Aruj Barbarossa

Ottoman Privateer and Governor of Algiers
   

Born: c. 1473

Died: 1518


Aruj was a privateer and eventually became the governor of Algiers.

Aruj was one of four brothers: Ishaq, Aruj, Ilias and Kheireddin, who were born in the 1470s on the island of Lesbos to their father, Yakup, and a Christian mother, Katalina, said to be the widow of a Christian priest. Some sources make Yakup a Sipahi, i.e. a feudal cavalry 'knight', while other historiass make him a Janissary from Vardar.

The four brothers initially worked as sailors, and privateers in the Mediterranean to counteract the privateering of the Knights of St. John of the Island of Rhodes. Ilias was killed during a trading expecition, and Aruj was captured and imprisoned in Rhodes to be sold as a slave. Aruj later escaped from captivity, and went to Italy and from there to Egypt. There he managed to get an audience with the Sultan Qansoh al-Ghuri, who was preparing a fleet of ships to send to India. He gave him a ship, which Aruj manned with sailors and started attacking the islands of the Mediterranean that are controlled by Christians, from their base in Alexandria.

Around 1505 Aruj managed to seize three more ships and made the island of Djerba his base, thus moving his operations to the Western Mediterranean. His fame increased when between 1504 and 1510 he transported Muslim Mudejars from Christian Spain to North Africa. He was now known as Baba Aruj, or Baba Oruc, meaning Father Aruj, for his fatherly care of muslims in need, in Spain and France Baba Aruj became Barbarossa.

In 1516, Aruj captured Algiers, then Tlemcen, causing Abu Hamo Musa III to flee. Abu Zayan conspired against him, so he had him killed, and declared himself ruler over Algiers. He became known for attaching sails to cannons for transport through the deserts of North Africa. The best protection against Spain for Algiers and North Africa was joining The Ottoman Empire, Spain's main rival. For this he had to relinquish his title of Sultan of Algiers to the Ottomans. Befitting his name of Baba Aruj, he did this and stepped down. In response, the Ottomans appointed him governor of Algiers, Chief Sea Governor of the Western Mediteranean, and promised to support him. In 1518 Aruj was killed in a battle with the Spaniards, attempting to retake Tlemcen.

He died at the age of 55, and his brother Kheireddin took his place, his name (Barbarossa), and his mission.


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