Saqaliba – Slavs in the Arab World, Part 2 (Slavic pirates)
The Slavic pirates on the Mediterrenean Sea were not uncommon during the 10th century. Ibn Hauqal mentions Slavic pirates plundering the coast of Muslim Spain, and al-Masudi who mentions that against the inhabitants of al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) fight the Jalaliqa (Galicians), Ifranja (Franks), Nukabard (Lombards) and Saqaliba (Slavs). We also know that Croat and Dalmatian Slavs fought in the Byzantine fleet operating on the Adriatic and Ionian Sea, like it was the case in the expedition to Bari in the mid-9th century against the Arabs, who tried to establish a foothold there.
The Slavic activity on the southern seas starts quite early; already in 526 a Slavic fleet attacks Constantinople from the sea, in 626 light Slavic boats appear on the Black Sea fighting on the side of the Avars against the Byzantine navy, in the 7th century Slavic pirates appear on both the Adriatic and Aegean Sea.
Light Slavic ships control the northern coast of the Aegean Sea in the second half of the 7th century, attacking the Byzantine vessels transporting food from Thessaloniki to Constantinople; they even besieged Thesalloniki from the sea, the largest Byzantine port in the Aegean, and they laid waste to the Cyclades.
In 623 Slavic pirates attack Crete (at about this time in the western part of which Slavs are known to have settled) and Asia Minor, and in 642 Apulia (the latter probably by Slavs from Dalmatia, where Slavic naval art developed very early). The alliance of the Slavic pirates with the Arabs mentioned by Abu’l-Fida’y was by no means the first one of its kind; Constantine Porphirogenetus reports that during the reign of Emperor Nicopherus in 805 or 807 Slavs attacked the city of Patras in the Peleponessus, together with “Saracens and Africans”(Arabs and Africans).
The Slavs living on the shores of the Adriatic also displayed maritime inclanations; during a period of at least about 50 years during the 900’s the Venetian Republic was reduced to a status of a virtual tributary of the Slavic pirates from the Adriatic littoral, mostly Neretvans(Narentines). The Croats and Neretvans fought most frequently against the Venetians; one Venetian Doge is known to have been killed in a battle against the latter.
The Slavic raids on Italy also took place by land; these were pillaging raids launched on the north-estern part of the Lombard Kingdom, or military interventions made at the request of some Lombard factions involved in civil wars. For example, Arnefrit, the son of the late Lupus, Duke of Friulia, fled to the Slovenes (also knowns at that time as Garotans, Horutans, or Karantans, from Garota “cave” therefore Garotans would mean “inhabitants of lands with caves” – a very accurate description since there are numerous caves in southern Austria and Slovenia, where they lived at that time) after the Lombard King Grimoald refused to give him his deceased father’s duchy. He returned to Friulia with a Slavic army, but was quickly killed in a clash with the Lombards. Not long after the Slavs again attacked Friulia but were defeated.
In 701 Slavic raiders attack Friulian shepherds; a subsquent Lombard pursuit fails to catch them. Just a few days later, when new Slovene detachments enter Friulia, Duke Fergulf, along with the flower of the Friulian nobility, attacks them, but he is killed, together with most of his troops, while storming the Slavs’ camp located on a hill. During the reign of King Liutprand (reigned 712-744), Duke Pemmo tried to eject a Slavic detachment from Friulia, but was forced to cease fighting and make peace. Just as it was the case in Sicily, Crete, and elsewhere, the Slavs sometimes combined raiding with permanent settlement; a few Slavic enclaves appear at about this time in north-eastern Italy.
As we can see, during this age the Slavs were active raiders on both land and sea. Today Italians of Friuli-Venezia Giulia region have 15% of Slavic dna and there is 16% of Slavic dna on Crete ( Eupedia stats)