Piracy and the Evolution of Ottoman-Venetian Maritime Law, 1482–1670
The Ottoman-Venetian anti-piracy clauses developed first in a period of maritime violence that was predominantly state-sponsored, even as the line between regular navy forces and irregulars and corsairs remained blurred. After 1570, however, the centers of gravity and practitioners of piracy shifted largely beyond the control of the central states most affected by it. The changing nature of the threat demanded a response, and Ottoman and Venetian negotiators gradually expanded the treaty language concerning piracy. In between treaty issues—which occurred only upon the death of a sultan or the conclusion of hostilities—the dispatch of case-specific orders and elaborative decrees added to and clarified anti-piracy law and reflected shifting understandings of their provisions.
Combining maritime custom, negotiation, and the legal traditions of both sides, Istanbul and Venice constructed a platform of codes of conduct at sea, expectations for how to deal with pirates, and a formal system for providing restitution for damages and the return of their illegally enslaved subjects. In so doing, Ottomans and Venetians created a new body of maritime law that laid the groundwork for principles that would become enshrined in modern international law.