Piracy is a war-like act committed by private parties (not affiliated with any government) that engage in acts of robbery and/or criminal violence at sea. The term can include acts committed in other major bodies of water or on a shore. It does not normally include crimes committed against persons travelling on the same vessel as the perpetrator (e.g. one passenger stealing from others on the same vessel). The term has been used to refer to raids across land borders by non-state agents. Piracy should be distinguished from privateering, which was a legitimate form of war-like activity by non-state actors, authorized by their national authorities, until this form of commerce raiding was outlawed in the 19th century.
Maritime piracy, according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 1982, consists of any criminal acts of violence, detention, rape, or depredation committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or aircraft that is directed on the high seas against another ship, aircraft, or against persons or property on board a ship or aircraft. Piracy can also be committed against a ship, aircraft, persons, or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any state, in fact piracy has been the first example of universal jurisdiction. Nevertheless today the international community is facing many problems in bringing pirates to justice.
The English "pirate" is derived from the Latin term pirata and that from Greek πειρατής (peiratēs) "brigand", from πειράομαι (peiráomai) "attempt", from πεῖρα (peîra) "attempt, experience". The word is also cognate to peril.
It may be reasonable to assume that piracy has existed for as long as the oceans were plied for commerce. The earliest documented instances of piracy are the exploits of the Sea Peoples who threatened the Aegean and Mediterranean in the 13th century BC. In Classical Antiquity, the Illyrians and Tyrrhenians were known as pirates, as well as Greeks and Romans. The island of Lemnos long resisted Greek influence and remained a haven for Thracian pirates. During their voyages the Phoenicians seem to have sometimes resorted to piracy, and specialized in kidnapping boys and girls to be sold as slaves.
In the 3rd century BC, pirate attacks on Olympos (city in Anatolia) brought impoverishment. Among some of the most famous ancient pirateering peoples were the Illyrians, populating the western Balkan peninsula. Constantly raiding the Adriatic Sea, the Illyrians caused many conflicts with the Roman Republic. It was not until 168 BC when the Romans finally conquered Illyria, making it a province that ended their threat.
During the 1st century BC, there were pirate states along the Anatolian coast, threatening the commerce of the Roman Empire in the eastern Mediterranean. On one voyage across the Aegean Sea in 75 BC, Julius Caesar was kidnapped by Cilician pirates and held prisoner in the Dodecanese islet of Pharmacusa. He maintained an attitude of superiority and good cheer throughout his captivity. When the pirates decided to demand a ransom of twenty talents of gold, Caesar is said to have insisted that he was worth at least fifty, and the pirates indeed raised the ransom to fifty talents. After the ransom was paid and Caesar was released, he raised a fleet, pursued and captured the pirates, and had them put to death.
As early as 258 AD, the Gothic-Herulic fleet ravaged towns on the coasts of the Black Sea and Sea of Marmara. The Aegean coast suffered similar attacks a few years later. In 264, the Goths reached Galatia and Cappadocia, and Gothic pirates landed on Cyprus and Crete. In the process, the Goths seized enormous booty and took thousands into captivity.
In 286 AD, Carausius, a Roman military commander of Gaulish origins, was appointed to command the Classis Britannica, and given the responsibility of eliminating Frankish and Saxon pirates who had been raiding the coasts of Armorica and Belgic Gaul.
Middle Ages to 19th century
The most widely known and far reaching pirates in medieval Europe were the Vikings, warriors and looters from Scandinavia who raided from about 783 to 1066, during the Viking Age in the Early Middle Ages. They raided the coasts, rivers and inland cities of all Western Europe as far as Seville, attacked by the Norse in 844. Vikings even attacked coasts of North Africa and Italy. They also plundered all the coasts of the Baltic Sea, ascending the rivers of Eastern Europe as far as the Black Sea and Persia. The lack of centralized powers all over Europe during the Middle Ages favoured pirates all over the continent.
Meanwhile, Muslim pirates were common in the Mediterranean Sea. Toward the end of the 9th century, Muslim pirate havens were established along the coast of southern France and northern Italy. In 846 Muslim raiders sacked Rome and damaged the Vatican. In 911, the bishop of Narbonne was unable to return to France from Rome because the Muslims from Fraxinet controlled all the passes in the Alps. Muslim pirates operated out of the Balearic Islands in the 10th century. From 824 to 961 Arab pirates in Crete raided the entire Mediterranean. In the 14th century, raids by Muslim pirates forced the Venetian Duke of Crete to ask Venice to keep its fleet on constant guard.
After the Slavic invasions of the Balkan peninsula in the 5th and 6th centuries, a Slavic tribe settled the land of Pagania between Dalmatia and Zachlumia in the first half of the 7th century. These Slavs revived the old Illyrian piratical habits and often raided the Adriatic Sea. By 642 they invaded southern Italy and assaulted Siponte in Benevento. Their raids in the Adriatic increased rapidly, until the whole Sea was no longer safe for travel.
The "Narentines", as they were called, took more liberties in their raiding quests while the Venetian Navy was abroad, as when it was campaigning in Sicilian waters in 827-82. As soon as the Venetian fleet would return to the Adriatic, the Narentines temporarily abandoned their habits again, even signing a Treaty in Venice and baptising their Slavic pagan leader into Christianity. In 834 or 835 they broke the treaty and again the Neretva pirates raided Venetian traders returning from Benevento, and all of Venice's military attempts to punish the Marians in 839 and 840 utterly failed. Later, they raided the Venetians more often, together with the Arabs. In 846 the Narentines broke through to Venice itself and raided its lagoon city of Caorle. In the middle of March of 870 they kidnapped the Roman Bishop's emissaries that were returning from the Ecclesiastical Council in Constantinople. This caused a Byzantine military action against them that finally brought Christianity to them.
After the Arab raids on the Adriatic coast c. 872 and the retreat of the Imperial Navy, the Narentines continued their raids of Venetian waters, causing new conflicts with the Italians in 887-888. The Venetians futilely continued to fight them throughout the 10th-11th centuries.
The Slavic piracy in the Baltic Sea ended with the Danish conquest of the Rani stronghold of Arkona in 1168. In the 12th century the coasts of western Scandinavia were plundered by Curonians and Oeselians from the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea. In the 13th and 14th century pirates threatened the Hanseatic routes and nearly brought sea trade to the brink of extinction. The Victual Brothers of Gotland were a companionship of privateers who later turned to piracy. Until about 1440, maritime trade in both the North Sea and the Baltic Sea was seriously in danger of attack by the pirates.
H. Thomas Milhorn mentions a certain Englishman named William Maurice, convicted of piracy in 1241, as the first person known to have been hanged, drawn and quartered, which would indicate that the then-ruling King Henry III took an especially severe view of this crime.
As early as Byzantine times, the Maniots - one of Greece's toughest populations - were known as pirates. The Maniots considered piracy as a legitimate response to the fact that their land was poor and it became their main source of income. The main victims of Maniot pirates were the Ottomans but the Maniots also targeted ships of European countries.
The Haida and Tlingit tribes, who lived along the coast of southern Alaska and on islands in northwest British Columbia, were traditionally known as fierce warriors, pirates and slave-traders, raiding as far as California.
On the Indian coast
Instances of Piracy in India are recorded on Vedas. However the most interesting one is when the issue of piracy was utilized as a excuse for war. Invasion of Sindh, In the seventh century the new kingdom of Hajjaz wanted to expand Arab domination over India especially Sindh.The Arab Caliph of Baghdad was in search of an excuse to invade India. The excuse taken was that a ship enroute from Sri Lanka to Baghdad was carrying among valuables some slave girls was looted off Debal. The Caliph demanded compensation and the King Dahir of Sindh rightfully denied as the pirates were not in his control. This became an excuse for war between Arabs and Sindh. Since the 14th century the Deccan (Southern Peninsular region of India) was divided into two entities: on the one side stood the Muslim-ruled Bahmani Sultanate, and on the other stood the Hindu kings rallied around the Vijayanagara Empire. Continuous wars demanded frequent resupplies of fresh horses, which were imported through sea routes from Persia and Africa. This trade was subjected to frequent raids by thriving bands of pirates based in the coastal cities of Western India. One of such was Timoji, who operated off Anjadip Island both as a privateer (by seizing horse traders, that he rendered to the raja of Honavar) and as a pirate who attacked the Kerala merchant fleets that traded pepper with Gujarat.
During the 16th and 17th centuries there was frequent European piracy against Mughal Indian vessels, especially those en route to Mecca for Hajj. The situation came to a head, when Portuguese attacked and captured the vessel Rahimi which belonged to Mariam Zamani the Mughal queen, which led to the Mughal seizure of the Portuguese town Daman. In the 18th century, the famous Maratha privateer Kanhoji Angre ruled the seas between Mumbai and Goa. The Marathas attacked British shipping and insisted that East India Company ships pay taxes if sailing through their waters.
At one stage, the pirate population of Madagascar numbered close to 1000. Île Sainte-Marie became a popular base for pirates throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. The most famous pirate utopia is that of Captain Misson and his pirate crew, who allegedly founded the free colony of Libertatia in northern Madagascar in the late 17th century. In 1694, it was destroyed in a surprise attack by the island natives.
The southern coast of the Persian Gulf became known as the Pirate Coast as raiders based there harassed foreign shipping. Early British expeditions to protect the Indian Ocean trade from raiders at Ras al-Khaimah led to campaigns against that headquarters and other harbors along the coast in 1819.
In East Asia
Piracy in South East Asia began with the retreating Mongol Yuan fleet after the betrayal by their Javanese allies (who, incidentally, would found the empire of Majapahit after the Mongols left). They preferred the junk, a ship using a more robust sail layout. Marooned navy officers, consisting mostly of Cantonese and Hokkien tribesmen, set up their small gangs near river estuaries, mainly to protect themselves. They recruited locals as common foot-soldiers known as 'lang' (lanun) to set up their fortresses. They survived by utilizing their well trained pugilists, as well as marine and navigation skills, mostly along Sumatran and Javanese estuaries. Their strength and ferocity coincided with the impending trade growth of the maritime silk and spice routes.
However, the most powerful pirate fleets of East Asia were those of Chinese pirates during the mid-Qing dynasty. Pirate fleets grew increasingly powerful throughout the early 19th century. The effects large-scale piracy had on the Chinese economy were immense. They preyed voraciously on China's junk trade, which flourished in Fujian and Guangdong and was a vital artery of Chinese commerce. Pirate fleets exercised hegemony over villages on the coast, collecting revenue by exacting tribute and running extortion rackets. In 1802, the menacing Zheng Yi inherited the fleet of his cousin, captain Zheng Qi, whose death provided Zheng Yi with considerably more influence in the world of piracy. Zheng Yi and his wife, Zheng Yi Sao (who would eventually inherit the leadership of his pirate confederacy) then formed a pirate coalition that, by 1804, consisted of over ten thousand men. Their military might alone was sufficient to combat the Qing navy. However, a combination of famine, Qing naval opposition, and internal rifts crippled piracy in China around the 1820s, and it has never again reached the same status.
The Buginese sailors of South Sulawesi were infamous as pirates who used to range as far west as Singapore and as far north as the Philippines in search of targets for piracy. The Orang laut pirates controlled shipping in the Straits of Malacca and the waters around Singapore, and the Malay and Sea Dayak pirates preyed on maritime shipping in the waters between Singapore and Hong Kong from their haven in Borneo.
In Eastern Europe
One example of a pirate republic in Europe from the 16th through the 18th century was Zaporizhian Sich. Situated in the remote Steppe, it was populated with Ukrainian peasants that had run away from their feudal masters, outlaws of every sort, destitute gentry, run-away slaves from Turkish galleys, etc. The remoteness of the place and the rapids at the Dnepr river effectively guarded the place from invasions of vengeful powers. The main target of the inhabitants of Zaporizhian Sich who called themselves "Cossacks" were rich settlements at the Black Sea shores of Ottoman Empire and Crimean Khanate. By 1615 and 1625, Zaporozhian Cossacks had even managed to raze townships on the outskirts of Istanbul, forcing the Ottoman Sultan to flee his palace. Don Cossacks under Stenka Razin even ravaged the Persian coasts.
In North Africa
The Barbary pirates were pirates and privateers that operated from North African (the "Barbary coast") ports of Tunis, Tripoli, Algiers, Salé and ports in Morocco, preying on shipping in the western Mediterranean Sea from the time of the Crusades as well as on ships on their way to Asia around Africa until the early 19th century. The coastal villages and towns of Italy, Spain and Mediterranean islands were frequently attacked by them and long stretches of the Italian and Spanish coasts were almost completely abandoned by their inhabitants; after 1600 Barbary pirates occasionally entered the Atlantic and struck as far north as Iceland. According to Robert Davis between 1 million and 1.25 million Europeans were captured by Barbary pirates and sold as slaves in North Africa and Ottoman Empire between the 16th and 19th centuries. The most famous corsairs were the Ottoman Hayreddin and his older brother Oruç Reis (Redbeard), Turgut Reis (known as Dragut in the West), Kurtoğlu (known as Curtogoli in the West), Kemal Reis, Salih Reis and Koca Murat Reis. A few Barbary pirates, such as Jan Janszoon and John Ward [Yusuf Reis], were renegade English privateers who had converted to Islam.
According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the United States treated captured Barbary corsairs as prisoners of war, indicating that they were considered as legitimate privateers by at least some of their opponents, as well as by their home countries.
In the Caribbean
In 1523, Jean Fleury seized two Spanish treasure ships carrying Aztec treasures from Mexico to Spain. The great or classic era of piracy in the Caribbean extends from around 1560 up until the mid 1720s. The period during which pirates were most successful was from 1700 until the 1730s. Many pirates came to the Caribbean after the end of the War of the Spanish Succession. Many people stayed in the Caribbean and became pirates shortly after that. Others, the buccaneers, arrived in the mid-to-late 17th century and made attempts at earning a living by farming and hunting on Hispaniola and nearby islands; pressed by Spanish raids and possibly failure of their means of making a living, they turned to a more lucrative occupation (not to mention more active and conducive to revenge). Caribbean piracy arose out of, and mirrored on a smaller scale, the conflicts over trade and colonization among the rival European powers of the time, including the empires of Britain, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal and France. Most of these pirates were of English, Dutch and French origin. Because Spain controlled most of the Caribbean, many of the attacked cities and ships belonged to the Spanish Empire and along the East coast of America and the West coast of Africa. Dutch ships captured about 500 Spanish and Portuguese ships between 1623 and 1638. Some of the best-known pirate bases were New Providence, in the Bahamas from 1715 to 1725, Tortuga established in the 1640s and Port Royal after 1655. Among the most famous Caribbean pirates are Edward Teach or "Blackbeard", Calico Jack Rackham and Henry Morgan.
In 1827, Britain declared that participation in the slave trade was piracy, a crime punishable by death. The power of the Royal Navy was subsequently used to suppress the slave trade, and while some illegal trade, mostly with Brazil and Cuba, continued, the Atlantic slave trade would be eradicated by the middle of the 19th century.
- ↑ D.Archibugi, M.Chiarugi (2009-04-09). "Piracy challenges global governance". Open Democracy. http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/piracy-challenges-global-governance. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
- ↑ Peirates, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, "A Greek-English Lexicon", at Perseus.
- ↑ Peira, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, "A Greek-English Lexicon", at Perseus.
- ↑ Online Etymology Dictionary. Etymonline.com. Retrieved on 2008-12-18.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 The Pirates Hold - Piracy Timeline.
- ↑ Phoenician Economy and Trade.
- ↑ Again, according to Suetonius's chronology (Julius 4). Plutarch (Caesar 1.8-2) says this happened earlier, on his return from Nicomedes's court. Velleius Paterculus (Roman History 2:41.3-42 says merely that it happened when he was a young man.
- ↑ Plutarch, Caesar 1-2.
- ↑ The Pirates of St. Tropez.
- ↑ Piracy on Crete, Creta News.
- ↑ H Thomas Milhorn, Crime: Computer Viruses to Twin Towers, Universal Publishers, 2004. ISBN 1-58112-489-9.
- ↑ Haida Warfare.
- ↑ R.S.Sharma, Medieval History of India
- ↑ Findly, Elison B (April - June 1988). "The Capture of Maryam-uz-Zamānī's Ship: Mughal Women and European Traders," Journal of the American Oriental Society, 108 (2): 227-238.
- ↑ Cross-Cultural Perceptions of Piracy: Maritime Violence in the Western Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf Region during a Long Eighteenth Century.
- ↑ Soldiers, Seahawks and Smugglers.
- ↑ Gemma Pitcher, Patricia C. Wright. " Madagascar & Comoros " p.178.
- ↑ Libertatia.
- ↑ From Pirate Coast To Trucial.
- ↑ The Buginese of Sulawesi.
- ↑ Pirates of the East.
- ↑ Wanderings Among South Sea Savages And in Borneo and the Philippines by H. Wilfrid Walker.
- ↑ Places which had been raided or besieged by the Cossacks.
- ↑ Cossack Navy 16th - 17th Centuries.
- ↑ The History of Maritime Piracy - Stepan Razin.
- ↑ When Europeans were slaves: Research suggests white slavery was much more common than previously believed.
- ↑ "Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast and Italy, 1500-1800". Robert Davis (2004) ISBN 1-4039-4551-9
- ↑ Spanish Claim to Land.
- ↑ Woodard, Colin (2007). The Republic of Pirates. Harcourt, Inc. ISBN 978-0-15-603462-3.
- ↑ Loosemore, Jo (8 July 2008). Sailing Against Slavery. BBC. Retrieved on 12 January 2010.
- Sephardic Pirates of the Revolutionary War by Jim Harlow