparation. On August 17, in combination with a Dutch squadron under Admiral Van de Capellen, Exmouth bombarded Algiers. Both Algiers and Tunis made fresh concessions as a result.
The Barbary states had difficulty securing uniform compliance with a total prohibition of slave-raiding, as this had been traditionally of central importance to the North African economy. Slavers continued to take captives by preying on less well-protected peoples. Algiers subsequently renewed its slave-raiding, though on a smaller scale. Europeans at the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1818 discussed possible retaliation. In 1820 a British fleet under Admiral Sir Harry Neal bombarded Algiers. Corsair activity based in Algiers did not entirely cease until France conquered the state in 1830.
According to Robert Davis, between 1 million and 1.25 million Europeans were captured by Barbary pirates and sold as slaves in North Africa and Ottoman Empire between the 16th and 19th centuries. However, to extrapolate his numbers, Davis assumes the number of European slaves captured by Barbary pirates were constant for a 250-year period, stating:
There are no records of how many men, women and children were enslaved, but it is possible to calculate roughly the number of fresh captives that would have been needed to keep populations steady and replace those slaves who died, escaped, were ransomed, or converted to Islam. On this basis it is thought that around 8,500 new slaves were needed annually to replenish numbers – about 850,000 captives over the century from 1580 to 1680. By extension, for the 250 years between 1530 and 1780, the figure could easily have been as high as 1,250,000.
Davis' numbers have been question by the historian David Earle, who said of Davis' numbers "His figures sound a bit dodgy and I think he may be exaggerating" and cautioned that the true picture of European slaves is clouded by the fact that the corsairs also seized non-Christian whites from eastern Europe and black people from west Africa.
In addition, the number of slaves traded was hyperactive, with exaggerated estimates relying on peak years to calculate averages for entire centuries, or millennia. Hence, there were wide fluctuations year-to-year, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries, given slave imports, and given the fact that, prior to the 1840s, there are no consistent records. Middle East expert, John Wright, cautions that modern estimates are based on back-calculations from human observation.
Such observations, across the late 1500s and early 1600s observers, account for around 35,000 European Christian slaves held throughout this period on the Barbary Coast, across Tripoli, Tunis, but mostly in Algiers. The majority were sailors (particularly those who were English), taken with their ships, but others were fishermen and poor coastal villagers. However, most of these captives were people from lands close to Africa, particularly Spain and Italy.
From bases on the Barbary coast, North Africa, the Barbary pirates raided ships traveling through the Mediterranean and along the northern and western coasts of Africa, plundering their cargo and enslaving the people they captured. From at least 1500, the pirates also conducted raids along seaside towns of Italy, Spain, France, England, the Netherlands and as far away as Iceland, capturing men, women and children. On some occasions, settlements such as Baltimore, Ireland were abandoned following the raid, only being resettled many years later. Between 1609 and 1616, England alone had 466 merchant ships lost to Barbary pirates.
While Barbary corsairs looted the cargo of ships they captured, their primary goal was to capture people for sale as slaves or for ransom. Those who had family or friends who might ransom them were held captive, but not obliged to work; the most famous of these was the author Miguel de Cervantes, who was held for almost five years. Others were sold into various types of servitude. Attractive women or boys could be used as sex slaves. Captives who converted to Islam were generally freed, since enslavement of Muslims was prohibited; but this meant that they could never return to their native countries.
Captives often suffered from privation on voyages to North Africa if taken at a distance. Those who survived the journeys were often forced to walk through town as they were taken to slave auctions. The slaves typically had to stand from eight in the morning until two in the afternoon while buyers viewed them. Next came the auction, where the townspeople would bid on the captives they wanted to purchase and once that was over, the governor of Algiers (the Dey) had the chance to purchase any slave he wanted for the price they were sold at the auction. During the auctions the slaves would be forced to run and jump around to show their strength and stamina. After purchase, the captives would either be held for ransom, or be put to work. Slaves were used for a wide variety of jobs, from hard manual labor to housework (the job assigned to most women slaves). At night the slaves were put into prisons called 'bagnios' (derived from the Italian word "bagno" for public bath, inspired by the Turks' use of Roman baths at Constantinople as prisons), which were often hot and overcrowded. However, these bagnios began improving by the 18th century. Some bagnios had chapels, hospitals, shops, and bars run by captives, though such amenities remained uncommon.
Although the conditions in bagnios were harsh, they were better than those endured by galley slaves. Most Barbary galleys were at sea for around eighty to a hundred days a year, but when the slaves assigned to them were on land, they were forced to do hard manual labor. There were exceptions: "galley slaves of the Ottoman Sultan in Constantinople would be permanently confined to their galleys, and often served extremely long terms, averaging around nineteen years in the late seventeenth-century and early eighteenth-century periods. These slaves rarely got off the galley but lived there for years." During this time, rowers were shackled and chained where they sat, and never allowed to leave. Sleeping (which was limited), eating, defecation and urination took place at the seat to which they were shackled. There were usually five or six rowers on each oar. Overseers would walk back and forth and whip slaves considered not to be working hard enough.
According to historian Adrian Tinniswood, the most notorious corsairs were English and European renegades who had learned their trade as privateers, and who moved to the Barbary Coast during peacetime to pursue their trade. These outcasts brought up-to-date naval expertise to the piracy business, and enabled the corsairs to make long-distance slave-catching raids as far away as Iceland and Newfoundland. The English corsair Henry Mainwaring later returned to England after gaining a royal pardon. He was knighted, elected to Parliament, and appointed a vice admiral of the Royal Navy.
The most famous of the corsairs in North Africa were brothers Oruç and Hızır Hayreddin. They, and two less well-known brothers, all became Barbary corsairs; they were called the Barbarossas (Italian for Redbeards) after the red beard of Oruç, the eldest. Oruç captured the island of Djerba for the Ottoman Empire in 1502 or 1503. He often attacked Spanish territories on the coast of North Africa; during one failed attempt in 1512 he lost his left arm to a cannonball. The eldest Barbarossa also went on a rampage through Algiers in 1516, and captured the town with the help of the Ottoman Empire. He executed the ruler of Algiers and everybody he suspected would oppose him, including local rulers. He was finally captured and killed by the Spanish in 1518, and put on display.
Oruç, based mainly on land, was not the best-known of the Barbarossas. His youngest brother Hızır (later called Hayreddin or Kheir ed-Din) was a more traditional corsair. He was a capable engineer and spoke at least six languages. He dyed the hair of his head and beard with henna to redden it like Oruç's. After capturing many crucial coastal areas, Hayreddin was appointed admiral-in-chief of the Ottoman sultan's fleet. Under his command the Ottoman Empire was able to gain and keep control of the eastern Mediterranean for over thirty years. Barbaros Hızır Hayreddin Pasha died in 1546 of a fever, possibly the plague.
English corsair Jack, or John, Ward was once called "beyond doubt the greatest scoundrel that ever sailed from England" by the English ambassador to Venice. Ward was a privateer for Queen Elizabeth during her war with Spain; after the end of the war, he became a corsair. With some associates he captured a ship in about 1603 and sailed it to Tunis; he and his crew converted to Islam. He was successful and became rich. He introduced heavily armed square-rigged ships, used instead of galleys, to the North African area, a major reason for the Barbary's future dominance of the Mediterranean. He died of plague in 1622.
Sayyida al-Hurra was a female Muslim cleric, merchant, governor of Tétouan, and later the wife of the sultan of Morocco. She was born around 1485 in the Emirate of Granada, but was forced to flee to Morocco when she was very young to escape the Reconquista. In Morocco, she gathered a crew largely of exiled Moors, and launched pirate expeditions against Spain and Portugal to avenge the Reconquista, protect Morocco from Christian pirates, and seek riches and glory. She co-founded the Barbary Corsairs with her allies the Barbarossa brothers, who divided the Mediterranean between them—the Barbarossas and their Ottoman fleet operating in the east, and Sayyida al-Hurra and her Moorish and North-African pirates operating in the west. Sayyida al-Hurra became wealthy and renowned enough for the Sultan of Morocco, Ahmad al-Wattasi to make her his queen. Notably, however, she refused to marry in his capital of Fez, and would not get married but in Tétouan, of which she was governor. This was the first and only time in history that a Moroccan monarch had married away from his capital.
Barbary corsairs are protagonists in Le pantere di Algeri (the panthers of Algiers) by Emilio Salgari. They were featured in a number of other noted novels, including Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, père, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, The Sea Hawk and the Sword of Islam by Rafael Sabatini, The Algerine Captive by Royall Tyler, Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian, the Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson, The Walking Drum by Louis Lamour, Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting, Corsair by Clive Cussler and Angélique in Barbary by Anne Golon. Miguel de Cervantes, the Spanish author, was captive for five years as a slave in the bagnio of Algiers, and reflected his experience in some of his fictional (but not directly autobiographical) writings, including the Captive's tale in Don Quixote, his two plays set in Algiers, El Trato de Argel (The Treaty of Algiers) and Los Baños de Argel (The Baths of Algiers), and episodes in a number of other works. In Mozart's opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail (a Singspiel), two European ladies are discovered in a Turkish harem, presumably captured by Barbary corsairs. Rossini's opera L'Italiana in Algeri is based on the capture of several slaves by Barbary corsairs led by the bey of Algiers.
One of the stereotypical features of a pirate as portrayed in popular culture, the eye patch, may have been partially derived from the Arab corsair Rahmah ibn Jabir al-Jalahimah, who wore a patch after losing an eye in battle in the 18th century.
The Action of 28 November 1751 was a naval engagement of the Spanish-Algerian conflict, fought off Cape St Vincent between a squadron of two Spanish ships of the line under Captain Pedro Fitz-James Stuart and an Algerian squadron of equal strength. Captain Pedro Fitz-James Stuart's ships pursued one of the Algerian privateers and managed to force it to surrender it after a fierce exchange of fire. The ship, badly damaged, had to be scuttled, but its surviving crew and 50 Christian slaves were rescued and taken aboard Stuart's flagship.Angelo Emo
Angelo Emo (3 January 1731 – 1 March 1792) was a Venetian noble and admiral, mostly known for being the last admiral of the Republic of Venice to lead the Venetian navy to battle. He attempted to introduce reforms based on the practices of the British Royal Navy, and led raids on Moorish targets along the Barbary Coast in retaliation for corsair attacks on Venetian-flagged shipping.Anglo-Turkish piracy
Anglo-Turkish piracy or the Anglo-Barbary piracy refers to the collaboration between Barbary pirates and English pirates against Catholic shipping during the 17th century.Barbary Coast
The term Barbary Coast (also Barbary, Berbery or Berber Coast) was used by Europeans from the 16th century to the early 19th to refer to the coastal regions of North Africa inhabited by Berber people. Today this land is part of the modern nations of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya.
The English term "Barbary" (and its European varieties: Barbaria, Berbérie, etc.) could refer to all the Berber lands whether coastal or not, as seen in European geographical and political maps published during the 17th–20th centuries.The name derives from the Berber people of North Africa, from Greek Bàrbaroi (Βάρβαροι) and the Arabic Barbar ( بربر ), meaning "barbaric". In the West, the name commonly evoked the Barbary pirates and Barbary slave traders based on that coast—who attacked ships and coastal settlements in the Mediterranean Sea and eastern North Atlantic Ocean, and captured and traded slaves or goods from Europe, America and sub-Saharan Africa. These actions finally provoked the Barbary Wars of the early 19th century.Barbary Wars
The Barbary Wars were a series of conflicts that culminated in two wars fought at different times over the same reasons between the United States, Sweden, and the Barbary states (the de jure possessions of the Ottoman Empire, but de facto independent, Tunis, Algiers, and Tripoli) of North Africa in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The Swedes had been at war with the Tripolitans since 1800; they were eventually joined by the Americans.At issue was the Barbary pirates' demand for tribute from American merchant vessels in the Mediterranean Sea. If ships of a given country failed to pay, pirates would attack the ship and take their goods, and often enslave crew members or hold them for ransom.
When Thomas Jefferson became President of the United States in March 1801, he refused to pay tribute and sent a United States Naval fleet to the Mediterranean; the fleet bombarded various fortified pirate cities in present-day Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria, ultimately extracting concessions of fair passage from their rulers. James Madison, Jefferson's successor, directed military forces for the second war in 1815, shortly after the conclusion of the War of 1812 against the British.Barbary slave trade
The Barbary slave trade refers to the slave markets that were lucrative and vast on the Barbary Coast of North Africa, which included the Ottoman provinces of Algeria, Tunisia and Tripolitania and the independent sultanate of Morocco, between the 16th and middle of the 18th century. The Ottoman provinces in North Africa were nominally under Ottoman suzerainty, but in reality they were mostly autonomous. The North African slave markets were part of the Berber slave trade.
Perpetrated largely on Europeans, and within in-land routes to indigenous European inhabitants. These peoples were systematically preyed upon and turned into slaves, acquired by Barbary pirates during slave raids on ships and by raids on coastal towns from Italy to the Netherlands, as far north as Iceland and in the eastern shores of the Mediterranean.
The Ottoman eastern Mediterranean was the scene of intense piracy. As late as the 18th century, piracy continued to be a "consistent threat to maritime traffic in the Aegean".For centuries, large vessels on the Mediterranean relied on galley slaves supplied by North African and Ottoman slave traders.Bombardment of Algiers (1683)
The bombardment of Algiers in 1683 was a French naval operation against the Regency of Algiers during the Franco-Algerian War of 1681-88. It led to the rescue of more than 100 French prisoners, in some cases after decades of captivity, but the great majority of Christian slaves in Algiers were not liberated.Bombardment of Algiers (1784)
The 2nd Bombardment of Algiers took place between 12 and 21 July 1784. A joint Spanish-Neapolitan-Maltese-Portuguese fleet commanded by the experienced Spanish Admiral Antonio Barceló bombarded the city, which was the main base of the Barbary corsairs, with the aim of forcing them to interrupt their activities. Massive damage and casualties were inflicted to the Algerians, while the loss aboard the allied fleet was low. The Dey of Algiers refused to start negotiations immediately but the fear of a third planned expedition under José de Mazarredo convinced him to negotiate a peace with the Spanish by which he was forced to cease large-scale piracy, signalling the effective end of the Barbary privateering until the outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars.Cape Palos
Cape Palos (Spanish: Cabo de Palos) is a cape in the Spanish municipality of Cartagena, in the region of Murcia. It is part of a small range of volcanic mounts that form a small peninsula. The Mediterranean islands of Grosa and the group known as the Hormigas Islands are part of this range, as well as the islands in the Mar Menor (“Little Sea”). The name "Palos" is derived from the Latin word palus, meaning lagoon, a reference to the Mar Menor.
According to Pliny the Elder and Rufus Festus Avienus, there was once a temple dedicated to Baal Hammon on the promontory of the cape, which later became associated with the cult of Saturn. During the reign of Philip II of Spain, a watchtower was built on the promontory as a defense measure against the Barbary Pirates. A battle off the cape took place on June 19, 1815 between US naval forces and the Barbary Pirates. During the Spanish Civil War, the Battle of Cape Palos took place near the cape in 1938.
Its lighthouse began operating on January 31, 1865. The cape is part of a marine reserve, the Reserva Marina de Cabo de Palos e Islas Hormigas.Golden Age of Piracy
The Golden Age of Piracy is a common designation given to usually one or more outbursts of piracy in the maritime history of the early modern period. In its broadest accepted definition, the Golden Age of Piracy spans the 1650s to the late 1720s and covers three separate outbursts of piracy:
The buccaneering period of approximately 1650 to 1680, characterized by Anglo-French seamen based on Jamaica and Tortuga attacking Spanish colonies and shipping in the Caribbean and eastern Pacific
The Pirate Round of the 1690s, associated with long-distance voyages from the Americas to rob Muslim and East India Company targets in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea
The post-Spanish Succession period extending from 1716 to 1726, when Anglo-American sailors and privateers left unemployed by the end of the War of the Spanish Succession, turned en masse to piracy in the Caribbean, the North American eastern seaboard, the West African coast, and the Indian OceanNarrower definitions of the Golden Age sometimes exclude the first or second periods, but most include at least some portion of the third. The modern conception of pirates as depicted in popular culture is derived largely, although not always accurately, from the Golden Age of Piracy.
Factors contributing to piracy during the Golden Age included the rise in quantities of valuable cargoes being shipped to Europe over vast ocean areas, reduced European navies in certain regions, the training and experience that many sailors had gained in European navies (particularly the Royal Navy), and ineffective government in European overseas colonies. The colonial powers at the time constantly fought with pirates and engaged in several notable battles and other related events.Republic of Salé
The Republic of Salé was a short-lived city state at Salé (modern Morocco), during the 17th Century. Located at the mouth of the Bou Regreg river, it was founded by Moriscos from the town of Hornachos, in Western Spain. Moriscos were the descendants of Muslims who were nominally converted to Christianity, and were subject to mass deportation during the Spanish Inquisition. The Republic's main commercial activities were the Barbary slave trade and piracy during its brief existence in the 17th century. The city is now part of the Kingdom of Morocco.Sack of Baltimore
The Sack of Baltimore took place on June 20, 1631, when the village of Baltimore, West Cork, Ireland, was attacked by the Ottoman Algeria and Republic of Salé slavers from the Barbary Coast of North Africa – Moroccans, Dutchmen, Algerians and Ottoman Turks. The attack was the largest by Barbary pirates on either Ireland or Great Britain.The attack was led by a Dutch captain, Jan Janszoon van Haarlem, also known as Murad Reis the Younger. Murad's force was led to the village by a man called Hackett, the captain of a fishing boat he had captured earlier, in exchange for his freedom. Hackett was subsequently hanged from the clifftop outside the village for conspiracy.Salé Rovers
The Salé Rovers, also Sale Rovers or Salle Rovers, were a dreaded band of Barbary corsairs in the 17th century. They formed the Republic of Salé on the Moroccan coast. The most famous of the rovers was Jan Janszoon, a Dutchman who had been a pirate for Holland in the Mediterranean. He "turned Turk" after being captured by one of the Moorish states in 1618 and became known as Admiral Murat Reis.Sinan Reis
Sinan Reis, also Ciphut Sinan, (Hebrew: סנאן ראיס, Sinan Rais; Arabic: سنان ريس, Sinan Rayyis;) "Sinan the Chief", and Portuguese: Sinao o Judeo, "Sinan the Jew", was a Barbary corsair and Jewish pirate who sailed under the famed Ottoman admiral Hayreddin Barbarossa.Slavery on the Barbary Coast
Slavery on the Barbary Coast (see Barbary slave trade) was a form of unfree labour which existed between the 16th and 18th centuries in the Barbary Coast area of North Africa.
According to Robert Davis, between 1 million and 1.25 million Europeans were captured by Barbary pirates and sold as slaves in North Africa and The Ottoman Empire between the 16th and 19th centuries. However, these numbers have been refuted by other historians, such as David Earle, author of The Corsairs of Malta and Barbary and The Pirate Wars.
From bases on the Barbary coast, North Africa, the Barbary pirates raided ships traveling through the Mediterranean and along the northern and western coasts of Africa, plundering their cargo and enslaving the people they captured. From at least 1500, the pirates also conducted raids along seaside towns of Italy, Spain, France, England, the Netherlands and as far away as Iceland, capturing men, women and children. On some occasions, settlements such as Baltimore, Ireland were abandoned following the raid, only being resettled many years later. Between 1609 and 1616, England alone had 466 merchant ships lost to Barbary pirates.Treaty of Tripoli
The Treaty of Tripoli (Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary), signed in 1796, was the first treaty between the United States of America and Tripoli (now Libya) to secure commercial shipping rights and protect American ships in the Mediterranean Sea from local Barbary pirates.
It was signed in Tripoli on November 4, 1796, and at Algiers (for a third-party witness) on January 3, 1797. It was ratified by the United States Senate unanimously without debate on June 7, 1797, taking effect June 10, 1797, with the signature of President John Adams.
The Treaty is often cited, in discussions regarding the role of religion in United States government, for a clause in Article 11 of the English language American version which states that "the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." A superseding treaty, the Treaty of Peace and Amity signed on July 4, 1805, omitted this phrase.Turkish Abductions
The Turkish Abductions (Icelandic: Tyrkjaránið) were a series of slave raids by Ottoman pirates that took place in Iceland between 20 June and 19 July 1627. Pirates from Morocco and Algeria, under the command of Dutch pirate Murat Reis, raided the village of Grindavík on the southwestern coast, Berufjörður and Breiðdalur in the Eastern Region (the East Fjords), and Vestmannaeyjar (islands off the south coast); they captured an estimated 400–800 prisoners to sell into slavery.Zymen Danseker
Siemen Danziger (c. 1579 – c. 1615), better known by his anglicized names Zymen Danseker and Simon de Danser, was a 17th-century Dutch privateer and corsair. His name is also written Danziker, Dansker, or Danser.
Danseker and the English pirate John Ward were the two most prominent renegades operating in the Barbary coast during the early 17th century. Both were said to command squadrons in Algiers and Tunis that were equal to their European counterparts, and, as allies, together represented a formidable naval power (much as had Aruj and Hayreddin Barbarossa in the previous century). Later in his Barbary career, Danseker became known by the Turkish epithet Simon Re'is.
Commanding a vast squadron made up of English and Turks while in the service of Algiers, Danziger captured more than 40 ships in a two-year period after "turning Turk" and was stopped only by his capture and execution in 1611. Both men are featured prominently in Kitab al-Munis fi Akhbar Ifriqiya wa Tunis written by Tunisian writer and historian Ibn Abi Dinar.Ólafur Egilsson
Ólafur Egilsson (1564 – 1 March 1639) was an Icelandic Lutheran minister. In 1627, he was abducted, along with his wife and two sons, by Barbary Pirates under the Ottoman Empire during their raid on Vestmannaeyjar. The raid is known in Icelandic history as Tyrkjaránið (The Turkish abductions). He returned to Vestmannaeyjar in 1628 but his wife Ásta Þorsteinsdóttir did not return until 1637 and his sons never returned. He later wrote a memoir of his abduction and return, which was published both in Iceland and in Denmark.
Ólafur Egilsson and his wife Ásta Þorsteinsdóttir are major characters in the 2018 historical novel The Sealwoman's Gift by Sally Magnusson.
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