Typical 17th and 18th century pirates, during the “golden age of piracy,” usually originated as privateers (e.g. Blackbeard). But where did the first pirates come from?
Piracy was quite common in the ancient world:“…both those on the continent who lived near the sea, and all those whoinhabited the islands…turned to piracy…as this employment did not yetinvolve any disgrace, but rather brought with it somewhat of glory.” ThucydidesThe word “pirate” was an invective hurled at other nations by the victimsor their raids. Until the 4th century BC piracy was considered a legitimateform of business.
Pirates did not fight alone:“For while the romans were occupied against their enemies, they (the pirates) were flourishing, sailing all over the place and joining together as groups, so that some of them came to each other’s aid as regular allies.” Cassius Dio, 3rd Century historian Often they would operate out of island towns, or represent entire nations.
The Illyrian people were famed pirates who became prominent after the first Punic war shattered the Carthaginian and Roman navies. Their light ships outmaneuvered the heavier triremes and quinqueremes of the Romans, and eventually they adapted them.
Illyrian ships were named for their countries of origin: the liberna, pistis,and lembus. The Libernae were later copied by the Romans, and playeda prominent role in the battle of actium
Roman copy of the Illyrian libernae,on the column of Trajan.
Quinqueremes and Triremes formed alarge part of the Roman fleet originaly,and were large and unwieldly craft with3 and 5 banks of oars, respectively.These were modeled after greek orother eastern ships.
Mostly by taking the pirates bases by land and confiscating their ships. This was the pretext for their conquering of the Balearic islands in 123 BC. According to Florus, a roman historian writing a few centuries later, the natives attacked using slings from rafts.A Roman Corvus, or bridge, which attempted to play to the Romans strengths by bringing land tactics to the sea.
Piracy was a broad term used to malign any enemy who attacked from the sea. Pirates ranged from sophisticated navies armed with superior craft, to primitive rafts.