Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Redimir y rescatar en el Mediterráneo moderno

Giovanna Fiume


The ransom is the price paid to free a person who has fallen into enemy hands as a prisoner (captivus) and reduced to slavery. The fixing and payment of this price are parts of a long process —redemption— that involves various subjects (both individuals and institutions) who often have different religious affiliations. Ransom is connected with privateering, a military, commercial and financial phenomenon that entails the continuous exchange of men, commodities and money. By comparison with the religious orders and secular and religious institutions specialised in ransom, it is more difficult to identify and quantify the innumerable private initiatives, whether informal or institutionalized, on the part of individuals or a group, starting with those of the captives’ relatives: all those categories of redeemers whose traces have to be sought in banal activities —buying, selling, undertaking an activity for gain, taking a risk, planning a business deal, grasping an opportunity— and do not therefore appear in institutional sources.

It is an established but untenable commonplace to suppose that Muslims did not ransom their fellow believers who fell into Christian hands, but limited themselves to occasional exchanges. In as much as the Muslim world did not have organizations equivalent to those of Catholic Europe, the intensive commercial relations of a group of Moorish merchants between Palermo and Tunisi help us to understand the pervasiveness of the activity of ransom, the interconnection between commercial exchanges and redemption, and the shared profits obtained by commercial agents of different religions. More generally, they help us to reflect on the contact between neighboring or adjacent societies, even though frequently in conflict with one another.

Paraules clau

pirates; Mediterrània

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