14 Bizarre Pirate Facts That Made Us Go “Yarr!”
A lot can be said about medieval pirates: they were cruel, outrageous, and brave to the point of recklessness. But if you think they were a bunch of uncivilized and nasty thieves, you couldn’t be more wrong. The fact is, they were a disciplined lot and followed a set of strict rules and regulations. And they were progressive: many things that were considered taboo until even the last century were openly followed by pirates, like democracy or gay marriage. Want to know more? Read on.
Bright Side happened to come across a few myths that we decided to uncover. We’ve also included some weird facts about pirates, which we’re sure you’ll find interesting.
14. Earrings worn by pirates served a strange purpose.
As strange as it may seem, pirates believed that wearing earrings helped protect their hearing. They had good reason to want to protect it since they were often firing huge cannons and found themselves near extremely loud noises. The dangling wax from the earrings was used to plug their ears when shots were fired. Pirates were quite logical in their reasoning.
13. Pirates wore eyepatches even with both eyes intact.
Did you think every pirate was missing an eye? Actually, the purpose of the eyepatch wasn’t to hide a missing eye as much as it was to help improve night vision. This was required for their job.
During a raid, they had to run between, over, and under the deck. The eyepatch let them see clearly in both the bright light on the deck and in the darkness underneath.
12. The secret behind pirate earrings
Pirates are generally associated with big hoops hanging their ears. But, before you mistake them for a mere fashion statement, keep in mind that there was actually a purpose for wearing those heavy precious metals.
Pirates wore them to make sure that just in case they die in any kind of accident, whoever found their body could use those earrings to cover the cost of their burial. Some pirates even got the name of their home port engraved on their earrings in the hopes that a kind soul would send their body home (by bearing the expenses through the sale of their earrings, of course).
Many superstitions were also attached to their earrings. Pirates believed that wearing them could help prevent seasickness. They also thought it could improve eyesight and help them in case they were drowning. Sounds a bit much, doesn’t it?
11. Pirates practiced gay marriage.
Centuries before people acknowledged the existence of homosexuality, pirates were already allowing gay marriage as early as the 1600s. This association between two men was called Matelotage, wherein the pirate couple shared their possessions and loot and were also each other’s legal heirs.
The fact that there were usually only men on the deck led to this kind of practice. Some say that they gradually developed romantic relations too, while others assume that they would share their female prostitutes.
10. The real terror was the red flag, not black.
If you were to see a black flag, you wouldn’t have to worry much. But if you saw a red flag, that would’ve been a sign of great danger. A red flag on a pirate ship was nothing less than death itself: it meant no mercy would be given to the raided ship and everyone on board would be killed immediately.
Although the origin of the term “Jolly Roger” has been lost, it is believed to be associated with these red flags on pirate ships. The phrase was used for pirate flags of ships that were ready to attack.
9. Pirates were more disciplined than you might think.
Well, pirates had rules too. Whether it was about decision making, chores distribution, or how the loot will be divided, they had a mutual understanding that strengthened their unity.
Not only this, but they also had democratic elections, regulations to settle fights on board, and anyone who disregarded the rules was punished severely. Looks like they were more civilized than many of the commoners.
Pirates were practical and practiced lawfulness. The crew members got their compensation according to the severity of their injury. A pirate who had lost his dominant limb was paid more. What’s more, the pirates who became handicapped during raids were never discarded, but were treated as war veterans and looked upon as courageous and experienced members.
8. A secret drink created by pirates to cure diseases
There was Grog, a drink created by British sailors by mixing their water with rum. And then there was a pirate version of Grog. This drink, apart from helping them avoid consuming salt water, worked as a cure for diseases too.
Pirates recreated Grog by adding sugar and lemon juice to the rum. The addition of lemon juice actually prevented scurvy. It was said that half a pint of this power-packed drink was equivalent to 5 shots of alcohol.
7. Pirates had health insurance.
So far, you’d probably agree that pirates were a lot more modernized than even some of us. Hundreds of years ago when no one had heard of the concept of health insurance, pirates were indeed following it. What’s more interesting to note here is that in those times, when there wasn’t much advancement made in medicine, pirates made sure that if a member of their fleet was injured, he would receive benefits.
For instance, 600 Spanish dollars (a kind of currency prevalent at that time) would be paid out for the loss of a limb. The loss of an eye would be compensated with 200 Spanish dollars and complete blindness would be compensated with 2,000 Spanish dollars; this is equal to almost $153,000 today. Crew members were given the option of accepting their compensation in either money or slaves.
6. The burning beard of the most ferocious pirate
The notorious Blackbeard, Edward Teach, was considered one of the most dreadful pirates of all time. Before attacking a ship, he would weave hemp into his beard and light it up. The smoke coming right out of his beard would make him look demonic and terrified his enemies. Do you think this is insane or courageous?
5. Most of the loot consisted of booze and weapons.
If you’re still hoping to find some buried treasure, we may have to disappoint you. Despite popular belief, pirates rarely looted cash or gold and even more rarely did they bury it.
They loved booze and always needed weapons so these two things were on their priority list. They also took food and clothes for the same reason.
4. There was a brigade of female pirates too.
It wasn’t your gender that mattered — it was your will! Women weren’t considered unfit for the job of a pirate. A great example of this would be Anne Bonny and Mary Read, a popular pirate pair who went together on their pirate ship revenge in 1720. There were also some women who preferred to dress like men and hide their identity.
3. Julius Caesar was once captured by pirates.
The famous Julius Caesar was once held captive by a group of pirates who hadn’t the least idea about his power and worth. When they demanded a ransom of 20 talents (worth about $600,000 today) to release him, the Roman emperor laughed and said he was worth at least 50. The whole time Caesar was on the ship, he read poems and verses to the pirates.
One of the most powerful rulers that history has ever seen was known for his righteousness and fair play at war. However, despite having developed friendly relations with the pirates during his “stay” with them, he later went on to crucify every one of them as punishment.
2. They did not walk the plank.
Many believe that pirates made their hostages walk the plank as a torture method. However, it seems the act was mostly made up by fiction writers. Real pirates preferred to kill their hostages straight away.
Even if they did choose to torture them, they adopted other methods like marooning the prisoner on a deserted island, keelhauling (tying a person to the back of the ship and dragging them along), or lashing them with a leather whip.
1. Pirates gave us the first ever Nautical lingo.
Yes, pirates had their own lingo and many of their phrases are still widely used. The phrase “Three sheets to the wind” was coined by pirates and it’s still commonly used today to mean “to be drunk.” Pirates used this phrase to mean that the ship can go out of control where sheets meant ropes.
“Learn the ropes” is another phrase that pirates used to tell someone to learn how to use the ropes and pulleys. In the modern world, the phrase means “to become familiar with the way something should be done.”
Pirates were mysterious and strange. Even more strange and bizarre were their customs and traditions. The era is over now but their stories continue to live on. Do you have more stories to share? We would love to hear them in your comments below.
Preview photo credit Amazon