Why Does The Ancient Greek World Matter in Pirates of the Caribbean?



By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
(* returning from a much needed break; spoiler alert)

By now, most people will have seen the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Dead Man Tell No Tales. The references to mythical Greek figures (Calypso was the first) throughout the series are prominent because they are more familiar to audiences than other ancient culture’s attempt to sail the seas (discoveries in Egypt notwithstanding). Not every viewer may be aware the group of stars astronomer Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) was looking at to locate Poseidon’s Trident is Orion’s Belt. The middle star shows where South is and “the sword” that hangs below it does not always indicate where a lost island lays (as suggested in her book).

This constellation is one of three guides sailors used in the early days to navigate by. The other two are Ursa Major (the Great Bear) and Cassiopeia. Technically, there is a fourth, Crux, the Southern Cross for those sailing in the southern hemisphere.

These mythical figures in the night sky are important. If any of them disappeared, then those boats at sea would not know where they are on Earth. This idea can possibility come to life as a sequel, but only time will tell if the writers over at Disney will continue to explore Greek mariner traditions further and have the gods roaming the Earth. The saga continued with a very powerful sea nymph being absolute and the last film with Blackbeard wielding the Sword of Triton. This idea is not far fetched when considering the ancient Greek world was one of the most prominent civilizations that depended on the sea for much of its trade and expansion as a nation.

If these people could not depend on the gods for help, then there were also the animal spirits and demigods for whom they could depend upon as a guide in the night sky. Ursa Major and Orion are the most used. For the latter and according to Hesiod, this classical hero is also the son of this Poseidon. No explanation is given by any character in the world of Pirates of the Caribbean as to why these oceanic legends are important, but if people believe the fact the first recorded instances of piracy dated back to this bygone era, even the scoundrels back then had to pay homage to the gods for success at sea.


As for what this revelation means for the series, if it continues, is that we may see pirates see their era fall because the gods have forsaken them. In a few ways, Davy Jones is like Odysseus. This Greek sailor’s will was bent by Calypso (she pined for him than the other way around) and both figures faced difficult challenges at sea to get to what they love the most.

In a series which spends a lot of time with characters who find this way of life in their blood, some fans may well get upset if the theme changes. The fourth film had its charm in the quest for the Fountain of Youth since its location is rumoured to be somewhere along the Yucatán Peninsula but will more indigenous tribes’ sacred treasures be considered? This series’ heroes has yet to go find Atlantis.

Author: Ed Sum

I'm a freelance videographer and entertainment journalist (Absolute Underground Magazine, Two Hungry Blokes, and Otaku no Culture) with a wide range of interests. From archaeology to popular culture to paranormal studies, there's no stone unturned. Digging for the past and embracing "The Future" is my mantra.

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