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Avast Ye! History of Pirates Topic of Free Florida Tech Lecture May 8

Sir Robert Marx Shares Tales
      of Treachery and Treasures       

MELBOURNE, FLA. — Maritime historian Sir Robert Marx will lead a thrilling survey of pirates, scalawags and swashbucklers as he offers, “The Worldwide History of Pirates” at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 8, at Gleason Performing Arts Center on the Melbourne campus of Florida Institute of Technology.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

“As far back as I can remember, pirates fascinated me,” Marx said. “One of my earliest memories is listening to my father reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.” Other literary highlights for young Marx included a book about Spanish treasures and pirates, Pieces of Eight.

Years later, Marx himself would live what he had previously just read about.

“Little did I know that I would spend four years of my life excavating the sunken pirate city of Port Royal in Jamaica as well as being captured by pirates in the waters of Indonesia, the Philippines and the Bahamas.”

Though for many, pirates are associated with theme parks and hit movies focused on high-seas adventures in the 1700s, they actually have been around for many centuries before then. The Roman historian Dio Cassius, born in 155 A.D., wrote that there was “never a time” when piracy was not practiced. During his era, shipping in the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean was plagued by bold pirates, and their ancestors had in turn preyed upon the earliest seaborne traffic.

When most people think of the swashbucklers of the past, such notable names as Henry Morgan, Captain William Kidd, Sir Francis Drake and Blackbeard may come to mind. Less well known because little was written about him in English is a man who may be the greatest seadog of all time: Piet Heyn, a Dutch privateer who made his fame and glory during the first three decades of the 17th century. Heyn’s greatest feat was capturing of the Spanish treasure fleet in 1628 in Matanzas Bay, Cuba, which netted the Dutch over 30,000,000 pesos in gold and silver—the greatest amount of plunder in what was the Golden Age of Piracy.

And not all pirates were men. There was Mary Read and Anne Bonny, American citizens who worked out of Port Royal. There was Grace O’Malley, who amassed so much booty the populace gave her the title of Queen of Ireland. But the greatest female pirate may have been Admiral Ching Shih, who terrorized the Philippine and South China Seas during the last four decades of the 16th century. She assumed command of a fleet of over 600 warships after her husband was killed in a skirmish.

All of these tales and more will come to life with stunning visuals and gripping narration on May 8. For more information, call 321-674-8096.

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