Stardustnat's Blog

Piracy: a way of living

Posted on: February 7, 2011

Etymology: The English “pirate” is derived from the Latin term pirata and that from Greek “πειρατής” (peiratēs), “brigand”, in turn from “πειράομαι” (peiráomai), “attempt”, from “πεῖρα” (peîra), “attempt, experience”. The word is also cognate to peril.

Definition: Maritime piracy, according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 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.

Punishment: During the 17th and 18th centuries, once pirates were caught, justice was meted out in a summary fashion, and many ended their lives by “dancing the hempen jig”, or hanging at the end of a rope. Public execution was a form of entertainment at the time, and people came out to watch them as they would to a sporting event today. Newspapers were glad to report every detail, such as recording the condemned men’s last words, the prayers said by the priests for their immortal souls, and their final agonising moments on the gallows. In England most of these executions took place at Execution Dock on the River Thames in London. In the cases of more famous prisoners, usually captains their punishments extended beyond death. Their bodies were enclosed in iron cages (for which they were measured before their execution) and left to swing in the air until the flesh rotted off them- a process that could take as long as two years. The bodies of captains such as William Kidd, Charles Vane, William Fly, and Jack Rackham were all treated this way.

Captain Jack Sparrow

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