Although pirates have existed throughout history and still exist, the golden age of the pirate traditionally depicted in media was from 1620 to 1720. According to the Royal Naval Museum, pirates abounded during this era because of the vast wealth being transported from the New World.
Columbus's discovery of the New World in 1492 and Spain's subsequent possession of much of America opened the floodgates of maritime commerce. Lawless individuals were drawn to the possibility of fast money. As a result, incidents of piracy increased.
Governments sponsored piracy that weakened their national rivals' sea presence. Privateers were pirates authorized by the government to target the ships of enemy nations. Some corsairs were Christian or Muslim pirates directed to prey upon the vessels of the opposing religion.