The New American
by Joe Wolverton, II
Friday, 14 May 2010
Since the days when Mark Antony’s grandfather patrolled the coasts of the Mediterranean searching for the distinctive gilded-stemmed masts of their lightweight vessels, pirates from Cilicia (modern-day Cukorova, Turkey) had vexed Roman shipping lanes.
The pirates brigandry was particularly irksome for generations of Roman political leaders because the peace and stability of the massive Roman populace depended on the free, uninterrupted movement of goods from the other parts of their vast empire. Without this crucial supply of commodities, storehouses would empty, the people would go hungry, and riots would enflame the streets that run serpentine among the Seven Hills.
In 68 B.C., the Cilician pirates ratcheted their attacks on Roman interests up a notch. The bustling port at Ostia was their target. These brazen buccaneers sailed in and set the port on fire. The amber glow could be seen at night from the alleys and rooftops of Rome herself. The people were petrified with fear.
Rampant fear followed news of the assault: fear of famine, fear of death, fear of unsafe passage along the now-ancient roads connecting Italy’s coasts, rich with the bounty of the world, to the teeming interior, principally its capital — the Eternal City of Rome.