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Ancient Mediterranean piracy Mosaic of a Roman trireme in Tunisia The earliest documented instances of piracy are the exploits of the Sea Peoples who threatened the ships sailing in the Aegean and Mediterranean waters in the 14th century BC. In classical antiquity , the Phoenicians , Illyrians and Tyrrhenians were known as pirates. In the pre-classical era, the ancient Greeks condoned piracy as a viable profession; it apparently was widespread and "regarded as an entirely honourable way of making a living".
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By the era of Classical Greece , piracy was looked upon as a "disgrace" to have as a profession. Among some of the most famous ancient pirateering peoples were the Illyrians, a people populating the western Balkan peninsula. It was not until BC when the Romans finally decisively beat the Illyrian fleets that their threat was ended.
The Aegean coast suffered similar attacks a few years later. In the process, the Goths seized enormous booty and took thousands into captivity. Middle Ages A fleet of Vikings , painted midth century The most widely known and far-reaching pirates in medieval Europe were the Vikings , seaborne warriors from Scandinavia who raided and looted mainly between the 8th and 12th centuries, during the Viking Age in the Early Middle Ages. They raided the coasts, rivers and inland cities of all Western Europe as far as Seville , which was attacked by the Norse in Vikings also attacked the coasts of North Africa and Italy and plundered all the coasts of the Baltic Sea.
The lack of centralized powers all over Europe during the Middle Ages enabled pirates to attack ships and coastal areas all over the continent. Toward the end of the 9th century, Moorish pirate havens were established along the coast of southern France and northern Italy.
In , the bishop of Narbonne was unable to return to France from Rome because the Moors from Fraxinet controlled all the passes in the Alps. Moor pirates operated out of the Balearic Islands in the 10th century. From to Arab pirates in the Emirate of Crete raided the entire Mediterranean. In the 14th century, raids by Moor pirates forced the Venetian Duke of Crete to ask Venice to keep its fleet on constant guard. By they invaded southern Italy and assaulted Siponto. Their raids in the Adriatic increased rapidly, until the whole Sea was no longer safe for travel.
The Narentines took more liberties in their raiding quests while the Venetian Navy was abroad, as when it was campaigning in Sicilian waters in — As soon as the Venetian fleet would return to the Adriatic, the Narentines temporarily abandoned their habits again, even signing a Treaty in Venice and baptising their Slavic pagan leader into Christianity.
Later, they raided the Venetians more often, together with the Arabs. In , the Narentines broke through to Venice itself and raided its lagoon city of Caorle. This caused a Byzantine military action against them that finally brought Christianity to them.
After the Arab raids on the Adriatic coast circa and the retreat of the Imperial Navy, the Narentines continued their raids of Venetian waters, causing new conflicts with the Italians in — The Venetians futilely continued to fight them throughout the 10th and 11th centuries.
Piracy became endemic in the Baltic sea in the Middle Ages. Athelstan drove them back. In the 12th century the coasts of western Scandinavia were plundered by Curonians and Oeselians from the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea.
In the 13th and 14th century, pirates threatened the Hanseatic routes and nearly brought sea trade to the brink of extinction. The Victual Brothers of Gotland were a companionship of privateers who later turned to piracy as the Likedeelers. Until about , maritime trade in both the North Sea and the Baltic Sea was seriously in danger of attack by the pirates. Thomas Milhorn mentions a certain Englishman named William Maurice, convicted of piracy in , as the first person known to have been hanged, drawn and quartered ,  which would indicate that the then-ruling King Henry III took an especially severe view of this crime.
The ushkuiniks were Novgorodian pirates who looted the cities on the Volga and Kama Rivers in the 14th century. The Maniots considered piracy as a legitimate response to the fact that their land was poor and it became their main source of income. The main victims of Maniot pirates were the Ottomans but the Maniots also targeted ships of European countries. Zaporizhian Sich was a pirate republic in Europe from the 16th through to the 18th century. Situated in Cossack territory in the remote steppe of Eastern Europe , it was populated with Ukrainian peasants that had run away from their feudal masters, outlaws, destitute gentry, run-away slaves from Turkish galleys , etc.
The remoteness of the place and the rapids at the Dnepr river effectively guarded the place from invasions of vengeful powers. The main target of the inhabitants of Zaporizhian Sich who called themselves "Cossacks" were rich settlements at the Black Sea shores of Ottoman Empire and Crimean Khanate. Barbary corsairs French ship under attack by Barbary pirates, ca.
They were, however, of a smaller type than battle galleys, often referred to as galiots or fustas. In general, pirate craft were extremely difficult for patrolling craft to actually hunt down and capture. Purpose-built galleys or hybrid sailing vessels were built by the English in Jamaica in  and by the Spanish in the late 16th century.
The so-called Barbary corsairs began to operate out of North African ports in Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, Morocco around , preying primarily on the shipping of Christian powers, including massive slave raids at sea as well as on land.
The Barbary corsairs were nominally under Ottoman suzerainty , but had considerable independence to prey on the enemies of Islam. The Muslim corsairs were technically often privateers with support from legitimate, though highly belligerent, states.
They considered themselves as holy Muslim warriors, or ghazis ,  carrying on the tradition of fighting the incursion of Western Christians that had begun with the First Crusade late in the 11th century. Both sides waged war against the respective enemies of their faith, and both used galleys as their primary weapons. Both sides also used captured or bought galley slaves to man the oars of their ships; the Muslims relying mostly on captured Christians, the Christians using a mix of Muslim slaves, Christian convicts and a small contingency of buonavoglie, free men who out of desperation or poverty had taken to rowing.
The system has been described as a "massive, multinational protection racket",  the Christian side of which was not ended until in the Napoleonic Wars. The Barbary corsairs were finally quelled as late as the s, effectively ending the last vestiges of counter-crusading jihad.
France encouraged the corsairs against Spain, and later Britain and Holland supported them against France. However, by the second half of the 17th century the greater European naval powers began to initiate reprisals to intimidate the Barbary States into making peace with them. The most successful of the Christian states in dealing with the corsair threat was England. 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 squadrons and mounted attacks on their home ports which permanently ended the Barbary threat to English shipping.
In a bombardment from a Royal Navy squadron led by Sir John Narborough and further defeats at the hands of a squadron under Arthur Herbert negotiated a lasting peace until with Tunis and Tripoli. In and the Spaniards also bombarded Algiers in an effort to stem the piracy. Until the American Declaration of Independence in , British treaties with the North African states protected American ships from the Barbary corsairs.
Morocco , which in was the first independent nation to publicly recognize the United States , became in the first Barbary power to seize an American vessel after independence.
While the United States managed to secure peace treaties, these obliged it to pay tribute for protection from attack. However, Algiers broke the peace treaty after only two years, and subsequently refused to implement the treaty until compelled to do so by Britain in In , the sacking of Palma on the island of Sardinia by a Tunisian squadron, which carried off inhabitants, roused widespread indignation.
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Britain had by this time banned the slave trade and was seeking to induce other countries to do likewise. On his first visit he 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 and the government sent Exmouth back to secure reparation. Both Algiers and Tunis made fresh concessions as a result. However, securing uniform compliance with a total prohibition of slave-raiding, which was traditionally of central importance to the North African economy, presented difficulties beyond those faced in ending attacks on ships of individual nations, which had left slavers able to continue their accustomed way of life by preying on less well-protected peoples.
Algiers subsequently renewed its slave-raiding, though on a smaller scale. Corsair activity based in Algiers did not entirely cease until its conquest by France in The most famous pirate utopia is that of the probably fictional Captain Misson and his pirate crew, who allegedly founded the free colony of Libertatia in northern Madagascar in the late 17th century, until it was destroyed in a surprise attack by the island natives in In East Asia by the ninth century, populations centered mostly around merchant activities in coastal Shandong and Jiangsu provinces.
Wealthy benefactors, including Jang Bogo established Silla Buddhist temples in the region. Jang Bogo had become incensed at the treatment of his fellow countrymen, who in the unstable milieu of late Tang often fell victim to coastal pirates or inland bandits. After returning to Silla around , and in possession of a formidable private fleet headquartered at Cheonghae Wando , Jang Bogo petitioned the Silla king Heungdeok r.
Heungdeok gave Jang an army of 10, men to establish and man the defensive works. Jang became arbiter of Yellow Sea commerce and navigation. Four Chinese pirates who were hanged in Hong Kong in In South East Asia ,  piracy began with the retreating Mongol Yuan fleet after the betrayal by their Javanese allies who, incidentally, would found the empire of Majapahit after the Mongols left. They preferred the junk, a ship using a more robust sail layout.
Marooned navy officers, consisting mostly of Cantonese and Hokkien tribesmen, set up their small gangs near river estuaries , mainly to protect themselves. They recruited locals as common foot-soldiers known as lang Malay: They survived by utilizing their well trained pugilists, as well as marine and navigation skills, mostly along Sumatran and Javanese estuaries. Their strength and ferocity coincided with the impending trade growth of the maritime silk and spice routes.
They would be used as coast guards, or sent on recon missions to deal with Arab piracy in the Arabian Sea. Their function is similar to the 18th century privateers , used by the Royal Navy. Starting in the 14th century, the Deccan Southern Peninsular region of India was divided into two entities: Continuous wars demanded frequent resupplies of fresh horses, which were imported through sea routes from Persia and Africa.
This trade was subjected to frequent raids by thriving bands of pirates based in the coastal cities of Western India. One of such was Timoji , who operated off Anjadip Island both as a privateer by seizing horse traders, that he rendered to the raja of Honavar and as a pirate who attacked the Kerala merchant fleets that traded pepper with Gujarat. Spanish warships bombarding the Moro Pirates of the southern Philippines in During the 16th and 17th centuries, there was frequent European piracy against Mughal Indian merchants, especially those en route to Mecca for Hajj.
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The situation came to a head when the Portuguese attacked and captured the vessel Rahimi which belonged to Mariam Zamani the Mughal queen, which led to the Mughal seizure of the Portuguese town Daman. The effects large-scale piracy had on the Chinese economy were immense. Pirate fleets exercised hegemony over villages on the coast, collecting revenue by exacting tribute and running extortion rackets. In , the menacing Zheng Yi inherited the fleet of his cousin, captain Zheng Qi, whose death provided Zheng Yi with considerably more influence in the world of piracy.
Zheng Yi and his wife, Zheng Yi Sao who would eventually inherit the leadership of his pirate confederacy then formed a pirate coalition that, by , consisted of over ten thousand men. Their military might alone was sufficient to combat the Qing navy.