In honor of “Talk Like a Pirate Day” I have decided to write a story about the Shardana, a race of ancient pirates. In order to talk like them you would have to learn a long dead language, I am afraid.
The Shardana, or the Sherden, didn’t exactly leave behind anything for us to definitively talk about who they were or what they are about. The first possible reference to them was in a letter from an Egyptian mayor, a guy named Rib-Hadda, to the Pharaoh Amenhotep III, wherein he references a band of sea-faring raiders he called the “še–er–ta–an–nu” sometime in 14th century BCE but that could just be wild conjecture. The first DEFINITIVE record of them came from Ramesses II. Ramesses II was a warrior and a lover and boy did he love engraving his image all over Egypt, but he had this to say of the Shardana when he faced them in 1278 BCE: “The unruly Sherden whom no one had ever known how to combat, they came boldly sailing in their warships from the midst of the sea, none being able to withstand them.” In the end, Ramesses II and his armies did defeat the raiders, but what I find most telling about the great Pharaoh’s respect for the seafarers was the fact that he integrated the surviving members of the clan into his armies, many of them into his own personal guard. When a Pharaoh thinks you are bad@$$ enough to make you his personal guard, you must have done SOMETHING right.
To my mind, the very best part is the similarities in armament these Mediterranean raiders had to a certain raid-based civilization from a little farther north. The Shardana were always depicted using large round shields along with spear, dirk, or sword which was thought to be similar to Naue II type. If you don’t know what that is, go look it up: It looks remarkably like a Viking short sword. Best of all? HORNED HELMETS BABY! Yeah, I know the Vikings didn’t actually wear horned helmets and that they were first depreciated as such because some costume designer for some opera or another decided it was a “good character choice” but COME ON! Horned helmets! To be fair, the Shardana helms bore a circular decoration at the very top of the helmet, similar to that of the Philistines, so not exactly in keeping with my Nordic aspirations. All the same, these guys were to be feared and likely looked fearsome with their horned helms, round shields, and bad reputation.
But that was not the end of the Shardana. Other sea peoples, including other waves of the Sherden, came to raid Egypt and other regions in the area. They did battle with Memeptah, Ramesses II’s son, and Ramesses III. After they were put down by Ramesses III, they were given special permission to settle in that region, under Egyptian rule.
The exact origins of the Shardana are unknown and hotly debated even today. Some say they came from the Western Mediterranean but others argue that the evidence for this is flimsy as it is based on a mere etymological comparison. It has also been suggested that Sardis and the Sardinian plain share echoes of the Shardana culture.
Recent archeological discoveries have found weapons and armor similar to that of the Shardana that date back to 1600 BCE, which would make them a much older culture than anyone previously realized. One might submit that after prostitution, piracy is the oldest profession… ARRRRRRGH!
Photo Credit: Wikipedia