Category Archives: piracy

Alexander Selkirk’s Rescue, 1709

The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down, by Colin Woodard (Mariner Books, 2008), Kindle Loc. 1058-1081:

Selkirk had been stranded on Juan Fernández Island for four years and four months, indeed ever since William Dampier’s ill-fated privateering mission had passed through these parts in the latter part of 1704. Selkirk, a Scotsman, had been the mate aboard Dampier’s consort, the Cinque Ports, whose captain and officers had lost faith in their commodore’s leadership and sailed off on their own. Unfortunately, the Cinque Ports’ hull was already infested by shipworm, so much so that when the galley stopped at Juan Fernández for water and fresh provisions, young Selkirk decided to stay—to take his chances on the island rather than try to cross the Pacific in a deteriorating vessel. According to the extended account he gave Rogers, Selkirk spent the better part of a year in deep despair, scanning the horizon for friendly vessels that never appeared. Slowly he adapted to his solitary world. The island was home to hundreds of goats, descendents of those left behind when the Spanish abandoned a half-hearted colonization attempt. He eventually learned to chase them down and catch them with his bare hands. He built two huts with goatskin walls and grass roofs, one serving as a kitchen, the other as his living quarters, where he read the Bible, sang psalms, and fought off the armies of rats that came to nibble his toes as he slept. He defeated the rodents by feeding and befriending many of the island’s feral cats, which lay about his hut by the hundreds. As insurance against starvation in case of accident or illness, Selkirk had managed to domesticate a number of goats, which he raised by hand and, on occasion, would dance with in his lonely hut. When his clothes wore out, he stitched together new goatskin ones, using a knife and an old nail, and grew calluses on his feet as a substitute for shoes. He was rarely sick and ate a healthful diet of turnips, goats, crayfish, and wild cabbage. He’d barely evaded a Spanish landing party by hiding at the top of a tree, against which some of his pursuers pissed, unaware of his presence.

Although Selkirk greeted Rogers’s men with enthusiasm, he was reluctant to join them after learning that his old commodore, William Dampier, was serving with them. Cooke wrote that Selkirk distrusted Dampier so much that he “would rather have chosen to remain in his solitude than come away with [Dampier] ’till informed that he did not command” the expedition. Dr. Dover and his landing party were only able to rescue the castaway by promising they would return him to the island were he not satisfied with the situation. Selkirk, in turn, helped them catch crayfish, piling them into the ship’s boat before they rowed him out to the Duke. On seeing Selkirk for the first time, Rogers said he looked wilder than the original owners of his goatskin coverings. “At his first coming on board us, he had so much forgot his language for want of use that we could scarce understand him, for he seemed to speak by halves,” Rogers wrote in his journal. “We offer’d him a Dram, but he would not touch it, having drank nothing but water since his being there, and ’twas some time before he could relish our victuals.” Selkirk was remarkably healthy and alert at first, but Rogers noted that “this man, when he came to our ordinary method of diet and life, though he was sober enough, lost much of his strength and agility.”

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European Peace Dividends, 1713

The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down, by Colin Woodard (Mariner Books, 2008), Kindle Loc. 1212-1228:

WITH THE END of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713, tens of thousands of sailors suddenly found themselves out of a job. The Royal Navy, bankrupted by the twelve-year-long world war, rapidly demobilized, mothballing ships and dumping nearly three-quarters of its manpower, over 36,000 men, in the first twenty-four months following the signing of the Peace of Utrecht. Privateering commissions ceased to have any value, their owners compelled to tie their warships up and turn the crews out onto the wharves of England and the Americas. With thousands of sailors begging for work in every port, merchant captains slashed wages by 50 percent; those lucky enough to find work had to survive on twenty-two to twenty-eight shillings (£1.1 to £1.4) a month.

Peace did not bring safety to those English sailors who found work in the West Indies. Spanish coast guard vessels, the guardas costas, continued to seize English vessels passing to and from Jamaica, declaring them smugglers if so much as a single Spanish coin were found aboard. They always found the “illicit” coins because they were the de facto currency of all of England’s Caribbean colonies. Thirty-eight Jamaican vessels were so seized in the first two years of peace, costing the vessel owners nearly £76,000. When the crews resisted, the guardas costas often killed a few in retribution; the rest spent months or years in Cuban prisons. “The seas,” the governor of Jamaica would later recall, had become “more dangerous than in time of war.”

As the months passed, the streets, taverns and boarding houses of Port Royal grew crowded with angry, destitute mariners. Merchants, stung by their losses, sent out fewer vessels, further reducing the number of jobs for sailors. Those sailors who had been captured—some more than once—were physically abused by the Spanish and financially pinched by their employers, who reduced their losses by not paying them for the time they were serving in prison. “Resentment and the want of employ,” one resident later recalled, “were certainly the motives to a course of life which I am of [the] opinion that most or many of them would not have taken up had they been redressed or could by any lawful mean have supported themselves.”

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Filed under Caribbean, economics, England, France, labor, Netherlands, piracy, Spain, U.K., war

European Naval Tactics, 1702

The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down, by Colin Woodard (Mariner Books, 2008), Kindle Loc. 739-785:

In the spring of 1702, England went to war, siding with the Dutch, Austrians, and Prussians against France and Spain. By doing so, they were setting the stage for the greatest outbreak of piracy the Atlantic would ever know….

In the early years of the conflict, the English and French navies clashed in two massive fleet engagements. These battles involved only the Royal Navy’s largest vessels, the ships of the line: enormous, lumbering, wooden fortresses bristling with three stories of heavy cannon. These ships, the first-, second-, and third-rates, were too slow and cumbersome to use in more subtle operations such as convoying merchantmen, attacking enemy shipping, or patrolling the unmarked reefs and shoals of the Caribbean. They were built for one purpose: to join a line of battle in a massive set-piece engagement….

Each of the navy’s seven first-rate ships had a crew of 800 men, who were crammed into a 200-foot-long hull with a hundred heavy cannon, and months of supplies and food stores, including live cows, sheep, pigs, goats, and poultry…. [Each] massive ship maneuvered into the line of battle, two hundred yards ahead of one ship, two hundred yards behind another. The enemy ships lined up in similar fashion and, after hours or even days of maneuvers, the two lines passed each other, discharging broadsides. The ships would sometimes pass within a few feet, blasting thirty-two-pound cannonballs into each other’s hulls. These balls punched straight through people, eviscerating or decapitating, and spraying the cramped gun decks with body parts and wooden splinters. Cannon trained on exposed decks were generally loaded with grapeshot or with a pair of cannonballs chained together, either of which could reduce a crowd of men into a splay of mangled flesh. From the rigging, sharpshooters picked off enemy officers or, if the ships came together, dropped primitive grenades on their opponent’s deck. Above and below, every surface was soon covered with blood and body parts, which oozed out of the scuppers and drains when the ship heeled in the wind. “I fancied myself in the infernal regions,” a veteran of such a battle recalled, “where every man appeared a devil.”

These early engagements took the lives of thousands of men but they were hardly conclusive. Seven English and four French ships of the line fought a six-day battle off Colombia in August 1702, for example, with neither side losing a single ship. Two years later, fifty-three English and Dutch ships of the line squared off with some fifty French vessels off Málaga, Spain, in the largest naval engagement of the war; the daylong bout of fleet-scale carnage ending in a draw.

By happenstance, the Royal Navy wiped out its French and Spanish rivals early in the war. In October 1702, an English battle fleet trapped twelve French ships of the line and most of the Spanish navy in a fjordlike inlet on Spain’s northern coast, destroying or capturing all of them. Five years later, an Anglo-Dutch force captured the French port of Toulon and so many men-of-war that the French were unable to engage in further fleet actions. Thereafter on many English ships of the line, crewmen had substantially reduced odds of dying in battle, though disease, accident, and abuse still carried off nearly half the men who enlisted.

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Filed under Austria, Caribbean, England, France, Germany, military, Netherlands, piracy, Spain, war

Venice’s Victory at Gallipoli, 1416

From: City of Fortune: How Venice Ruled the Seas, by Roger Crowley (Random House, 2012), Kindle Loc. 4426-4457:

On June 1, 1416, the Venetians engaged an Ottoman fleet at sea for the first time. The captain-general, Pietro Loredan, had been sent to the Ottoman port at Gallipoli to discuss a recent raid on Negroponte. What happened next he related in a letter to the doge and the Signoria.

It was dawn. As he approached the harbor, a signal to parley was misinterpreted as a hostile attack. The lead ships were met with a hail of arrows. In a short time, the encounter had turned into a full-scale battle.

As captain, I vigorously engaged the first galley, mounting a furious attack. It put up a very stout defense, as it was well manned by brave Turks who fought like dragons. But thanks to God, I overcame it and cut many of the Turks to pieces. It was a tough and fierce fight, because the other galleys closed on my port bow and they fired many arrows at me. I certainly felt them. I was struck on the left cheek below my eye by one, which pierced my cheek and nose. Another hit my left hand and passed clean through it … but by fierce combat, I forced these other galleys to withdraw, took the first galley, and raised my flag on her. Then, turning swiftly about, … I rammed a galliot with the spur [of my galley], cut down many Turks, defeated her, put some of my men aboard, and hoisted my flag.

The Turks put up incredibly fierce resistance because all their [ships] were well manned by the flower of Turkish sailors. But by the grace of God and the intervention of Saint Mark, we put the whole fleet to flight. A great number of men jumped into the sea. The battle lasted from morning to the second hour. We took six of their galleys with all their crews, and nine galleots. All the Turks on board were put to the sword, amongst them their commander … all his nephews and many other important captains.… After the battle we sailed past Gallipoli and showered those on land with arrows and other missiles, taunting them to come out and fight … but none had the courage. Seeing this, … I drew a mile off Gallipoli so that our wounded could get medical attention and refresh themselves.

The aftermath was similarly brutal. Retiring fifty miles down the coast to Tenedos, Loredan proceeded to put to death all the other nationals aboard the Ottoman ships as an exemplary warning. “Among the captives,” Loredan wrote, “was Giorgio Callergis, a rebel against the Signoria, and badly wounded. I had the honor to hack him to pieces on my own poop deck. This punishment will be a warning to other bad Christians not to dare to take service with the infidel.” Many others were impaled. “It was a horrible sight,” wrote the Byzantine historian Ducas, “All along the shore, like bunches of grapes, sinister stakes from which hung corpses.” Those who had been compelled to the ships were freed.

In this first hostile engagement, Loredan had almost completely destroyed the Ottoman fleet—and the means quickly to re-create it. The Venetians understood exactly where the source of Ottoman naval power lay. Many of the nominal Turks in their fleet were Christian corsairs, sailors, and pilots—maritime experts without whom the sultan’s embryonic navy was unable to function. The Republic’s policy was to remain unbending in this respect: Snuff out the supply of skilled manpower and the Ottomans’ naval capability would wither. It was for this reason that they butchered the sailors so mercilessly. “We can now say that the Turk’s power in this part of the sea has been destroyed for a very long time,” wrote Loredan. No substantial Ottoman fleet would put to sea again for fifty years.

The accidental battle of Gallipoli bred a certain overconfidence in Venetian sea power. For decades after, galley commanders reckoned that “four or five of their galleys are needed to match one of ours.” Touchy about their Christian credentials, they also used the victory to point out to the potentates of southern Europe their reputation as “the only pillar and the hope for Christians against the Infidels.”

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Venice’s Imperial Stato da Mar

From: City of Fortune: How Venice Ruled the Seas, by Roger Crowley (Random House, 2012), Kindle Loc. 1815-1866:

By the treaty of October 1204, the Partition of the Lands of the Roman (Byzantine) Empire, Venice became overnight the inheritor of a maritime empire. At a stroke, the city was changed from a merchant state into a colonial power, whose writ would run from the top of the Adriatic to the Black Sea, across the Aegean and the seas of Crete. In the process its self-descriptions would ascend from the Commune, the shared creation of its domestic lagoon, to the Signoria, the Serenissima, the Dominante—“the Dominant One”—a sovereign state whose power would be felt, in its own proud formulation, “wherever water runs.”

On paper, the Venetians were granted all of western Greece, Corfu, and the Ionian islands, a scattering of bases and islands in the Aegean Sea, critical control of Gallipoli and the Dardanelles, and, most precious of all, three-eighths of Constantinople, including its docks and arsenal, the cornerstone of their mercantile wealth. The Venetians had come to the negotiating table with an unrivaled knowledge of the eastern Mediterranean. They had been trading in the Byzantine Empire for hundreds of years, and they knew exactly what they wanted. While the feudal lords of France and Italy went to construct petty fiefdoms on the poor soil of continental Greece, the Venetians demanded ports, trading stations, and naval bases with strategic control of seaways. None of these were more than a few miles from the sea. Wealth lay not in exploiting an impoverished Greek peasantry, but in the control of sea-lanes along which the merchandise of the East could be channeled into the warehouses of the Grand Canal. Venice came in time to call its overseas empire the Stato da Mar, the “Territory of the Sea.” With two exceptions, it never comprised the occupation of substantial blocks of land—the population of Venice was far too small for that—rather it was a loose network of ports and bases, similar in structure to the way stations of the British Empire. Venice created its own Gibraltars, Maltas, and Adens, and like the British Empire it depended on sea power to hold these possessions together.

This empire was almost an accidental construct. It contained no program for exporting the values of the Republic to benighted peoples; it had little interest in the lives of these unwilling subjects; it certainly did not want them to have the rights of citizens. It was the creation of a city of merchants and its rationale was exclusively commercial. The other beneficiaries of the partition of 1204 concocted scattered kingdoms with outlandish feudal titles—the Latin Empire of Constantinople, the Kingdom of Salonika, the Despotate of Epirus, the Megaskyrate of Athens and Thebes, the Triarchy of Euboea, the Principality of Achaea, the Marquisates of Boudonitza and Salonae—the list was endless. The Venetians styled themselves quite differently. They were proud lords of a Quarter and Half a Quarter of the Empire of Romania. It was a merchant’s precise formulation, coming in total to three-eighths, like a quantity of merchandise weighed in a balance. The Venetians, shrewdly practical and unromantic, thought in fractions: They divided their city into sixths, the capital costs of their ships into twenty-fourths, and their trading ventures into thirds. The places where the flag of Saint Mark was raised and his lion carved on harbor walls and castle gates existed, in the repeated phrase, “for the honor and profit of Venice.” The emphasis was always on the profit.

The Stato da Mar allowed the Venetians to ensure the security of their merchant convoys, and it protected them from the whims of foreign potentates and the jealousy of maritime rivals. Crucially, the treaty afforded full control of trade within the center of the eastern Mediterranean. At a stroke it locked their competitors, the Genoese and the Pisans, out of a whole commercial zone.

Theoretically Byzantium had now been neatly divided into discrete blocks of ownership, but much of this existed only on paper, like the crude maps of Africa carved up by medieval popes. In practice the divisions were far messier. The implosion of the Greek empire shattered the world of the eastern Mediterranean into glittering fragments. It left a power vacuum, the consequences of which no one could foresee—the irony of the Fourth Crusade was that it would advance the spread of Islam, which it had set out to repel. The immediate aftermath was less an orderly distribution than a land grab.

The eastern Mediterranean became a magnet for adventurers and mercenaries, pirates and soldiers of fortune from Burgundy, Lombardy, and the Catalan ports. It was a last Christian frontier for the young and the bold. Tiny principalities sprang up on the islands and plains of Greece, each one guarded by its desolate castle, engaging in miniature wars with its neighbors, feuding and killing. The history of the Latin kingdoms of Greece is a tale of confused bloodshed and medieval war. Few of them lasted long. Dynasties conquered, ruled, and vanished again within a couple of generations, like light rain into the dry Greek earth. They were dogged by continuous, if uncoordinated, Byzantine resistance.

Venice knew better than most that Greece was no El Dorado. True gold was coined in the spice markets of Alexandria, Beirut, Acre, and Constantinople. They impassively watched the feudal knights and mercenary bands hack and hatchet each other and pursued a careful policy of consolidation. They hardly bothered with many of their terrestrial acquisitions. They never claimed western Greece, with the exception of its ports, and unaccountably failed to garrison Gallipoli, the key to the Dardanelles, at all. Adrianople was assigned elsewhere for lack of Venetian interest.

The Venetians’ eyes remained fixed on the sea but they had to fight for their inheritance, continuously dogged by Genoese adventurers and feudal lordlings. This would involve them in half a century of colonial war. Venice was granted the strategic island of Corfu, a crucial link in the chain of islands at the mouth of the Adriatic, but they had to oust a Genoese pirate to secure it and then lost it again five years later. In 1205, they bought Crete from the Crusader lord Boniface of Montferrat for five thousand gold ducats, then spent four years expelling another Genoese privateer, Henry the Fisherman, from the island. They took two strategic ports on the southwest tip of the Peloponnese, Modon and Coron, from pirates, and established a foothold on the long barrier island of Euboea, which the Venetians called Negroponte (the Black Bridge), on the east coast of Greece. And in between they occupied or sublet a string of islands around the south coast of the Peloponnese and across the wide Aegean. It was out of this scattering of ports, forts, and islands that they created their colonial system. Venice, following the Byzantines, referred to this whole geographic area as Romania—the “Kingdom of the Romans,” the word the Byzantines used for it—and divided it up into zones: Lower Romania, which constituted the Peloponnese, Crete, the Aegean islands, and Negroponte; and Upper Romania, the lands and seas beyond, up the Dardanelles to Constantinople itself. Farther still lay the Black Sea, a new zone of potential exploitation.

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Venice and Constantinople, 1082

From: City of Fortune: How Venice Ruled the Seas, by Roger Crowley (Random House, 2012), Kindle Loc. 335-379:

For four hundred years the Adriatic itself had been ruled from Rome; for another six hundred the sea, and Venice itself, had been subject to Rome’s Greek-speaking successor, the Byzantine emperors in Constantinople. By the year 1000, this power was starting to wane, and the Venetians were engaged in a stealthy act of substitution. In the small stone cathedrals of Zara, Spalato, Istria, and Traù, the Venetian doge was remembered in prayers only after the name of the emperor in Constantinople, but this practice was, simply, a ritual. The emperor was far away; his power no longer stretched much north of Corfu, at the gates of the Adriatic, and along the Italian shore. The lords of Dalmatia were in all fact the Venetians. The power vacuum created by weakening Byzantine control would allow Venice to move up the scale progressively from subjects to equal partners and finally, in tragic circumstances, to usurpers of the Byzantine sea. The lords of the Dalmatian coast were embarked on the ascent.

The relationship between Byzantium and Venice was one of intense complexity and longevity, chafed by mutually contradictory views of the world and subject to wild mood swings, yet Venice always looked to Constantinople. This was the great city of the world, the gateway to the East. Through its warehouses on the Golden Horn flowed the wealth of the wider world: Russian furs, wax, slaves, and caviar; spices from India and China; ivory, silk, precious stones, and gold. Out of these materials, Byzantine craftsmen fashioned extraordinary objects, both sacred and profane—reliquaries, mosaics, chalices chased with emeralds, costumes of shot silk—that formed the taste of Venice. The astonishing Basilica of Saint Mark, reconsecrated in 1094, was designed by Greek architects on the pattern of the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople; its artisans recounted the story of Saint Mark, stone by stone, in imitation of the mosaic styles of Saint Sophia (Hagia Sophia); its goldsmiths and enamelers created the Pala d’Oro, the golden altarpiece, a miraculous expression of Byzantine devotion and art. The whiff of spices on the quays of Venice had been carried a thousand miles from the godowns of the Golden Horn. Constantinople was Venice’s souk, where its merchants gathered to make (and lose) fortunes. As loyal subjects of the emperor, the right to trade in his lands was always their most precious possession. He, in turn, used this privilege as the bargaining chip to rein in his uppity vassals. In 991 Orseolo gained valuable trading rights for Venetian support in the Adriatic; twenty-five years later they were tetchily withdrawn again in a spat.

Differing attitudes to commerce marked a sharp dividing line. From early on, the amoral trading mentality of the Venetians—the assumed right to buy and sell anything to anyone—shocked the pious Byzantines. Around 820 the emperor complained bitterly about Venetian cargoes of war materials—timber, metal, and slaves—to his enemy, the sultan in Cairo. But in the last quarter of the eleventh century the Byzantine Empire, such a durable presence in the Mediterranean basin, started to decline, and the balance of power began tilting in Venice’s favor. In the 1080s the Venetians defended the empire in the Adriatic against powerful Norman war bands, intent on taking Constantinople itself. Their reward was sumptuous. With all the imperial pomp of Byzantine ritual, the emperor affixed his golden seal (the bulla aurea) to a document that would change the sea forever. He granted the city’s merchants the rights to trade freely, exempt from tax, throughout his realms. A large number of cities and ports were specified by name: Athens and Salonika, Thebes and Antioch and Ephesus, the islands of Chios and Euboea, key harbors along the coasts of southern Greece such as Modon and Coron—invaluable staging posts for Venetian galleys—but above all, Constantinople itself.

Here, Venice was given a prize site down by the Golden Horn. It included three quays, a church and bakery, shops and warehouses for storing goods. Though nominal subjects of the emperor, the Venetians had effectively acquired their own colony, with all the necessary infrastructure, in the heart of the richest city on earth, under extremely favorable conditions. Only the Black Sea, Constantinople’s grain basket, was barred to the avid traders. Quietly echoing among the solemn, convoluted lines of the Byzantine decree was the sweetest Greek word a Venetian might ever want to hear: monopoly. Venice’s jostling rivals in maritime trade—Genoa, Pisa, and Amalfi—were now put at such disadvantage that their presence in Constantinople was almost futile.

The Golden Bull of 1082 was the golden key that opened up the treasure-house of eastern trade for Venice. Its merchants flocked to Constantinople. Others started to permeate the small ports and harbors of the eastern seaboard. By the second half of the twelfth century, Venetian merchants were visible everywhere in the eastern Mediterranean. Their colony in Constantinople grew to around twelve thousand and, decade by decade, the trade of Byzantium imperceptibly passed into their hands. They not only funneled goods back to an avid market in continental Europe, they acted as intermediaries, restlessly shuttling back and forth across the ports of the Levant, buying and selling. Their ships triangulated the eastern seas, shipping olive oil from Greece to Constantinople, buying linen in Alexandria and selling it to the Crusader states via Acre; touching Crete and Cyprus, Smyrna and Salonika. At the mouth of the Nile, in the ancient city of Alexandria, they bought spices in exchange for slaves, endeavoring at the same time to perform a nimble balancing act between the Byzantines and the Crusaders on one hand and their enemy, the Fatimid dynasty in Egypt, on the other. With each passing decade, Venice was sinking its tentacles deeper into the trading posts of the East; its wealth saw the rise of a new class of rich merchants. Many of the great families of Venetian history began their ascent to prominence during the boom years of the twelfth century. The period heralded the start of commercial dominance.

With this wealth came arrogance—and resentment.

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Cossack Pirates on the Black Sea

From Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams, by Charles King (W. W. Norton, 2011), pp. 33-34:

Pirates from north of the Black Sea frequently targeted Ottoman ships, even hitting the Ottoman heartland in Anatolia and occasionally menacing Constantinople. These raiders grew up out of the frontier society that defined the coastal borderlands of the empire—a mixture of former Polish-Lithuanian or Muscovite peasants, local Muslims, and nomadic herders, some of whom coalesced into distinct communities given the catchall label “Cossacks.” Cossack groups emerged in the mid-sixteenth century as a key power at the intersection of Polish-Lithuanian and Ottoman authority, offering their services as freebooters—the word “Cossack” probably derives from kazak, a Turkic word for “free man”—to whichever sovereign could pay the highest fee. Although a substantial livelihood came from raiding and piracy, Cossacks were a true multipurpose frontier people, farming, herding, and fishing in the grassy lowlands and estuaries of the Dnieper and other rivers.

The French artillery engineer Guillaume de Beauplan, who witnessed Cossack raids in the seventeenth century, left a graphic description of the Cossacks and their waterborne lives, painting them not as the legendary cavalrymen they would eventually become, but rather as able and daring seamen, commanding small rivercraft that could be reoutfitted for voyages across the sea. As he wrote in his Description of Ukraine:

Their number now approaches some 120,000 men, all trained for war, and ready to answer in less than a week the slightest command to serve the [Polish] king. It is these people who often, [indeed] almost every year, go raiding on the Black Sea, to the great detriment of the Turks. Many times they have plundered Crimea, which belongs to Tatary, ravaged Anatolia, sacked Trebizond, and even ventured as far as the mouth of the Black Sea [Bosphorus], three leagues from Constantinople, where they have laid waste to everything with fire and sword, returning home with much booty and a number of slaves, usually young children, whom they keep for their own service or give as gifts to the lords of their homeland.

As the Cossack raids illustrated, in the seventeenth century at least, the Ottomans exercised little direct control north of the Black Sea, except during seasons of war when troops might descend on local villages to burn crops or requisition livestock.

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