Many people found the pirate life appealing. As a pirate, you were free; there were no laws. But all pirates wanted the same thing. Riches.
Pirates were buccaneers in search of gold, silver, and diamonds. They attacked other ships, even coastal cities. They terrified everyone.
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Pirates have been around since seafaring, and maritime trade has existed, in other words, for over 3000 years. As long as there are precious merchant ships, pirates will not be far away.
There are different forms of piracy and the most diverse reasons why people become pirates: from the sheer necessity of having to make a living, to organized crime, to state-licensed piracy of the so-called caper system.
Piracy flourished above all, where trade routes pass through straits or between groups of islands. It was in the North Sea and Baltic Sea as well as in the Mediterranean or the Caribbean. At present, regional focuses are the coasts of South America, Africa, and Asia.
Pirates were already documented in ancient Greek times. The first historical work ever, the books of Herodotus, begin with the description of piracy. Also, it can be found in many movies, cartoons, and anime.
In Roman times, piracy spread across the entire Mediterranean in the early century B.C. – starting from the island-rich area off the Greek and Turkish Mediterranean coasts. It became an even more significant threat to trade.
When finally even the food supply of the Romans was threatened, they started a real war against the pirates in 67 B.C. This won pirate battle solved the problem for the time being, but the pirates remained a threat.
Not only the Vikings but also Klaus Störtebeker and his crew were the terror of the North and Baltic Seas in the Middle Ages. From the end of the 11th century, the pirates fought in the Mediterranean.
They also competed in the “Holy War” between Muslims and Christians. On both sides, some pirates attacked the ships of the enemy.
With the discovery of America, the heyday of piracy began. Between the 16th and 18th centuries, pirates threatened the trade routes between Europe and the New World, especially those in the Caribbean and the sea routes to India.
This is known as the Golden Age of piracy, especially because many different forms of piracy developed in a relatively short period: From the “common” pirate, the privateer, the state-licensed ship to the notorious buccaneer.
Eyewitness reports, newspaper articles, and trial records from this period describe “real” pirates and later turned them into legends: Edward Teach, also known as “Blackbeard”, was one of them, as was Captain William Kidd. The latter had been sent to the Indian Ocean to hunt pirates, but then he was guilty of piracy and hanged for it.
This was also the time when legendary “fictitious” pirate figures were dated, such as John Silver, the one-legged pirate penned by Robert Louis Stevenson. Our image today of the pirate free of all conventions, who led a sometimes lukewarm, sometimes adventurous pirate life beyond the narrow confines of European society, dates back to this heyday of piracy.
Today’s pirates have nothing to do with the positive romantic image of the pirate, but they still operate in the same waters – mainly in straits and in areas with many islands. The “Piracy Reporting Center”, a sub-organization of the International Chamber of Commerce based in Kuala Lumpur, tracks all pirate attacks around the world.
The Piracy Report for the year 2015 registered 246 piracy attacks worldwide. Indonesia, Vietnam, and Nigeria are particularly hard-hit areas. The port city of Chittagong in Bangladesh and the Nigerian coastal city of Lagos are considered particularly dangerous.
In the world’s busiest waterway, the almost 900-kilometer-long Strait of Malacca in South-East Asia, the number of attacks has fallen sharply since 2005 thanks to constant controls by the coastal states concerned. Nevertheless, every piracy report published annually continues to call on ship crews to be particularly vigilant in this area.
Although most pirate attacks are not committed on the high seas, the coast, or even in port, it is tough to catch pirates. There are several reasons for this: Firstly, many shipping companies do not report the attacks at all – for fear of increasing insurance sums or losing orders. On the other hand, the responsible authorities, off whose coast the attacks are registered, are often corrupt