Piracy is typically an act of robbery or criminal violence at sea. The term can include acts committed on land, in the air, or in other major bodies of water or on a shore. It does not normally include crimes committed against persons traveling on the same vessel as the perpetrator (e.g. one passenger stealing from others on the same vessel). The term has been used throughout history to refer to raids across land borders by non-state agents.
Piracy or pirating is the name of a specific crime under customary international law and also the name of a number of crimes under the municipal law of a number of States. It is distinguished from privateering, which is authorized by national authorities and therefore a legitimate form of war-like activity by non-state actors. Privateering is considered commerce raiding, and was outlawed by the Peace of Westphalia (1648) for signatories to those treaties.
Those who engage in acts of piracy are called pirates.
In the 21st century, the international community is facing many problems in bringing pirates to justice.
The English "pirate" is derived from the Latin term pirata and that from Greek "πειρατής" (peiratēs), "brigand", in turn from "πειράομαι" (peiráomai), "I attempt", from "πεῖρα" (peîra), "attempt, experience". The word is also cognate to peril. Also, particularly in the 1700s and 1800s, spelling was haphazard, and words such as "Pyrate" or "an act of Pyracy" are examples of some of the accepted ways of spelling in past years.
Pirates have been around since people began transporting goods through sea. The earliest known pirates were the Sea People, who pillaged and plundered the Mediterranean Sea in the 13th century B.C. The ancient Illyrians had spent years pillaging Roman and Greek vessels in the Adriatic Sea. The piracy in the old times was mostly prominent in the Mediterranean, although there were the Vikings in the Northern seas. Mediterranean pirates were hunted down by powerful empires, such as Greek, Roman, and Persian; while the Vikings flourished and conquered new lands.
Piracy in the
Caribbean was the most prominent area for piracy. The vast loads of Aztec
gold traveling from the New World and was the perfect target for aspiring swashbucklers. Colonies were
settled in the islands and on the mainland, triggering trading routes and
transportation by sea. Many people became pirates shortly after the end of the
Spanish Succession War. Buccaneers began arriving in the mid-late 17th century.
The buccaneers were people that smoked meat over a structure called a buccan,
thus earning their name. The buccaneers lived on the Spain ,
selling their smoked goods to passing ships. After the Spanish slaughtered
their pig cattle, the buccaneers, not knowing any other job to do and seeing
the fleets of gold being transported in open waters, turned to piracy. Pirates
were rising in fame and some were forever immortalized as the most fearsome
pirates that have ever sailed. From the island of Hispaniola
to Bahamas Trinidad to the Florida Keys, no merchant ship was safe from pirates.
Jolly Roger is the traditional English name for the flags flown to identify a pirate ship about to attack in during the early 18th century (i.e. the later part of the "Golden Age of Piracy").
The flag most commonly identified as the Jolly Roger today, the skull and crossbones symbol on a black flag, was used during the 1710s by a number of pirate captains including "Black Sam" Bellamy, Edward England, and John Taylor and it went on to become the most commonly used pirate flag during the 1720s.
The origins of the name was the French term for the English flag "Jolie Rouge" meaning Pretty Red
Use of the term Jolly Roger in reference to pirate flags goes back to at least Charles Johnson's A General History of the Pyrates, published in Britain in 1724.
Johnson specifically cites two pirates as having named their flag "Jolly Roger": Bartholomew Roberts in June, 1721 and Francis Spriggs in December 1723. While Spriggs and Roberts used the same name for their flags, their flag designs were quite different, suggesting that already "Jolly Roger" was a generic term for black pirate flags rather than a name for any single specific design. Neither Spriggs' nor Roberts' Jolly Roger consisted of a skull and crossbones.
Richard Hawkins, who was captured by pirates in 1724, reported that the pirates had a black flag bearing the figure of a skeleton stabbing a heart with a spear, which they named "Jolly Roger".
The origin of the name is unclear. Jolly Roger had been a generic term for a jovial, carefree man since at least the 17th century and the existing term seems to have been applied to the skeleton or grinning skull in these flag by the early 18th century. In 1703, a pirate named John Quelch was reported to have been flying the "Old Roger" off Brazil, "Old Roger" being a nickname for the devil.