Pirate Crimes and their punishments

Published: 23rd March 2010
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With pirate crews there was 'honour among thieves'. Most of the men were together of their own free will, and it was in their own interests not to fight among themselves. Life was a constant struggle in the face of danger, disease and death, and even for ruthless villains, discipline was essential. But after months at sea, unrest could turn to insubordination and rebellion erupt into mutiny. There were punishments to match every wrongdoing, and these were administered quickly, in front of the entire ship's company.

To steal even one piece of loot from the 'company' of the crew

Marooning - left on an inhospitable piece of land with only a bottle of rum/water, an arm (pistol) bottle of powder and handful of shot

To rob another crew member

Nose and ears slit, then put ashore to encounter hardships

Carrying a woman to sea in disguise

Death - perhaps hanging from the mast, tied to the mast and shot, or being thrown overboard

Desert ship or quarters in battle

Death or marooning

Cat o' nine tails

With a handle of wood and nine 'tails' of thick cord knotted in three places, this was a very much feared and highly effective instrument. Depending upon the number and strength of blows administered, the punishment could leave a man's back bruised, cut, or ripped open to reveal muscle and bone. A number of deaths have been recorded.

Running the gauntlet

Originally a Dutch punishment, this had nothing to do with gloves. It meant something like 'running through the gate', and the offender would be forced to make his way through double lines of his fellow crewmen, each armed with a knotted rope with which they rained blows on him. With all hands participating, this was a sort of democratic deterrent and an encouragement to team spirit.

...and Walking the plank?

An almost essential feature in pirate fiction, this punishment is most likely a fiction itself. There is no reliable record of its use, and common sense suggests that if pirates wanted to cast a man overboard a plank was an unnecessary complication.

The Hamburg dungeon is a great way to spend your freizeit hamburg or free time and is one of the most famous hamburg attractions or as they would call it - sehenswürdigkeiten hamburg and well worth a visit if you want to brush up on your history while in Hamburg.

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