Corsairs … A Colorful Cast of Characters

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Corsairs. A colorful cast of cruel characters. They sailed the Barbary waters of North Africa, pillaging and plundering towns along the Mediterranean to their hearts content. But as with all pirates they had one goal in mind: capturing Christian slaves and selling them on the Muslim market in Africa and the Middle East.

You may be asking yourself what makes these guys so special. A corsair by any other name is still just a pirate. True, sorta. Let’s focus on why these swarthy men are so unique.

Ships. Sneaking into the shallow harbor waters required stealth and speed so they favored the galley ship, a long f-pirates-barbary-gettysleek ship maneuvered by rowers, often disguised as merchant vessels with false colors flying high. As their victim approached, the galley fired a broadside to damage the other ship’s top deck. Screaming curses, the corsairs boarded her prey armed to the teeth with knives, muskets, pikes, and long bows.

And what better outfit to go with a spike tipped pike than a pair of snazzy harem pants, an awesome turban, and one bodacious mustache. Like most other sea-faring crews, it was the captain with the fanciest dress and the rest of the crew were left to scrounge for rags from conquered foes.

The most well-known Barbary men were the Barbarossa brothers. Known for their fierce fighting, capturing of towns, barbarossa-hayreddin-pasha and most famously for their red hair. Hence the name Barbarossa. Pretty sure Disney took this into account when thinking of a name for Captain Jack Sparrow’s immortal enemy.

Parting tidbit: The corsairs were the fellas who provoked the US into her first wars in the Middle East, and set the precedent for hostage crisis and ransoming of American captives. The Barbary wars eventually ended in 1815 and the Marines got a little tune for the struggle. From the halls of Montezuma. To the shores of Tripoli.


A to Z blog hop at Patterings.

18 Comments

  1. Barbara Lynn Culler

    Very interesting. But why did they go after “Christian” men?

    Reply
    1. J'nell (Post author)

      Corsairs were Muslim and considered Christians the enemy so those were the poor people they were going to capture and turn into slaves. Once again, religions going at each others throat. Great questions!

      Reply
  2. Tom Threadgill

    I saw “Corsairs” and I thought this would be about the WW2 plane. Shoulda known pirates would be involved! I love the way you write. It’s not every day I see “swarthy” used!

    (Pssst… I believe it’s to the “shores of Tripoli.” Wouldn’t want some Marines knocking on your door.)

    Reply
    1. J'nell (Post author)

      Whoops! You’re right, it’s shores not hills. That’s what happens when you type late at night.

      You’re not alone in first thinking ‘corsair’ was order of battle. My husband is of the same mindset, only he thought ships.

      Reply
  3. Ginger Solomon

    Well, now I know who to come talk to if I need to know more about corsairs/pirates. 🙂

    Reply
    1. J'nell (Post author)

      Oh yeah! I got plenty of pirate books on my shelf, including one for dummies.

      Reply
  4. Susan Tuttle

    I’m amazed at what you know:) Love the way you write—fun post:) I feel like I learned something today, now to work that word into my vocab! LOL

    Reply
    1. J'nell (Post author)

      Oh thank you! That makes my day! But agree with you about work, ugh.

      Reply
  5. Karen Wingate

    Wow, this was so interesting. Were the Corsiars at the height of their glory in the late eighteenth/early nineteenth centuries? These Christian slaves to the Muslim market = was this separate from the slaves brought over to the United States at this same time era?

    Reply
    1. J'nell (Post author)

      Thanks Karen for the awesome question! The glory of the Barbary corsairs began to diminish by the end of the 17th century as more European navies made their presence known. By 1830 the pirates were crushed for good. They occasionally ventured as far as Iceland and South American, but mainly kept the conquests confined to the Mediterranean and the Muslim slave market there. No place like home, even when selling slaves.

      Reply
  6. Joanne Sher

    Fascinating stuff. Love your voice. 🙂

    Reply
    1. J'nell (Post author)

      Thanks Joanne!

      Reply
  7. Karla Akins

    I love all things pirate. It’s this very issue of slaves that I believe built my DNA. I have an amazing mix of Persian, Arab, and Jewish DNA along with Norse, German and Celtic. I often wonder if the middle eastern part of me was a result of war or slavery. Great post!

    Reply
    1. J'nell (Post author)

      What an amazing heritage and colorful heritage you have! I wouldn’t be surprised if you had one or two pirates hanging from your family tree. How cool would that be?!

      Reply
  8. Patty Wysong

    So interesting! Barbarossa…Barbosa. Yeah, I’d say that’s a good guess. =]

    Reply
    1. J'nell (Post author)

      I think it was a nice little wink wink to history.

      Reply
  9. Nancy K. Sullivan

    Fun and informative post today, especially about the origin of the Marine hymn. I’m thankful that we can rest in the knowledge that this ever-waging war against Christianity has already been won. Have a blessed day.

    Reply
    1. J'nell (Post author)

      Thanks Nancy! It is nice to know that the outcome is already decided. And guess what? We win!

      Reply

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