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Title: An overview of a problem in Hospitaller naval historiography
Authors: Debono, Joseph Anthony
Keywords: Order of St John -- History
Knights of Malta -- History
Hospitalers -- Malta -- History
Navies -- Malta -- History
Issue Date: 1999-08
Publisher: University of Malta. Faculty of Arts
Citation: Debono, J. A. (1999). An overview of a problem in Hospitaller naval historiography. Humanitas: Journal of the Faculty of Arts, 1, 189-197.
Abstract: The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, frequently referred to as the Religion or the Hospital, is a particular institution. Recognised by Pope Paschal II in 1113, this centuries old Order had a double raison d'etre: To offer hospitality to Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem and to pursue the Holy War against the Infidel. However, the fall of Acre to the Saracens in 1291, made it impossible for the Hospitallers to fulfill their original vocation. After the capture and transformation of Rhodes into their base, they had to find a way of justifying their existence. They quickly came up with a characteristic answer - to wage naval war against Islam. So successful did the Knights become in this new role that the marine branch of the Order's military activities was to come to the greatest prominence, in Rhodes and later in Malta. What were the characteristics of the Order's navy? Small numbers, excellent design and an enviable tradition became the chief qualities of this small but effective nary. What, however, did the Hospitallers do with their galleys? Did they wage war on I slam? Or did their activities degenerate into privateering? This issue is hotly debated by historians of the Order. European Historians have a habit of shuddering away from accusing the Hospitallers of indulging in the corso, as corsairing is known in this context. This paper examines the topic in an attempt to unravel what has become a veritable Gordian knot.
Appears in Collections:Humanitas : volume 1 : 1999
Humanitas : volume 1 : 1999

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