Bookmark and Share

Open the online Arabic language course

Barbary Coast / Pirates /
Also called: Khayr ed-Din Barbarossa

ZOOM - Open a large version of this image


(Around 1475-1546) Barbary pirate of Turkish origin, operating along the Barbary coast.
Barbarossa is often made responsible for launching piracy as a way of life in North Africa, but this is an exaggeration. His main achievement was to establish state structures out of pirate nests, then promoting piracy on a larger scale; his was not the invention of piracy.
It was by his, and his brother's, initiative that Algeria and Tunisia became part of the Ottoman Empire.
Barbarossa is an Italian name, meaning "Red Beard". Still, another explanation is that was from Baba Aruj, related to a nick-name being added to his brother, Aruj. Who actually was known as Barbarossa is confusing. First it was Aruj who had this name, then it passed on to Khayr ed-Din.

Around 1475: Born into a Turkish family on the island of Lesbos.
Early 15th century: Attacks by Spain and Portugal on North Africa, which makes Khayr ed-Din and his brother, Aruj, to involve themselves in the local resistance.
1518: Aruj is killed by the Spanish. Khayr ed-Din takes his position, taking his common name, Barbarossa.
— Barbarossa seeks protection under the Ottomans, in order to secure his position towards the Spanish. He is appointed beyler bey, and receives military aid.
1529: Conquers Algiers, thereby turning this into a pirate stronghold.
1533: Is appointed Admiral-in-Chief, and starts a conquest of Tunisia, which would make also Tunis a pirate stronghold.
1535: Tunis and its port is lost to Europeans, by the command of the Holy Roman emperor, Charles 5.
1538: Barbarossa wins Tunis back.
1546: Barbarossa dies.

By Tore Kjeilen