That’s a helluva way to die . . .

As part of my research for my latest novel (of which I posted a teaser episode a few weeks ago), I’ve been researching the use of oared galleys in naval combat through history.  The classic book “Naval Warfare Under Oars” by VAdm. William Ledyard Rogers has been a primary source.  Highly recommended reading for naval history buffs.

After the famous Battle of Lepanto in 1571, the last major Western naval battle involving oared galleys, skirmishing between European and Turkish fleets continued for over a year.  One such skirmish took place off Modon, the Venetian name for the town of Methoni in Greece, in October 1572.  Turkish galleys attacked a convoy of supply ships, and Don John of Austria took his European alliance fleet out of harbor to defend them.  In the resulting sea chase, Rogers describes this incident.

At last the Capitana of Naples, the “Lodi” (She-wolf), bearing the Marquis of Santa Cruz, drew near [the galley] of Mamut, son of Dragut and nephew of Barbarossa, both famous corsairs of the previous generation.  Mamut was a young man of 22 years, noted for his cruelty to his Christian slaves, of whom he had 200 on board.  He stepped forward from his station on the poop to urge the efforts of the chained rowers, and after killing several in his fury, the stroke oarsman, always a most powerful man, seized him and dragged him into the midst of the rowers, who dropped their oars and fell on him like wild animals.  Mamut was thrown from bench to bench, every man taking a bite from his carcass as he passed forward and he was a corpse before he reached the bows … On the anniversary of Lepanto, Mamut’s vessel became the sole prize of the entire campaign and the reward of the labors of 70,000 men.

Ain’t that a helluva way to die?



  1. He deserved it. I just finished reading White Gold by Giles Milton, an account of Christian slaves held by Muslims in Morocco. Very, very grim.

    – Don in Oregon

  2. Don in Oregon – yet slavery of whites and Christians in North Africa continues to this day, and the noble United Nations refuses to say anything about it. Sigh.

    Everyone bi.. complains about 'Slavery in the USA' but no one ever talks about white slavery, Christian slavery, or black slavery under the hands of muslims. It's like it's verboten or something. We're the bad ones, right?

  3. Available for free download at is Pellow’s account of his captivity: The Adventures of Thomas Pellow of Penryn, Marinere: three and Twenty Years in Captivity Among the Moors

    Of additional interest is the Wikipedia article about Thomas Pellow for the interesting Further Reading section at the end of the article. Note if you will that at that time, converts could still be slaves even after their conversion – see also the Mamlukes and the (original) Janissary armies, which were the personal property of the sultan.

  4. Beans – if you take a look at this article (I know.. it's wikipedia, but hear me out) —– You may notice this couple of sentences:

    "Native-American laborers were conscripted and forced to work in Potosí's silver mines through the traditional Incan mita system of contributed labor. Many of them died due to the harsh conditions of the mine life and natural gases. At such a high altitude, pneumonia was always a concern, and mercury poisoning took the lives of many involved in the refining process. . . .

    From around 1600, the death rate skyrocketed among the local Indian communities. To compensate for the diminishing indigenous labor force, the colonists made a request in 1608 to the Crown in Madrid to begin allowing the importation of 1,500 to 2,000 African slaves per year. An estimated total of 30,000 African slaves were taken to Potosí during the colonial era. Like the native laborers, they too died in large numbers. During colonial times an estimated eight million African and Amerindian slaves died in the process of the silver extraction."

    An estimated *8 million SPANISH-owned* slaves died mining silver for the Spanish in South America, but the US of A is the only bad country due to slavery….

    The book 1493 by Charles C Mann goes in to further detail about just how horrifying the mining and the mercury poisoning were, to the point where parent would maim their own children rather than let them be taken to the mines — maimed was at least alive.

  5. Nibbled to death by Oarsman, much less pleasant than nibbled to death by ducks (or Cats, cf Babylon 5 and Londo Mollari). Can't say he didn't deserve it though.

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