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Hverjir voru Tyrkjaránsmenn?

Þorsteinn Helgason
Birtist í
Saga: Tímarit Sögufélags 1995 XXXIII
In the summer of 1627 corsairs from Algiers and Sallee, Morocco, raided the eastern and southern coasts of Iceland and the Westman Islands, killing about thirty people and taking some 400 captives to be sold into slavery. Of these just over thirty were eventually ransomed and returned to their homeland. The article is an introduction to this „Turkish Raid", and the first part of a study of it in the more general context of warfare and piracy in the 17th century. The categories of piracy are discussed, as is the role of the North African corsair towns of Algiers and Sallee. The central part of the article is a survey of sources and research on piracy during the period in question, and on the Turkish Raid in Iceland in particular. There is ample Icelandic documentation of the raid, the most detailed and reliable being „The Travels of the Rev. Ólafur Egilsson" and „The Account of the Turkish Raid" by the annalist Björn of Skarðsá. These Icelandic sources were published in the document collection The Turkish Raid in lceland 1627 by the archivist Jón Þorkelsson in 1906-1909. In foreign sources there are very few references to the raid on Iceland. There is one in Pierre Dan's Histoire de Barbarie, another by Emanuel d'Aranda and finally a page is to be found by the Dutch annalist Claes Wassenaer, not mentioned in Jón Þorkelsson's collection. It is, however, possible to trace the course of events which led to this raid and to analyse its significance and context by using documents from several European archives. A good many of these have been published, the most voluminous being Henry de Castrie's Les Sources inédites de l'Histoire du Maroc. So far, there has been no historical research into the Turkish Raid in Iceland, while foreign scholars have, at best, been aware of the fact that it did take place. The article also investigates the identity of the corsairs, mainly their nationality and origin. The inhabitants of Algiers were composed of Janissary Turks, Moors of various kinds and European converts to Islam, in addition to African and European slaves, Jews and others. The corsair crews were made up of the first three groups with the renegades as leading members. The situation in Sallee was similar except for the absence of Turks, since Morocco stood outside the realm of the Ottoman Empire, but Moors and Moriscos from Spain were correspondingly more prominent. In most Icelandic sources the raiders are called „Turks" without distinction. The main exception is „The Travels of the Rev. Ólafur Egilsson" where the presence of European apostates is strongly felt. Often, however, Ólafur fails to differentiate between Turks, Moors and renegades. The Dutch annalist Wassenaer states that the leader of the Sallee corsairs had nine Englishmen with him on the raid to Grindavík. What is most probable, considering the sources and the circumstances, is that North European renegades were the most numerous and enterprising among the corsairs in Iceland in 1627. Thus the Turkish Raid was not so Turkish after all. For the sake of convenience and because of the grain of truth contained in it, it is recommended, however, that the term be kept.