The Barbary Pirates of Salé
Naval flags of Salé, the red flag of no quarter on the right
Bowle's universal display of the naval flags of all nations in the world
A red flag signaled no quarter, above on the right, was a signal that no prisoners would be taken. Called the Joli Rouge, French for "pretty red," the flag was used to terrify victims into a quick surrender.
The Story of Salé, Morrocco, and the Barbary pirates begins with Al-Andalus, also known as Moorish Iberia or Islamic Iberia. It was a medieval Muslim state occupying at its peak most of what are today Spain, Portugal, Andorra, and part of southern France. It is the name more generally describes parts of the Iberian Peninsula and Septimania governed by Moors for 779 years, at various times between 711 and 1492, though the boundaries changed constantly in wars with Christian kingdoms.
The Religion of Islam
Judaism, Christianity and Islam were the three great monotheistic religions that came out of the Middle East. Adherents of all three religions were to be found in the Americas in the 17th and 18th centuries. The followers of Islam called the Jews and Christians the People of the Book, because they too believed in the Prophets. The new idea was that Mohammed was the final Prophet, and his teachings replaced that of the others. The holy book of Islam is the Koran.
The religion of Islam, a word which means surrender to God, is far too complicated to explain in detail here. However the The Five Pillars of Islam will give us a basis for further study.
The Five Pillars of Islam
The Five Pillars of Islam are five basic acts in Islam, considered mandatory by believers and are the foundation of Muslim life
1. Declare there is no god except God, and Muhammad is God's Messenger.
2. Pray five times a day, following special rituals, such as washing beforehand, facing Mecca, bowing and kneeling.
3. Give alms and show charity to the poor.
4. Practice the ritual fast during the month of Ramadan.
5. Make the pilgrimage to Mecca, the Hajj, at least once if you have the health and means.
The Moors in Spain
The Moors, were a nomadic people of North Africa, Berbers, originally inhabitants of Mauretania. They became Muslims in the 8th century and went to Spain in 711, where they overran the Visigoths. They spread northward across the Pyrenees into France but were turned back by Charles Martel in 732. In Southern Spain, however, they established the Umayyad emirate, later caliphate, at Cordoba. The court grew in wealth, splendor, and culture. Other centers of Moorish culture were Toledo, Granada, and Seville. The Moors never established a stable central government. In the 11th century the caliphate fell, and Moorish Spain was captured by the Almoravids, who were supplanted in 1174 by the Almohads.
During the Reconquista, Christian rulers continued efforts in Northern Spain to recapture the south. In 1085 Alfonso VI of Leon and Castile recovered Toledo. Cordoba fell in 1236, and one by one the Moorish strongholds surrendered. The last Moorish city, Granada, fell to Ferdinand V and Isabella I in 1492. The Jews and most of the Moors were driven from Spain, but two groups, the Moriscos and Mudéjares, remained. The expulsion came before the discovery of the New World, and the period of the Portuguese and Spanish colonial empires which followed.
The Mudéjares were the Moors who submitted to the rule of the Christian kings, and cooperated in the reconquest of Spain from its Moorish rulers. Their Muslim religious status was protected in 1492. Mudéjares who refused to convert to Christianity in 1610 were either killed or expelled to the Barbary Coast in North Africa.
The Moriscos, were Moors who had converted to Christianity after the Christian reconquest in the 11th to the 15th centuries in Spain. The religion and customs of Muslims in the Christian parts of Spain were generally respected until the fall of Granada in 1492. Moors who refused conversion were forcibly baptized. They unsuccessfully rebelled between 1500 and 1502. Although most Moors accepted conversion, the others were persecuted by the Inquisition. The Moriscos rose in a bloody rebellion between 1568 and 1571, which was put down by King Philip II. They prospered in spite of persecution, but Philip decreed in 1609 their expulsion for both religious and political reasons. The Moriscos left Spain in 1610 for the Barbary Coast in North Africa. Neither the Mudéjares not the Moriscos would foget Al-Andalus.
The Barbary Coast
Barbary Coast is not an Arabic place name; it was a name given to the coast of Morocco by the Europeans from 16th century through the 20th century. The word Barbary is derived from the word Berbers, the name of the ancient inhabitants of the region.
The countries of northern Africa that lie along the Mediterranean Sea comprise the Barbary Coast. The countries are Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. The name became associated with pirates of the 16th through 19th centuries.
Almoravid Dynasty ruled Morocco from 1055 to 1147, when the Almohad Dynasty assumed power. Almohad rule ended in 1269 when a Berber tribe, the Marinids, from the High Plateaus seized control.
The Marinid Dynasty ruled until 1465, and piracy began to flourish along the Barbary Coast. Coastal cities reaped benefit from the slaves and treasure taken from merchant ships.
The Marinid Dynasty was followed by the Wattasid Dynasty (1465-1549), and then the Sa'adian Dynasty 1549-1659. During this dynasty, Jan Janszoon was born. He was to become involved in Sa'adian politics and trade.
Salé, Morocco, Scourge of Christian Europe
The expelled Moriscos flooded into the area that was in a few decades to become the Republic of Salé (1627–1668), an independent corsair state, also called the Republic of Bouregreg. It was directly across a small river from Rabat. Salé has also been called Salli, Salee Sallee and Sally. Roving pirates from Salé were called the Sally Rovers by the British. There were several British sea shanties about the Rover's fearsome ways.
A privateer was either a commander or a member of the crew of an armed vessel commissioned by a government with letters of marque. Letters of marque were given to a private person to fit out an armed ship and use it to attack, capture and plunder enemy merchant ships or war vessels in time of war. Captured ships had to be brought before an admiralty court to ensure they were a legal prize.
A rais, or reis, was a king or captain who commanded Barbary pirate cruisers and ruled an African state.
A corsair was a pirate who cruised the ocean with an armed vessel, usually without a commission from any sovereign state, seizing and plundering merchant vessels or making booty on land. A corsair was also a piratical vessel, sometimes a privateer. The Moriscos and Renegados joined forces as corsairs in North Africa.
The Ottoman Turks had protected the corsairs that reigned free in the Mediterranean and along the Atlantic coast for centuries, until the Europeans challenged them in the late 18th century with superior weapons.
A renegado was one of the most hated of the raises. They were Europeans who had become leaders of the corsair fleets. From renegado came the terms renegade, a turncoat, and renege, to go back on one's word. Such a person was a former Christian who became a pirate, converted to Islam and preyed on European cargo ships from bases on the North African coast.
The Town of Salé
from an 18th century account
The twin town of Rabat-Sallee, perhaps the scene of as much misery as any spot between Agadir and Algiers, is built on the banks of the Guerrou, (Bou-ragrag) which falls from the mountains of the Zoavais, and divides into two parts. That on the north part is called by the natives Sela (S'la), but by us Sallee. It is encompassed by good walls, about six fathoms (36 ft) high and two yards and a half (7 ft 6 ins) thick, composed of clay, red sand and lime. On the top of the walls are battlements flanked with good towers. The other part of the town which lies on the south side of the river is called Raval, (Arraval, or, Rabat, 34.0N 7.0W, the side of the river on which the Europeans reside) and occupies a much larger compass than the former. Within the circumference of this town are abundance of gardens, and a large field, where they might sow corn enough to serve 1,500 men. Its walls are very ancient; the natives say they were built by the first Christians who were brought out of Europe by the generals of Jacob Almanzor, king of Arabia Felix who conquered Spain. On the south-east quarter stands a high tower called Hasans, which serves as a landmark for ships to come in. At the foot of this mountain are docks for building ships, and for them to winter in. The ascent of this hill is so gentle that a man may ride on horseback to the top. Sallee has two castles. The old stands directly at the mouth of the river Guerrou. Its walls are built on rocks, and very lofty, sheltering the governor's house, which joins to them, from any cannon shot. This castle is very irregular. Within this castle, and before its principal gate, is a high fort, which commands the town. Below, next to the sea, on the point of the rock facing the bar, is a bastion, mounted with five pieces of cannon, to secure the vessels which come in to an anchor in the road, and cover the retreat of the Corsairs, when pursued by the Christians. The new castle is situated on the south-west of the town. It was built by Murly Archy. There is a communication from one castle to the other by a high wall flanked with two towers, and built upon arches, under which the people pass when they go to walk upon the strand (beach). There are in this castle twelve pieces of brass cannon. The chief riches of this place consist in its piracies, the Sallee Rovers (the Salletines, or Slani, as they call themselves,) being the most expert and daring of any on the Barbary. The town is very well described by H. C. Browne in the English Illustrated Magazine for February, 1890, pp. 396-402.