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A Pirate's Life

Jun 1, 2008
Is he a pirate? Pirate has become the general term used by most people today to call someone who sails the seas and commits crimes. But other names were used to help identify particular pirates through the ages.

A buccaneer was a pirate that lived in the Caribbean. They were originally French and some English that lived on the island of Hispaniola and the name is derived from the original Indians of the island who had a word called "buccan". The French word was a person or boucanier and then it became buccaneer. Due to conflicts with the Spanish, the buccaneers hated them for running them off the island.

A stretch of land and water called the Barbary Coast was home to the privateers or Islamic pirates called Barbary corsairs. The French and other non-Islamic nations considered the corsairs pirates, instead of privateers. But they focused their efforts on Christian and non-Islamic prey.

In the Mediterranean area where sea trading was extremely active was where pirates really came to grow and be very dynamic. The governments and countries fighting with each other often used pirates against their enemies. The city-states of Greece even used pirates at one time as tax collectors because they new the locals were so afraid of the pirates that the people would pay up.

Pirate activity was sometime made legal by a country, when this happened the pirates became known as privateers. Warring countries like England, France and Spain would direct their privateers to attack enemy ships and disrupt trade. Privateers were often more successful than the navies at fighting and the theft of merchants and government treasure could badly hinder a country.

When trade would become too disrupted by pirates some governments would join together in a concentrated effort to purge the pirates from trade routes.

Buccaneers would run to the sea and a life of piracy in an attempt to break away from their cruel handling from former countries. This led to pirates creating what is known to be the first true individual democracy where every person on the boat had a vote in all activities. To enforce their own code the pirates dealt out harsh penalties to those that would violate shipboard laws.

Pirates took care of their own like no other governing body had done before. Around the time in the early to mid 1600's pirates begin to establish various payments as compensation for body parts lost in the line of duty.

Piracy could be a hard life, dangerous and deadly but it was often preferable to the navy of the day. You could potentially get better pay, better food be treated better and have a say in decisions.

A pirate could be paid large sums of money following a victorious raid. The treasure would be divided and the goods sold for money and then split appropriately. This of course was always done in a port city that gave the pirate opportunity to turn around and spend all his money in a few nights of drink, women and gambling.
About the Author
Pirates live bigger than life in our minds due to popular media. Another fun Pirate novel has come out that plays up on the "Golden Age of Piracy".
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