Mediterranean slave trade

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Mediterranean slave trade was carried out by traders from many countries in the Mediterranean region until the 19th century , and in individual cases beyond . Europeans as well as Asians and Africans were kidnapped on the Mediterranean Sea or captured during raids inland to be sold afterwards. This was used to attract female slaves to meet the needs of women in polygamous societies and household slaves , but also to attract male workers for agriculture and the military.

Catchment areas and consumers

The origin of the slaves who were transported across the Mediterranean , as well as the direction of these transports, changed over time. During the early Middle Ages , many slaves were brought to the Orient from the Germanic-Slavic border areas via France , Italy and Spain , including many eunuchs .

The main areas of recruitment in the 13th to 15th centuries were the Balkans and the Black Sea region . The people captured were members of Central Asian Turkic peoples or came from the Caucasus region and found their buyers primarily in Egypt , where they not only held high management positions as Mamluks , as military slaves , but also ruled themselves at times, and in southwest Europe, where the light-skinned in particular Caucasian women fetched high prices.

In addition, the so-called barbarian corsairs and other pirates operated the enslavement of whites . These were not only the crew members and passengers of hijacked ships, but also the abducted residents of European coastal cities. Mainly the southern European coast (Spain and the Mediterranean islands) was affected, but their raids in the 17th century also led to Baltimore in Ireland , Penzance in southwest England and even to Austurland and Vestmannaeyjar near Iceland . Often these raids did not serve to sell the captured people, but to demand ransom money for the abducted people, which was also very profitable . A famous example of a slave released for a ransom is the Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes . The historian Robert C. Davis calculates the number of enslaved Europeans in North African countries between 1580 and 1680 at around 1 million to 1,250,000 people.

The Ottoman Empire was also involved in the slave trade in the Mediterranean. In particular, the light mounted troops, the Akıncı , who rushed ahead of the Ottoman army on military campaigns, robbing and plundering, provided supplies of captured people. Another special Ottoman form of slavery was the so-called “ boy harvest ” ( devşirme , Turkish for “collecting”), in which every fifth Christian boy between the ages of 8 and 15 had to be given up and then - after a forced conversion to Islam and slave labor in Muslim families - to the elite troops of the Sultan, the Janissaries were recruited. Those from the Devşirme formed their own political group over time, which in the course of the 15th century became serious competition for the traditional Ottoman nobility in political decision-making. The annual campaigns of the Ottomans also served the purpose of not having too many of them in the capital in order to prevent revolts (which are not uncommon).

Christian Mediterranean countries

While the slave trade in Central Europe can be regarded as ended from the 12th century - Helmold von Bosau reports a sale of 700 captured Danes for Mecklenburg for 1168, offered by pirating Slavs - trade has increased in the Christian countries on the Mediterranean with slaves and slavery in many variations of dependency and freedom until modern times. In Genoa , Civitavecchia , Naples , Sicily and Sardinia, Turkish house slaves in particular are reported up to the 18th century , while slave labor on the lands in the Kingdom of Naples , the Kingdom of Sicily , the Balearic Islands and Catalonia ended earlier . Jacques Heers lists the port cities of Lisbon , Seville (for the long slave-holding Andalusia ), Barcelona , Valencia , Genoa, Venice and, to a lesser extent, Marseille as human trafficking centers .

House slavery, which has long been cultivated in Christian Mediterranean cities, especially with women from the Black Sea , the Orient , the Maghreb , and with Greek women or women from the Balkan countries, has given city life a special character because of the diversity of origins. Above all, because of this, no uniform slave class could be formed. Despite all the humiliation in the form of the original lawlessness and the harsh working conditions, the life of the cities of the “masters” has usually been enriched through Christianization, the eventual release and assimilation.

See also


  • Michel Balard : La Romanie génoise (XIIe - début du XVe siècle) . 2 volumes. Rome / Paris: École Française de Rome, 1978 ( Bibliotheque des Écoles Françaises d'Athènes et de Rome 235, ISSN  0257-4101 ; Atti della Societa Ligure di Storia Patria NS 18 = 92).
  • Robert C. Davis : Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters. White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800 . Houndmills: Palgrave MacMillan, 2004 ( ISBN 978-1-403-94551-8 ).
  • Jacques Heers : Esclaves et domestiques au Moyen Âge dans le monde méditerranéen . Paris: Hachette, 2006 ( ISBN 978-2-01-279335-4 ; 1996 edition reprinted).
  • Charles Verlinden : L'esclavage dans l'Europe médiévale . 2 volumes. Gent: Rijksuniversiteit te Gent, 1955–1977. ( Works uitgegeven door de Faculteit van de Letteren en Wijsbegeerte afl. 119 and 162.)
  • Tidiane N'Diaye : The Veiled Genocide. The history of the Muslim slave trade in Africa. Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-498-04690-3 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. cf. Charles Verlinden: L'Esclavage dans l'Europe médiévale, 1955/1977.
  2. New book reopens old arguments about slave raids on Europe. March 11, 2004, accessed April 29, 2020 .
  3. Cf. Robert Bartlett : The birth of Europe from the spirit of violence. Conquest, colonization and cultural change from 950 to 1350. Kindler, Munich 1996, p. 366.
  4. Jacques Heers, Esclaves et domestiques au Moyen Âge dans le monde méditerranéen , Pluriel / Hachette, Paris 2006, p. 121 f.
  5. Jacques Heers (2006), p. 110.
  6. Jacques Heers (2006), pp. 285–287.