Just when I was starting to forget about the Pirate problems the United States encountered in Somalia, I read a news report saying that the same American ship that was attacked by Pirates in April, causing the hostage standoff, was attacked again off the coast of Somalia. Fortunately, the crew was able to repel the pirate attack and escape unharmed this time. Still, I find it strange to realize that Pirates are still stalking the oceans and terrorizing ships.
I had always thought of Pirates as something from the colonial period. I was surprised when reading the book “Pirates, Predators of the Seas
” to learn just how far back pirating goes. Apparently, accounts of piracy are older than the pyramids, with the Egyptians, Hittites and other early cultures recording accounts of a race of pirates called the Lukka. The accounts can be found discussing these pirates as early as the 14th
century BC. There is even evidence that around the 12th
century BC, the actions and attacks of pirates were so devastating that they ushered in a “Dark Age” for the Bronze Age civilizations because they could not trade with each other.
Of course, just like you have pirates throughout history, you always have those people who have hunted and destroyed pirates throughout history. One of the more fascinating stories is about how, before he became a famous general, Julius Caesar was captured and held for ransom by Cilician pirates. While he waited for the ransom to be delivered, Caesar joked with the pirates that he would return and wipe them out to the last man. The pirates apparently found his boast very amusing and mocked him for it. But, they were not laughing later when Julius Caesar kept his promise.
Still, despite knowing that piracy predates history, I still find it hard to believe that pirates still roam the seas, as ruthless and money hungry as ever. I am especially surprised by how common they are in the modern world. The book talks about pirates in the south seas of China, Filipino pirates who stalk fisherman, and even pirates lurking in rivers in countries such as Vietnam.
I guess the remaining prevalence of pirates, and the dangers that they pose, explains some of my grandfather’s attitude. My grandfather served in the US Navy and occasionally when he sees children’s shows with “friendly pirates” or where pirates are made to seem childlike and friendly, he gets upset. I used to think that he was silly to get upset about such things because pirates don’t exist anymore. However, after reading the book and doing other research, I definitely realize that pirates remain a threat and are no longer a laughing matter.
Still, pirates have played an important part in history and their history is full of interesting and colorful stories. Do you have a favorite pirates or pirate stories?