Zymen Danseker

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Seimen Danziger
Nickname Simon Re'is
Type Barbary Corsair
Place of birth Dordrecht, Netherlands
Died 1615
Place of death Algiers
Allegiance Algiers
Years active 1600s-1610s
Rank Admiral
Base of operations Barbary coast
Battles/wars Eighty Years' War

Siemen Danziger (c. 1579 – c. 1615), better known by his anglicized names Zymen Danseker and Simon de Danser, was a 17th-century Dutch privateer and corsair. His name is also written Danziker, Dansker, or Danser.

Danseker and the English pirate John Ward were the two most prominent renegades operating in the Barbary coast during the early 17th century, both of whom were said to command squadrons in Algiers and Tunis equal to their European counterparts, and represented a formidable naval power as allies (much like Aruj and Hayreddin Barbarossa the previous century).[1] Later in his Barbary career, Danseker became known by the Turkish epithet Simon Re'is.

Commanding a vast squadron made up of English and Turks while in the service of Algiers,[2] he captured over 40 ships in a two-year period after "turning Turk" and was stopped only after his capture and execution in 1611. Both men are featured prominently in Kitab al-Munis fi Akhbar Ifriqiya wa Tunis written by Tunisian writer and historian Ibn Abi Dinar.[3]


A Dutchman, he served as a privateer in the Eighty Year's War and afterwards settled in Marseilles, France, marrying the governor's daughter. In 1607 he stole a ship and sailed for Algiers.[4] Finding himself in the service of Redwan, the Pasha of Algiers, he lead a brief but infamous career as a Barbary corsair, where it is sometimes claimed that he introduced the round ship.[5]

The exact circumstances are vague as to the reasons behind his becoming a corsair. However, he "was made welcome as an enemy of the Spaniards" and had become one of the taife reisi's leading captains within a year of his arrival. Often bringing Spanish prizes and prisoners to Algiers, he became known under the names Simon Re'is, Deli-Reis (Captain Crazy) and Deli Kapitan among the people on the Barbary coast and the Turks due to his exploits on the sea. His fleet quickly grew in power, as he incorporated captured ships into his fleet, and was supplied by Algiers with men and use of their shipyards. He was also the first to lead the Algiers out of the Straits of Gibraltar, the farthest distance any had ever successfully navigated, and traveled as far as Iceland. Iceland would later be attacked by Barbary corsairs in 1616. Simon took at least forty ships and sank many of them during the three years that followed. After three more years of pirating he had become quite rich and lived in an opulent palace. Simon The Dancer attacked ships of any nation and made trading in the Mediterranean Sea increasingly difficult for every nation. Many nations therefore looked for ways to stop his attacks (by counterattack, bribes for safe-passage or even employing him as a privateer in their navy).

Simon soon became acquainted with other renegades, particularly Englishman pirates Peter Easton and Jack Ward, and he formed a powerful alliance with the latter. Eventually, a French fleet under the command of De Beaulieu de Pairsac, while being assisted by eight Spanish galleys, for a short time threatened to capture him, but because of a sudden storm he was able to escape; he sailed along the coast with his ships where his pursuers could not reach them. Eight more Spanish men-of-war, under the command of Don Luis Fajardo de Córdoba, and an English squadron, under the command of Sir Thomas Shoreley, were also trying to capture Simon The Dancer at that time. Some of the exploits of Simon The Dancer are mentioned in a report written by Andrew Barker in 1609.

In 1609, while taking a Spanish galleon off Valencia, he used the opportunity to communicate a message to Henri IV and the French court through the Jesuit priests on board. He wished to return to Marseilles, having left his wife and children behind long ago, and wished to be exonerated for his crimes. He was reunited with his family later that year, shortly after arriving in Marseilles with four well-armed warships on November 17, 1609. Welcomed by the Duke of Guise, he presented to him "a present of some Turks, who were at once sent to the galleys" as well as a considerable sum in Spanish gold.

He resided in Marseilles for a year when French authorities asked him to lead an expedition against the corsairs. Despite rumors of his capture, he returned to France later that same year. In 1615 he was called up by Louis XIII to negotiate the release of French ships being held by Yusuf Dey in Tunis. According to the account of William Lithgow,[6][7] Dansker was lead ashore in a ruse by Yusuf, captured by janissaires, and beheaded.[8]


  1. ^ Padfield, Peter. Tide of Empires: Decisive Naval Campaigns in the Rise of the West. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979. (pg. 119) ISBN 0-7100-0150-9
  2. ^ Melbourne University Historical Society. Melbourne Historical Journal. Vol. I. (1961): 14.
  3. ^ Matar, Nabil. Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000. (pg. 61-62) ISBN 0-231-11015-4
  4. ^ Adrian Tinniswood, [1] "Pirates of Barbary: Corsairs, Conquests and Captivity in the Seventeenth", Penguin, Nov 11, 2010
  5. ^ Ina Baghdiantz McCabe, "Orientalism in Early Modern France: Eurasian Trade, Exoticism and the Ancien Regime", Berg, Jul 15, 2008 p.88 [2]
  6. ^ Bosworth, Clifford Edmund. An Intrepid Scot: William Lithgow of Lanark's Travels in the Ottoman Lands, North Africa and Central Europe, 1609-21. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Publishing Co., 2006. (pg. 119) ISBN 0-7546-5708-6
  7. ^ For discussion of Lithgow's dates and who Danseker parlayed with, see Tinneswood, Footnote 28 [3]
  8. ^ Tinniswood, p63

Further reading[edit]