Holy Wars and Piratical Governments: Barbary Corsairs
(With a Comparative Look at Maltese Corsairs)
By Marisa Huber
I. Introduction
Robbing ships simply to survive has always been the most basic form of piracy.[1] Additionally, the career of a pirate, with all of its chances, was often very prosperous.[2] Barbary corsairs, however, were further determined by religion.[3] The corsairs of the Mediterranean engaged in what they themselves saw as a holy war against the enemies of their faith.[4] Such corsairs were engaging in officially sponsored piracy, carrying commissions from their rulers and viewing themselves as warriors of Islam.[5] Furthermore, many governments supported or at least condoned piracy committed by their own subjects, seeing it as a cheap and effective way of advancing trade and empire.[6]
The usual explanation of the origin of the word “Barbary” is that it is a corruption of the word “Berber” which is derived from a derogatory ancient Greek word meaning anything non-Greek.[7] This derogatory term also became the root of the word “Barbarian.”[8]
“Corsair” is a word that etymologically derives from the Italian word corso, meaning chase, therefore a corsair is “one who gives chase.”[9] This term has different linguistic and cultural connotations. For example, in Mediterranean languages corsaro or corsaire merely means privateer, or one who has been commissioned by the state to pursue predatory activities on the sea.[10] In English, however, corsair is usually a synonym for pirate,[11] or one who commits illegitimate robbery on the sea.[12]
Since the earliest times Christians have used the name “Barbary” to describe the southern coast of the Mediterranean, from Egypt to the Atlantic and on beyond Gibraltar.[13] Though piracy was common on the Mediterranean since ancient times, the Crusades established the pattern for later piracy in the region.[14] Then, between 1519 and 1573 the Ottoman Turks extended their empire over all of North Africa.[15] Thereafter, the Barbary corsairs operated from the three Turkish North African regencies of Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli (roughly equivalent to the modern countries of Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya).[16]
The fleets operating from each port were essentially opportunistic in order to take full advantage of Mediterranean maritime traffic.[17] However, each fleet did have basic territory: corsairs of Algiers cruised between Sicily and Gibraltar, fleets from Tripoli cruised east of Sicily, and the corsairs based in Tunis cruised in the central and eastern Mediterranean.[18]

II. History
Two brothers were largely responsible for building the ports of the Ottoman regencies into bases for Barbary corsairs.[19] Aruj and Kheir-ed-din came from a Greek family that had converted to Islam.[20] Their father, Ya’kub, had been left on the isle of Lesbos when Sultan Mohammed II conquered it in 1462.[21]
The eldest was Aruj, who was deemed Barbarossa because of his red beard.[22] He first served in the legitimate Turkish navy before he left to take command of a privateering vessel.[23] On his subsequent voyages, he called at the port of Tunis where he struck a deal with the king.[24] In exchange for harbor facilities and protection from pursuit,[25] Aruj was to pay the king one-fifth of everything he captured.[26] Aruj was a very successful corsair.[27] He began by capturing two of the pope’s grand galleys and became famous with eight ships under his command within five years.[28]
In the early 1500’s, the Moors who had been expelled from Spain were suffering in Algiers from a Spanish-inflicted blockade and requested Aruj’s help.[29] Aruj and his brother, Kheir-ed-din, thus set out with 6,000 men and sixteen galleot ships.[30] The two brothers and their fleet rapidly took control of Algiers, put down a rebellion, and repelled a flotilla of Spanish ships.[31] By 1517, Aruj controlled much of what is now Algeria.[32]
Upon his older brother’s death in a fight, Kheir-ed-din, which means “defender of the faith,” took Aruj’s place as a powerful force in Algiers.[33] Although his beard was not red like Aruj’s, he was also known as Barbarossa.[34] Kheir-ed-din was much more cultured and sophisticated than his brother had been, speaking six languages fluently.[35]
In 1519 Kheir-ed-din was appointed Beglerbeg, or Governor-General, of Algiers by Sultan Selim of the Ottoman Empire.[36] By 1525 Kheir-ed-din had reinforced his hold over Algiers and built it into a very powerful corsair base, strengthening Ottoman power on the way.[37] His fleet was continually increasing until he had thirty-six of his own galleots perpetually cruising in the summer.[38] His fighting forces were also constantly increasing with the addition of some of the 70,000 Moriscos Kheir-ed-din had rescued from servitude in Spain.[39]
After the Ottoman Empire seized Rhodes and proclaimed complete domination of the eastern Mediterranean basin,[40] the Sultan promoted Kheir-ed-din to Capudan Pasha, or High Admiral, of the Ottoman fleets.[41] By the summer of 1538, Kheir-ed-din commanded over one-hundred and fifty ships.[42]
III. Government Structure of the Barbary States
The Barbary coast states were regencies of the Ottoman Empire, but in practice they grew into quite independent self-governing fiefdoms.[43] Although the regencies fought for the Ottoman Emperor when occasion demanded, they enjoyed considerable autonomy and carried out independent diplomatic and military existence.[44] The galleys of the Barbary states were integrated into the fleet of the Ottoman Empire to begin with, but by the end of the sixteenth century they were operating independently.[45]
In terms of formal leadership, the Ottoman Sultan appointed a Pasha (Kheir-ed-din for example) to control the regency and the ports.[46] The Pasha’s authority was guaranteed by a corps of janissaries – elite fighters of the Ottoman military.[47] Throughout the latter sixteenth century, however, the balance of power shifted away from the Pasha and toward a council of janissary officers called the “Divan.”[48] The Divan appointed a “Dey” who actually controlled the Barbary kingdom.[49]
In the late sixteenth century the Dey was the seemingly absolute monarch, with other top officials titled as the Haznagi, the Aga, the Hoodge de Cabellos, and the Petit Mell.[50] There was also an Aga de Baston who would hold a position for two months before retiring with a pension.[51] Other officers of importance at that time included: twenty-four Chiah Baffas, or Colonels subordinate to the Aga; 200 Senior Rais, or Captains; 400 Lieutenants; a Mufti, or High Priest; a Cadi, or Supreme Judge in ecclesiastical causes; and a Grand Marabout, or chief of an order of saints or hermits.[52]
In terms of diplomatic relations, the majority of European maritime nations always had a duplicitous attitude toward Barbary.[53] In public they deplored the corsairs and demanded concerted action to oppose them.[54] Privately, however, they conceded that the corsairs were acting to their commercial advantage by harming the maritime interests of smaller nations.[55] At one point in time or another, England, Holland and France each individually negotiated treaties with the Barbary states in order to gain immunity for their merchant fleets in the Mediterranean.[56] However, because these treaties progressively whittled away at the livelihood of the corsairs, the agreements were frequently breached.[57]
In 1662 England made its first treaty with the corsairs.[58] The negotiating diplomat noted that “[i]t is hard to negotiate where the terms are wholly ex parte. The Barbary courts are indulged in the habits of dictating their own terms of negotiation.”[59] Methods of negotiation improved, however, when nation after nation appointed consuls to watch over their interests at Algiers and Tunis.[60] Treaties were still very expensive, though. In 1799 the newly-formed United States of America entered into a treaty with Algiers for “$50,000 down, $8,000 for secret service, twenty-eight canon, 10,000 balls, and quantities of powder, cordage and jewels.”[61]
In order to enforce the treaties, Mediterranean passes were carried onboard immune European merchant ships.[62] Such passes were handsome parchment documents which carried the name, provenance, and description of the ship so that they could establish their identity when challenged by a corsair.[63] One source indicates that these passes were nearly always honored by the Muslims, and the system provided reasonably effective despite such abuses as wholesale forgery.[64]
IV. Galleys and Ships
Barbary corsairs utilized a narrow, sleek galley to come sweeping alongside merchant ships then board for attack.[65] The oars were located in a single bank with twenty-four to twenty-eight benches, two oars per bench, and four to five male slaves per oar (thus a total of 192 to 280 rowers).[66] The galley was enclosed at the stern to provide shelter for a company of fighting janissaries, but the rest of the vessel was left open to the elements.[67] A trip on a corsair galley might last from six to eight weeks or less if the galley was quick to find a prize.[68] Because speed was relied upon for success, frequent careening and scraping were imperative, and the galleys were pulled out of the water about every two months.[69]
Galley slaves sat naked on the benches and were chained at the ankle and secured to the vessel, subjected to constant whipping by the crew.[70] When the captain gave the order to row, the officer gave the signal with a whistle, and that signal was repeated by an under-officer to the slaves so that all fifty oars would strike the water at once.[71] “Sometimes the galley slaves row ten, twelve, or even twenty hours at a stretch, without the slightest rest or break. On these occasions the officer will go around and put pieces of bread soaked in wine into the mouths of the wretched rowers to prevent them from fainting...”[72] If a slave falls exhausted upon his oar he is flogged until he is “taken for dead” and then pitched unceremoniously into the sea.[73] Sometimes a galley slave may work for as long as twenty years.[74] When there were not enough Christian slaves to row, Arab and Moor slaves were hired at ten ducats per trip, prize or no prize.[75]
Command of the ship was the responsibility of the Rais, or Captain.[76] The Rais was chosen by the state, subject to examination by a council of Senior Captains.[77] His crew was often a mixture of Muslim sailors, renegades, Greeks, and captured Christians whose great sea skills spared them from the galley slave’s bench.[78] Such Christian seamen had freedom to work the ship but were shackled when attack was imminent.[79]
In addition to the crew, all corsair vessels carried a complement of janissaries.[80] These armed fighting men attracted from the Ottoman military of the Levant (Eastern Mediterranean) by recruiting officers who easily seduced them into service in Barbary by their tales of the immense profits to be had in fighting against Christians.[81] The janissaries took no part in the rowing or sailing and there were usually 100-140 onboard a large vessel.[82] The commander of the janissaries was the Agha, the superior officer who made decisions about whether or not to engage another vessel.[83] These turbaned janissaries in their flowing robes sat patiently smoking opium or tobacco until that moment of glory when the khodja, or purser, read out verses from the Koran in a loud voice as they swarmed over the sides of a prize with spears, muskets and scimitars and overpowered the opposition in hand-to-hand combat.[84] Janissaries were eager fighters because they were not paid if they did not take a prize.[85]
In the first decade of the seventeenth century the corsairs began to add fighting sailing ships to their fleets.[86] This process was accelerated by the defection to Barbary of several hundred English and Dutch pirates and privateers who brought their ships with them after being thrown out of work by the ending of the Spanish wars.[87] Sails later triumphed over galleys because sails had no mouths to feed and could carry many provisions without getting tired as did human arms.[88] Therefore the corsairs largely adopted square-rigged sailing ships.[89]
It was in these early decades of the seventeenth century that the corsairs reached the peak of their power.[90] One Venetian observer recorded that in 1624-25 Algiers had six galleys and a hundred fighting sailing ships; Tunis had six galleys and fourteen sailing ships; and Tripoli had a small fleet of two to three sailing ships.[91] Another historian surmised that from 1622 to 1642 over three hundred English ships and around 7,000 English subjects were captured by corsairs.[92] This averages out to the capture of fifteen ships and 350 men (and occasionally women and children) captured per year from England alone.[93]
In the sixteenth century most of the corsair galleys belonged to the state and functioned similarly to the navies of other states, with the important difference that they were always at war with Christiandom and so set out every year on their predatory voyages.[94] In the seventeenth century, however, the state continued to own most of the galleys but many of the sailing ships were privately owned.[95] Ships were acquired and fitted out by individuals.[96] The individual was sometimes the Rais or Captain himself, but more often ownership was had by a syndicate of local merchants, shipowners, corsairs and officials, and sometimes quite humble people such as shopkeepers, artisans or anyone else who had some savings available to invest.[97] Investing in a sailing vessel was very attractive because it was likely to satisfy a man’s desire for piety and profit at the very same time.[98]
On the day of launching a newly fitted ship, the owners all came to the dockyards with presents of money and clothes to be divided among the slaves who helped with the fitting.[99] With the shout of “Allahu Akbar” meaning “God if Most Great,” a sheep was then ceremoniously slaughtered over the bow of the ship as a symbol of the Christian blood to be shed on its voyages.[100]
V. Division of Spoils
The corsairs ran a highly organized business.[101] The division of plunder was well regulated as a commercial operation with a certain portion going to the state and to port officials, as well as to captains and crew of the galleys.[102] Furthermore, the ransom and sale of captives was also highly regulated and commercialized.[103] Given the nature of this business, the corsairs were remarkably well-disciplined and were generally observant of their own set of rules,[104] and those who broke the rules and thus cheated their comrades could expect swift retributions.[105]
One well-established rule held that the captured ship’s equipment and cargo were part of the prize and had to be accounted for.[106] However, the possessions of passengers and crew could be pillaged by the corsairs with impunity.[107] An example of this comes from the narrative of the captured American sailor John Foss.[108] He was sailing from Massachusetts to Cadiz in 1798 when his vessel was captured by corsairs from Algiers.[109] From the ship the crew observed another ship in the distance flying an English flag.[110] As this ship bore down upon the American vessel, a single man onboard in a “Christian habit” hailed the American ship in English.[111] Immediately thereafter, however, several “Moors” appeared and jumped from the corsair ship, which was flying the false colors of England, onto the American ship.[112] They threatened immediate massacre and broke open all trunks and chests and plundered all bedding, clothing, books, charts, quandrants and every moveable article except the cargo or furniture.[113] The corsairs then proceeded to strip all the clothes off the backs of the sailors and passengers, leaving them only in shirts and drawers.[114] All captives were then taken onboard the corsair ship and questioned by the Rais, who introduced himself as Rais Hudga Mohamet Salamia of Algiers.[115] In order to avoid an “attempt to rise up” the captives were then distributed onboard other corsair vessels that had not taken prizes, and were transported back to Algiers.[116]
Once the slaves, booty, and ships themselves were taken back to the corsairs’ home ports and sold the profits were carefully divided.[117] Islamic law reserved a fixed portion of the goods seized “for God,” thus usually one-seventh or one-eighth of the profits went to the state.[118] There were also payments made for the upkeep of the port and for the support of officials who played a part in the administration of the system.[119] What remained was divided equally between the ships’ owners (often a consortium of investors) and the crew.[120] Those seamen who had distinguished themselves during the attack got a bonus, and the remainder was divided in proportion to seniority.[121] The Rais (Captain) would usually receive about twelve times more than a sailor, and a janissary could expect about half a sailor’s share.[122] A scrivener saw to the accuracy and honesty of the division process.[123]
VI. Slaves
Estimates vary greatly but one source suggests that Algiers alone held 20,000 Christian captives in 1621 another source puts the figures at 25,000 male and 2,000 female slaves in the 1630s.[124] Much of the value of the slaves lay in their social status. An English nobleman was a very worthwhile prize because his family could be relied upon to redeem him with the payment of a considerable sum.[125] A servant or laborer, however, had far lesser value.[126] Such penniless Christian slaves had little hope of release unless they were fortunate enough to be bought out of slavery by a European religious redemptionist organization.[127] Such redemption was very expensive with English captives being ransomed for $1200 each in 1789.[128] Frequently, when attack by Barbary corsairs was imminent, noblemen would quickly switch clothing with their servants.[129] The corsairs revealed this concealment of identity, however, by inspecting the hands of all captives.[130] A nobleman’s smooth hands and a servant’s callous ones always made one’s social status apparent.
Following capture, slaves were first brought to the Dey’s palace where he selected the very best for himself (figures suggest that he took one in eight captives) and the remaining slaves were taken to the market to be auctioned.[131] There the dilaleen, or auctioneers, walked the slaves up and down the street, calling out the quality and profession of each and specifying the last price offered until no higher bidder appeared.[132] Interestingly enough, this particular sale was only preliminary and after it occurred the slave was taken back to the Dey’s palace.[133] There the Dey was entitled to buy any slave at the highest price originally bid.[134] There was then a second auction of the slaves that the Dey elected not to buy and the prices generally rose higher than the high bids from the street market.[135] The difference in price between the winning bids at the first and second auctions went into the public purse, and the lower bid was then divided as profit as discussed above.[136]
Unsold slaves were taken to the bagnios, or slave prisons.[137] Most slaves remained only in the bagnios at night, going out early each morning to work as galley slaves, laborers on public projects, domestic servants or craftsmen.[138] If a slave neglected to be present at nightly roll call, however, punishment was regularly 150-200 bastinadoes (beating on the soles of the feet).[139] Slaves earned a small amount of money for their work and were permitted to rest on the Muslim Sabbath and daily for three hours before sunset.[140] A few enterprising slaves even borrowed money and set up bars in the bagnios, and a very few even eventually earned enough money to buy their own freedom.[141] Nonetheless, “still they are slaves, always hated on account of their religion; incessantly overburdened with labor.”[142] One rare example of prestige, however, was James Leander Cathcart who was captured in the lat 1800s and eventually arose to the highest position a Christian slave could hold – chief Christian secretary to the Algerian Dey.[143]
In addition to ransom, a slave could quickly gain his freedom by converting to Islam, or what was referred to as “turning Turk.”[144] Christian captives who converted were either seeking a way out of punishing labor and a life of servitude and/or they had been under relentless pressure to join Islam.[145] Known as “renegades” these European Christians who “turned Turk” were enabled to enjoy the full benefits of a career of plunder in the Muslim world, and were treated virtually as equals by other Muslims.[146] Therefore such converts were enabled full Islamic privileges such as the ability to marry and gain employment.[147]
Good questions have been raised as to why a Christian captive would not just convert to Islam in order to gain freedom and then immediately flee back to Europe.[148] It seems that there are two valid explanations for why this did not seem to occur with enough frequency to be recorded. First, Christian captives were often very poor back in Europe to begin with, and may even have lived a higher standard of life as a slave then they would be living back home.[149] Therefore, the lure of a life of leisure and wealth as a renegade corsair living on the lush Mediterranean coast was very appealing indeed.[150] A second reason that conversion and escape did not seem to occur was related to European society’s absolute disdain of Muslims.[151] Captive narratives have suggested that when news got out in a village or town that one of their members had been captured and subsequently “turned Turk,” that individual was for all purposes disowned and despised.[152]
VII. Renegades and the Diversity of the Barbary States
During the late sixteenth century up to two-thirds of the Barbary coast galleys were operated by renegade corsairs.[153] These Western European renegades seemed to have gotten away with some appalling behavior, “[t]hey carry swords at their side, they run drunk through the town... they sleep with the wives of the Moors... every kind of debauchery and unchecked license is permitted them.”[154] The Barbary regimes tolerated these “snakes in their African Eden” because they brought back valuable prizes and shared the booty with their hosts.[155] Furthermore, such renegade men were vital in the transfer of new maritime skills to the corsairs, and were therefore tolerated within the normally sober atmosphere of the Muslim cities.[156]
Renegades were usually either Christian captives who had converted to Islam, or they came voluntarily from Europe to share in the wealth and corsair lifestyle.[157] Others, however, had been captured as children when corsairs raided villages along the coasts of Corsica, Sardinia and the Italian and Dalmatian coasts.[158] From the captives taken during these raids, the bolder and more handsome boys were often picked out by the Rais and thereafter groomed to become future Rais themselves.[159]
The Barbary states were very diverse. In addition to European renegades, society consisted of people from many different national backgrounds.[160] Allocation of governmental power reflected this diversity.[161] In Agliers for example, at the top were the Turks of the Ottoman Empire and as such they held all the top government positions of distinction.[162] The Cologlies, those born to a Moorish mother and a Turkish father, were next to the Turks in power.[163] Third were the Arabs who were known in society as having descended from the disciples of Mohammed who had formerly subdued Algiers.[164] Fourth were the Moors, or Morescos, who had been driven out of Spain.[165] Finally the rest of the population consisted of everyone else including the renegades, Levantines from the Eastern Mediterranean, Jews and Christian slaves.[166]
With such a diverse population, a number of languages were expectedly spoken.[167] The people of Algiers were noted to speak a compound of Arabic, Moresco and the remains of an ancient Phoenician language.[168] Apparently however inhabitants of all denominations seemed to understand what was referred to as the “Lingua Franca.”[169] This was a kind of dialect that was not the proper language of any one country yet was understood by all as a sort of universal Mediterranean language.[170] All public business and official records, however, were transacted and kept in Turkish.[171]
Societal diversity was also reflected in the manner in which people dressed. Men in Algiers were described in the late 1700’s as wearing large turbans with their heads closely shaved but having beards.[172] Additionally they wore long-sleeved shirts, jackets and vests, always taking care to wear the shortest garment on the outside.[173] No person was permitted to wear green except the Sherif, one who is said to descend from Mohammed.[174] In contrast to these Muslim men, Jews were obliged to dress entirely in black to distinguish their religion.[175]

VIII. Rules and Punishment
The most common punishment for slaves was the bastinado.[176] This process was described by former captive William Ray.[177] He wrote that a slave is thrown on his back with his feet and ankles tied together and the soles of his feet are raised until they are horizontal.[178] Then a Turk sits on the slave while two other men, each with hard and heavy bamboo or a date tree branch of about three feet in length, “with all their strength and fury apply the bruising cudgel” to the bottoms of the feet.[179]
For slaves, the bastinado was most likely the lightest possible punishment. It was often threatened or applied immediately upon capture in an effort of the corsairs to locate any hidden valuables on the ship.[180] Additionally, one captive noted that “I have known a slave to receive one-hundred bastinadoes for being found with three board nails,” the slave having taken them from a work site.[181]
For capital crimes a Christian captive would be burned or roasted alive or impaled on a sharp post.[182] If a slave murdered another slave, he would be immediately beheaded.[183] For the murder of a Muslim however the punishment was much worse.[184] The slave was cast off from the city walls and became caught upon a series of iron hooks that were fastened to the wall about halfway down.[185] These hooks caught the slave by any part of the body that struck them and sometimes the slaves hung in this manner in agony for several days before they actually expired.[186]
For being found with a Muslim woman, the slave was beheaded.[187] The woman was put into a sack and carried about a mile out to sea and thrown overboard with rocks in order to sink her.[188] For mere suspicion that a slave had been with a Muslim woman, he was castrated and the woman was bastinadoed.[189] Finally, for attempting to escape, punishment varied and may have included bastinado, beheading, or being nailed to the gallows by one hand and the opposite foot, thus being left hanging until dead.[190]
One very interesting and unique feature of the legal systems of the Barbary states was the use of the Marabout Mosque and the palace chain to completely avoid punishment for offense. These locations/devices serve as practical “get out of jail free” cards, or rather as “never go to jail in the first place” cards.
Marabout Mosques are particular mosques where a marabout or hermit (both regarded similarly to Christian saints) has been buried.[191] According to the law derived from Islamic principles, these Marabout Mosques were an asylum for persons of almost any religion having committed a crime.[192] Therefore, when a slave committed any crime (except murder, speaking ill of Islam, or striking a Turk) if he could get into the Marabout Mosque before being captured, no punishment would be inflicted upon him except perhaps the use of an additional chain on his leg.[193] A Muslim was completely pardoned no matter what his crime, even if capital, if he rushed into the Marabout Mosque before being taken into custody.[194] As soon as he entered the mosque his presence was immediately reported to the Mufti, the keeper of the mosque, who then immediately reported to the Dey.[195] Upon this report the Dey would send a string of beads to the Mufti and the criminal could then exit the mosque.[196] If, however, the criminal left the Marabout Mosque before the Mufti received the beads, then the criminal was liable for the same punishment as he was before he entered the mosque.[197]
In addition to the Marabout Mosque, another safe haven for a criminal was the palace chain.[198] At the gates of the Dey’s palace there was a large chain fastened to the top of the gate and locked down at the lower end.[199] Anyone who had committed an offense and could get a hold of this chain before being taken into custody was thereafter immune from punishment to the same effect as one entering a marabout Mosque.[200] If a slave had been cheated by any Turk, Cologlie, Moor, Arab, renegade, or Jew, he could take hold of the chain and state that he wanted justice.[201] Then one of the principal officers of the Dey’s corps of guards would approach the slave and asks the particulars of his being wronged.[202] If the officer believed the chain-clenching slave, then the officer would seek justice against whoever had wronged the slave.[203] But should the slave be found to have given a wrong account, then the slave was immediately bastinadoed.[204] If the slave had complained against a Jew and the Jew was found guilty, then the Jew was bastinadoed and he must make reparations to the wronged slave.[205]
IX. Custom
As mentioned above, rules and punishments varied for the non-slave populations of the Barbary states. Religion and ethnic background were two main distinguishing factors. Another difference centers on whether or not an individual or group lived in the country or in within the city.
People in the country lived in tents and traveled from one place to another as “they want to pasture or as any other accidental circumstance may happen,” as observed by one former captive.[206] Even though these people roamed, the Dey still demanded a tribute from them which was procured by appointed Beys and carried back to Algiers.[207] The Dey usually informed the specific Bey what sum the Bey must pay to the Dey in the ensuing year.[208] The Bey thereafter went out into the country with a large number of cavalry and demanded payment from any person he encountered.[209] If they did not pay immediately, the Bey would take from them what he pleased and if they resisted or even intimated dissatisfaction with his proceedings, the Bey was alleged to have cut off their heads and then send them to the Dey.[210] Because of their power and riches, Beys did not usually remain in office for more than two to three years before the Dey found something against them and had them executed with all of their property brought to the city and deposited into the treasury.[211]
Whether one lived in the country or in the city also determined the rules and customs revolving around marriage.[212] When a young man in the country would marry, he would drive a number of cattle to the tent where the parents of his mistress lived.[213] The bride would then be set on horseback and led to the tent where the young man lived amidst the shouts of a crowd of other young people who had been invited to the nuptial feast.[214] When she arrived at her groom’s tent she was given a mixture of milk and honey to drink and a song was sung.[215] She then received a stick from her husband that she thrust into the ground and held with her right had, reciting “As this stick is fastened in the ground so am I bound in duty to my husband as nothing can remove it but violence so nought but death, shall force me from his love.”[216] She then drove his flock to water and back again to show her willingness to perform any duty he may assign her.[217] Subsequent to the marriage, the wife was veiled and never stirred from the tent for “the space of a whole moon” and no one was permitted to see her but her parents during this time.[218]
When the couple to be married lived within Algiers, however, the marriage ritual was different.[219] The groom never saw his bride before the marriage but accepted her upon the description of her father.[220] When the match was agreed upon and the man had paid the father for the daughter, he sent his wife-to-be a present of fruits and sweetmeats, and entertained her relatives with a feast and musical entertainment.[221] The groom was then conducted into the presence of his wife by four veiled women.[222] He then left and went to his own house where the bride was then delivered to him on horseback.[223] After she was safely delivered to her husband, the females who were invited to the nuptial feast assembled themselves and walked through the streets pronouncing the marriage by shouting together as loud as they could and in shrill voices.[224] Islamic men in Algiers were permitted to have four wives, all taken in this manner.[225]
X. Maltese Corsairs
The Barbary corsairs had Christian counterparts based on the island of Malta who were sponsored by the Christian Order of the Knights Hospitalers of St. John and attacked the ships and crews of Muslim nations. [226] One difference between the Maltese and Barbary corsairs was that the Knights of Malta themselves had a legitimate navy that attacked Muslim shipping, but did not operate for a profit.[227] This navy was subsidized by lands bequeathed to the Knights by generations of the pious all over Europe.[228] Profits were made, however, and shared, by the Christian corsairs that were licensed and regulated by the Knights.[229] These corsairs served as a second line of assault on the Muslim populations of the Mediterranean.[230]
The Maltese corsair fleet reached its peak in the 1660’s with thirty sailing ships in addition to numerous galleys.[231] The fleet employed about 4,000 men and utilized another 3,000 slaves, thus constituting roughly one-fifth of the entire Maltese adult population.[232]
A. History of the Knights Hospitalers of St. John
The Knights Hospitalers of St. John were originally formed in Jerusalem in order to aid Christian soldiers and sick pilgrims traveling to the holy land.[233] In 1291 Muslim forces took Acre, the last Crusader stronghold in the holy land, and the Hospitalers retreated first to Cyprus and then eventually to the island of Rhodes where they settled for over two-hundred years.[234] In 1522 the Ottoman Empire expanded and the Hospitalers were evicted once more.[235] Eventually the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, Charles V, granted the Hospitalers the island of Malta, where they became known as the “Knights of Malta.”[236]
B. Rules and Tribunals
In addition to building up a powerful naval presence on Malta, the Knights also encouraged and systematically organized the island’s corsairs.[237] A small Christian corsair fleet had predated the Knight’s arrival, having originally been licensed by Sicily to raid Turkish shipping.[238] In 1530, however, these corsairs fell under the jurisdiction of the Knights, and therefore became subject to the Knight’s regulations.[239]
Regulations were enforced by a commission called the “Tribunale degli Armameti.”[240] The tribunal was established in 1605 by the Grand Master of the Knights in order to better control and regulate the booming corsair trade.[241] The tribunal required corsairs to fly the flag of the Order and they were only permitted to attack Muslim shipping.[242] Furthermore the corsairs had to respect any safe-conduct passes that were issued to Muslim ships by any Christian monarchs.[243]
The tribunal also set out the procedures to be followed if any of the corsairs broke the rules.[244] Procedures were also established covering methods and geographic areas of licensing and rights of various claimants to a share of booty.[245] Specific lawsuits included matters of wrongful capture, particularly of Greeks and Jews, disputes about the distribution of prizes, lack of enterprise by captains and embezzlement by crews.[246] Any injured party could bring a case in specially convened Maltese courts with the Vatican as the final court of appeal.[247] Court proceedings regularly occurred when the Maltese corsairs failed to resist the urge to raid the occasional Christian ship.[248] For example, Venetian merchants are recorded as having won compensation in the Maltese courts, though sometimes this litigation could last for years.[249] By seizing some of the Knights’ estates in Venetian territory, the Venetians were especially effective in persuading Knights of Malta to rein in their ambitious corsairs.[250] The Knights in turn required all corsairs setting sail to deposit a cash surety with the tribunal.[251] If a legal action was brought against the corsair ship and it was found to be at fault, this surety was used to satisfy the judgment.[252]
In addition to rules established and enforced by the tribunal, the Knights of Malta organized and commercialized the Christian corsairs with a system of licensing.[253] These licenses were issued by the Grand Master of the Order and were based on geographic region of patrol and on length of voyage.[254] The corsairs were licensed to concentrate their efforts either on the Barbary coast or on the Levant (Eastern Mediterranean), though there were various exclusion zones based on reprisals being made on pilgrims in Palestine.[255] The most lucrative of these licensed areas was on the eastern end of the Mediterranean where shipping routes connected Constantinople and Egypt.[256] Ottoman merchant ships generally traveled in convoy, thus making them difficult to attack.[257] Therefore corsair attacks in this region tended to be more successful on smaller ships traveling alone around the important islands in the region including Rhodes, Crete and Cyprus.[258] The licenses to Barbary usually were for short voyages of a few weeks or months, while voyages to the Levant were licensed for periods of up to five years.[259]
C. Galleys and Tactics
In Malta’s shipyards the Knights built and repaired remarkable ships and galleys.[260] These galleys were very similar to those of the Barbary corsairs but they depended on more gunnery and were thus better armed and more heavily constructed.[261] Like the Barbary galleys, these were rowed principally by slaves.[262] Most were Muslim but a few seats on the benches were taken by Christians serving sentences for crimes committed in Italian city-states.[263] There were also men known as “buonavoglie,” which means “free-willer” but has the connotation of “rascal.”[264] These oarsmen were nominally free debt-slaves who received treatment similar to the other slaves but with a few extra privileges – they could wear mustaches and were chained by only one shackle rather than two.[265]
Knights themselves often captained the corsair galleys and the larger ones usually contained a fighting complement of up to thirty Knights and a large contingent of paid mercenary soldiers (equivalents to the Barbary janissaries), in addition to a crew of sailors and the galley slaves.[266] The Maltese galleys usually closed in on a victim and attempted to shoot down the rigging, then they would come alongside to overtake the prize using small arms fire and using their height advantage to drop primitive grenades onto the decks of their adversaries before boarding them and engaging in hand-hand combat.[267]
The Knights claimed that they had the procedural right of “Visita” as a continuation of the war against the infidel.[268] Visita occurred when the Maltese corsair galley would hail a ship and come alongside to question the crew about their destination, ownership of cargo, and the nationality of the vessel, crew and passengers.[269] If there was any suggestion at all that the ship was carrying Turkish goods or passengers, the corsairs would board and carry out an inspection.[270] This caused friction between the Maltese and other maritime nations because the corsairs would frequently ransack ships and cause damage and delay.[271] This threat of delay was used as a bargaining chip by the Maltese corsairs who could extract a bribe from the ship’s captain in exchange for waiving the visita right.[272]
D. Division of Spoils
The Maltese corsair vessels carried a purser who kept a ledger recording the value of all seizures and profits made from the sale of slaves.[273] At the end of a cruise and subsequent slave sale, the purser’s books were used to determine the profit that had accrued so that various parties who had a stake in the voyage could claim their due.[274] As in Barbary, the state had the first claim and the Grand Master took one-tenth of all profits.[275] Next a cut went to the “Cinque Lanie” which was made up of mostly officials who had responsibilities associated with the voyage.[276] Next, the Captain claimed about eleven percent of the profit.[277] Finally, the remainder was divided equally into three. One-third was distributed, often unevenly, to the crew.[278] The other two-thirds went to those who had financed the building, fitting out and supply of the ship.[279] Such financing was obtained from bondholders who would earn back their initial investment plus interest.[280] As in Barbary, bondholders came from all social classes.[281] Financing was also obtained from equity holders and businessmen who recovered from the profits according to their initial stake in the voyage.[282] The Captain was responsible for supplementing the pay of senior officers out of his own share, but the Captain was also entitled to any loose money found on the ship.[283] Additionally, tradesmen such as the galley’s cook were entitled to keep equipment taken from the prize that was relevant to their craft.[284]
E. Slaves
As in Barbary, slaves were treated very poorly and stripped of their clothing and flogged in order to induce confession of hiding places of valuables.[285] Muslim captives were taken to back to Malta where they were then sold at the Christian world’s second largest slave market.[286] The captives were auctioned off to work for the Knights or for private individuals and a few were sold on the international market, for example as oarsmen for Venetian galleys.[287]
There were three main large slave prisons surrounding the Grand Harbour on Malta.[288] Like Barbary-held Christian slaves, they were permitted to run businesses as an attempt to raise enough money to buy their freedom.[289] Many cut hair, kept bars, and sold goods from stalls.[290] When the slaves were outside of the prisons during the day their status was made evident by their Arab-style clothing (they were not permitted to wear Christian clothing), their cropped hair, and the iron ring on their legs.[291] The similarity between conditions of captive slaves in Malta and Barbary is explained as a reprisal system in that if conditions worsened for one group, the captors of the other were quick to exact vengeance.[292]
XI. Conclusion
Both Barbary and Maltese corsairs were well-regulated and integrated into the legal systems of their respective states. Their activities gave rise to generally efficient systems of both civil and criminal rule-making and enforcement. Additionally, the corsair activities gave rise to extensive commercial networks involving the sale and ransoming of slaves. This led to further development of the civil legal system.
Although corsair activities came to a general halt in the 1800’s, the corsair legal systems are fascinating in that they lasted for so many centuries and in that they developed around such seemingly illegal activities. It is also especially interesting to compare the Barbary and Maltese corsairs as mirror systems with relatively few differences.

[1] Pirates: Terror on the High Seas From the Caribbean to the South China Sea 8 (David Cordingly ed., 2004).
[2] Stanley Lane-Poole, The Barbary Corsairs 12 (1901).
[3] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 11.
[4] Peter Earle, The Pirate Wars 39 (2004).
[5] Id. at 41.
[6] Id. at X1.
[7] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 78.
[8] Id.
[9] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corsair
[10] Earle, supra note 4, at 39.
[11] Id.
[12] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 15 (piracy as defined by a 1696 British court).
[13] Id. at 78.
[14] Id. at 77. The first Crusade was launched by Pope urban II in 1095. Earle, supra note, at 46.
[15] Louis B. Wright and Julia H. Macleod, The First Americans in North Africa: William Eaton’s Struggle for a Vigorous Policy Against the Barbary Pirates, 1799-1805 5 (1945).
[16] Earle, supra note 4, at 39. Corsairs also operated out of Salle on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Id. However, Morocco was not under Turkish control, thus is not considered in this paper. See Wright and Macleod, supra note 15, at 5.
[17] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 85.
[18] Id.
[19] Id. at 80.
[20] Id.
[21] Lane-Poole, supra note 2, at 31.
[22] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 80.
[23] Id.
[24] Id.
[25] Lane-Poole, supra note 2, at 35.
[26] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 80.
[27] Id.
[28] Id.
[29] Lane-Poole, supra note 2, at 45.
[30] Id. at 45-46.
[31] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 80.
[32] Id. at 90.
[33] Lane-Poole, supra note 2, at 53.
[34] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 80.
[35] Id.
[36] Lane-Poole, supra note 2, at 54.
[37] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 80.
[38] Lane-Poole, supra note 2, at 59.
[39] Id.
[40] Lane-Poole, supra note 2, at 74.
[41] Id. at 94.
[42] Id. at 98.
[43] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 81.
[44] Earle, supra note 4, at 39-40.
[45] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 85.
[46] Id. at 81.
[47] Id.
[48] Id.
[49] Id. (some sources use the terms “Dey” and “Bey” interchangeably, but other sources suggest that the “Dey” is in a higher position of authority than a “Bey.” See John Foss, A Journal of the Captivity and Sufferings of John Foss (1798) in White Slaves, African Masters: An Anthology of American Barbary Captivity Narratives 87 (Paul Baepler ed., 1999).
[50] Foss, supra note 49, at 91.
[51] Id.
[52] Id.
[53] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 91.
[54] Id.
[55] Id.
[56] Id.
[57] Id.
[58] Wright and Macleod, supra note 15, at 13.
[59] Id. at 36.
[60] Lane-Poole, supra note 2, at 251.
[61] Id. at 258 (this treaty contemplated continuous immunity, though there is evidence of further “tribute” being paid).
[62] Earle, supra note 4, at 79.
[63] Id.
[64] Id.
[65] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 81.
[66] Id.
[67] Id.
[68] Id. at 85.
[69] Id.
[70] Id. at 82-84.
[71] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 84.
[72] Id.
[73] Lane-Poole, supra note 2, at 215.
[74] Id. at 215-16.
[75] Lane-Poole, supra note 2, at 221.
[76] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 84.
[77] Earle, supra note 4, at 43.
[78] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 84.
[79] Id.
[80] Earle, supra note 4, at 43-44.
[81] Id.
[82] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 84.
[83] Id. The Agha was entirely independent from the Rais and thus formed an efficient check on the Rais’s conduct. Lane-Poole, supra note 2, at 221-22.
[84] Earle, supra note 4, at 44. See also Cordingly, supra note 1, at 82.
[85] Lane-Poole, supra note 2, at 221-22.
[86] Earle, supra note 4, at 40.
[87] Id. at 41.
[88] Lane-Poole, supra note 2, at 229.
[89] Wright and Macleod, supra note 15, at 11.
[90] Earle, supra note 4, at 41.
[91] Id.
[92] Id. at 42.
[93] Id.
[94] Id. at 43.
[95] Id.
[96] Earle, supra note 4, at 43.
[97] Id.
[98] Id.
[99] Lane-Poole, supra note 2, at 221.
[100] Id.
[101] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 11.
[102] Id.
[103] Id.
[104] Earle, supra note 4, at 43.
[105] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 87.
[106] Id.
[107] Id.
[108] Foss, supra note 49, at 71.
[109] Id. at 74.
[110] Id. at 74-75.
[111] Id. at 75.
[112] Id.
[113] Id.
[114] Foss, supra note 49, at 75.
[115] Id. at 75-76.
[116] Id. at 76.
[117] Earle, supra note 4, at 44. If the prize was very large, the captors usually towed it home port, but smaller vessels were generally sent home under a lieutenant and a “jury-crew of Moors.” Lane-Poole, supra note 2, at 225.
[118] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 88.
[119] Earle, supra note 4, at 44.
[120] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 88.
[121] Id.
[122] Id.
[123] Lane-Poole, supra note 2, at 225.
[124] White Slaves, African Masters: An Anthology of American Barbary Captivity Narratives 3 (Paul Baepler ed., 1999).
[125] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 86.
[126] Id.
[127] Id. at 90.
[128] Foss, supra note 49, at 82 (the social status of these captives is unknown).
[129] See Cordingly, supra note 1, at 87.
[130] Id.
[131] Id.
[132] Id. at 88.
[133] Id.
[134] Id.
[135] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 88.
[136] Id.
[137] Id.
[138] Earle, supra note 4, at 42.
[139] Foss, supra note 49, at 82.
[140] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 88.
[141] Id.
[142] Id.
[143] James Leander Cathcart, The Captives, Eleven Years a Prisoner in Algiers (1899) in White Slaves, African Masters: An Anthology of American Barbary Captivity Narratives 178 (Paul Baepler ed., 1999).
[144] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 88.
[145] Id. at 89.
[146] Earle, supra note 4, at 28.
[147] Baepler, supra note 124, at 43.
[148] Questions raised during class presentation of this topic in April, 2006.
[149] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 88.
[150] Id. at 89.
[151] Id. at 88.
[152] See Milton Giles, White Gold (2005).
[153] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 89.
[154] Id.
[155] Id.
[156] Earle, supra note 4, at 40.
[157] See Cordingly, supra note 1, at 89.
[158] Lane-Poole, supra note 2, at 201.
[159] Id.
[160] See Foss, supra note 49, at 87.
[161] See id.
[162] Id.
[163] Id.
[164] Id.
[165] Id.
[166] Foss, supra note 49, at 87.
[167] See id. at 88.
[168] Foss, supra note 49, at 88.
[169] Id.
[170] Id.
[171] Id.
[172] Id. at 88-89.
[173] Id. at 88-89.
[174] Foss, supra note 49, at 89.
[175] Id.
[176] See William Ray, Horrors of Slavery (1808) in White Slaves, African Masters: An Anthology of American Barbary Captivity Narratives 195 (Paul Baepler ed., 1999).
[177] Id.
[178] Id.
[179] Id.
[180] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 87.
[181] Foss, supra note 49, at 85.
[182] Id. at 83.
[183] Id.
[184] See id.
[185] Id.
[186] Id.
[187] Foss, supra note 49, at 83.
[188] Id.
[189] Id.
[190] Id.
[191] Id. at 84.
[192] Foss, supra note 49, at 84. Jews are excluded and not permitted to enter the Marabout Mosques upon risk of being burned. Id.
[193] Id. at 83.
[194] Id. at 84.
[195] Id.
[196] Id.
[197] Id.
[198] See Foss, supra note 49, at 84.
[199] Id.
[200] Id.
[201] Id.
[202] Id.
[203] Id.
[204] Foss, supra note 49, at 84.
[205] Id.
[206] Id. at 87.
[207] Id.
[208] Id.
[209] Id.
[210] Foss, supra note 49, at 87.
[211] Id.
[212] See id. at 88.
[213] Id.
[214] Id.
[215] Foss, supra note 49, at 87.
[216] Id.
[217] Id.
[218] Id.
[219] See id. at 89.
[220] Id.
[221] Foss, supra note 49, at 89.
[222] Id.
[223] Id.
[224] Id.
[225] Id. at 91.
[226] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 11.
[227] Earle, supra note 4, at 47.
[228] Id.
[229] Id.
[230] Id.
[231] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 97.
[232] Id.
[233] Id. at 77.
[234] Id. at 78.
[235] Id.
[236] Id.
[237] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 93.
[238] Id.
[239] Id.
[240] Id.
[241] Id.
[242] Id.
[243] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 93.
[244] Id.
[245] Earle, supra note 4, at 48.
[246] Id.
[247] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 93.
[248] Id. at 97.
[249] Id.
[250] Id.
[251] Id. at 93.
[252] Id.
[253] See Earle, supra note 4, at 48.
[254] See Cordingly, supra note 1, at 95; Earle, supra note 4, at 48.
[255] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 95.
[256] Id.
[257] Id.
[258] Id.
[259] Earle, supra note 4, at 48.
[260] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 93.
[261] Id.
[262] Id.
[263] Id. at 94.
[264] Id.
[265] Id.
[266] Earle, supra note 4, at 47.
[267] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 95.
[268] Id. (though this argument weakened as the Crusades became part of the distant past).
[269] Id.
[270] Id.
[271] Id.
[272] Id.
[273] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 97.
[274] Id.
[275] Id.
[276] Id.
[277] Id.
[278] Id.
[279] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 97.
[280] Id.
[281] Id.
[282] Id.
[283] Id.
[284] Id.
[285] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 96.
[286] Id. The largest slave market in the Christian world was in Tuscany. Id.
[287] Id.
[288] Id.
[289] Id.
[290] Id.
[291] Cordingly, supra note 1, at 96.
[292] Id.