“The HISPANIOLA still lay where she had anchored; but, sure enough, there was the Jolly Roger–the black flag of piracy–flying from her peak.”
Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island
Pirates, the very name strikes both dread and fascination deep within our hearts. We fear them, because of their ruthless disregard for those who stood in their way of fortune and fame. Good folk trembled when they heard their bloodcurdling shouts or saw the Jolly Roger flapping in the brisk sea wind. And yet, we continue to view those who wore the jaunty tricorne hat, the black eye-patch and the flamboyant, tattered clothes, as a symbol of freedom. For those of us who have not experienced the terrifying visage of a “real” pirate, we enjoy the adventures of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and the more recent movies like Errol Flynn’s, “Captain Blood” or Johnny Depp’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” series.
Pirates have been with us since ancient times. During the Greek and Roman civilizations, the Thracians, Tyrsenians, Illyrians and Phoenicians were the known source of the dreaded pirates. In fact, the “pirate” term comes from the Latin pirata and from the Greek piera meaning “to attempt.” Even Julius Caesar was captured by notorious pirates who demanded a ransom of 25 gold talents. Affronted by the low value placed on his life, Caesar insisted that the ransom should be 50 gold talents. The pirates received the higher amount, but in the end they realized their mistake when Caesar hunted them down.
This week, I want to explore the ‘golden age’ of piracy within the comfort of a safe environment. What are the myths and facts? Was there really buried treasure? Why did men and, indeed, women, chose the pirate’s life? We are on another sea adventure, so batten down the hatches! We are heading to open waters.
“Life’s pretty good, and why wouldn’t it be? I’m a pirate, after all.”