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Modern (& ancient) Swashbucklers

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 15, 2003 9:29 pm    Post subject: Modern (& ancient) Swashbucklers Reply with quote

looks like the media are buying up piracy stories like hotcakes...there's quite a number of sites devoted to historical piracy which i put the best quote into the Pirates 101 in freedatabase, but i balked at placing this more modernized version there, since it seemed rather off topic? *shrug*

Washington Post wrote:
HONOLULU Images of walking the plank aside, piracy has made a spectacular comeback in recent years. Reported incidents have increased dramatically around the world, approaching nearly 400 annually.
Worldwide there were 103 attacks on ships in the first quarter of 2003, according to the International Maritime Bureau. In some cases, though, in the charged political atmosphere, the mass media and governments have blurred the line between piracy and acts of terrorism.
Such acts can appear similar, but it is important to understand that piracy and terrorism have different causes, objectives and tactics.
A good example is the March attack on several chemical tankers in the Strait of Malacca region by assailants with automatic weapons. Some of the ships were sprayed with bullets, while others were boarded silently. A New York Times article attributed the attacks to "terrorists." But it was later revealed that the attackers were apparently after only equipment and other valuables. In other words, they were pirates, albeit unusually bold and violent ones.
The precise definition of piracy and terrorism has been problematic for national and international policy-makers alike. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea defines piracy as violence on the high seas, i.e., beyond any state's 12-nautical-mile territorial waters.
The problem with this definition when applied to Southeast Asia is that most sea robberies occur within the 12-mile limit. Thus such incidents are not legally considered piracy and there is therefore no international agreement regarding most "maritime violence" or "sea robbery." Arrest and prosecution are solely dependent on the country in whose jurisdiction the crime occurs.
Uncertain or unresolved maritime boundaries in Southeast Asia further complicate the question of jurisdiction. Moreover, Southeast Asian countries jealously guard their sovereignty over territorial waters and deny cross-boundary "hot pursuit."
Maritime piracy encompasses a wide spectrum of criminal behavior, ranging from in-port pilferage and hit-and-run attacks to temporary seizure, long-term seizure and permanent theft of a ship.
Terrorism is also a complicated concept. The working definition of maritime terrorism is that of political piracy: "... any illegal act directed against ships, their passengers, cargo or crew, or against sea ports with the intent of directly or indirectly influencing a government or group of individuals."
Terrorism is distinct from piracy in a straightforward manner. Piracy is a crime motivated by greed, and thus predicated on immediate financial gain. Terrorism is motivated by political goals beyond the immediate act of attacking or hijacking a maritime target. The motivating factor for terrorists is generally political ideology stemming from perceived injustices, both historical and contemporary.
Piracy and terrorism do overlap in several ways, particularly in the tactics of ship seizures and hijackings. And some of the circumstances that allow piracy and terrorism to flourish are similar, such as poverty, political instability, permeable international boundaries and ineffective enforcement.
Terrorists, though, want to call attention to their cause and inflict as much harm and damage as possible. Pirates want to avoid attention and will inflict only as much harm as is necessary to accomplish their objectives.
While the tactics of combating maritime terrorism and piracy may be similar, long-term solutions may require different approaches.
Ship hijackings by terrorists are a serious threat, but there has yet to be such a case in Southeast Asia.
Because of the overlap in operational similarities, short-term countermeasures such as enhanced patrols, coordination and ship defense will be useful in countering piracy and terrorism. But long-term solutions aimed at completely eliminating piracy and terrorism may have to be fitted to the particular problem.
Local enforcement is generally insufficient, although Malaysia has increased its effectiveness in recent years. Coordinated air surveillance and pursuit would be an important adjunct, but most Southeast Asian nations and particularly Indonesia cannot afford the number of aircraft necessary to patrol their vast coastal region.
As a solution, the United States and other maritime powers are pressing countries to ratify the 1988 Suppression of Unlawful Acts Convention. Although the convention was developed in large part to combat terrorism, it is also being promoted as an antipiracy measure.
The SUA Convention would extend the rights of maritime forces to pursue terrorists, pirates and maritime criminals into foreign territorial waters. But some Southeast Asian countries are concerned that this provision could compromise national sovereignty. So far, only maritime powers such as the United States, Canada, major European countries, Australia, China and Japan have signed the convention.
However, if piracy and terrorism are fused into a general threat, developing countries may find outside help easier to accept and sell to the public. So it may be in the interest of maritime powers to conflate piracy and terrorism to help persuade reluctant developing countries to let maritime powers pursue pirates and terrorists in their territorial and archipelagic waters.
But it is important to take a longer-term view and attempt to address the root of these problems. Allowing minorities more political "space" could address the terrorism problem. And poverty alleviation could diminish the incentive for much, but not all, piracy.
For the recalcitrants organized gangs and die-hard independence fighters international assistance in developing indigenous patrols in Southeast Asian nations would enhance regional security and minimize the sensitive presence of foreign naval vessels.

Ancient Swashbucklers
Suzanne Cross wrote:
THE CURSUS HONORUM (the 'sequence of offices' in the career of a Roman politician.)

Caesar returned to Rome and, in his twenties, gained a reputation as an legal advocate and popular sympathizer, prosecuting several prominent Romans for corruption and carefully developing a grateful clientela (clients, men and women who accepted his protection and help, and from whom he could expect political support). He was considered in his own time to be an superb advocate and orator, second only to Cicero for skill and eloquence. Caesar spoke Greek fluently, sign of the educated upper-class Roman; he was knowledgeable and discerning about Greek philosophy, literature and art. He was apparently possessed of great magnetism, personal charm, and a vibrant sense of humor and wit. He knew everyone in the tightly knit Roman centers of power and quickly gained a reputation for being extravagant with money, somewhat rebellious in dress and attitude, and determined to make a name for himself. After a sensational trial in 77 in which he successfully and tactlessly prosecuted Dolabella, the ex-consul, for extortion during his governorship, Caesar left Rome to study rhetoric at Rhodes; a good knowledge of rhetoric was considered to be essential for a political career. He also managed to prove himself useful to the state in the opening stages of what would become the Third Mithradatic War in 74-73.

On the way to Rhodes in 75, Caesar was captured by pirates. This famous story reveals, in miniature, the man he was becoming. At the time, the eastern end of the Mediterranean was swarming with pirates; Roman citizens (the higher rank, the better) were tempting prey for ransom. Caesar's ship was captured near Rhodes; he was held captive for 40 days. Sending away his staff to borrow his ransom (50 talents or 12,000 gold pieces which he had insisted his merits warranted), Caesar joked easily with his captors, ordering them about with amused disdain. He "had often smilingly sworn, while still in their power, that he would soon capture and crucify them; and this is exactly what he did." [Suetonius]. As soon as he was released, Caesar begged forces from local officials and, returning, neatly captured all the pirates and arranged for their prompt crucifixion. Other sources suggest that, with a hint of his later mercy to opponents, he had them killed before the full horrors of crucifixion could be felt.

Returning to Rome in 73 BC, Caesar was elected to the College of Pontiffs, another politically acute step in the dance for advancement. He then returned to the life of social gaiety out of all proportion to his slender financial means. He was alleged to have built an expensive country house on Lake Nemi, only to find it disappointing: he had it pulled down. He was an avid collector of fine art and fine slaves. His debts were rumored to approach over 8 million denarii, a fabulous sum for a young man without means. He also began acquiring the reputation for another form of art, the alleged seductions of wives of men in his own social class. It is difficult to find one of Caesar's later enemies, including Cato, Pompey, Cato and Bibulus, who were not allegedly cuckolded by him. From this time, until he became governor of Gaul 15 years later, Caesar's debts in pursuit of his political aims range from prodigious to staggering. Plutarch claims that, in 59, he gave his mistress, Servilia (the mother of Brutus) a pearl worth 1 1/2 million denarii.

this event has been variously described as happening in 69bc among others...the whole thing stinks of a fable. I'll attempt to see where Plutarch describes this era under the assumption this Julius & the pirates fable was used to distract attention from the pyrrhic victories of the Mithradatic wars for the Romans, before Pompey came along with Julius to grab enormous power...distract attention into "they did it to rid the world of piracy" and away from "they jumped on piracy as an opportunity to gain a lot more power over the senate than was needed to deal with the relatively minor problem of piracy"

I'll attempt to outline how i believe instilling fear was more the Caesars' doings than the pirates themselves.

First, let's look at the currencies mentioned for possible flaws. Talents, "Gold Pieces" and 'Denarii'
Monetary standards around the time of Augustus wrote:
Augustus (c. 20 BC)
1 gold aureus (7.96 g) = 2 gold quinarii = 25 silver denarii = 50 silver quinarii =100 bronze sestertii = 200 bronze dupondii = 400 bronze asses

you'll also note that up until a massive devaluation of silver coins around 250AD, the ratio of worth between a gold piece and a silver piece was approx 1:25 since around, oh, 400BC...the weights were also pretty standard for coins (gp ~8grams; sp ~4grams)

Now Talents are an interesting coin, being of Greek origin i usually cast a jaundiced eye on Roman costs being calc'd in that. *shrug* whatever. Anyways, a Talent (over 2 dozen kg of silver) = 6000sp of greek coinage which can be loosely translated to that sum in roman silver 'Denarii' which holds true when calc'd to the quote far above of "50 talents (12000gp)"
    FYI, Julius' debts of 8million sp equate to approx 1333 Talents...for perspective, the campaign against the pirates in 67bc reportedly called for 6000 Talents to get the job was, in all respects, a King's Ransom.

    For a modern interpretation we'll need some conversions. (1 ounce = 0.02824 kilograms. 1 troy ounce = 0.03110kg) haven't a clue which one to use so i'll go with 0.3 So...according to the above site's weight on a Talent of silver that would be ~873 ounces on todays markets would be this amount, which means 6000 talents is loosely equivalent to $24.5 million (US)...eeehhh that makes no sense. *shrug* oh well, probably need to adjust for many factors.
hmmmm...okay, so the julius & the pirates at least has it's monetary standards down right, so it's reliability can't be that easily dismissed. Now, on to the conflicting timelines and wierd stuff that lowers the reliability of this probable fable.
Gwinnet County school wrote:
On a voyage to Rhodes in 69 BC to study under the rhetor, Apollonius Molon, Caesar and his ship were taken hostage by pirates. The group was kidnapped off the island of Pharmacussa (6 miles south of Miletus) by a pirate leader named Polygonus
History of pirates (quoted by Raiderr on MG forums recently) wrote:
Caesar too, was captured by the pirates near the island of Pharmcusa shortly after escaping from Sulla's soldiers in 75BC.

now, it all seems a bit fishy...The latter document is rather romantic in it's portrayal and hardly tries to tie up loose ends in it's many tangents...leading one to suspect that piracy flourished for this or that reason when it simply came down to the chaos of war current in those areas. The theme of 'piracy flourishing only during times of war and in the theatres of such' seems to be too much a sobering thought, and too much attention was paid to the "corruption" of rome. In fact, a whole hell of a lot of attention is paid to 'corruption' to the point where unattentive readers will naturally assume this to be the motivator for pirates the thrive.
    actually, both quotes are extremely low in reliability, especially since both have glaring factual errors. *shrug* typos whatever. anyways, i did a search on this "pharmcusa" and came up with diddly freakin squat on google (escaping from sulla's soldiers?)
Oh, FYI, i also think the story about julius and the pirates is bogus because i'm damned sure it was an attempt to discredit Rhodes by linking the proximity of pirates to that island (which once had a pretty good control on piracy before Rome started getting imperial)
    guilt by association and all that...Besides, i wouldn't put it past Julius to organize an impromptu attack on a pirate base and make the whole drama up just to pay off the mercenaries he hired. (or the governor he bribed)...hell, the guy was so much in debt i figure this was just one of many scams he pulled off just for the money alone. Betcha it wasn't even a pirate base.
Finally, let's turn our attention to what was actually transpiring during these times of "uncontrolled and rampant" piracy...
University of Alberta wrote:
Lucullus' Campaigns Against Mithridates
The consuls of 74, L. Licinius Lucullus and M. Aurelius Cotta, got new provinces for themselves in the east in the aftermath of the inheritance. Cotta contented himself with the lucrative business of setting up the new province of Bithynia, while Lucullus took Cilicia in anticipation of marching north into Pontus. The consuls were still in Rome in late 74 and the war began with the spring of 73.
After Cotta and Lucullus were already in their provinces, Mithridates attacked Bithynia, shutting Cotta up in the town of Chalcedon and besieging the important port of Cyzicus on the Bosporus (Mithridates had established naval superiority and needed a base in the west). Lucullus marched north to help and forced Mithridates to end the siege by cutting off his supply lines to Pontus, thus achieving a great victory without open battle.

In the spring of 72 Mithridates was still at Nicomedia in Bithynia. A great Roman naval victory at Lemnos in the Aegean made Mithridates' position untenable and he withdrew into Pontus.

Two obstacles stood in the way of pursuing Mithridates. First, the major town of Heraclea (on the northern coast) remained opposed to the Romans. Cotta spent two years besieging it, returning to Rome in 71 after it eventually capitulated. Second, Mithridates stilll had a fleet in the Aegean, and a legate (C. Valerius Triarius) destroyed it at the battle of Tenedos. In this way, Lucullus was able to prosecute the war in the east (and at an unclear date was also given command of the province of Asia). The decision to move east in 72 implied a great expansion of Rome's commitments, and Lucullus took the decision on his own without consulting the senate.

By late 72 Lucullus had reached Amisus and put it under unsuccessful siege during the winter. In the spring of 71 Lucullus moved a little further east to Cabira, where he and Mithridates watched each other for a while without joining battle. Mithridates tried to attack Lucullus' supply trains, but after two failures decided to retire further east. This proved a mistake. The Mithridatic army lost cohesion as it withdrew and Lucullus destroyed it.

Lucullus set about subduing Pontus and Lesser Armenia, with Mithridates retaining control only of the Crimea and Cholcis (western Caucasus). Lucullus was busy with sieges and campaigns against various tribes until 70.

War With Armenia
After Cabira, Mithridates fled to Tigranes the king of Armenia (and his son-in-law). In about 96 Tigranes came to the throne of a small Armenian kingdom and was the vassal of the Parthian kingdom (the Parthians were an Iranian dynasty related to the Persians and assumed control of the Iranian plateau and Mesopotamia in the third and second centuries). In the early first century both the Parthian dynasty and the Greek Seleucid dynasty of Syria fell into dynastic chaos and Tigranes took the opportunity to seize northern Mesopotamia and northern Syria and to adopt the eastern title "king of kings". Thus, Mithridates' son-in-law was the most important king to the east.
In 70, with the conquest of Pontus complete, Lucullus sent his legate Ap. Claudius Pulcher, patrician son of the consul of 79, to demand that Tigranes either turn over Mithridates or face war. It was thought that the war would not be properly finished until Mithridates was dead. Strictly speaking, Lucullus had no authority to wage war against Tigranes, but justified himself by treating Tigranes as Mithridates' ally, even though Tigranes had made no hostile move against the Romans. In any case, this move shows the extent to which Roman generals now felt comfortable about acting without consulting the senate (not a surprising attitude from Sulla's quaestor!).

In 69 Lucullus invaded Armenia. To force Tigranes into battle, Lucullus invested his newly founded capital, Tigranocerta. Lucullus won a decisive victory, but it did him no good. Tigranes (and Mithridates) simply withdrew into mountainous northern Armenia. Lucullus destroyed the capital, and many vassals of Tigranes made their submission to the victorious Roman general. Lucullus also enlisted the assistance of the Parthian king.

In 68 Lucullus invaded northern Armenia, but Tigranes refused battle and harrassed Lucullus' supply lines. The early onset of bad weather in the mountains forced Lucullus to give up his campaign and return to the far south, taking Nisibis in northern Mesopotamia, where he spent the winter of 68/67. Tigranes then returned to southern Armenia, throwing out the garrisons Lucullus had left behind. Thus, while Lucullus retained military superiority, he could not bring the war to an end.

Meanwhile, Lucullus' position was undermined by events in Pontus. In 68 Mithridates took advantage of Lucullus' retreat to the south to move an army into eastern Pontus, where the locals welcomed his return. Lucullus had left two inferior legions behind to hold the territory, and Mithridates won a victory over a legate. C. Valerius Triarius brought reinforcements from Asia and assumed command. The Romans spent the winter in the stronghold of Cabira, but in 67 Mithridates threatened a Roman base and thereby forced Triarius to abandon his easily defended position and come to its aid. The resulting battle of Zela was a Roman debacle.

Lucullus had been marching to Triarius' relief, but arrived too late. His troops met the shattered remanants of Triarius's army. Lucullus' troops were annoyed at the tight rein he kept on them (preventing indiscriminate plunder) and were stirred up by Ap. Clodius Pulcher. When Lucullus proposed to march back east into Pontus, they mutineed. They insisted on marching southwest into Cappadocia, where they agreed to prevent any Mithridatic attack to the west.

This was the end of Lucullus. His position of great power in the east had been a source of resentment in Rome, and efforts had already been undertaken to curtain it. In 69 Asia was taken from him, in 68 Cilicia (going to Q. Marcius Rex, consul of that year). Finally in 67 the tribune A. Gabinius passed a law assigning Pontus and Bithynia to one of the consuls of the year (M.' Acilius Glabrio, son of the man who had, as C. Gracchus colleague, passed the reform of the extortion court). The revolt of his troops meant that Lucullus would have no opportunity to finish the war before Glabrio arrived in 66. As it turned out, command against Mithridates would go not to Glabrio but to Pompey.

Lex Gabinia
By 67 the situation with the pirates had become intolerable. M. Antonius Creticus' special command had ended in failure in Crete in 71. The consul of 69, Q. Caecilius Metellus (second cousin of Pius: they sharedthe same great grandfather) continued the campaign in Crete, but elsewhere the pirates were out of control. They had not only sacked various small island but even attacked Ostia, the port of Rome itself, and taken many prominent Romans captive, even legates. Clearly the ad hoc solutions employed until now were unsatisfactory, and in 67 the tribune A. Gabinius proposed a completely novel form of command. He proposed a law authorizing an election to fill this new position. After much dispute, the law was passed and Pompey was immediately elected to fill the new command.
One of the major problems of normal Roman commands was their geographical restriction. Though M. Antonius had been given imperium infinitum (unlimited imperium) in 74, it still basically had to be exercised by him in person (his legates derived their use of imperium from his, possessing none of their own). Under the lex Gabinia, Pompey was empowered to appoint fifteen legates who had their own imperium (legati pro praetore). In effect, the People were delegating to an individual their exclusive right to bestow imperium. This completely new principle would eventually allow the emperors to control numerous provinces through legati pro praetore. Pompey was given imperium equal to that of all provincial governors to distance of 50 miles from the coast. He was given the power to raise huge numbers of troops (over 100,000) and vast sums of money for the purpose. This command was to last three years.

As it turned out, the pirates could be dealt with in a much shorter period of time once Roman resources were co-ordinated. Within 49 days Pompey and his legates swept the Mediterranean from west to east, and the pirate threat was finally ended with a major naval victory off Cilicia. Pompey was now conveniently available in 66, when the full extent of Lucullus' set back in Asia became known in Rome.

Lex Manilia
In 66, the tribune C. Manilius proposed a law transferring the provinces of Asia, Cilicia and Bithynia and Pontus to Pompey, giving him vast resources to carry this out and the express right to wage war at his discretion. There was senatorial opposition to giving such a huge command to one person, but the law (supported by the praetor M. Tullius Cicero in a surviving speech) was passed.

That 'Lex Gabinia' which appears at first glance to be some commission to rid tradelanes of pirates? Nope. nothing of the kind. i'm sure this "terrorist threat" certainly allowed fear to motivate the powers that were behind the "throne" at the time to support a power grab by one of the powerful military leaders. That's all it was. a power grab...You'll note that this "amazing victory" against the pirates in less than two months came right as word of the eastern generals dismal performance "arrived" in rome.

yeah, uh huh...more like Pompey coveted the command of the eastern armies and probably hyped this "amazing victory" while "discovering" the extent of his military rival's failures. (gee, sure might have helped if the pirates who'd been harrassing said general's eastern campaign would have been dealt with earlier)
    *sigh* ah fate is so cruel, isn't she? *rolleyes*

    Funny how a little thing like piracy got so "out of control" that unheard of powers given by the republic to a military general to bestow virtual fiefdoms was needed to deal with the situation.

    must have been the corruption of the senate that prevented timely and swift execution of the pirate threat. pffft
*nods* yeah, that's why the Roman historians hyped that "julius and the pirates." They needed to justify why the pirates were so swiftly dealt with (ie. because of the genius of the new caesars to deal with them trikki ninjas) that amazing anti-piracy legislation that had everything to do with combatting piracy and nothing to do with a carrot/stick approach to a powergrab. not. *shrug* I'm certain both sides in the Mithradatic Wars gave what amounted to 'letters of marquee' to privateers and i'm sure that the powergrab in the senate used this merely because it was a good opportunity to sow fear.
Livius wrote:
Pompey's victory was less spectacular than he presented it. The secret of his success was, of course, that the Cilician pirates had already been defeated by Publius Servilius Vatia. Their actions along the Italian shores were caused by the fact that they could no longer safely use Cilicia as their base. They were adrift. Pompey understood this, and offered the defeated pirates a new life: he settled them in towns far from the sea, where they could become farmers.

Pompey's extraordinary powers were to last three years, but the war was already over. In Rome, the tribune Manilius proposed that the war against Mithradates, the ally of the pirates, should now be entrusted to Pompey. The successful general took over the army of general Lucullus and put an end to the Third Mithradatic war. Later, he invaded Judaea; after all, among the Cilician pirates had been Jews. Pompey captured Jerusalem (63 BCE; click here for full story), and on his way back to Italy, he visited Crete, where he settled the situation.

This was the end of piracy in the Mediterranean. The Cilician pirates would have been a footnote in the history of the Roman empire, were it not that the expedition against them marked the rise of Pompey. For almost twenty years, he was unchallenged as the first man in Rome. Moreover, his extraordinary command had shown the road to the future: Julius Caesar was to use legates during the war in Gaul, and Octavian was to do the same when he organized the Roman empire.

1984 wasn't that much ahead of it's time. :irony:
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