In many movies, a pirate’s life is an exciting adventure. But what was life actually like for an 18th-century pirate? And which parts of the movie pirate are real and which are invented?
In reality, the average pirate was usually trying to escape from a difficult life. Some were ex-sailors who were treated poorly on their ships. Others were escaped slaves who wanted their freedom. They came from many different backgrounds. But on a pirate ship, equality was important. Men elected their captain and created the ship’s rules together. The men also divided the income from stolen goods, and they shared these earnings fairly.
In popular culture, pirates are often shown with chests full of gold. I t is true they took money from others. However, it was far more common for pirates to steal things like cloth, spices, and even medicine. Then they often sold these things. Of course, purchasing stolen goods from pirates was illegal, but many people did it. Also, unlike movie pirates, real “pirates didn’t bury their money,” says Cori Convertito, who works at a maritime museum in the U.S. “They blew it as soon as they could on women and booze.”
Movie pirates often wear eye patches and have wooden legs. In reality, many pirates did look like this. Why? One factor was the poor living conditions. “Life at sea was hard and dangerous,” says David Moore, a maritime museum employee in the U.S. Disease was also common. F or these reasons, some pirates lost eyes and legs. But many pirates did one thing for their health: they wore earrings — just as in the movies. They believed putting weight on the ears stopped seasickness.