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Hayreddin Barbarossa

The Terror of the Aegean

Portrait of Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha (1478-1546)

the greatest pirate that has ever lived, and one of the cleverest tacticians and strategists the Mediterranean ever bore on its waters Edward Keble Chatterton

Born on Lesvos in the 1470s of a Greek mother and Turkish father, Barbarossa was the terror of the Greek islands for decades. Khiḍr (his birth name) started his career as a corsair with his older brother ʿArūj (or Oruç). Oruç was nicknamed Baba Oruç (Father Oruç) by the Muslims of North Africa in honour of the assistance he gave them while fighting the Spanish and Portuguese (which to Spanish and Italians ears sounded like ‘Barbarossa’ ‘red beard’). They became known as the ‘Barbarossa brothers’, raiding Spanish and Portuguese ships off the coast of North Africa, and giving a third of their plunder to the Sultan.

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Sidelights and Myths

Text © Dana Facaros

Images by AAIA, Ali. Amir Beg Shirwani, Unknown authorUnknown author