Pirates. As long as there’s been people to obsess over them, these nautical ne’er-do-wells have pillaged, shot, and sailed their way into both our hearts and our wallets. I thought I’d veer from my usual inclination today and talk a bit more in-depth about these dastardly lads. This decision sparked when a former associate of mine remarked ‘It sure would have been nice to be free like the pirates past.’
So, while he roasts over an open flame I thought I’d venture out onto the network of ignorance and make sure people know what’s what. Because I’m such a good guy. On with the show!
Nothing quite like a bit of a history delve, and what better way to start then by going all the way back to..
I don’t mean your grandmother’s old vase, though it may certainly apply as a pirate’s treasure by itself. No, I mean much further back then a simple purchase at some lofty old store.
While we can assume piracy has been around since man first discovered that sticking a sail on a long floating piece of wood made it float faster, the first recorded acts of piracy came from no other place than Greece.
Yes, Greece. Those freedom-loving democrat city-states that spent all day making assumptions about what sort of grape a man should eat to be at his best intellectual state were hardy pirates.
The Romans weren’t far behind, when it became time to unify the land under a single despicably organized banner. There was quite a bit of piracy going on in the Mediterranean during the rule of the various emperors, and we can only assume they had the same die-hard strategic cunning as their soldier counterparts on land.
Where did they all operate then?
The Mediterranean mostly, looting and pillaging the many coastal towns and the ships that desperately needed to transport goods from one dysfunctional city to another for the whole idea at a whole to work. They were to be found along every roman supply line however, and as far up as what was then called Britannia (Guess where it is.) was raided by Irish pirates, which I assume looked badass.
Naturally, hehe. Their own people seems to have actually been their worst fears and best place of recruitment at the same time! In fact Julius Ceasar, the famous emperor himself was captured by the scurvy seadogs in 75 BC. He upheld a calm and polite attitude with his captors, and had supposedly become quite friendly with them to boot! When they set a ransom for 20 gold to release him, Ceasar himself suggested they raise it to at least 50, which the hapless pirates did. The ransom was paid, and the now released emperor raised a super-army of vengeful soldiers to destroy the pirate fleet he'd made good chums with prior to their inevitable demise. Maybe they weren't so dangerous after all.
Like this, but with more pirate.
Now we're talking! I know what most of you are thinking; Vikings aren't pirates, they're badass religious warriors that rape and plunder, and travel over the seas spreading fear. Oho, yes indeed, and that is exactly why they're pirates. They practically flew over the seas in well-crafted, fast and sleek ships to bring themselves over almost all of the then explored old world, and garnered a reputation for kicking ass and making killer drinks.
So where did they operate?
All over the western world. They reached as far as Africa, and they brought their skullkicking with them wherever they went. Fearless savages whom invoked the powers of long forgotten gods, and chances are their gods were pirates too, if the stories of their ventures are to be trusted.
Their wives. While piracy was and likely still is a profession sorely dominated by men needing to extend their ego beyond their pants, it's likely these burly scandinavian warriors were whipped when they got back home. Women ruled just about everything in the private home, just like any man who's seeking to prolong the time he is allowed to touch his wife will argue is what is good for everyone. Imagine being a boisterous brawler of the seas, feared in every country and praised by your own, only to come home and get hit over the head because you didn't bring enough gifts for your children. Now that is scary. Other than this possibility however, Vikings did have one large predator. Christianity. The new modern thing surged up into Scandinavia and quickly became the new rage. Suddenly you didn't have to keep track of the droves of gods anymore, and all you had to do in return was put the battleaxe down and ask for forgiveness.
I would forgive this guy any day. Just look how happy he is.
Golden Age of Piracy
This is where it's at! When colonies came to the American continents, and the spaniards, dutch and british really started to settle down, a notorious rise in piracy began, and thus started the glorious reign of buccaneers and majestic pirates whom we today look up to and love, regardless of movies with Johnny Depp in them! Here come the intriguing legends of so called great pirate captains like Blackbeard and Bartholomew Roberts and those other guys I cannot ever be bothered to name. They were also decidedly 'free-spirited' and 'idealistic' if today's pirate-loving youth is to be trusted.
So where did they operate?
Absolutely everywhere. Pirates were now spreading freely with the rise of ever bigger and sturdier vessels. The most affected area in the world however, is said to have been the Caribbean, where there at times seems to have been more pirates than actual traders according to the stories, though such rumours are probably (sadly) hyperbole.
Their diet. Now more than ever, with the coming of ever longer times at sea, came the lovely disease known as scurvy, which does nasty work to your body, including your teeth, forever ruining your chances at becoming a moviestar like every pirate secretely wants.
Other predators include carpenters, whom would reportedly hack the legs off of unwitting sleeping pirates and replace the demolished limb with a piece of wood for the laughs, every other pirate out there, and hatmakers, who put the kill in skill, at least as far as hats are involved.
Without a hat, parrot, and leg like this, you are not a proper pirate. The gun looks pretty sissy though.
So now we went past the whole phase that'd sooner or later evolve into something you'd apparently want in your bed more than when they forced their way in there. However as time went on and the Old World started getting guarded by big battlecruisers with the ability to shoot anything larger than an average-sized european swallow carrying a medium load out of the sky and/or sea at the drop of a hat. And boy did hats start dropping. So much in fact that pirates started to use other headgear like bandanas or, believe it or not, nothing at all.
So where do they operate?
Unguarded waterways, mainly, though you likely find some greedy seadog stupid enough to attack the coast of Germany, or some other super-powered meganation head on. The largely uncontrolled seas surrounding Somalia are particularly affected, and the rather frequent luxury liners seem to have a penchant for sailing straight into a heady pirate with an AK-47.
Increasing oil prices. Military vessels. Tanker boats large enough to just ram them into the sea. Though personally I suggest not going there on pleasure cruises, and eventually they'll just get bored and work at McDonalds instead.
Yarr! Ye scurvy landlubbers be no match for my repeatin' blunderbuss!
So what's all this about freedom, then? Contrary to popular belief, not even in a crew were pirates free, though they usually held to their own ways. To this day most pirate crews have their own version of democracy onboard, with both voting up a Captain, and making certain people get what they want. I can't wait for election day, right?
Pirates still had it pretty terrible, and the choices weren't many. You either voted forward the guy with the biggest smile and the quickest get-rich-scheme, or you stuck to land and got hung by the authorities for being a seadog. In fact mutiny was pretty frequent, so this democracy gig can't have worked very well.
In our entry into the information age, we deal with a new type of seaborne predator, the net pirates. These former landlubbers are devious experts at their craft, and will sharply destroy anyone who gets in their way. There is no cure, though every government and corporation tries their best. There is no stopping them from stealing copyrighted material, and sharing it to their evil pirate buddies in perverse and charitable gangrape of the dubious morals the corporations are so intent to claim they have.
Where do they operate?
The Sea of Information, the Great Web of Lies, Cthulhu's abode, Internet, Lolcat domain of the Stars.
They have none. In their natural, virtual habitat they are unstoppable, and just at that, will stop at nothing to destroy everything you hold dear in the name of twisted liberties associated with their ruleless internet. Protected by anonymity and terrible spelling, these scurvy dogs are a terrible presence in our lives.
However, should you stumble on one in person, just ask him what he thought about the Emperor destroying the Death Star in 'That Star Trek Movie' and punch him in the face while he huffs angrily over your provocation.
This ferocious criminal will rape your homes and burn your women if given the chance.
Yes, even in the future piracy will be common as dirt. In a society where everything is readily supplied at the easiest of notions, where energy is free of charge, and where the cities are all super-powered utopias run by multi-national corporations, pirates will still find some way to thrive. It's likely that when derived of their wants to be free, and plunder the needed resources, only one thing will fuel their rage. They will think it's funny.
The future generation of sea-raider will do it all to get a laugh out of it. And there's nothing we can do to stop them.
Artists rendition of the future pirates.