What would a pirate not say


Michael Kempe

To person

Dr. phil .; Head of the Leibniz Research Center of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen at the Leibniz Archive of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Library in Hanover, Waterloostraße 8, 30169 Hanover. [email protected]

For some years now, an international type of criminal has appeared to be returning, whose activities as the scourge of mankind have long since been overcome: the pirate. [1] Just a few years ago, hardly anyone would have thought it possible that men from Somalia would be punished as pirates in a German court and sentenced to several years' imprisonment, as happened in October 2012 at the Hamburg district court. In addition, the return of piracy on a large international scale happened exactly where pirates held the whole world in suspense around 300 years ago: on the Horn of Africa. Will there be a renaissance of historical buccaneers? In any case, one thing is certain: the "golden age" of piracy will not repeat itself because it never existed as such. No other criminal figure has been entwined with so many myths and legends to this day. This applies not only to the fabulous raids of dazzling figures like Henry Every, William Kidd or Blackbeard around 1700, to whom the golden age owes its name, but also to Störtebeker's brazen action against the Hanseatic cities in the Middle Ages or Pompey's campaign in antiquity against daredevils Mediterranean pirates. Accordingly, historians from all over the world continue to strive tirelessly to separate facts and fictions with regard to the stories of notorious pirates.

With a few but significant exceptions, there are hardly any self-reports by pirates, as most of them could neither read nor write. Furthermore, it has always been in the self-interest of those involved in robbery, looting and murder to cover up all traces of their crimes or to lay the wrong tracks. After all, our current knowledge of the almost global piracy at the turn of the 18th century is largely based on literary products in which facts and fictions are inextricably linked.

When the French and English accused the North Africans from Tunis, Algiers and Tripoli of piracy at the beginning of the 19th century, but neither adhered to their own treaties with the inhabitants of the Maghreb nor to international martial law, the Bey of Tunis did not fully address this accusation wrongly against the Europeans themselves. Because they sailed into the territory they claimed, the Spanish and Portuguese referred to French, English and Dutch Americans as pirates in the 16th century. Prevented by the Iberians from going to the "New World", the French, English and Dutch turned the tables and in turn held them against piracy. The reciprocity of the allegation of piracy shows what the terms "pirate" or "pirate" have always been, namely terms of external description in order to delegitimize the actions and use of violence of the opponent and at the same time to justify one's own, for example with the help of self-description as "Sea policeman" or "pirate hunter". That has not changed until today: Not we are robbers and bandits, but the deep-seamen of international fishing fleets who have invaded our coastal waters to illegally rob our fishing grounds - this is how many Somalis have recently argued when they are accused of piracy and see themselves as self-organized coastal patrols.

The long history of piracy can therefore often be understood as a matter of mutual accusations. A neutral third instance was almost always missing, so that most disputes were decided by the law of the strongest party, who then had the monopoly to define who was a pirate and who was not.

Stations in world piracy history

Piracy has often been referred to as the "second oldest trade" in the world. If one dares to attempt at least briefly to outline a brief history of this trade, then one must first consider that one comes across the term "piracy" as a pejorative external attribution, constantly and in very different contexts. To make matters worse, our current international legal definition of pirates as persons who commit acts of violence against persons or property on the high seas for self-interest without having been authorized to do so by a recognized government can only be applied to a very limited extent to the long history of such attributions . Based on this general definition, the history of piracy initially appears to be little more than a mere chronological sequence of flaring concentrations of pirate activities that appear and disappear in different parts of the world. If you take a closer look, however, by looking at the economic and political functions of piracy, certain patterns and structures emerge that are repeated in different forms.

Antiquity: The claim that piracy was not reprehensible in early antiquity, but rather something heroic, persists to this day. Even in Hugo Grotius, the great theoretician of modern international law from the 17th century, one can read Homer's words "Are you robbers?" had been a friendly question. And according to Justin, piracy was considered something glorious until the time of Tarquin (according to legend, the last king of Rome). [2] Something heroic also appears in the Greek term peiratés sounding different from peíra (Sample, trial) and thus designates a robber who always wants to know anew and is looking for a challenge. On the other hand, more recent research relativizes the cliché of the heroic origin of piracy, which has prevailed up to the present day, and indicates that in the Homeric epics a distinction was made between heroes and pirates and piracy was deprecated. [3]

Apart from the legal question, two forms of maritime violence and looting can be distinguished up to the earliest times of human tradition. On the one hand, since the "sea peoples storm" in the eastern Mediterranean around 1200 BC. Chr. Repeatedly mentioned different peoples who lived as a community as a whole primarily from piracy. This includes, for example, the Greek Phoceans in antiquity, the Cilikians from Asia Minor or, in the Middle Ages, the Normans and Vikings who plundered almost all of Europe with raids. On the other hand, it was time and again very small groups of people, who acted in a narrow region, who undertook robberies at sea to a very limited extent and for certain times. Often it was farmers in times of bad harvests or fishermen during the spawning season who compensated for their loss of earnings by robbing ships, but later returning to their actual business. Such manifestations of seasonal or episodic piracy can be observed as a subsidiary form of livelihood not only in Europe, but also, for example, in Asia on the long Chinese coast, where since the first Chinese dynasties local fishermen have equipped boats in the summer months when they are not caught to plunder the coast and raiding trading junks.

At the latest after the end of the Persian Wars (approx. 450 BC), with the rise of Athens, efforts began to effectively combat piracy in order to make trade on the sea safer. Gradually, norms emerged between the powers that condemn piracy as a criminal offense. The ensuing juridification of warlike relationships led Roman lawyers of the late Republican era to view battles against pirates not as wars but as "police actions". Imperial Rome instrumentalized the anti-pirate struggle to delegitimize resistance against external opponents and internal opposition. The self-image as a strong political authority emerged from the fight against pirates in the imperial era. How problematic such a distinction between war and robbery ultimately remained, is shown by the words of Augustine (354–430) from "De civitate Dei". [4] According to the church father, when Alexander the Great asked the archpirate Demetrios why he was making the sea unsafe, he replied: "Why am I called a pirate because I do it with small ships, and you, King, because you are the earth make you insecure with hosts, Emperor? "

middle Ages: For its part, piracy began to split into a legal and an illegal variant in the Middle Ages. In the Latin Mediterranean region, especially in the powerful trading cities of Genoa and Venice, maritime robberies that were legalized with an official license were referred to as piracy in cursum (literally: "at high speed"). The term des later developed from this expression Corsairs as well as the Pirate driver for the Northern European area. The letters of misery, which had been in use throughout Europe since the Middle Ages, created a legal framework for private sea captures. [5] The sea booty declared to be legal was called a "prize". At the turn of the 15th century, the so-called “pirates” already show that officially deployed seafarers tend to transform themselves into autonomously acting pirates Vitality Brothers[6] Initially used as a blockade breaker for Stockholm against the siege by Danish associations, they later became independent robbers under dazzling figures such as Gödeke Michels or Klaus Störtebeker, who at times paralyzed almost all trade in North and Baltic Sea shipping.