Among the most ancient of seafaring traditions, piracy dates back to 1350 B.C. when pirates attacked vessels traveling the Mediterranean amongst the greatest sea powers. Wherever ships sail the seven seas, tales are told of pirates from swashbucklers such as those depicted in Pirates of the Caribbean to real life and not so colorful pirates that hijack passenger cruise lines.
Despite being depicted as the most daring of swashbucklers, the romanticized version of pirates can be misleading. Pirates are just as likely to be the villains as they are the anti-hero of the story. Privateers, sanctioned by various governmental powers, are the pirates who serve a government agenda, attacking enemy vessels for plunder.
Privateers like Edward Teach and Sir Francis Drake served their queens well, while earning formidable reputations for themselves and their ships. Both men served during what history refers to as the "Golden Age" of piracy, the 18th and 19th centuries. Pirates and privateers supplied the colonials in their war for independence against Great Britain, in the French and Indian War and in the defeat of the Spanish Armada by the British fleet to name just a few.
Pirates and Personal Gain
Defined simply as "an act of robbery on the high seas; also: an act resembling such robbery," by Webster's dictionary, most pirates committed such acts for personal gain, though a privateer does so to serve his country and for the reward it will earn him. The most famous of pirates include those who were privateers and each has a story to tell about how he or she came to their life of piracy and personal gain including:
- Anne Bonny
- Bartholomew Roberts
- David Porter
- Edward Teach, Blackbeard the Pirate
- Francis Drake, The Gentleman Pirate
- Henry Morgan, The King of All Pirates
- Jean Laffite
- John King, The youngest pirate
- John Rackham
- Mary Read
- Maurycy Beniowski
- Samuel Bellamy
- Stede Bonnet
- Thomas Jones
- William Dampier
- William Kidd