Rome Off the Starboard Bow

Eye patches, wooden legs and pet parrots are all tell tale signs of a pirate.  While sailing the high seas, if you see a ship sailing the black flag with a skull and cross bones, then you had better flee.

Throughout hundreds and thousands of years, the lore of pirates has grown and evolved into a popular idea.  The Pirates of the Caribbean movies are a prime example, as well as children’s toys and Halloween costumes.

Pirates date all the way back to the time of the ancient Egyptians in 1350 BCE.  They survived all the way through the time of the Romans.  At one point, piracy nearly strangled Rome.  Trade routes were being plundered and terrorized by pirates and a necessary amount of food could not reach Rome’s people.  It was not until Pompey was given enormous control of the army that the pirates were defeated.

Now the important thing to keep in mind is that ancient pirates did not solely live on the open seas like the stories of today say.  They actually built their own fortresses and towns.  These were the points of Pompey’s main attack.  Within two months of the campaign, Pompey had conquered the pirates.  Yet this was not the most incredible part of the war with the pirates, instead of killing all of the pirates like any Roman typically would, Pompey spared them.  The pirates had families of their own, they were not the stereotypical roving seafarers.  Instead, Pompey  dispersed them inland to farms and other villages.  After the fall of the pirates, Rome held the naval control in the Mediterranean.  

Obviously boats had been around for centuries before Rome was even founded.  Yet it was still a major form of technology that could sway the power of mighty Rome.  Does that mean that boats were evil in its creation?  Of course not.  It is not the boat that was bad but the use of it.  The users, the pirates, were the ones that were evil.

How true is that of today’s society!  WIth the invention of computers information became easily accessible.  Information such as biographies, trivia and even people’s identities.  Modern day pirates can be expanded to cover online identity theft.  The computers are simply the tool while the computer user is the one committing the crime.  Will electronic pirates soon affect our culture just as the pirates in ancient times affected the city of Rome?


For more on ancient piracy, check out:

The way I got here was going to and searching “ancient pirates”.  After scrolling through multiple pages I used the very first link suggested.




P.S. If you’re really interested in Roman history, I stumbled across a nice book published through Cambridge.  You can find it here:


3 thoughts on “Rome Off the Starboard Bow

  1. hopeadvancedlatin Post author

    Wow! Cool Pirates!
    I followed some of the links in the “ancient pirates” bit, and found this:
    It is pretty interesting, talking about the parallels between piracy and terrorism and the fall of Rome and…the US.
    I also really liked your modern parallel with computers and identity theft. It made me think about gun control, too. (think: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”)
    Anyway, I learned a ton from this post and I am excited to read the next one! I like thinking about how Pompeius handled the situation. He didn’t just kill all the pirates and their families, but he dispersed them and gave them the opportunity (as limited as it may have been) to “become productive members of society.” Good sources, too. I got a little lost looking at all those links! -Isabel

  2. hopeadvancedlatin Post author

    When you think of pirates most people do not think about Rome. It is interesting to see something that has become so popular brought back in a historical and interesting way. What I found even more interesting was that they dated all they way back to Egypt back in 1350BC. That is amazing. Thank you. ACC

  3. hopeadvancedlatin Post author

    I think this is really cool the way you took the two types of pirates most people think about, the ones on ships and the internet thieves. This is random, but it made me think about this internet “hacktivist” group called Anonymous ( ). These hackers could totally steal identities and cause some serious disorder, like Roman pirates, but they settle for being the “digital Robin Hood”, and it got me thinking about what they would have accomplished if they had chosen to be regular members of society, like the Romans let the pirates become. It’s funny, one of their icons is a pirate flag, but a V for Vendetta mask takes the place of the skull. Just thought it was interesting.


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