Why Port Royal Jamaica Was Once Considered The 'Wickedest City On Earth'

There have been many cities throughout history that were considered wicked or sinful. You have biblical stories of Sodom and Gomorrah that were described as so bad that God burned them off the map. In modern times we've got Las Vegas, Nevada, which is oftentimes literally referred to as "Sin City." However, there was a city that existed during the 17th century that was also considered one of the world's most unrighteous places — Port Royal, Jamaica.

According to Thought Co., the town of Port Royal is located in the southern part of the island of Jamaica. In 1655, the British decided it was time to try and take some of the lands in the Caribbean from their Spanish counterparts, namely the island of Hispaniola. When that didn't go well, they "conquered" Jamaica instead. Lucky for them the natural harbor on the shores of this island made it perfect for a military fort and shipping port. Eventually, this location would become known as Port Royal.

Pirate sanctuary

So what was it that made this seaside town so evil and wicked? Turns out this potentially prosperous port took a turn with the arrival of pirates and privateers. Ironically enough, these marauders and buccaneers didn't just come in and take over everything. They were actually invited by the British as a deterrent for the Spanish fleet that resided in the waters around the island (per All That's Interesting).

While in theory, this could have been a temporary solution to the problem the British were facing, in hindsight, this obviously was not a good idea. These pirates technically had permission to be there and had the protection of the crown when it came to their pirating crimes against the Spanish. Because of this, of course, things got out of hand and before long the pirates had taken over, establishing taverns and brothels everywhere. Crime and debauchery reigned.

Port Royal became notorious as a pirate sanctuary, and some of history's most infamous pirates — like Calico Jack, Anne Bonny, and Blackbeard — were all protected there. With these sea-faring criminals running things, sex, violence, and theft were commonplace. 

All of that came to an end on June 7, 1692, when an earthquake dragged half the city into the sea. Parts of the sunken pirate city can still be viewed today and it is also on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.