Barbarossa ("Redbeard"), the name given by the Christians to a family of Turkish admirals and sea rovers of the 16th century, - Arouj and Khizr (alias Khair-ed-Din) and Hassan the son of Khair-ed-Din. As late as 1840, Captain Walsin Esterhazy, author of a history of the Turkish rule in Africa, ventured the guess that "Barbarossa" was simply a mispronunciation of Bábá Arouj, and the supposition has been widely accepted. But the prefix Bábá was not applied to Arouj by contemporaries. His name is given in Spanish or Italian form as "Orux" or "Harrach" or "Ordiche." The contemporary Arab chronicle published by S. Rang and F. Denis in 1837 says explicitly that Barbarossa was the name applied by Christians to Khair-ed-Din. It was no doubt a nickname given to the family on account of their red or tawny beards (Lat. barba). The founder of the family was Yakub, a Roumeliot, probably of Albanian blood, who settled in Mitylene after its conquest by the Turks. He was a coasting trader and skipper, and had four sons - Elias, Isaak, Arouj and Khizr, all said to have been born after 1482. Khizr became a potter and Isaak a trader. Elias and Arouj took to sea roving.
In an action with a galley of the Knights of Saint John, then established at Rhodes, Elias was killed and Arouj taken prisoner; the latter was ransomed by a Turkish pasha and returned to the sea. For some time he served the Mamelukes who still held Egypt. During the conflict between the Mamelukes and the sultan Selim I., he considered it more prudent to transfer himself to Tunis. The incessant conflicts among the Berber princes of northern Africa gave him employment as a mercenary, which he varied by piratical raids on the trade of the Christians. At Tunis he was joined by Khizr, who took, or was endowed with, the name of Khair-ed-Din. Isaak soon followed his brothers. Arouj and Khair-ed-Din joined the exiled Moors of Granada in raids on the Spanish coast. They also pushed their fortunes by fighting for, or murdering and supplanting, the native African princes. Their headquarters were in the island of Jerba in the Gulf of Gabes. They attempted in 1512 to take Bougie from the Spaniards, but were beaten off, and Arouj lost an arm, shattered by an arquebus shot.
In 1514 they took Jijelli from the Genoese, and after a second beating at Bougie in 1515 were called in by the natives of Cherchel and Algiers to aid them against the Spaniards. They occupied the towns and murdered the native ruler who called them in. The Spaniards still held the little rocky island which gives Algiers its name and forms the harbour. In 1518 Arouj was drawn away to take part in a civil war in Tlemçen. He promptly murdered the prince he came to support and seized the town for himself. The rival party then called in the Spaniards, by whom Arouj was expelled and slain while fleeing at the Rio Salado. Khair-ed-Din clung to his possessions on the coast and appealed to the sultan Selim I. He was named beylerbey by the sultan, and with him began the establishment of Turkish rule in northern Africa. For years he was engaged in subduing the native princes, and in carrying on warfare with the Christians. In 1519 he repelled a Spanish attack on Algiers, but could not expel his enemies from the island till 1529. As a combatant in the forefront of the war with the Christians he became a great hero in Islam, and dreaded by its enemies under his name of Barbarossa. In 1534 he seized Tunis, acting as capitan pasha for the sultan Suleiman. The emperor Charles V. intervened on behalf of the native prince, retook the town, and destroyed great part of Barbarossa's fleet.
The corsair retaliated by leading what remained of his navy on a plundering raid to the Balearic Islands. During the remainder of his life - till 1547 - Barbarossa, though still beylerbey of northern Africa, was mainly engaged as capitan pasha in co-operating with the armies of the sultan Suleiman in the east. He was absent from Algiers when it was attacked by Charles V. in 1541. In 1543-1544 he commanded the fleet which Suleiman sent to the coast of Provence to support Francis I. Barbarossa would not allow the bells of the Christian churches to be rung while his fleet was at anchor in the ports. He plundered the coast of Italy on his way back to Constantinople. When he died in his palace at Constantinople he was succeeded as beylerbey of Africa by his son Hassan. Hassan Barbarossa, like his father, spent most of his life in the Levant, but was occasionally in Africa when the influence of his family was required to suppress the disorders of the Turkish garrisons. He left it for the last time in 1567, and is said by Hammer-Purgstall to have been present at Lepanto in 1571. His last years are obscure.
The History of the Ottoman Empire, by Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall (French translation J. J. Hellert, 1835-1843), contains accounts of the Barbarossas, but requires to be corrected by other authorities. See La Fondation de la régence d'Alger, histoire des Barberousse, chronique arabe du XVIème siècle published by Sander Rang and Ferdinand Denis, Paris, 1837 - for a curious Moslem version of their story. H. D. de Grammont has collected later evidence in his Histoire d'Alger (Paris, 1887); and he discusses the origin of the name in a paper contributed to the Révue Africaine, No. 171. Their campaigns are told in a readable way with the advantage of technical knowledge by Ad. Jurien de la Gravière in Les Corsaires barbaresques et la marine de Soliman le Grand (1887), and Doria et Barberousse (1886). The History of the Maritime Wars of the Turks, by Hajji Khalifa (translated by J. Mitchell for the Oriental Translation Fund, 1831), is said to have been founded on evidence collected by order of the sultan Suleiman.