Facts We Just Learned About Pirates That Made Us Say 'Really?'
Photo: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Facts We Just Learned About Pirates That Made Us Say 'Really?'

Voting Rules
Vote up the facts about pirates that really shiver your timbers.

Swashbuckling pirates, complete with peg legs and eye patches, have long been popular in Hollywood, from the silent era to contemporary blockbusters, from the many incarnations of Treasure Island to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. But how many of the weird pirate facts we've been led to believe arrrr actually true? The pirate jargon, the wardrobes, the flags - everything we've come to associate with pirates based on cultural depictions is on the table.

The backstories of some of the most famous pirates in history and lore include some fascinating details you may not have known. Of course, it's never too late to remedy the situation and brush up on your pirate history. While you're at it, vote up the pirate facts you're excited to finally learn after all these years.

  • 1
    1,138 VOTES

    Black Bart's Pirate Code Was Strict

    From Redditor u/donfelicedon2:

    TIL the most successful pirate captain of the Golden Age of Piracy, "Black" Bart, had very strict rules on his ship, prohibiting all lights and drinking after 8 in the evening. There was also a complete ban on gambling. If a crew member got hurt, he received a pension proportionate to his injury.

    Context: The Pirate Code is well-known as something that pirates respected, but the logistics aren't quite as well understood. Not all pirates upheld the same rules; each captain was able to determine his or her own rules to live by. Black Bart was known to have an extensive list of rules, including equal voting rights, equal division of the booty, no gambling over card or dice games, lights out at 8 o'clock, all weapons remained clean and ready for battle, no women on board, and no quarreling among the crew members. Oh, and deserting the ship was punishable by death.

    1,138 votes
  • 2
    776 VOTES

    Julius Caesar Was Kidnapped By Pirates

    From Redditor u/Quiglius:

    TIL Julius Caesar was kidnapped by pirates, who demanded 20 talents of silver for his freedom; however, Caesar told them to ask for 50. When the ransom was paid and he was released, Caesar raised a fleet, pursued, and eventually captured the pirates and had them crucified.

    Context: Caesar was in fact captured by pirates on his way to Rhodes. The pirates were unaware of whom they had just taken captive, and Caesar purportedly joked with them that their ransom was too low. While in the pirates' custody, Caesar repeatedly told them he'd have them crucified; they laughed him off, of course, but sure enough, once his ransom was delivered, he raised a fleet and found them where they had held him. He arrested the pirates, held them in prison, and had them all executed.

    776 votes
  • 3
    693 VOTES

    A Pirate Once Raided A Ship To Steal The Crew's Hats

    From Redditor u/conunlapiz:

    TIL that the pirate Benjamin Hornigold once raided a merchant ship just to steal the hats from the ship's crew because his crew had gotten too drunk the night before and had thrown their hats overboard.

    Context: Hornigold's pirating career was prolific; one of the more humorous anecdotes from his seafaring days was his 1717 hunt for hats. After a wild night, during which his entire crew tossed their hats over the edge, he set out to raid a ship for its crew members' hats. After intercepting a merchant vessel, he told them that all he requested was their hats; once he had what he wanted, he let them go on their merry way.

    693 votes
  • 4
    861 VOTES

    Two Women Disguised Themselves As Men To Be Pirates - And Were Powerful

    From Redditor u/jupiterheart:

    TIL that the famous female pirates Mary Read and Anne Bonny discovered each others' real genders (they were disguising themselves as men) when Bonny told Read that she was attracted to her, causing Read to reveal herself as a female as well.

    Context: Two of the most well-known female pirates, Mary Read and Anne Bonny, actually crossed paths. Both families allegedly dressed these young girls as boys, and both eventually made their way to sea disguised as males. Rumor has it that when their crews collided, Anne became infatuated with the slightly feminine pirate who later revealed herself to be Mary Read. The two promised to keep each other's secret.

    861 votes
  • 5
    720 VOTES

    The Wealthiest Pirate Was Young

    From Redditor u/ledgendary:

    TIL: The wealthiest pirate in recorded history had a career as a pirate captain that lasted little more than a year; he was nicknamed the "Prince of Pirates."

    Context: Samuel Bellamy - or "Black Sam" - is likely the wealthiest pirate there's ever been. The shipwreck in which he died was discovered in 2018; inside were about five tons of gold, ivory, and other valuables like sterling. Being only 28, he earned this treasure in a short period of time, but may well have earned more than any other pirate.

    720 votes
  • 6
    981 VOTES

    Eye Patches Were Training Pieces

    From Redditor u/Scythe_of_the_Celt:

    TIL pirates wore eye patches to keep one eye accustomed to the dark, so they could see in the darkness below deck.

    Context: Generally speaking, eye patches are assumed to have covered eyes lost during gruesome skirmishes at sea, but it appears that was unlikely. Eye patches were probably used to adjust one eye to darkness, which would help pirates transition more easily from sunlight to the darker conditions below deck.

    981 votes