Pirate History for Kids
Fun History Fact
Julius Caesar was once held captive by pirates, once he escaped he tracked down and killed every single one.
Just as there has always been murder and thievery on land, the moment merchants went on the water there was piracy. I don't mean the stealing of movies and music online, but piracy as in "arr matey" a pirate! There are many kinds of pirates: corsairs, Vikings, Buccaneers, and privateers. Each had their own era and their own philosophies of what a "good' pirate was like; although some pirate codes were maintained throughout all pirating. A pirate in the most simple definition could be described as a seafaring criminal who attacks ships regardless of nationality, during both times of war and times of peace for the sole purpose of thievery and or revenge. The focus on thievery, explains why they refer to stealing downloads off the Internet as piracy.
Piracy is still around today, although organized piracy has ended. This may be in part due to steam engines that could sail even without wind, which was a great disadvantage for pirate ships that relied on sails. Pirates today can be found in the South China seas and East Africa. Although instead of ships with sails, you will find them on very small speedboats,
Why Did Pirates Pierce Their Ears?
They truly believed that it would improve their eyesight and good vision is important when you are out at sea!
Why Do Pirates Wear Eye Patches?
Pirates were most dangerous and plentiful during the seventeenth and eighteenth century, although they existed long before. This period became known as the Golden Age of Piracy. The pirate life was not easy, it was filled with loneliness, hard work, and a constant threat of death. But many who chose this life, was because being a pirate was easier than their current position. Some pirates began their life after leaving the navy, because of low wages and cruel captains. Yes, captains on board a pirate's ship were often more considerate than on a navy ship. This was in part due to pirate ships being run like a democracy.
Other people joined a pirate's ship because they were young men looking for a life full of adventure. The captains did not always willingly accept all men seeking this lifestyle; each person had to be approved by the captain before joining a pirate ship. Often the captain would ask a new recruit if they had a wife or children. If they said yes, they were denied on-board. Of course, there were the pirates that joined a ship to become rich. These men were often disappointed since riches and piracy rarely went hand in hand. The majority of loot was squandered on beer, gambling, and woman.
A Pirate Raid
Did Pirates Really Bury Their Treasure?
Probably not! There have not been any found treasure maps. Plus pirates were known for living lavishly, which means they spent most of what they had, as soon as they got it.
Hollywood loves a good pirate fight. You will see long swords, great weaponry, and extravagant fights. Truth is, pirate ships were probably some of the most well-equipped ships, which made them greatly feared by merchant ship crews; therefore, merchants rarely even attempted to fight a pirate, giving their loot willingly in fear of their own lives. One reason for this is because pirate ships would only attack ships that they felt they could win, and this was often obvious to the merchant themselves. They would rather lose their cargo than their lives.
Pirates were usually better at scare tactics than actual fighting. Although if necessary, they definitely had their weaponry on their side and would show no mercy. Often when trying to get a merchant to come close, they would pretend to be a fellow merchant requesting help such as water or other needed good. When the other ship got close enough to help, the pirates would raise their jolly roger (a pirate flag) and begin to yell curses and other scare tactics to instill great fear on the merchant ship. It was then in the hands of the merchant's vessel, whether they fought until death or got their loot.
What's in a Name?
Pirates have been known by many different names. Each name is unique to a certain type of pirate in a certain era. These names cannot be used interchangeably, as they each carry their own meaning.
Viking is old English for pirates. When one uses this term, they are referring to pirates from the eighth to the early twelfth century. Many of these pirates roamed the North Sea. Unlike later pirates, these Scandinavian warriors would raid villages inland, not just on their shipping routes.
Another unusual aspect about Vikings, they allowed both males and females to join. They often called the women Valkyrie after the Norse goddesses who rode into battle to escort dead warriors to Valhalla.
Another more dignified version of a pirate was called privateers. In fact, they were referred to as the gentleman pirate, because they only attacked enemy ships. During times of war, government officials could legally commission a civilian sailing man to attack an enemy city or ship. They considered privateers a section of the state navies. Often these privateers were no gentleman, as there was often a temptation to fight non-enemy ships. This is why they are not well-respected in today's mind's eye. They crossed that very fine line between gentleman and pirate. French referred to their privateers as Corsairs.
The infamous Blackbeard began his journeys as a privateer but was better known for his days as a true full-fledged pirate.
Corsairs emerged in the ninth century and sailed along the Mediterranean. They were very choosy on the ships they would attack; therefore, instead of attacking when first seeing a ship, they would wait to see if the ship had anything of value first. Sometimes this would take hours and even days following a ship with the captain looking through a spyglass. Corsairs also often would be checking to see how well armed these ships were. If they were more equipped than the Corsair's ship, they may avoid them in fear of being defeated themselves.
Buccaneers were pirates that were originally French and English game hunters. They lived in the Caribbean, or more specifically on the island of Hispaniola in the sixteenth century. These men that lived here were social outcasts that lived their lives as religious or political refugees, criminals, exiles, deserters, runaway slaves and indentured servants; who lived off wild pigs and cattle. They actually got their name after the art of smoking meat over a fire on green sticks that were called boucans.
At first, the Buccaneers only traded with passing merchants and would exchange goods such as meat. Spanish ships were brutal to them, which caused these game hunters to develop a deep hatred for the Spanish. So much so, that they began actively attacking Spanish ships and settlements. They then learned that piracy was a much easier way to live.
There were two separate names that often described the French buccaneers: freebooter and filibuster.
There are still pirates today. Although instead of large sloop ships, they will usually use small high-speed boats that allow them to escape sea patrol. Instead of cannons and cutlasses, they use AK 47 automatic machine guns.
I will forever be fascinated by pirate movies regardless of how little realism they contain. Even in the tamest pirates, there is some truth to the Hollywood portrayal of these fearsome men. There are many very well known pirates that are even known today, like Blackbeard, yes he's real, as well as Pirates with a Bristol connection! There were even female pirates!
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© 2010 Angela Michelle Schultz