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The earliest documented instances of piracy were in the 14th century BC, when the Sea Peoples, a group of ocean raiders, attacked the ships of the Aegean and Mediterranean civilizations.Narrow channels which funnel shipping into predictable routes have long created opportunities for piracy, as well as for privateering and commerce raiding.In the Late Middle Ages, the Frisian pirates known as Arumer Zwarte Hoop led by Pier Gerlofs Donia and Wijerd Jelckama, fought against the troops of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V with some success.Toward the end of the 9th century, Moorish pirate havens were established along the coast of southern France and northern Italy.In the Roman province of Britannia, Saint Patrick was captured and enslaved by Irish pirates.The most widely known and far-reaching pirates in medieval Europe were the Vikings, seaborne warriors from Scandinavia who raided and looted mainly between the 8th and 12th centuries, during the Viking Age in the Early Middle Ages.

Privateering uses similar methods to piracy, but the captain acts under orders of the state authorizing the capture of merchant ships belonging to an enemy nation, making it a legitimate form of war-like activity by non-state actors.

In the process, the Goths seized enormous booty and took thousands into captivity.

In 286 AD, Carausius, a Roman military commander of Gaulish origins, was appointed to command the Classis Britannica, and given the responsibility of eliminating Frankish and Saxon pirates who had been raiding the coasts of Armorica and Belgic Gaul.

The Aegean coast suffered similar attacks a few years later.

In 264, the Goths reached Galatia and Cappadocia, and Gothic pirates landed on Cyprus and Crete.

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