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What Is a Pirate?

By definition, a pirate is someone who steals at sea. The pirate emerged as a notorious character as early as the 13th century BC. Pirates terrorized the Aegean Sea, they destroyed ships and plundered villages close to the rivers and seas. Their use of violence increased in the Middle Ages and they were greatly feared. 1560 to 1850 are described as the years of the Golden Era of piracy as pirates established themselves in the Caribbean, pillaging the benefits of colonization.

Kings often manipulated the image of the pirate. They commissioned certain pirates who became privileged pirates or privateers who could rob the ships of enemy nations. They could not be tried or convicted in the country that commissioned them. This was a popular warring strategy between Britain and France as they sanctioned privateers to plunder each other’s ships.

Pirates are often depicted as ugly and violent drunkards. Healthy food and water were scarce at sea, so they often suffered from nutritional disorders and drank alcohol to compensate. Life at sea was about desperate survival. Once on land, they greedily consumed all they could, continuing to use violent means if necessary.

Modern piracy has continued off the coasts of Somalia and Singapore, in the Indian and Pacific oceans. Other than robbing ships, they are responsible for kidnapping, sabotage and murder. They hold various nations to ransom for the release of cargo and the people on board. The pirates off the coast of Somalia have been likened to terrorists as they add to the civil unrest that is going on in that country.

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