Why did pirates fly pirate flags?

Why did pirates fly a black flag

From Marcus Redikers (historian, lifelong researcher of the Anglo-American maritime world) book Villains of All Nations:,The omnipresence of death, the apocalyptic impulse, the heterodox belief, the gallows humor, and the centrality of these in the consciousness and culture of pirates show up their symbolism, especially in the best-know emblem of piracy in this era or any other, the notorious black flag, which they called Old Roger or Jolly Roger.

A point to be emphasized is the significance of flags to the maritime world of the early eighteen century.

A dazzling array of flags, colors, standards, jacks, pennants, ensigns, and banners, especially those signifying nation and empire, were the most important means of communication among seafaring craft of all kinds.

They were, at the most fundamental level, markers of property and sovereign power among the nations in oceanic zones of tremendous uncertainty.

Pirates doubly defied the nationalistic logic of this situation - first by forming themselves as > (mixing together seafarers of all countries, as suggested early), and second by attacking vessels regardless of the flag flying at the mainmast, making all nations and their shipping equal prey.

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] When pirates created a flag of their own, as they did for the first time in the eighteenth century, they made a new declaration: they would use colors to symbolize the solidarity of a gang of proletarian outlaws, thousands strong and self-organized in daring ways, in violent opposition to the all-powerful nation-states of the day.

By flying the skull and crossbones, they announced themselves as >.

u201d,The black flag was a symbol of the pirateu2019s resistance to control from Atlantic empires and, as symbols go, a way to strike fear in their prey: the black color and skull associated with death, a message to merchant vessels: surrender or die.

It carried Terror.

,It was also a sort of superstition.

Most pirates were of Christian faiths and quite superstitious as maritime folk usually are.

The skull and crossbones were common symbols in gravestones and tombs in the eighteenth century Christian World.

These symbols conveyed the all-sovereign u201cKing of Deathu201d or u201cGrim Reaperu201d, represented as a skeleton wielding a scythe or a sword, and an hourglass.

Pirates risk death in the gallows if captured, as well as death conducting the dangerous life aboard a deep-sea eighteenth century sailing ship.

Most of them died after four or five years of becoming a pirate, old pirates, therefore, became legendary characters as Blackbeard or William Kidd.

The life of a pirate was, as pirate captain Roberts said: u201ca merry life and a short one shall be my motto.

u201d

Ancient pirate symbols

Hi, life be unto you.

No it is not some new AI.

Weu2019ve had talking AIs for the last 40 years and some are pretty good at answering your questions.

All the ancient leaders of their respective kingdoms were given symbolic images which applied very well because the image suited them.

Just because this new world order leader just got a new AI made by Microsoft/IBM/or whoever and IT SPEAKS of course everyone going to bend over and worship.

Its a little bit more complicated.

The New Jerusalem is in stat orbit 23000 miles above the Earth over the Middle East.

The Saints are all upon the Sea of Glass with wedding gowns on.

Wait some donu2019t have wedding vestures on so they are throw out of the 12 airlocks very similiar to ancient pirates used to make unwanted people walk the plank.

These are they that repented but went back to their old ways like dogs back to their own throw up.

Now this Leader is slick and will deceive all the people into believeing this a an alien invasion they have abducted our best and are making them walk the plank.

Pirate symbols and meanings

Tim Dees is spot on with the use of the logo in law enforcement.

But the military is a different story.

,Lots of units and guys will use various symbols and logos from everywhere.

Each individual ODA makes their own unique insignia.

My first ODA used the mythosaur skull from star wars.

I personally like blackbeardu2019s flag.

Some like the punisher skull, various pirate flags, the demon hunter logo, and so much more.

,People pick these insignias to promote unit morale and esprit de corps, they like the concepts/ideologies/philosophy behind them, or they just look cool.

,I like Blackbeard for the same reason.

,ST6 uses different logos for their squadrons.

Each squadron has a unique culture with patches, apparel, tattoos and everything.

,Army SF guys will also get their insignias tattooed as well.

,I personally think ODAs 311 and 122 have sick logos.

,However, the logo may have meaning to the individuals or the unit, but they canu2019t control how others from the outside perceive it.

See the picture of Marine Scout Snipers below:

Jolly Roger

Not really.

,These days, the Jolly Roger is actually more used by cruisers than pirates.

,This is the flag of modern pirates:,You can see it at half mast in the above pic.

,Did you spot it yet?,How about now? Its up in the wind now:,Its called an RPG.

,Cheers,,Jeff

Pirate flag meaning today

I just finished reading The Invisible Hook, a fun book on the economics of piracy.

Iu2019ll relay some of what I learned thatu2019s applicable here.

Just to be clear, everything below relates to piracy in the Atlantic in the 1600s and 1700s, because thatu2019s where our clichu00e9s come from.

,Walking the plank - Complete fiction.

When disciplining one of their own, pirates favored marooning to punish the most severe offenses.

Theyu2019d drop the offender ashore with a few basic supplies, and leave them to live or die.

When executing prisoners, on the other hand, pirates used methods far more barbarous than mere drowning.

Torture was common, and horrifically creative.

Most prisoners were treated well, because what pirates wanted most was for merchant crews to surrender their ships without a fight, and routinely mistreating prisoners would discourage that.

But when pirates did execute prisoners (usually for resisting capture or hiding valuables), they were gratuitously brutal about it.

Whatever you can imagine, they probably did it, and worse.

,The Jolly Roger - Real.

Pirates would fly other colors while approaching a target, but once they were ready to pounce, they raised a pirate flag.

The skull and crossbones thatu2019s always used in pop culture today is a sort of rough average; if you took a pirate flag off a modern movie set and flew it above a ship in 1710, it would be instantly recognizable as a pirate flag by seamen of that era.

The whole point of raising a pirate flag was to show target crew that they had better surrender, because pirates would show no mercy if they resisted.

,Because the flags needed to be recognizable, actual pirate flags did share a lot of common elements.

They were almost always black, and they did usually include images of bones, though it could be an entire skeleton or some other arrangement of bones, not just what weu2019re used to seeing.

They might also include other violent imagery.

In general the artwork was less minimalist than the movie version of the Jolly Roger; this was particularly true for well-established and successful pirate crews, who wanted to carve out on their own individual reputations.

,Buried treasure - Not real.

The whole point of piracy was money.

Why take what youu2019ve worked so hard for and put it in the ground? A pirate with a huge pile of treasure wouldnu2019t hide it somewhere and go out pirating again.

Theyu2019d retire to enjoy the fruits of their success.

,In any case, the idea of a notorious pirate burying his treasure relies on a misunderstanding of how pirates organized themselves.

At the end of an expedition, some of the loot was set aside to pay expenses and compensate injured pirates.

The rest was divided evenly among the crew.

The captain and other officers did get more, but not by much; on a typical pirate ship the captain might get 2 shares, officers and certain skilled crew members 1.

5 or 1.

25 shares, and ordinary crew members 1 share.

That means that even on a successful pirate ship, no individual pirate - not even the captain - owned a huge pile of treasure.

Blackbeard couldnu2019t bury Blackbeardu2019s treasure, because it wasnu2019t his to bury.

It belonged to the crew, and thereu2019s no way a pirate crew would allow their treasure to be buried instead of being divided as agreed.

In fact, the captain of a pirate ship had no authority over the crewu2019s finances; handling money and dividing loot was the job of the quartermaster.

,The Pirate Code - Real.

In fact, while popular fiction sometimes alludes to a Pirate Code, it understates the extent to which pirate life was governed by rules, and how formalized those rules were.

Each pirate crew drafted a written contract and passed it by unanimous agreement before setting out on an expedition.

These contracts spelled out the authorities of the shipu2019s officers, processes for selecting and removing officers, division of plunder, rules of behavior, and disciplinary processes.

While each crew had its own contract, they tended to be similar because the rules stemmed from basic realities of pirate life.

There were even formal procedures for negotiating temporary alliances between independent pirate crews.

,White guy pirates - Half right.

Sometimes Hollywood likes to insert a bit of ethnic diversity into a historical setting where in reality everyone was white.

In the case of pirates, they err in the other direction.

A typical pirate crew might be around a quarter or a third black, and on some ships the proportion of black sailors was higher than that.

Sometimes they were slaves forced by the pirates to join, but they could also be full voting members of the crew, entitled to a share of the plunder.

In any case, while itu2019s true that the majority of pirates (and especially pirate captains) were white, most real pirate crews had a lot more dark faces than pirate crews Iu2019ve seen on a screen.

,As far as gender goes, the traditional movie and TV image is right.

In fact, pirates had rules against carrying women on board, to avoid the potential for conflict among the crew.

There are only four known cases of female pirates in the golden era of Atlantic piracy.

Two were pirates in the legal sense, but not in the sense most people would recognize from pop culture.

The other two did live the full pirate lifestyle, and both of them did so while masquerading as men.

In a weird coincidence, those two were part of the same crew.

One of the women was the secret lover of the captain.

The second woman developed a romantic interest in the first woman, thinking that she was a man.

Gender-bending pirate love triangle! Apparently that sort of crazy mistaken identity plotline really can happen outside of a Shakespeare comedy.

Fun story aside, though, the bottom line is that pirates were men.

,Pirate discipline - Pirate crews are sometimes depicted in fiction as a barely-controlled rabble, and sometimes as efficient professionals.

The former is probably more the common depiction, but the latter is much closer to the truth.

Pirates needed to maintain discipline to ply their trade successfully.

Sailing a ship of that era was a complex task, especially when the goal wasnu2019t just to get from one port to another safely, but to overtake and capture other ships that might fight back.

On a related note, depictions of pirate captains as tyrannical leaders (think Captain Hook) are also wrong: in most cases a captain who mistreated his crew was simply removed and replaced.

,Pirate depravity - Two of my favorite fictional pirates, the Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride and Captain Shakespeare from the movie version of Stardust, are shown as decent soft-hearted guys who go to great lengths to develop an unearned reputation for brutality.

While itu2019s unlikely that any real pirate could have been quite so noble as those characters, they do show a dynamic that real pirates faced: the fiercer their reputations, the less often they had to use actual violence.

,Pirates preferred to avoid battle, regardless of their moral views.

After all, battle meant risking their own lives, risking damage to their ship, and risking damage to their prizes.

Every fight was a losing proposition.

So, pirate policies were aimed at encouraging merchant crews to surrender without a fight.

That meant that pirates needed to be cruel to crews that were captured after resisting.

It also meant being merciful, or even generous, to crews that surrendered peacefully.

And at the end of the day, it was always the piratesu2019 reputation, not the actual violence they committed, that mattered.

Pirates knew that, and they cultivated their reputation accordingly.

,Consider this: why is the pirate Blackbeard so infamous? It isnu2019t because he was the most successful pirate of his era.

He was successful, but there were pirates more successful than him who are completely forgotten today.

Blackbeard is remembered because he was a master of marketing, a man who built a personal brand so strong that it lives on centuries after his death.

That giant unkempt beard? It wasnu2019t a random eccentricity, it was a deliberate part of his image.

Blackbeard was a showman.

He lit fuses into his hair so that he would be surrounded by smoke.

Historians arenu2019t sure Blackbeard personally killed a single person until the fight with government authorities where he died.

But that didnu2019t matter, as long as his victims believed he was a ruthless killer.

,Real pirates werenu2019t misunderstood good guys.

But both their violence and their mercy served deliberate purposes.

Pirate flags images

I just finished reading The Invisible Hook, a fun book on the economics of piracy.

Iu2019ll relay some of what I learned thatu2019s applicable here.

Just to be clear, everything below relates to piracy in the Atlantic in the 1600s and 1700s, because thatu2019s where our clichu00e9s come from.

,Walking the plank - Complete fiction.

When disciplining one of their own, pirates favored marooning to punish the most severe offenses.

Theyu2019d drop the offender ashore with a few basic supplies, and leave them to live or die.

When executing prisoners, on the other hand, pirates used methods far more barbarous than mere drowning.

Torture was common, and horrifically creative.

Most prisoners were treated well, because what pirates wanted most was for merchant crews to surrender their ships without a fight, and routinely mistreating prisoners would discourage that.

But when pirates did execute prisoners (usually for resisting capture or hiding valuables), they were gratuitously brutal about it.

Whatever you can imagine, they probably did it, and worse.

,The Jolly Roger - Real.

Pirates would fly other colors while approaching a target, but once they were ready to pounce, they raised a pirate flag.

The skull and crossbones thatu2019s always used in pop culture today is a sort of rough average; if you took a pirate flag off a modern movie set and flew it above a ship in 1710, it would be instantly recognizable as a pirate flag by seamen of that era.

The whole point of raising a pirate flag was to show target crew that they had better surrender, because pirates would show no mercy if they resisted.

,Because the flags needed to be recognizable, actual pirate flags did share a lot of common elements.

They were almost always black, and they did usually include images of bones, though it could be an entire skeleton or some other arrangement of bones, not just what weu2019re used to seeing.

They might also include other violent imagery.

In general the artwork was less minimalist than the movie version of the Jolly Roger; this was particularly true for well-established and successful pirate crews, who wanted to carve out on their own individual reputations.

,Buried treasure - Not real.

The whole point of piracy was money.

Why take what youu2019ve worked so hard for and put it in the ground? A pirate with a huge pile of treasure wouldnu2019t hide it somewhere and go out pirating again.

Theyu2019d retire to enjoy the fruits of their success.

,In any case, the idea of a notorious pirate burying his treasure relies on a misunderstanding of how pirates organized themselves.

At the end of an expedition, some of the loot was set aside to pay expenses and compensate injured pirates.

The rest was divided evenly among the crew.

The captain and other officers did get more, but not by much; on a typical pirate ship the captain might get 2 shares, officers and certain skilled crew members 1.

5 or 1.

25 shares, and ordinary crew members 1 share.

That means that even on a successful pirate ship, no individual pirate - not even the captain - owned a huge pile of treasure.

Blackbeard couldnu2019t bury Blackbeardu2019s treasure, because it wasnu2019t his to bury.

It belonged to the crew, and thereu2019s no way a pirate crew would allow their treasure to be buried instead of being divided as agreed.

In fact, the captain of a pirate ship had no authority over the crewu2019s finances; handling money and dividing loot was the job of the quartermaster.

,The Pirate Code - Real.

In fact, while popular fiction sometimes alludes to a Pirate Code, it understates the extent to which pirate life was governed by rules, and how formalized those rules were.

Each pirate crew drafted a written contract and passed it by unanimous agreement before setting out on an expedition.

These contracts spelled out the authorities of the shipu2019s officers, processes for selecting and removing officers, division of plunder, rules of behavior, and disciplinary processes.

While each crew had its own contract, they tended to be similar because the rules stemmed from basic realities of pirate life.

There were even formal procedures for negotiating temporary alliances between independent pirate crews.

,White guy pirates - Half right.

Sometimes Hollywood likes to insert a bit of ethnic diversity into a historical setting where in reality everyone was white.

In the case of pirates, they err in the other direction.

A typical pirate crew might be around a quarter or a third black, and on some ships the proportion of black sailors was higher than that.

Sometimes they were slaves forced by the pirates to join, but they could also be full voting members of the crew, entitled to a share of the plunder.

In any case, while itu2019s true that the majority of pirates (and especially pirate captains) were white, most real pirate crews had a lot more dark faces than pirate crews Iu2019ve seen on a screen.

,As far as gender goes, the traditional movie and TV image is right.

In fact, pirates had rules against carrying women on board, to avoid the potential for conflict among the crew.

There are only four known cases of female pirates in the golden era of Atlantic piracy.

Two were pirates in the legal sense, but not in the sense most people would recognize from pop culture.

The other two did live the full pirate lifestyle, and both of them did so while masquerading as men.

In a weird coincidence, those two were part of the same crew.

One of the women was the secret lover of the captain.

The second woman developed a romantic interest in the first woman, thinking that she was a man.

Gender-bending pirate love triangle! Apparently that sort of crazy mistaken identity plotline really can happen outside of a Shakespeare comedy.

Fun story aside, though, the bottom line is that pirates were men.

,Pirate discipline - Pirate crews are sometimes depicted in fiction as a barely-controlled rabble, and sometimes as efficient professionals.

The former is probably more the common depiction, but the latter is much closer to the truth.

Pirates needed to maintain discipline to ply their trade successfully.

Sailing a ship of that era was a complex task, especially when the goal wasnu2019t just to get from one port to another safely, but to overtake and capture other ships that might fight back.

On a related note, depictions of pirate captains as tyrannical leaders (think Captain Hook) are also wrong: in most cases a captain who mistreated his crew was simply removed and replaced.

,Pirate depravity - Two of my favorite fictional pirates, the Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride and Captain Shakespeare from the movie version of Stardust, are shown as decent soft-hearted guys who go to great lengths to develop an unearned reputation for brutality.

While itu2019s unlikely that any real pirate could have been quite so noble as those characters, they do show a dynamic that real pirates faced: the fiercer their reputations, the less often they had to use actual violence.

,Pirates preferred to avoid battle, regardless of their moral views.

After all, battle meant risking their own lives, risking damage to their ship, and risking damage to their prizes.

Every fight was a losing proposition.

So, pirate policies were aimed at encouraging merchant crews to surrender without a fight.

That meant that pirates needed to be cruel to crews that were captured after resisting.

It also meant being merciful, or even generous, to crews that surrendered peacefully.

And at the end of the day, it was always the piratesu2019 reputation, not the actual violence they committed, that mattered.

Pirates knew that, and they cultivated their reputation accordingly.

,Consider this: why is the pirate Blackbeard so infamous? It isnu2019t because he was the most successful pirate of his era.

He was successful, but there were pirates more successful than him who are completely forgotten today.

Blackbeard is remembered because he was a master of marketing, a man who built a personal brand so strong that it lives on centuries after his death.

That giant unkempt beard? It wasnu2019t a random eccentricity, it was a deliberate part of his image.

Blackbeard was a showman.

He lit fuses into his hair so that he would be surrounded by smoke.

Historians arenu2019t sure Blackbeard personally killed a single person until the fight with government authorities where he died.

But that didnu2019t matter, as long as his victims believed he was a ruthless killer.

,Real pirates werenu2019t misunderstood good guys.

But both their violence and their mercy served deliberate purposes.

Blackbeard pirate flag

NOT THE REGULAR JOLLY ROGER,Edward Teach/ Blackbeard ( circa 1680u20131718),Infamous and legendary pirate Blackbeard had a flag of his own design.

His pirateu2019s flag had a skeleton piercing a heart with one hand.

And toasting the devil with the other hand.

,Original version,u201cRevisedu201d version

White Pirate Flag

While Hollywood and other forms of media have taken some liberties with pirates in regard to historical accuracy For the most part the romanticized vision they portray of pirates is not that far from the truth.

In regards to the two specific part of your question, did they have black sails and pirate flags Iu2019ll answer the sails part first.

,Sails were made of sailcloth which is a canvas material and was typically a natural white color.

Two reasons for this is dying that much fabric would be very costly and time consuming and also it would be directly in the sun all the time so any color it had would fade very quickly.

Pirates also were at sea for a very long time in between stops at port towns and sailcloth was used for a number of things including patching or making clothing.

When parts of the sail became damaged beyond repair the cloth would be used to make shirts or weskits, a type of long vest or slops which are loose fitting pants worn over breeches Since most of the fashion trends followed royalty at that time most menu2019s shirts were white.

Some were a white and blue checkerboard pattern but your typical sailor/working mans shirt was white.

A lot of pirates were originally sailors in the Royal Navy of their respected country too and the typical navy uniform would have consisted of a white shirt made from muslin or linen which are both white or off white.

,Did they fly pirate flags? Absolutely.

A pirates flag was more powerful than any cannon or sword aboard their ship.

It had a psychological effect on their potential victims causing a number of ships to surrender when it was hoisted up the mast without a shot fired.

The flags were made to have certain meanings borrowing from shapes and colors the military would use as a way to convey a menacing and evil message.

Here is Blackbeards flag for example,The devil skeleton was a variation of the skull and bones meaning danger or disease.

The hourglass meant your time is up and the spear into the bleeding heart would mean there will be no quarter given or no prisoners taken.

The reason for most flags being black was the association of black with death or plague.

,A smart pirate captain would fly a non threading flag until they were within firing range of another ship then quickly host their flag or u201ccolorsu201d and panic would ensue aboard the other ship due to word of mouth and some newspapers out of places like Boston and New York publishing stories of pirate attacks.

The pirate flag was definitely the deadliest weapon in a pirates arsenal