Piracy and pirates have been part of the world for thousands of years. Even during the days of the Egyptian pharaohs, there were instances of ships on the water that attacked other vessels. The word pirate actually comes from a Latin word, periato, which means a "sea bandit".
Certainly the Romans and the Greeks had to deal with pirates when they began exploring the lands bordering the Mediterranean sea. The very first known definition for the act of piracy was created by an ancient Greek historian. He described it as an attack on a ship or town that was done for the purpose of wreaking havoc and gaining money.
During the years, 800 to 1099 BC there were the Norsemen who raided the seas and coastal village towns, but they were only referred to as Vikings or Danes. It was during the 14th-17th centuries that Chinese dominated the China Sea. These pirates had large vessels that would hold several hundred crewmen and there were none that could stand up to them.
The famed North African area known as the Barbary Coast was a pirate den during the 16th to 19th centuries. These dangerous and deadly men were often a mixture of unsavory privateers and truly barbaric pirates. They were often hired to attack particular ships, but they had loyalty to no one. Pirates have been immortalized in Hollywood movies and legends as swashbuckling heroes who were Robin Hoods of the ocean. Famous pirate movies include Treasure Island (which has been made seven times!), The Crimson Pirate and the recent Pirates of the Caribbean fims. They are often described as heroic, brave, and courageous.
The most common image of a pirate is that of a man wearing a tricorn black hat and a buccaneer coat. He has an eye patch over one eye, a cutlass in his hand and is ready to hoist the feared symbol of pirates to the topmost masts. The Jolly Roger, or skull and crossbones, was the worldwide sign of a pirate vessel.