Pirates were the criminals of the sea, trading in stolen gold, silver, alcohol, sugar and everything else – you name it, pirates were boarding ships to steal it. They enjoyed their golden age from around 1620 to around 1720 and during this time they ruled the seven seas. Pirates are some of the most fascinating and well-loved figures in our seafaring history. When you think of the image of a pirate, an image of an evil seaman with an eye patch over one eye, a cutlass in his hand and shoddy clothes appears before your eyes. Well, these so-called ‘Robin Hoods’ of the sea really existed once and were very powerful in their times.
Here are a few things you might not have known about these water bandits.
Pirates believed that having women on board their ship brought bad luck. Women, therefore, had to disguise themselves as men. However, there have been some extremely powerful women pirates, such as Ching Shih, Anne Bonny and Mary Reed, documented in the history of piracy.
Julius Caesar was captured by Cilician pirates, who infested the Mediterranean sea. The Romans had never sent a navy against them, because the pirates offered the Roman senators slaves, which they needed for their plantations in Italy. As a consequence, piracy was common. When the pirates asked for a ransom of 20 talents ($600,000 in today money), he scoffed at them and demanded they ask for 50 talents.
Henry Every (unknown date of birth and death, most probably 1653 – 1696) was one of the most notorious pirates during the era that is today known as “Golden Age of Pirates” English pirate who managed not only to capture largest pirate loot of all time, but he managed to remain free until his death.
The small yet mighty pirate crew led by the evil pirate Marshall D. Teach aka Blackbeard. Despite their small size, they’re powerful enough to take on a whole kingdom, like Drum. First introduced in Jaya, they later reappear on Banaro Island where they capture Ace. Blackbeard was the most feared pirate of all. Blackbeard (AKA Edward Teach) was known as the most terrifying pirate in the world. Before capturing a ship he would weave hemp into his beard and light it on fire—an intimidation tactic that made him look demonic. Yikes!
Pirate galleys were small, nimble, lightly armed, but heavily manned in order to overwhelm the often minimal crews of merchant ships. Because of their agility, pirate craft were generally very difficult to hunt down. As they say, it’s not the size of the ship, but the motion of the tiny craft filled with bloodthirsty seamen.
Eye patches weren’t for what you think. The real reason for the eye patches was so that one eye would remain constantly adjusted to darkness, which made it easier to fight below deck when boarding ships. The technique was so effective that keeping one eye closed is still a technique used in the military today for night survival.
Jeanne-Louise de Belleville was born in the year 1300, the daughter of a noble family from Britanny, which is that little pointy peninsula on the northwest tip of France. At the ripe old age of fucking twelve she was married off to a 19 year old French nobleman named Geoffrey, and went off to live in his awesome manor.
They didn’t really make people walk the plank. Although walking the plank is common in contemporary pirate lore, most pirates just killed people straightaway. When they did torture their prisoners, it was usually through keelhauling (dragging a tied sailor in the water from the back of the ship), marooning a person on a deserted island or remote sandbar, or lashings with a leather whip.
Although people generally associate traditional pirates as those that caused trouble and mayhem in and around the Caribbean in the 17th and 18th Centuries, drinking grog and rum and speaking with some kind of Cornish accent, pirates have existed and still exist wherever there is water, which is just about everywhere. For example, the Vikings were also pirates.
Every year on 19th September, it is International Talk Like A Pirate Day, when it becomes perfectly acceptable to spend the day talking like a pirate. If you want to do it all year round and you’re on Facebook, you can change the language to Pirate in the account settings.
Chinese pirates used junks, a ship with a robust sail layout. Junks that were armed with carronades and other weapons for naval or piratical uses were called war junks. The ship probably did not appreciate being called junk.
Holy War ! The Barbary pirates were a band of Moorish brigands that were protected and encouraged by the coastal cities of Northern Africa, including Algiers, Tunis, Djerba and Tripoli. Piracy in the Mediterranean had existed since time immortal, but the first real wave of Barbary piracy came at the time that the Moors were driven from Spain in 1492, and Spanish vessels and coastal cities were their first targets. As they became more powerful and brought the Moslem governors of North Africa under their control, they became a greater threat to all of Europe. Not only did they plunder the cargo of merchant ships, but they took all of the Christian passengers hostage, and either ransomed them, or sold them as slaves.
Pirates didn’t always bury their treasure. Some pirates didn’t bury their treasure right away because they wanted their share of the loot beforehand. And a pirate’s treasure didn’t always include gold or silver; most of it was food, lumber, cloth, and animal hides. Thanks to the popularity of “Treasure Island,” the most famous novel about pirates, most people think that the bandits went around burying treasure on remote islands.
Pirates didn’t use ‘pirate words’ Well, they obviously did, but not the pirate words and phrases that we’re familiar with. Phrases like ‘shiver me timbers’ and many of the sea shantys that people commonly believe were sung by pirates were actually made up by Robert Louis Stevenson for his book, Treasure Island.
They Had Rules and Regulations. If all you ever did was watch pirate movies, you’d think that being a pirate was easy: no rules other than to attack rich Spanish galleons, drink rum and swing around in the rigging. In reality, most pirate crews had a code which all members were required to acknowledge or sign. These rules included punishments for lying, stealing or fighting on board (fighting on shore was OK). Pirates took these articles very seriously and punishments could be severe.
William Kidd, or as he was known, Captain Kidd, was requested by an American governor to attack his fellow pirates, but was himself declared a wanted pirate, an accusation that was confirmed when he took an Indian ship hired by Armenian merchants, which just happened to be captained by an Englishman who held passes promising him protection of the French crown. Though he had been commissioned to take French ships, it didn’t hold up in court and he was summarily executed. He clearly needed a better lawyer. Kidd’s story is a mix of farce and tragedy. The truth is more one of a well intentioned man who overstepped the line, though probably no more so than most privateers of his day. What made Kidd’s story different was the implications it had for people in very high places in the society of his day, who found him to be a very convenient scapegoat when public opinion shifted.
Not All Pirates Were Criminals. Sometimes it depended on your point of view. During wartime, nations would often issue Letters of Marque and Reprisal, which allowed ships to attack enemy ports and vessels. Usually, these ships kept the plunder or shared some of it with the government that had issued the letter. These men were called “privateers,” and the most famous examples were Sir Francis Drake and Captain Henry Morgan. These Englishmen never attacked English ships, ports or merchants and were considered great heroes by the common folk of England. The Spanish, however, considered them pirates.
Another famed Caribbean Pirate was Bartholomew Roberts, the pirate with the most captures who was famous for hanging the governor of Martinique from the yardarm of his ship. He was seen by many as a hero and his death (after being shot in the face with a cannon) was widely considered to mark the end of the Golden Age of Piracy.Bartholomew Roberts was born under a name John in in 1682 in Little Newcastle, Wales, as a son of George Roberts (his pirate name Bartholomew was an alias, most like chosen after the life of a well-known buccaneer Bartholomew Sharp). The first official historical mentioning of his life comes from the year 1718 when he joined the crew of the ship from Barbados.
Pirates tended not to kill many people aboard the ships they captured. If the ship surrendered, they usually killed no one, because if it became known that pirates took no prisoners, victims would fight to the last breath, making victory more difficult and costly. Pirates were nothing if not pragmatic.
Loot. Splitting up the loot was fairly egalitarian with most of the crew receiving an equal share with the Captain and commanding officers receiving slightly more as per their agreement. On average, a pirate could expect the equivalent of a year’s wages from each captured ship. Crews of successful pirates would often receive a share valued at $1.17 million at least once in their careers.