Oracle of History

Guiding you through the ages

Archive for the month “March, 2014”

Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, A History : A Pirates Life For Me!

With the release of the trailer for Assassin’s Creed Unity, the new game set at the time of the French Revolution, I decided to delve back into my series on the history behind the Assassin’s Creed Franchise.

This time, we travel to the golden age of piracy in the early 1700s with stories of buried treasure and debauchery.

NOT.

The truth is, pirates were not as exciting as we make them out to be, but they do have some interesting stories and backgrounds that should be shared with the world.

It takes a particular type of person to lead a life of piracy so let’s discover who these people really are.

Note : Most of the information below will be in the video above, but there will be some extra facts that didn’t make it so if you’re really interested – Read on!

DISCLAIMER

All of this information is based on a book called “A General History of Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates” by one Captain Charles Johnson.

Some historians believe that Captain Johnson is actually Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe. Therefore, there’s a fair chance that some of this is made up.

If that’s the case, then he should be applauded for his expansive imagination.

Blackbeard 

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Real name : Edward Teach

He terrorized sailors on the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea from 1716 – 1718.

As a privateer, his patroness was Queen Anne of Britain. This gave him leave to plunder and destroy any French or Spanish ships in his way. It was also why he named his ship Queen Anne’s Revenge.

Now it’s important to know that these three countries (Britain, France and Spain) were constantly at odds with each other over disputed territory in the new world. Sailors who knew the regions well were often hired out to serve on behalf of their country.

Thus privateers were born! To sweeten the deal, privateers were allowed to keep any plunder they “found.”

As you can tell, the line between pirate and privateer is thin.

Black beard had a very specific technique when he boarded an enemy ship. It was his signature. He would kill the man behind the wheel first, from far away, then board the ship up close. This would stop the ship, and the plunder, from getting too far away once they were locked in battle.

He was one of the most feared pirates during the golden age with many different conflicting rumors on how evil he was. Some said it was all artifice, with him putting rope in his hat to look demonic. Others swore that he cut off the fingers of those captives who refused to give over their loot.

Finally, he died in battle after the Governor of the Bahamas crashed his retirement party.

Benjamin Hornigold 

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He began his career, as a privateer, as second in command under Blackbeard. He was a British pirate from 1715 – 1718.

After that, he changed sides and became a pirate hunter, betraying his friends and mentor.

In a weird turn of events,  he died in 1719 after he was shipwrecked against a reef during a hurricane.

Some may say karma, but who really knows….

Jack Rackham a.k.a Calico Jack 

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He was Quartermaster under Charles Vane before he got a ship of his own.

After years of piracy, he was pardoned by the Governor of New Providence. While he was there, he managed to find time, in between trips to the brothel, to lure the young Anne Bonny away from her sailor husband.

Thus begins the greatest love story ever told!

He was the only pirate captain to have two females on board, but that’s an other story.

An other interesting fact about Calico Jack is that the modern symbol for piracy, the Jolly Roger, was his flag.

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Each pirate had their own recognizable symbol to strike fear and recognition in the heart of their enemies.

Supposedly, when Blackbeard raised his flag. Everyone surrendered.

Charles Vane 

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He was infamous for being cruel, reckless and ignoring the pirate code.

There’s not much more to say about him, but there is one funny story.

Charles Vane was shipwrecked on an abandoned island, left to die.

A Royal Navy ship happened to pass by and Vane asked for passage to the closest port, but the captain immediately recognized him and chose to leave him on the island to die as punishment for his crimes.

Soon after, a second ship passed and saw the wreckage. This time, he was not recognized and managed to get on board. Unluckily for him, ship number 2 bumped into ship number 1, revealing his true identity.

He basically had the worse luck in the world.

Anne Bonny

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She was the bastard daughter of the maid and master of the house. To save her family from embarrassment, she was dressed as a boy and introduced as a cousin.

Due to her odd upbringing, she became sort of the wild child, sleeping around and hanging around sailors. This is how she met her husband and later her lover Calico Jack.

She apparently tore apart mannequins and used animal blood to stage murder. No wonder the merchants were terrified of her!

We must take a step back, however, and remember that history is often written by men. This means that women are often characterized as either pure matrons or wild succubi. There is no middle ground, but as a woman I can say that most of us are more complicated than that.

When Calico Jack was sentenced to be hanged, his last wish was to speak to Anne Bonny. Ever the sentimentalist, Anne Bonny’s last words to Calico Jack were : “If you had fought like a man, you need not have been hang’d like a dog.”

I think that really sums up her state of being : fierce

James Kidd / Mary Read 

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As a kid, Mary Read was dressed as a boy and rented out to rich households as a servant to help her family make ends meet.

At the age of 13 she secured herself a position as a gun powder boy on a ship, starting her career on the high seas. From then on she went by the pseudonym James Kidd.

Nobody suspected her because she “swore like a sailor” and was always the first to volunteer for dangerous tasks.

She was so convincing that Anne Bonny developed a crush on her. Scared of being found out, Mary Read was forced to reveal her sexe to Anne. She supposedly revealed her breasts as proof.

The two women became even closer as a result and according to some (male) historians they became lovers *rolls eyes.* This sparked the jealousy of Calico Jack to the point of murder. To stop an incident from happening, Mary was forced, once again, to reveal herself.  She supposedly revealed her breasts a second time.

Despite the sexism of the time, both women thrived in this environment, becoming part of a legacy of strong women in history.

Just for fun 

Happy Pirating 🙂

Medieval Manners 101 – Ignoring the giant monkey in the room

Every once in a while I decide to explore a museum by myself and it always leads me down a rabbit hole of adventure.

That’s because history = FUN

The lucky winner today was the Musée de Cluny!

It’s a medieval museum on the grounds of an old abbey in the middle of historic Paris.

What I love about the middle ages is that this period in history was like Game of Thrones, but so much better because it’s real.

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My trip to the museum reminded me of how crazy those lords and ladies could be. So I thought I would share the crazy.

Lady of the Unicorn 

The Cluny Museum is actually famous for having this mysterious tapestry of a woman with a unicorn. There are 6 panels – 5 of which actually illustrate the 5 senses.

The sixth is, however, a mystery. The label reads “A mon seul désir,” which basically means “This is my only desire.” The woman is leaving a tent and giving away an expensive looking necklace.

What does this mean? Nobody knows! Investigations must be made, I think.

What struck me the most, however, was the fact that the tapestries featured many different animals that you don’t normally see in medieval imagery.

The unicorn is an obvious one, but each panel also featured a monkey!

I was listening to an audio guide while I was looking at the Lady (and her menagerie) when I noticed that the guide completely skipped over the fact that there are monkeys in the tapestry!

No mention of symbolism or significance – nothing!

So let’s play a game.

I’m going to show you pictures of the tapestry. Let’s see how many you can find.

Bonus if you can tell me the significance 😉

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Sense of Touch

My only desire

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Sense of hearing

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Sense of smell

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Sense of sight

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Sense of taste

Monks are people too!  

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Have you ever had to stand and pray for hours at a time?

I’m guessing not.

Those poor medieval monks did though…

Which is why I was pleasantly surprised to see that they cheated!

Yes, as you can see, they had a very small ledge on the underside of their folding chairs so that they could rest, while still looking like they’re standing up.

Genius!

Where old meets….old (?!)

One of the cool things about this museum is that it actually takes up three buildings. One of which is an old Roman bath!

Note : The French are very picky about their ancient Roman history and say “gallo-romain,” which specifies to the roman province of gaul. It’s their equivalent of saying Roman Britain.

There is actually a room where you can see the divide in between the medieval abbey and the Roman baths.

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Roman Wall

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Medieval fortifications (Roman wall behind me)

I think it’s very cool that you can see the fluidity of change and how we reuse urban space over time.

Bonus picture! 

There was a part of the museum that showcased tapestries that are meant to represent the daily life of the nobility. 

I came across this gem :

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Sorry for the poor quality, but as you can see it’s a woman taking a bath with a bunch of people around her, including musicians.

All I could think when I saw this was how awkward it must have been like this :

Farewell Lords and Ladies, until next time!

  

“Lovers are like bees in that they live a honeyed life,” and other wisdom from Pompeii

The quote in the title is quite ironic, considering that we all know what happened to the city of Pompeii. It’s actually a graffiti preserved by the ashes of Vesuvius.

They were poets back then too!

If you didn’t realize already, last night I went to see the movie Pompeii, with Kit Harington and Emily Browning.

Let me just begin by saying that it was an entertaining movie. It’s a summer blockbuster…in winter. I’m not sure why they decided to release a fictionalized story about the last hours of the city, but there it is.

NOTE : If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, be ready to see Jon Snow all grown up – shiny 6 pack and all.

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Nothing wrong with a little bit of eye candy, but as a history nerd it is my duty to point out the major historical inaccuracies.

You’re welcome 🙂

S.P.Q.P – For the Senate and People of….Pompeii? 

One glaring thing that basically ruined the entire movie for me was the supposed warfare between the people of Pompeii and that of Rome.

Emily Browning’s character, Cassia, says “I am not a Roman – I am a citizen of Pompeii.”

Now it’s true that the Romans were not always appreciated, particularly in those provinces under direct Roman rule. However, if you were within the boundaries of the Empire, not a slave, and born to a Roman family – you were a Roman citizen.

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Her family was also very wealthy and her father was clearly the government official of Pompeii. This would have meant that he either was educated in Rome or was sent to Pompeii for his diplomatic posting.

So no matter how much you whine Cassia, you are still a Roman citizen!

That’s all I have to say.

Purple is more than just a color 

Purple was the color of the Emperor and Senatorial elite.

So why was this guy wearing it?

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This is the best photo I could find, but his tunic underneath his armour is purple.

NOTE: Senators wore white togas with a purple sash. Emperors could wear entirely purple outfits.

He seems to be neither.

 Just for fun 

If you haven’t already, I would highly suggest you look at this list of Pompeii Graffiti – it’s hilarious, but NSFW so beware!  The brothel graffiti is especially funny!

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All in all, the movie was entertaining, but the historical reality is so much more interesting!

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