Family Farreira da Fonseca, Undated Letter Book Entry from the 17th Century

One day I was looking through my family’s old archives and came across some documents that were dated back to the years of the 1500s, specifically the 1550s. The document was about my great grandfather who worked in a port unloading Portuguese ships. On the document there was a legal dispute that happened over some merchandise that was being unloaded from one of Portuguese ships that had just arrived back to port.

The dispute happened between the men who were unloading the merchandise including my great grandfather, who were the only ones at the port at the time because the Portuguese merchants had left on another expedition, and some Greek subjects from the Ottoman Empire. The dispute was essentially due to the fact that the Knights of Malta had raided one of the Greek-Ottoman ships and took their goods.[1]  After the raid occurred, some of the goods were traded between the Venetians and the Portuguese merchants.  The Greek subjects were not too happy about the Knights of Malta taking their goods let alone trading them off and receiving nothing in return except loss of profit, but in the eyes of the Knights they weren’t committing acts of piracy because they were abiding by the laws of the sea.

The Greek- Ottoman subjects wanted their merchandise back, but the Portuguese had not directly taken it from them so dispute didn’t pass the local court that the Knights of Malta had set up. Unfortunately, the Greeks would not receive their merchandise back.

[1] Greene, Molly. Catholic Pirates and Greek Merchants: A Maritime History of the Mediterranean. New Jersey: Princeton University, 2010. 79.


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