Piracy dates back almost 3,500 years to the ancient world of the Mediterranean, and pirates are still with us today. Influenced by books such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and movies like Pirates of the Caribbean, the practice has a fairly standardized set of stereotypes. But, as we’ll see, pirates actually came in all shapes and sizes and from all over the world.
1. The first pirates
The very first records of piracy date back to the 14th century BC during the Bronze Age. A mysterious group called the Sea Peoples attacked shipping, some of it belonging to the ancient Egyptians, in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas. The practice wasn’t viewed in quite the same way back then; in fact, the Greeks of antiquity are said to have regarded piracy as a respectable pursuit.
2. The Jolly Roger was not always the classic skull and crossbones
The name for a pirate’s flag, the Jolly Roger, seems to date back to the early 18th century. Richard Hawkins, captured by pirates in 1724, described the flag as being black with a depiction of a human skeleton thrusting a spear into a heart. In fact, pirates used a variety of designs incorporating crossed bones or cutlasses, skeletons and hearts.