September 19th was dubbed "International Talk Like a Pirate Day" by an enterprising couple of louts (John Baur and Mark Summers) playing racquetball one sunny afternoon who eventually enlisted the help of syndicated columnist Dave Barry. But what were Ancient Roman pirates like? Who did they target?
The much quoted Piracy Law of Ancient Rome was a 100BC document in the form of a tablet inscription at Delphi. It reads that Roman citizens should be able to "conduct, without peril, whatever business they desire". This was sent to Rome's allies (notably Egypt, Cyprus, and the like) with the order that pirates shall not use those countries as a home base. There were many attempts to reduce the number of pirates on the Mediterranean, but many were half-hearted and most met with only a limited amount of success. Even if the Senate managed to calm piratical activity, during the many wars that Rome embroiled herself in, pirates became bolder and more numerous.
Read more about Ancient Roman pirates as well as tidbits of pirate history on the Pirates! website here.
As a side note, if any of you have access to Minerva - The International Review of Art and Archaeology, try to pick up a back issue of the May/June 2009. They did an excellent review of ancient piracy, complete with comparing it to the Somalian pirates of today.