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Of Priests and Piracy

[Originally published at the now defunct group blog explananda.com]

Posted on August 8, 2006
From Patrick Leigh Fermor’s Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese, p. 116:
No pirate enterprise of any consequence was complete without a priest. He blessed the expedition at its outset, prayed for fair weather for his parent ship and foul weather for the enemy and interceded for the souls of his fallen messmates. He absolved the sins of his floating flock and saw to it that a share of the loot, often wet with blood, was hung besides the ikons on the mainmast as a votive offering. If more than eight days passed and no prize came their way, he would intone a litany on the deck, and when a prospective prize was sighted he would level a matchlock over the bulwarks with the rest and join the boarding party with khanjar and scimitar.

I was put onto Fermor by Anthony Lane’s recent piece on him in the New Yorker. Mani also (in chapter 8) has a nice discussion of feuding in the Southern Peloponnese. Ever since I read Russell Hardin’s One for All: The Logic of Group Conflict, I’ve been meaning to read more about feuding, especially in Albania. I’m looking forward to comparing Albanian feuding with feuding in the Southern Peloponnese, in the unlikely event I ever find the time.