The New Student's Reference Work/Piracy
Pi'racy is robbery on the high seas, and, although considered a crime at the present time by all nations, formerly the sea-rover was as much a pirate as a trader. The Phœnicians combined piracy with lawful seafaring enterprise. In the days of Homer piracy was considered a respectable, even a dignified, calling, and the Greeks had a natural genius for it. Cilicia was long the headquarters for Mediterranean piracy, until in 67 B. C. Pompey made his memorable expedition against the pirates with great naval and military forces. The Norse vikings were the terror of western coasts and waters from the 8th to the 11th Christian centuries. The Hanseatic League was formed for mutual defense against the Baltic and other pirates. Later the Moslem rovers scourged the Mediterranean, commingling naval war on a large scale with peddling, thieving and stealing people as slaves. Algiers was a stronghold of pirates till well into the 19th century, and in the 17th century the English Channel swarmed with Algerine pirates. In 1635 these corsairs entered Cork Harbor, and carried off a boat with eight fishermen, to be sold as slaves in Algiers. The buccaneers preyed mainly on the Spanish commerce with the Spanish-American colonies. Captain Kidd, (q. v.), who was sent out against pirates in 1696 by a private company in London, was found to be playing the game of pirate himself, was arrested and tried for piracy and murder, found guilty and hanged on May 23, 1701. The original of Scott's Pirate was John Gow, who, though bold and successful under the guise of friendship, was proved to be a great villain, and with nine of his men was executed. So late as 1864 five men were hanged in London for murder and piracy. The African slave-trade was not considered piracy by the law of nations, though the United States and Great Britain declared it to be such by statute, and after 1840 Austria, Prussia and Russia made the same declaration. The home of professional piracy is now confined to the Malay Peninsula.