For centuries Europeans were fascinated by rumours and legends of the wealth and wonders of the Orient and by stories of the supposed existence there of realms free from all those tiresome taboos and restrictions that prevailed in the West. Long before the arrival of Vasco da Gama, renegades were serving the Mongols in Iran and Marco Polo had been in the entourage of the Grand Khan himself. The Portuguese pioneers were disconcerted to encounter in 1501 a certain Benvenuto de Abano who had spent the previous twenty-five years sailing the seas of Asia, and his contemporary, the Muslim Khoja Safar Salmâni, an erstwhile Genoese or Albanian. 1 But this was nothing compared with the flow that followed western penetration of the maritime economy of the East, scattering European adventurers and outlaws throughout the Orient anywhere from the shores of the Persian Gulf to those of the Pacific Ocean. And very soon these hopefuls were joined by European pirates, some working from ports in their mother countries, some from the Caribbean and North America, and some from bases in the Indian Ocean, of which Madagascar was, according to taste, the most celebrated or the most notorious. Such men, frequently of remarkable skills and fearsome abilities, exercised a considerable influence on the maritime history of the East in the early modern centuries, and it is with the origins, aspirations and activities of these elusive—indeed often anonymous—but nevertheless highly significant figures that this paper is concerned. 2