Pirates then and now
Welcome matey, international speak-like-a-scurvy-pirate-day it be! Band ‘o pirates have be around fer centuries, but be th’ myths ‘n legends true?
What we know about pirates mostly comes from myths and legends, but are those true? Is the life of the pirate as ‘nice’ as pirate-lovers nowadays claim? Probably not… But let us look at some pirate-facts!
- ‘Pirate’ means two things nowadays: a pirate is someone who commits a crime while at sea, mostly robbery or violent crimes. But ‘piracy’ is also used for the crime of copyright infringement, commited online.
- Piracy is probably the second oldest job in the world, as it has excisted since Ancient times. Pirates often plundered Greek, Egyptian or Persian ships and cities, and they were feared among the Mediterranean. Even Julius Caesar, the great emperor of the Roman Empire, was once kidnapped by pirates and held for ransom!
Buried pirate treasure rarely exists. Most loot was divided immediately after the crew got back on board. Most bounty were food or objects as silk and weapons, which were traded for alcohol and other supplies.
- Pirates only men? Hell no! There are famous female pirates, like Anne Bonny and Mary Read. They fought, they cursed ‘n they drank while plunderin’ other ships ‘n cities.
When Bonny and Read were captured, their lifes were spared because they both were pregnant. English law forbade killing an unborn child, therefore both women could not be hanged.What happened to them? No one really knows… Mary Read’s death has been reported on 1721, as she died in prison along with her unborn child. But another story states that she feigned death and escaped from prison. Anne Bonny just disappeared… There are no records of her death, which means she was not executed and did not die in prison. But there are also no records of her leaving, which means she could have escaped or was ‘bought out’ by someone. No one knows…
- Pirates had laws! Yo-ho-ho, ye heard me bucko. The Pirate Code of Conduct was set up to protect the crew members and discipline them at the same time. Punishments, dividing loot, sharing goods, treating wounded pirates, everything was set in stone when on board.
- Most pirates weren’t bloodthirsty criminals! Sailors often became pirates because all honoust jobs were even worse! Most sailors on merchant of military vessels were underpaid (or not paid at all), beaten and punished by higher ranking officers for the smallest things, and often died from starvation or scurvy. Pirate life was a good, well paying, democratic life as long as you honoured the Code (point 5) (and didn’t get killed).
- Earrings on pirates might look cool, but they mostly wore them because of superstition. The precious metals (gold or silver) would cure bad eyesight, seasickness and prevent drowning. Also, if a sailor did drown, and his body washed ashore, the earrings would serve as payment for a proper funeral. ’tis was an honour code among sailors across th’ seven seas.
- Rum was indeed a very popular drink among pirates in the Carribean, and even more famously was ‘grog‘. Grog is a mix of rum and water (or cheap beer), and sugar/cinnamon/lime/lemon for taste. It was a cheap way to drink rum, but also allowed the rum storage to last longer. Want to give a go‘ it? Be off nuts!
- Old-fashioned piracy still very much exists. The most pirated waters are around the Singapore Strait and Strait of Malacca. The pirates of Southern Asia don’t take hostages. They rob the crew, lock them up, steal the cargo and fuel and off they go. Just like th’ ‘ancient’ band ‘o pirates we now adore.
- And at last: I’m very sorry guys, but yarr and ahoy probably were not in the pirate vocabulary. This was made up for Hollywood movies. Most pirates spoke the local jargon and the local languages, making English but also Spanish and Chinese very common languages among them.
Feel like a scurvy pirate already? Take a maiden voyage to spy wit’ ye eye which crew member ye would be.