A pirate is, broadly speaking, any professional criminal that operates wholly or partially on the world's seas, especially people conducting robbery by ship. In most, if not all, cases they lead or belong to a group of like-minded criminals, known as a crew.
Though not the only existing type of criminal, pirates appear to comprise most of the world's significant bounty heads, and—with the possible exception of the Revolutionary Army—constitute the strongest opposition to the authority of the World Government and Marines.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Overview
- 3 Categories and Classes
- 4 History of Pirating
- 5 Early One Piece
- 6 See Also
- 7 Trivia
- 8 References
- 9 Site Navigation
While the English word "pirate" is derived from the Latin pirata ("pirate, corsair, sea robber") and Greek πειρατής (peiratēs: "brigand"), the Japanese word for pirate—kaizoku—comprises the kanji for "sea/ocean" (海?) and "thief/robber" (賊?), in analogy to such terms as "bandit" (盗賊 tōzoku?).
|— Gan Fall|
In the world of One Piece, perhaps the trait most universal to pirates, beside their sea-going activities and general defiance of the law, is the Jolly Roger: a skull-and-crossbones symbol meant for intimidation, usually flown on black ship flags and sails, which exists in countless variants among different pirates. Such symbol's overall connotations are strong enough that the Marines have been known to attack ships flying it on sight, even if those onboard are not identified with any particular bounty or crime.
The (stereo)typical pirate is greedy, violent, and ruthless, willing to hurt anyone and destroy anything to gain what they want—be it treasure, power, or even personal amusement. For this reason, it is not uncommon for civilians to fear and detest pirates on principle, even if they have never personally met any.
On the other hand, many law-abiding individuals and communities are known to romanticize pirates, or at least tolerate them if they keep themselves in check:
- Monkey D. Luffy's hometown Foosha Village served as a friendly harbor to the Red Hair Pirates for over a year, strongly influencing Luffy's own childhood dream to become a pirate. The village continues to celebrate and publicize Luffy's every increase in bounty, with only its mayor ever objecting.
- Water 7's shipyards are entirely willing to service pirates as long as their shipbuilding prices are met and no violence is threatened.
- Fish-Man Island freely welcomes pirates as tourists, despite the ongoing problem of pirates kidnapping merfolk and fish-men to sell as slaves.
Generally, the Marines do not pursue otherwise law-abiding people simply for aiding or associating with pirates, though exceptions can and have been made for particularly notorious cases. They do tend to discourage children from admiring pirates, and undercover Marine Donquixote Rosinante even pretended to hate children to dissuade them from joining the Donquixote Pirates.
While the majority of pirates are male humans, it is far from unknown for women (e.g. Alvida, Nami, Jewelry Bonney), fish-men and merfolk (e.g. Arlong, Capote, Hyouzou), giants (e.g. Dorry, Brogy, Sanjuan Wolf), Minks (e.g. Bepo), and even non-sapient animals (e.g. Richie, Momoo) to also sail under a Jolly Roger and attain comparable reputations.
Virtually all pirates are part of some pirate crew (海賊団 kaizokudan?), comprising other pirates willing to operate under the same Jolly Roger. These are typically led by a single Captain (船長 Senchō?), who makes (or at least has final authority on) all major actions taken by the crew and often possesses the highest combat ability and notoriety.
Other positions common to pirate crews include:
- A First Mate or Vice-Captain (副船長 Fuku Senchō?), who advises the captain, relays orders to the rest of the crew, and usually assumes authority in the captain's absence.
- Combatants (戦闘員 Sentō-in?), who specialize in fighting—whether with swords, ballistics, or their own bodies—and, depending on the crew's size and focus, may have no other skills.
- Navigators (航海士 Kōkaishi?), Cooks (料理人 Ryōrinin?), Doctors (医者 Isha?), Shipwrights (船大工 Funadaiku?) and other logistical roles common to any sailing ship.
- Musicians (音楽家 Ongakuka?), Pets (ペット Petto?), and other roles meant to entertain.
- Apprentices (見習い Minarai?), recruited at a young age, who may be used for anything from unpleasant chores to open combat. Though the position carries little authority or respect in itself, it can serve as a valuable training ground for pirates to build skills or notoriety on.
Usually, a pirate crew recruits new members at the sole discretion of the captain, who may set strict, objective standards (e.g. Demaro Black demanding only captains worth 70,000,000 and above in his crew, or Charlotte Linlin demanding marriage ties to her blood relations) or none at all besides personal fondness. Some captains may also force unwilling individuals to join their crew; the traditional pirate game known as the Davy Back Fight exists to promote this, though only the Foxy Pirates have actually been known to use it.
Pirate crews also tend to be named after the captain, whether directly (e.g. the Roger Pirates, the Krieg Pirates, the Barto Club) or through an epithet or personal motif (e.g. the Red Hair Pirates, the Straw Hat Pirates, the Whitebeard Pirates, the Heart Pirates). Crews that avert this are usually named after a common race or origin shared by all members (e.g. the Giant Warrior Pirates, the Kuja Pirates, the New Fish-Man Pirates).
All but the newest (or poorest) of pirates sail on specialized ships that bear their corresponding Jolly Roger on the mainsail and/or flags; in most cases, the figurehead is also customized to reflect the captain's epithet or personal motif. Apart from this, a pirate ship may be of any size and equipped with any level of technology, depending on the skills and materials available to—and ambitions of—its crew.
(Of course, as criminals, very few pirates have qualms about stealing or hijacking new ships when needs arise. Don Krieg was particularly infamous for using civilian and Marine ships to facilitate his sneak attacks.)
Categories and Classes
While pirates operate in all of the world's known seas, different crews can vary sharply in power, scope, and notoriety. These disparities are often reflected by a crew's area of operation:
- Those in the Four Blues (East, West, North, South) are regarded as lesser—particularly the East. The World Government largely ignores them, leaving their apprehension to non-Headquarters Marines.
- Those who successfully enter the Grand Line are commonly deemed rookies (ルーキー Rūkī?) and paid more serious attention by Marine Headquarters and older pirates, though not universally.
- Those who establish significant reputations and power-bases, particularly after crossing the Grand Line's first half and entering the second half, may be deemed Great Pirates (大海賊 Daikaizoku?). Thus far, only four individuals (Edward Newgate, Charlotte Linlin, Kaido, and Gol D. Roger) have been described as such.
It should be noted that these designations are largely informal, with (at best) vague parameters. They stand in contrast to the more formalized categories and titles listed below.
The Seven Warlords of the Sea (王下七武海 Ōka Shichibukai?, lit. "Royal Seven Martial Seas") are a selection of pirates legally allied with the World Government. While not employees or officials per se, they are allowed to pursue most pirate activities without threat of arrest (their bounties being completely frozen), along with a number of other privileges. In return, they are expected to further the World Government's interests, mainly by giving over a share of their plunder (and, implicitly, limiting their targets to other pirates).
Warlords are recruited somewhat arbitrarily, but always with a focus on power and notoriety; as such, they are widely feared (and/or reviled as "government dogs") by most other pirates. Nevertheless, they vary widely in abilities, methodologies, and personalities, some operating alone while others maintain full crews and are even acknowledged as legitimate sovereigns.
After the Warlords Crocodile and Donquixote Doflamingo were both discovered to be directly undermining member kingdoms of the World Government (Arabasta and Dressrosa, respectively), the Council of Kings instated a complete abolition of the system, reverting all of the remaining Warlords to "common" pirates.
The Four Emperors (四皇 Yonkō?) are a widely recognized group of four New World veterans who rose to prominence after the execution of Gol D. Roger and are widely regarded as the strongest pirate captains in the world. Of the five known pirates to hold this title, three were formerly members of the infamous Rocks crew. There is a strong degree of overlap between the Four Emperors and those who are considered great pirates. As the strongest and most influential pirates in the world, a certain level of strength and prestige is needed to be recognized as an Emperor. The Four Emperors and their subordinates are considered one of the three great powers of the world, along with the Marines and (formerly) Seven Warlords of the Sea.
Pirates regarded as emperors are extremely powerful as combatants, captain notoriously strong (and often large) crews, and hold immense levels of influence over the goings on of the New World. Typically, emperors of the sea will hold territory; islands which they either have defacto rule over or are directly involved in the internal politics of. In addition to this it's not uncommon for pirates of this level to have other notable crews serving under their own as subordinates.
The title of Fifth Emperor (５番目の皇帝 Gobanme no Kōtei) was unofficially given to Monkey D. Luffy by Morgans of the World Economy Newspaper following he and his crew's escape from Big Mom's territory. It should be noted that this title was given based on highly embellished accounts of the Whole Cake Island incident, and as such is seemingly not recognized by the World Government or Marines yet. However, in the eye of the public Luffy is perceived as a figure standing adjacent to the Four Emperors.
Pirates considered emperors of the New World are known to have many extremely impressive feats under their belt. Red-Haired Shanks, the second most recent addition to the Four Emperors, is known to have regularly dueled against the greatest swordsman in the world prior to losing his arm. Edward Newgate was widely known as the late Pirate King's career-long rival. All pirates to be referred to as emperors hold extremely high bounties, all of which are in the billions. The late Whitebeard previously held the second highest bounty of any pirate to have existed, while Kaido currently boasts the highest active pirate bounty (additionally, these two are regarded as the Strongest Man in the World and Strongest Creature in the World respectively.) When fully assembled, a pirate crew of this level may even be strong enough to stand a chance in a battle against the entire Marine force and Seven Warlords of the Sea, as demonstrated during the Summit War of Marineford.
The Pirate King (海賊王 Kaizoku-Ō?, also called King of the Pirates in the English versions) is a title applied to the strongest pirate alive. Its latest—perhaps only—universally-acknowledged holder was Gol D. Roger, who inextricably linked it with the mythical treasure known as One Piece.
Before his death, Roger hid the One Piece in an unknown location—popularly believed to be Laugh Tale, the farthest-known island on the Grand Line. The frenzy over discovering and owning such a massive treasure sparked the "Great Age of Pirates". Whoever finds and claims the One Piece shall officially become the next Pirate King.
During the last portion of his life, Edward "Whitebeard" Newgate was generally acknowledged as the man "closest" to being the next Pirate King, though he admitted to having no interest the title at all. One of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, Donquixote Doflamingo, believed that had Whitebeard truly wanted to become the Pirate King, he would have already. Many people who had met Luffy, such as Vivi and Koby, believe that he will become the Pirate King; Kokoro also addressed Luffy as the Pirate King and Shakuyaku has stated that both she and Silvers Rayleigh were rooting for Luffy to achieve this goal.
The reasons for a person wanting to be the next Pirate King vary; individuals like Buggy, Gecko Moria and Blackbeard wish to acquire it for the power and influence the title would come with, while others like Luffy and Crocodile (prior to the event that caused him to let go of it) wish to become the next Pirate King simply as a personal dream. The Four Emperors are considered candidates for it because they are extremely powerful and are very close to it. Among them, Blackbeard, Big Mom and Kaido have shown interest. Luffy, as well as Crocodile in his youth, seem to only want it for the adventures that are involved with locating the One Piece.
The Pirate King is said to be the ruler of the sea; something that Luffy confirmed when asked about it by Enel. But when talking to Silvers Rayleigh, Luffy said that the Pirate King is not the most powerful or wealthiest person in the world, but simply the person with the most freedom on the sea. After hearing this Rayleigh smiled to himself, possibly because Roger himself had also stated this being his primary value.
One thing is for certain; the journey to become the next Pirate King is very long and extremely dangerous. Even Mihawk claimed that such a goal is far more difficult than challenging him for the title of the "Greatest Swordsman in the World". After the death of Portgas D. Ace at the hands of Akainu, Luffy considered giving up his dream after seeing how powerless he was until he was reminded of those who believed in him by Jinbe.
History of Pirating
Before the Golden Age
Pirates have long been a part of the way of life in the One Piece world. The oldest known group of pirates mentioned were the ones under Dorry and Brogy from more than 100 years ago. However, despite pirates existing back then, none of them were known to be noteworthy enough to shake the world.
Then all that changed with the arrival of the great pirate Gol D. Roger (and others like Edward Newgate, Kaido, Big Mom, and Shiki). Roger set about to do what no one had done before - conquer the Grand Line. He succeeded and in doing so made his way to Laugh Tale and left behind something somewhere in the world, his most prized possession, One Piece. Roger brought about an air of romance about being a pirate and upon his death his final words sent others to sea to become a pirate. Things would never be the same again.
The Golden Age of Piracy
The death of Roger sent many pirates to the Grand Line, hoping to find his treasure and become the Pirate King. However, with the new wave of pirates came a new change that even Whitebeard noted.
Over the next few decades the old figures of the pre-pirate age began to disappear due to the span of time. This left fewer and fewer people aware of the days of piracy before Roger's death. Many old values shared by the pirates of the pre-pirate age slowly began to die. Even once commonly sung songs like Binks' Sake have begun to fade out of memory, save from the minds of those who still remember the olden days of piracy (such as those like Brook and Shanks). Although newer pirates still adopt these values, some completely go in a different direction, the most prominent is Bellamy who speaks of a New Age where pirates should stop dreaming.
With the Great Age of Piracy spiraling out of control, the World Government became deeply concerned. In response, they created the Seven Warlords of the Sea and sent them out to kill other dangerous pirates. The World Government also allowed themselves to easily be manipulated by Spandam into a machination to acquire Pluton to combat the increase in pirate activity, unaware that he had ulterior motives in mind.
The New Age
At the start of the storyline, the New Age was fast approaching. This New Age of Piracy was brought upon by changes in the world. Various characters who have mentioned it either spoke of a world on the verge of chaos, or a great age where pirates no longer chase their dreams.
Related to this oncoming age in particular was the capture of Whitebeard's 2nd division commander Fire Fist Ace, recognized as the biological son of the late Pirate King Roger, by the Marines. This significant action resulted in the Seven Warlords of the Sea and Marines assembling together in preparation for a war against the Emperor himself. During the war, Ace and Whitebeard both lost their lives at the height of the battle. It was also notable that before Whitebeard died, his famous last words proclaimed the real existence of One Piece that may also aid in increasing the amount of pirates going onto the sea for the treasure. Finally Whitebeard, who held the Age of Pirates together, died, leaving his vast territories for conquest by other pirates in the New World. It may also be noted that after Blackbeard took Whitebeard's Gura Gura no Mi powers, he said that this age will be "his age" shouting aloud for everyone in Marineford and Sabaody Archipelago (viewing via visual Den Den Mushi) to hear. The "New Age" is a phrase used to emphasize the fact that the world is changing, and different pirates obviously have different ideas about what the coming age will be like. Bellamy believed the coming age would be an age without dreams, while Blackbeard believes just the opposite.
Between the Golden Age and the New Age, eleven top rookie pirates, with bounties over 100,000,000 from nine different pirate crews arrived in the Sabaody Archipelago before the Whitebeard War, each having made their names and reputations in public known as Supernovas. Shakuyaku also said that one of them could potentially be responsible for inspiring a whole new generation of pirates and also forge the New Age. All of the Supernovas (with the exception of Zoro) witnessed the Summit War of Marineford, while Luffy and Trafalgar Law actively participated in the battle, afterwards heading towards the New World to make their marks.
With the start of the New Age, a new wave of pirates went to sea looking for One Piece, having heard Whitebeard confirm its existence. A number of pirates from the previous era escaped Level 6, and it was noted by X Drake that a new age also means that the Marines themselves now must change with this. However the exact direction this new era will take is still as of yet unknown.
The eleven Supernovas and Blackbeard have become known as the "Worst Generation" to the world. Whenever any of them causes an incident, other pirate crews get involved and annihilated. The Brownbeard Pirates were devastated by the Hawkins Pirates, and the Kid Pirates wiped out and mercilessly crucified an unknown pirate crew that were trying to go back to Paradise. The Blackbeard Pirates defeated and captured the Bonney Pirates and allowed them to be arrested by the Marines. However, Jewelry Bonney later escaped custody.
It has been hinted that things are moving farther and farther out of the government's hands, with pirates everywhere seeming less and less mindful of the government. Even the people of Luffy's hometown noted the increase in pirate activity in the seas after the war. To counter this, Fleet Admiral Sakazuki moved Marine Headquarters to the New World to better combat the growing threats to the organizations of Justice. It has been stated that the Marines have now been granted unprecedented power by the World Government.
Due to the abuse of the Seven Warlords of the Sea's privileges that led to two kingdoms suffering turmoil, the Levely has decided to abolish the system, with the Marines intending to implement the new SSG to supplant the seven pirates who were dismissed from their positions.
Early One Piece
These terms were once again mentioned in Romance Dawn, Version 2, however, they are not mentioned in One Piece itself. This is largely because while some pirates display these original concepts, most pirates are a combination of the two.
A peace main is a pirate who goes on adventures and does not really care about treasure or fighting other pirates. That is not to say that they would not steal and fight other pirates at all, but their primary goal is usually not to own it and greed is generally not their motivation. More often than not, a peace main pirate sees his or her own crew as their most valuable treasure. It should be noted that both of the words "peace" and "piece" have the same katakana spelling in Japanese ("ピース"), however, it's unknown if this connection was intentional.
A morganeer fights for treasure and personal ambition. They are greedy, love to fight, and often enjoy causing other people pain and misery. Many pirates that Luffy and his crew meet are morganeers. Luffy dislikes them and only wants to recruit peace main pirates. The peace main pirates generally only steal from morganeers, so it is safe to say that relations between the two types of pirates are not the best.
- Bandits: Criminals that operate exclusively on land instead of sea, supposedly the antitheses of pirates.
- Underworld: A vast network of criminals, operating primarily in the New World, that facilitates slavery, mercenary and assassin work, illegal arms development, and smuggling—any one of which may involve pirates as clients, targets, or executors.
- In One Piece, the Seven Warlords of the Sea are based on real world privateers. A privateer was a pirate with papers. As the name suggests, privateers were private individuals commissioned by governments to carry out quasi-military activities. They would sail in privately owned armed ships, robbing merchant vessels and pillaging settlements belonging to a rival country. Privateers sometimes went beyond their commissions, attacking vessels that didn’t belong to the targeted country. This extracurricular raiding and pillaging was indistinguishable from piracy. The Happo Navy also had a similar deal with the Kano Country, until they cut ties with their country. The Straw Hats themselves have done things similar to privateering such as fighting Crocodile and the Baroque Works for Arabasta where initially, Nami only agreed to protect Vivi for a price.
- The "Age of Pirates" established by Gol D. Roger, is based on the real world's own golden age of piracy.
- "Pirate King" was a real historical title used by powerful Japanese pirates who operated in the Inland Sea.