Family Ferreira da Fonseca, c. 1715-1718

Today my family and I received a letter from our nephew stating that he was stuck in the city of Aigina due to a court hearing because of an act of piracy. Our nephew is a merchant who just recently sailed to the Eastern Mediterranean with some other merchants, some of whom were Greeks they picked up along the way. My nephew wrote to us stating that he and his crew were on their way to Aigina when their ship was stopped and raided by men that were perceived to be pirates, but one of the merchants on my nephew’s ship noticed the flag on the ship. The flag belonged to the Knights of Malta, who were raiding ships that had Greeks onboard or any evidence of Greeks onboard. My nephew and his crew were abandoned by the Knights of Malta, but found their way into the city of Aigina. There they found a consul who would aid them in getting their goods back by writing up documents that stated what happened at sea. Every member of the crew was a witness so they were included.

The reason for these documents was that my nephew planned to go before the Tribunale degli Armamenti  of the Knights of Malta to recover his cargo.  One of the customs in the Tribunale was that the Greeks could only have a voice if they emphasized their Christian identity. And that is what the Greeks on my nephew’s ship did. In some cases a dragoman’s word was highly important in court as was any other additional documentation written up by Christian authorities, and my nephew relied on the latter. In some cases, the merchants could receive their merchandise back, but they had to prove themselves to be Christian in most scenarios. That is why witnesses and documentation was important to have.[1]

Luis Ferriera da Fonseca


[1] Greene, Molly. Catholic Pirates and Greek Merchants: A Maritime History of the Mediterranean (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2010), 141.

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