What Are The Most Common Misconceptions About Pirates?

Conny Waters - AncientPages.com - The fascinating tales of pirates and their thrilling escapades have intrigued audiences of all ages. Their lives, often depicted in films and literature, allow us to delve into the world of the most notorious sea marauders of the 18th century.

What Are The Most Common Misconceptions About Pirates?

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Elements such as hidden treasures, missing legs or eyes, and the role of women on pirate ships are frequently highlighted. However, this begs the question—how much of this is factual? What aspects are mere myths and actual historical events? This article aims to clarify some prevalent misconceptions about pirates.

Did Pirates Wear Eye Patches And Have Peg Legs?

A common misunderstanding is that pirates used eyepatches to keep one eye adjusted to the darkness for when they needed to go below deck during combat. However, experiments testing this theory have yielded inconclusive results. No historical proof supports the idea that eyepatches were utilized for this reason. The truth is much more straightforward - patches were typically used to conceal an empty eye socket following an injury. Possibly, some light source, like lanterns or portholes, would have lighted most spaces below deck, making an eyepatch unnecessary.

The concept of 'peg legs' being prevalent on pirate ships is mainly speculative, given the lack of direct eyewitness accounts and archaeological evidence. The high-risk environment aboard these vessels could have necessitated their use, but no concrete evidence supports this. The widespread association of eyepatches and peg legs with pirates can be traced back to Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, where Long John Silver is depicted with both.

Did Pirates Bury Their Treasures?

The suggestion that pirates buried their treasure and created maps to locate it later is often linked to Captain William Kidd (c1655-1701). He attempted to evade imprisonment by sending a letter to Lord Bellomont, the governor of New York and Massachusetts, asserting that he had concealed a cache of gold and jewels on Gardiner's Island, somewhere off the coast of New York. Newspapers picked this story up, and rumors about Captain Kidd's hidden wealth began circulating. While some pirates may have indeed buried their treasures, this was not a common practice. Pirates typically preferred immediate access to their share of the loot and were known for spending it swiftly.

Contrary to popular belief, the "loot" amassed by pirates often did not consist of silver or gold. Most of their plunder was typically comprised of commonplace trade items, including food, lumber, cloth, animal hides, and other goods.

Did Pirates Make Their Victims Walk The Plank?

In numerous pirate movies, we often witness victims forced to walk on a plank positioned over the ship's edge, inevitably leading to their fall and subsequent drowning. However, this depiction does not align with the actual practices of historical pirates. Instead, many victims - including those forced into piracy to replace fallen crew members or hostages taken during combat - were restrained and confined below deck, where they were subjected to brutal beatings that frequently resulted in disfigurement.

Marooning was another form of punishment employed by pirates. This was typically reserved for individuals who posed minimal threat on land. If an individual declined to join the pirate crew but pledged silence about their activities, they would be abandoned on an island with a bottle of water, gunpowder, a pistol, and a bullet as their only provisions.

Were Women Considered Bad Luck On Pirate Ships?

A common misunderstanding exists that women were considered to bring misfortune on ships. This belief is rooted mainly in maritime folklore, which features female entities like mermaids and sirens enticing sailors to their doom. However, these tales reflect more the fear of drowning than any apprehension towards women.

What Are The Most Common Misconceptions About Pirates?

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In reality, beyond the sphere of myths and legends, women frequently traveled on ships, including pirate vessels. They often assumed domestic roles or resided onboard as the spouses of captains and other high-ranking officers. Notable pirates such as Bartholomew Roberts and Blackbeard did prohibit women from their ships; however, this was due to concerns over potential jealousy and conflict among the crew rather than any superstition about bad luck.

Written by Conny Waters – AncientPages.com Staff Writer

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Expand for references

History Revealed Magazine, October, 2021

Defoe, Daniel (Captain Charles Johnson) - "A General History of the Pyrate

Angus Konstam - World Atlas of Pirates