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by Archaeology Newsroom

Piracy in Byzantium (4th century to 15th century)

In an inland sea like the eastern Mediterranean, where piracy had an endemic character, the Byzantines managed to establish an effective mechanism against piracy. Both the glorious and the unfortunate phases of Byzantine history respectively, serve to mark the chronological division of piracy into four periods: a. 4th to 7th century, b. 7th to 10th century, c. 10th to 11th century, d. 11th to 14th century. A prerequisite for piracy was not onl men used to the hardships of life at sea, it also depended on adequate retreat harbours for the fitting out and repair of the pirate-ships, tolerance of the authorities of the country, and the possibility of bringing the loot to friendly markets. The chaotic situation that succeeded the capture of Constantinople by the Latins in 1204, created ideal conditions for piracy that became thereafter a general and permanent phenomenon. From the 14th century on, an undeclared war was waged between members of the Mediterranean society, that is, between merchants and pirates who were so to speak the anti-merchants.