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Who is Barbarossa the Pirate?

Pirate Barbarossa was in fact two men, brothers, they were unwelcome visitors to Crete in the late 16th century with attacks on

  • Sitia

  • Rethymnon

  • Chania

  • Kastelli-Kissamos

  • Spinalonga

  • Paleochora and many other towns

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Barbarossa, the pirate Crete and Davy Jones' locker, unfathomable secrets and stories, zombie buccaneers, the Black Swan, an Aztec gold treasure, and Captain Jack Sparrow...What is Johnny Depp's connection to Crete?
While Geoffery Rush portrays Captain Barbarossa in the film Pirates of the Caribbean, the real Barbarossa was notorious for violent raids, pillaging and stealing riches, destroying communities, and generally creating havoc throughout the Mediterranean. That's exactly what pirates do, isn't it? But these are two very distinct waters in two very different corners of the planet, separated by many years.

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Brothers in Arms

Aruj and Chayrad'din Barbarossa were born on the Greek island of Lesbos and sailed the Mediterranean as corsairs. For centuries, the kingdoms of Algeria, Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli participated in state-sponsored piracy, seizing ships and destroying coastal European settlements in the Mediterranean. In their home ports, they utilized the victims as slave labor.


The Barbarossa brothers were notorious for dominating the Mediterranean commerce routes. They possessed ports all over Africa's northern Barbary Coast. Later in life, they ruled Algeria with a direct line to the Sultan and were a part of Ottoman dominance in the region.

Aruj is claimed to have been taken by the Knights of St John and afterwards slain by Spanish crusaders in 1518 while fighting against Christians and Christian corsairs.

It's doubtful that these Barbarossas ever went close to the Caribbean, but why let that ruin a nice story?


What does barbarossa mean?

The two brothers were named after the elder - both named after the older's red hair and beard - barba means beard and rossa means red - in Italian.


Destruction of Selino Kasteli in Paleochora

The Venetians constructed a fortification on the peninsula in south-eastern Crete, where the town of Paleochora today stands. The stronghold was established in 1282 by a Venetian Duke and was dubbed 'Castel Selino' or 'Selino Kasteli' or Selino Castle. The region is still known as 'Selino'. In a legendary invasion in 1539, pirate Barbarossa demolished the stronghold and wiped out the town. Pirate ships are said to have hidden in the coves and harbours of adjacent Gavdos island.

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