Privateering and captivity in the Mediterranean
Privateering in the Mediterranean
The Mediterranean was once the theatre of memorable battles between privateers.
Unlike pirates, privateers were legal operators commissioned by sovereign states to attack enemy ships and coastal villages. All privateering activities were governed and regulated by inter-governmental treaties. Among the booty taken, more than a million Christians and Muslims are assumed to have been captured in the Mediterranean between 1500 and 1800. The Ottomans meanwhile, who controlled the Levantine and Anatolian coasts as well as those of the Balkans, captured around 3 million prisoners. Captives rarely saw home again. Many were sold and enslaved. Others rose to fame, fortune and high rank, just like some of the privateers that had captured them – the 16th-century Barbarossa brothers, sons of a Sicilian convert to Islam, Turgut Reis, an Ottoman privateer of Greek origin, and Osta Moratto Genovese, an Italian who later became Bey of Tunis, among the latter.
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Privateering and captivity in the Mediterranean

Privateering in the Mediterranean
Military slaves or Mamluks
Sub-Saharan African slaves
Fanion de bateau corsaire

XIXe siècle

Palais de la Rose – Musée de l’Armée, La Manouba, Tunis, Tunisia

Bois, tissu

These flags represent the late 18th/early 19th-century emblems of a privateer acting on behalf of the Regency of Tunis. Unlike pirates, privateers were commissioned by governments, and their maritime activity was referred to as privateering. They were given authorisation to attack enemy merchant ships during war time.

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In this Exhibition
About the Exhibition
Privateering and captivity in the Mediterranean
Migrations within the Ottoman Empire
North–South movements
The life of European immigrant communities: Egypt and Tunisia