Sunday, September 30, 2007

Pirate Barbarossa

Pirate Barbarossa and Captain Jack Sparrow...What has Johnny Depp got to do with Crete?

Whilst Geoffery Rush plays Captain Barbarossa in the films Pirates of the Caribbean, the real Barbarossa was infamous for violent attacks, pillaging and stealing treasures, ruining townships and generally wreaking havoc. Oh yes, that is what pirates do, isn’t it?

Barbarossa was in fact two men, brothers, both named after the older’s red hair and beard. They were unwelcome visitors to Crete in the late 16th century with attacks on Sitia, Chania, Kastelli-Kissamos, Paleohora and many other towns.

The Barbarossa brothers were Aruj and Khayrad'din, both born in Lesbos, and roamed the waters of the Mediterranean as corsairs. For centuries the kingdoms of Algeria, Morocco, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli engaged in a system of state-sponsored piracy, capturing ships in Mediterranean waters and attacking coastal European villages. They used the victims as slave labour in their home ports.

The Barbarossa brothers were infamous for their domination of the trading lines across the Mediterranean. They had ports all along the Barbary Coast in the north of Africa. In later life, they had ruling powers over Algeria with direct line to the sultan and part of Ottoman domination of the region.

Fighting against Christians and Christian corsairs, it is said that Aruj was captured by the Knights of St John and later killed by Spanish crusaders in 1518.

It is hard to say that these Barbarossa’s ever got anywhere near the Caribbean, but why let that get in the way of a good story?

Today there is a pirate boat moored in Rethymnon harbour with real-life pirates ready to take you for a day trip. You might just see some local turtles while you are there on the open sea. Lucky for us, these days there are no real pirates to attack while we are enjoying a cruise.