Chapter I - Piratae

© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
Marcus and his parents are sailing from Athens to Brundisium - but they never get there as intended.
Their ship is attacked by pirates.
Marcus, however, does arrive in Brundisium - alone - but by then he is known as Markos - and is a Greek slave


© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
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Cilician pirates dominated the Mediterranean Sea from the 2nd century BC until their partial suppression by Pompey in 67-66 BC.

Although there were notorious pirate strongholds in Cilicia, 'Cilician' had long been a generic term for pirates.
With the destruction of Ancient Carthage, the demise of the Seleucid Empire, and Ptolemaic Egypt on the wane, there was no strong naval power left in the Mediterranean. 
Rome was the only major Mediterranean power left, but by this time her navy was reduced and Rome relied on hiring ships as necessity required.
Rome only protected the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic seas, on account of their proximity, with expeditions sent against the pirate bases on the Ligurian and Illyrian coast.
The Balearic Isles were cleared in 120 BC for the same purpose.
As a result, the pirates became consolidated and organized.
The smaller communities of the Greek and African waters were left to make their own arrangements. Communities unable to fend off the pirate incursions were forced to come to an understanding with the pirates, and thus became havens.
Crete at this time was still an independent Greek territory.
Civil wars had devastated the land, and much of the population turned to piracy.
Crete became a major haven for piracy, with its strategic position in the midst of the Mediterranean and because it did not fall under the control of any of the Mediterranean empires.
Cilicia was the other major pirate refuge.
Like Crete, Cilicia enjoyed excellent natural harbors which geography rendered easily defensible.
The Seleucids were too weak to suppress them, and Diodotus Tryphon, king of the Seleucid Empire from 142-138 BC, actually supported them, in order to strengthen his position.
Around 140 BC, Rome sent Scipio Aemilianus to assess the situation.
He reported that the governments of the region were too weak or unwilling to settle the issue.
Rome at this time was unwilling to spend the effort needed to reduce the Cilician pirates, perhaps because of the benefits piracy afforded the Romans.
Consequently, the pirates remained the only considerable naval power in the Eastern Mediterranean.
They eventually had bases all throughout the Mediterranean.
The main trade of the pirates was slavery, and it was Roman merchants bought the most slaves. Roman land owners held large plantations worked by slaves, and in particular Sicily was notorious for its slave plantations owned by Romans.
At its heyday, a 100,000 slaves passed through its markets in a single day.
By the 1st century BC, what began as a nuisance became a plague on the Mediterranean commerce.
The Cilician pirates roamed across the entire Mediterranean, and began to attack the towns of Italy itself - in fact, even Ostia, the port of the city of Rome was plundered.
Eventually, Rome took action.
Pompey Magnus
In 75 BC, P. Servilius Isauricus led a campaign over land against the pirate bases in Cilicia and against their allies the Isauri, but this was only a temporary relief.
Finally, after heated debate, Pompey was granted extraordinary powers to eliminate the Cilician pirates.
Pompey divided the Mediterranean into thirteen districts, to each of which he assigned a fleet, and a commander.
Pompey then swept through the western Mediterranean with his own powerful fleet, driving the pirates out or into the paths of his other commanders.
By keeping vigilance over all the sea at the same time (and at great cost), there was nowhere to run or hide.
Those Cilician pirates that did escape fled to the eastern Mediterranean, and Pompey was able to complete this first part of his campaign in 40 days.
Pompey then turned to the eastern Mediterranean.
He gave mild terms to those pirates who surrendered to him personally, as opposed to his other commanders.
Some pirates surrendered their ships, their families and themselves up to Pompey.
From these, he learned about where others were hiding.
Many pirates retreated to their strongholds of Asia Minor, where they gathered, and waited for Pompey to attack them.
The Romans took the wealth the pirates had collected, and released many of their prisoners, whom the pirates intended to ransom; other prisoners, however, were sold into slavery. 
The eastern campaign lasted 49 days.
In total, Pompey's campaign almost completely removed the Cilician pirates, who had held a stranglehold on Mediterranean commerce and threatened Rome with famine, in a mere 89 days, the summer of 66 BC.
Piracy, however, although controlled, was not eliminated from the Mediterranean, and continued to be a danger to anyone undertaking a sea voyage.
Only the Roman navy was immune from pirate attacks, and even Gaius Julius Caesar, when young, was capture, and held for a short time, by pirates.


© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
So what is the connection between Cilician Pirates and our hero, young Marcus ?
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
Gaius Agrippa Aelius
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
Marcus Gaius Aelius (Markos)
Well - Marcus Gaius Aelius (later to be known as the slave-boy 'Markos') was the son of Gaius Agrippa Aelius - a lower ranking Roman official,.
Gaius Agrippa Aelius had been sent to Athens for a number of years, on Imperial business.
During that time his wife had given birth to his only son, Marcus Gaius Aelius.
Young Marcus, being brought up in Athens, spoke Greek as his first language, despite the disapproval of his father, and unfortunately Marcus, as it later turned out, spoke Lain with a decidedly Greek accent - which proved not to be to his advantage - or maybe.......
Regardless, inevitably, orders came from Rome, and Gaius was required to return to the city to take a more responsible post in the great metropolis.
He was somewhat loath to return to Rome, however.
It was in the final years of the reign of the Emperor Nero, shortly after the Great Fire, and the political situation in Rome was fraught and difficult.
Roman Athens
Gaius, his wife and their son, Marcus were to embark at Piraeus, the port of Athens, and would then sail across the Sea of Adria (the Adriatic) to the port of Brundisium.
From Brundisium they would travel by road to Rome.
Between Piraeus and the Sea of Adria, however, there was an area close to Crete, where there was a known danger from some of the remaining pirates who still attacked some of the shipping lanes.
The ship that the family were sailing on was a cargo ship - at this time there were no 'passenger ships' as we would understand the term.
In this case the ship was carrying slabs of Pentelic marble, from the quarries at Penteli north of Athens, for Nero's massive building works in Rome, and also some bronze statues to adorn some the Imperial buildings.
There were also a group of slaves - captives from the recent war in Armenia, against the Parthians, which had been successfully prosecuted by Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, who were on their way to the slave markets in Brundisium.
Roman Cargo Ship
The only other passengers, apart from Marcus and his mother and father, were a troupe of Greek dancing boys, escorted by their trainer, who were also headed for Rome.
It was early in the season - the weather was calm and fine, and the ship made good progress as it sailed out into the Sea of Adria....

At first it was only a dot on the horizon, but then it grew larger.
Another cargo ship ? - a Roman war galley, on patrol ?
But as it drew closer, it was obvious - it was pirates !
The captain of the little cargo boat desperately tried to make for the coast, but the pirate ship was a galley, with sails and oars, and was easily able to outrun them.
Gaius Aelius immediately hustled his wife and Marcus below decks, while he tried to organize the crew, in a futile attempt to fend off the pirates when they attempted to board the cargo ship.
In a very short time the large galley had drawn alongside the merchant ship.
The captain wanted to surrender his ship, hoping that in that way he might be able to placate the pirates, and at least save his life, and the lives of his crew, even if he lost his ship and its cargo.
Gaius Aelius, however, (a stubborn and proud man) would hear non of it and, as the pirates swarmed aboard, he and some of the braver members of the crew attempted to fend off the marauders.
Gaius Aelius and the crew, however, were no match for the pirates, and soon most of the crew were either dead or captured.
Gaius, himself, was overpowered, and could only watch helplessly as the pirates searched below decks for the passengers and the cargo.
Gaius, could hear his wife and son screaming, and then there was only the noise of shuffling feet, as the Armenian slaves, the boy's dancing troop and young Marcus was dragged up onto the deck.
With Marcus was his mother.
She was bleeding from numerous wounds, and as soon as she came up on deck she collapsed.
Immediately three of the pirates finished her off with spears.
The captain of the cargo ship then had his hands tied behind his back, and was thrown over-board - he drowned in a matter of minutes.
The pirates then transferred the slaves and remaining passengers onto their galley.
The pirates had found Gaius' papers, identifying him as a Roman official.
Having been hunted down for years by the Imperial navy, the pirates were intent on wreaking their revenge on Gaius.
He was unceremoniously stripped naked, emasculated, and his severed genitals were tied round his neck.
He was then hung by his wrists from the main mast of the pirates ship.
Young Marcus, who was on deck with the Armenian slaves and the dancing troupe, was forced to witness his father's humiliation, and listen to Gauius squealing as he was emasculated.
Then, with the cargo ship in tow, the galley made off towards Crete, where the pirates had a safe harbour.
Eventually, when the harbour at Crete came into sight, the pirates cut down Gaius, and threw him into the sea.
With his wrists still tied, he drowned in a few minutes.
As the Galley and the cargo ship docked in the small harbour, the pirates organised slaves to unload the cargo of Pentelic marble, and the bronze statues.
Those items would later be transferred to another ship, and would be sold in Alexandria, in Egypt.
The Armenian slaves, the boy dancers, and Marcus were then unloaded from the Galley, and placed in guarded pens, where they would later be sorted, and decisions would be made as to where they would be sold.

'and the story continues - as young Marcus is taken to Italy, where he is sold to the slave dealer Arion. A day later Arion gives a special showing of Marcus (naked) to his wealthiest clients, and the boy is sold to a young, unknown but very wealthy bidder .......

© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
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TEXT - © Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016


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