Home > Pirate or privateer, the law of the sea

Pirate or privateer, the law of the sea


We often talk about pirates and privateers without really knowing what distinguishes them. If we look back at their etymology, “pirate” from the Latin pirata and from the Greek peirates refers to those who are enticed by wealth, whilst “privateer” describes the privately commissioned errand-running seafarer. To sum up, the pirate or bandit lived as an outlaw, who sailed and robbed ships for their own personal gain. For its part, the privateer, commissioned by a government or a sovereign, legally exerted their right to pillage. Final report: an pirate arrested was a pirate condemned to hanging, while a privateer could slip between the grasp of the law by presenting their mission orders. It is noteworthy that piracy was already practised in Antiquity. It seemed that even Julius Caesar was captured by Cilician pirates (located in present-day Turkey)!


To discover

The whale marathon…
The whale marathon…
25,000, that’s the number of kilometres travelled by a humpback whale in one year.

Ponant's brochures

Would you like to know more about our exceptional destinations?


Exceptional trips and confidential stopovers coming soon to your email box!
Subscribe to the PONANT newsletter