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Pirate Ship. ( neillockhart / Adobe)

Hostis Humani Generis: Pirates Of Port Royal And Tortuga

The history of piracy has always held the imagination captive, both for what concerns the nautical and its techniques and for the geopolitical landscape it occupied. Its origins spring from the times of the ancient Egyptians to the Romans, up to the famous epic (1630-1730) of piracy in the West Indies (Caribbean) and East Indies (Indian Ocean).

An Attack on a Galleon in Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates (1905) Delaware Art Museum (Public Domain)

An Attack on a Galleon in Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates (1905) Delaware Art Museum (Public Domain)

The etymology of the word ‘pirate’ comes from the ancient Greek word Peiran, which means ‘to attack’. Basically, the task of a pirate is to plunder, board, steal and kill. The 17th-century chronicles considered a pirate a Hostis Humani Generis: an enemy of mankind (the locution originally belonged to Flavius Eutropius, Roman historian, who dedicated this epitaph of infamy to the emperor Lucius Antoninus Commodus, son of Marcus Aurelius). The word corsair also has very ancient origins, from the Latin Cursus, the language of the ancient Romans. In medieval Latin the word evolved into Cursarium. In both cases the word means in context: to run on the seas for brigandage. The word filibuster, however, seems to derive from the Dutch Vrij Buiter, or English Flyboat, a type of boat, later evolved into Freebooter and then in French Flibustier and Italian filibustiere.


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