A Treasury of Pirate Facts
September 19, 2021
To celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day and our own beloved mascot, the Captain, let’s explore a random assortment of fun (read: not at all scholarly and definitely not peer-reviewed!) pirate trivia.
- Pirates have existed since at least 1353 BCE—as long as there’ve been goods to plunder!
- Blackbeard intimidated prisoners by weaving hemp into his beard and setting it on fire.
- Thousands of pirates roved the Atlantic and Indian Oceans during the Golden Age of Piracy (1650–1720).
- Pirates wore eye patches to adjust to the light and darkness above and below deck during raids.
- The word buccaneer derives from the French boucanier ‘to cook meat over an open flame.’
- The traditional skull-and-crossbones flag is known as the Jolly Roger.
- Pirate symbols such as hourglasses, horned skeletons, and lifted drinking glasses conveyed the fleetingness of a violent life.
- Pirates drank grog, a mix of rum and water (and sometimes lime and sugar).
- Despite minimal sailing experience, Stede Bonnet turned “Gentleman Pirate” to escape a bad marriage.
- Pirates didn’t usually make people walk the plank. They keelhauled or just threw them overboard instead!
- Each pirate ship lived by a code of conduct, with rules such as “every man has a vote” and “injuries will be compensated.”
- Pirates that were commissioned by a government, especially during war, were known as privateers.
- Pirate queen Ching Shih commanded more than 300 ships and as many as 40,000 men.
- Pirates wore earrings to commemorate their travels, prevent seasickness, flout stifling dress codes, and pay for their own burials if on land.
- Pirates rarely buried their loot; they kept it on board and divided it up among the crew.
- Mary Read disguised herself as a man to become a soldier, merchant sailor, and pirate.
- Pirates often enjoyed better lives than did navy seamen and merchant marines.
- The wealthiest pirate in recorded history, “Black Sam” Bellamy, was known as the “Robin Hood of the Sea.”
- Pirates didn’t use treasure maps, but they did value (and steal) sailing charts.
Pirates were by law hostis humani generis, Latin for ‘the enemy of humankind.’