Piracy and reprisal in Byzantine waters: resolving a maritime conflict between Byzantines and Genoese at the end of the twelfth century

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In 1192, Genoese and Pisan pirates under the command of a Genoese corsair pillaged Venetian ships carrying merchandise and valuable gifts for the Byzantine emperor from the Sultan of Egypt. This paper examines the escalation and resolution of this maritime conflict between the Byzantines and the Genoese. Following Genoa’s failure to resolve the incident as
requested, the emperor implemented measures against the Genoese residents of Constantinople. The solution chosen by the Byzantine emperor bears striking resemblance to the practice of ius represaliarum, a practice familiar in Western Europe that would later evolve and influence international law in medieval and early modern Europe. The case in focus demonstrates how a merchants’ custom linked to Western Europe was first ‘introduced’ into Byzantine practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-52
Number of pages16
JournalComparative Legal History
Issue number1
Early online date16-May-2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Byzantine law
  • Reprisal
  • Maritime law
  • Byzantium and the West
  • Medieval International Law

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