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March 15, 2015 | by  | in Features Homepage |
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Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Pirates

  1. Pirates didn’t just wear earrings to look cool—it was believed that they could help cure bad eyesight, among other things. It was thought that precious metals like gold and silver had healing powers and prevented seasickness, and that a gold earring would serve as a talisman to protect a sailor from drowning.

  2. Pirates may have thrown people overboard but they very rarely made people “walk the plank”. It’s not really that practical if you think about it, especially not when you’re busy swordfighting and blowing things up with cannons.

  3. Pirates were pretty liberal. They were accepting of homosexuality and had their own form of gay marriage. “Matelotage” was a contractual permanent union, a civil union of sorts, between two consenting males. Matelotage partners openly had sex with each other, shared their property and belongings, fought side by side and lived together too.

  4. Pirates rarely buried their treasure, mostly ‘cos they spent it all before they got the chance to. Which makes sense really, why bury it when you can spend it?

  5. Piracy was a much more lucrative career than other work on the seas. Sailors were underpaid, routinely cheated of their wages, beaten at the slightest provocation and often forced to serve. On pirate ships, booty was equally distributed amongst the crew and the living and working conditions for pirates were significantly better than that of merchant and navy ships. In other words, being a pirate was a way sweeter deal than being a law-abiding seaman.

  6. The infamous Blackbeard, real name Edward Teach, actually lost his leg to diabetes. That’s why he had a peg leg—which is not exactly a cool story to tell ya mates when you’re trying to keep up your scary pirate image.

  7. Julius Caesar was captured by Sicilian pirates. They first demanded a ransom of 20 talents, to which Caesar pointed out that they obviously didn’t know who he was and insisted they ask for 50. He spent 38 days captive, in which he wrote and recited poetry, gave speeches, and demanded that the pirates not talk when he was trying to sleep. After the 38 days, his ransom was paid, he was freed and, of course, he immediately manned ships and came straight back to capture the pirates. Moral of the story: you don’t fuck with Caesar. Unless you’re Cassius, Brutus and all those other dudes.

  8. Jeanne de Clisson (1300–1359), a French woman whose husband was beheaded for treason, swore revenge and sold her family lands to buy three warships. For the next 13 years she went on a pirating binge, targeting King Philip VI’s ships and personally beheading the French noblemen she captured with an axe.

  9. Ching Shih (1775–1844) was a Chinese prostitute-turned-pirate, commanding a fleet of hundreds of ships and at least 20,000 pirates (and up to 80,000 at the height of her career). The Red Flag fleet never lost a battle under the leadership of Ching Shih. She retired rich after much negotiating, which resulted in her being pardoned and able to keep her loot.

  10. And of course, pirates are still around these days. Britney Spears songs are used by British naval officers to scare off Somali pirates on the east coast of Africa. Somali pirates are said to hate the music (and Western culture) so much that they move along quickly whenever the pop songs blast.

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