The city of Rome, which became a capital of one of the largest empires in the history of Europe if not the world, is in central Italy, along the Tiber River, about 15 miles from the Tyrrhenian sea. Surrounded by the fertile land of the plain of Latium, the tiny village that became Rome was originally settled on the eastern bank of the Tiber, nestled between seven hills. The Capitoline Hill is northwest of the Palatine Hill, which is roughly in the central part of the city, The Aventine Hill,which is south of the palatin, lies to the west of the caelian, the southeastern hill that begins the chain of hills that stretch north the esquiline, viminal, and quirinal. Another hill, the janiculum, which lies west of the Tiber, was one of the earliest defenses against Rome's etruscan neighbors.
Augustus inaugurated a period of government called the principate during which the Roman Empire greatly expanded, and despite assassination, corruption, and frequent war, the principate survived until the third century. The death of the Emperor commodus ushered in a new civil war, one that only ended with seven emperors. When the last them, Severus Alexander, died in 235, Rome was plunged into the Roman Civil Wars of 235-284, a period characterized by barracks emperors, few of whom ruled very long. Order returned with the Dominate. The term applied to the next system of government, which began with the Emperor Diocletian. Emperors of the Dominate did not look republican ideas for legitimacy but to religion and new relationship with deity. This not only removed the need for a republican ideas for legitimacy but religion and a new relationship with deity. This not only removed the need for a republican facade, which characterized the principate, but also removed the Roman Army, which had long thought of itself as a kingmaker. In 284 CE, Diocletian reorganized the empire and established regional capitals to make imperial authority present where needed. The tetrarchy, or rule by four men, helped strengthen the internal and external security of the empire, but when Diocletian retired, civil war began once again.
Romans thought that it much faster to go to sea to land, most Romans traveling long distances went by ship. There were no passenger vessels, so if if one wished to travel was concerned with the food supply of Rome, these large freighters were the ships that passengers would travel on. Because of the harshness and unpredictability of winter storms at sea, ships mainly sailed in the summer. A few traveled in the spring and fall, but very few would risk sailing in the spring and fall, but very few would risk sailing in the winter, when storms were most frequent. Most ships clung to the coast noth so that they could quickly seek shelter and because there were no reliable means of navigating across the open sea. The tendency of ships to stay close to shore made them vulnerable to a different menace/pirates.
Just as bandits roamed the countryside, for the most of Roman history, pirates ruled the seas. The shore hugging nature of ancient sailing made it easy for greedy or desperate men to watch for such ships and, when they were sighted they would dash out to sea and seize them. They often killed the crew or sold them into slavery and stole the goods to be sold later. If pirates captured a wealthy or important person, they would hold him or her for ransom. In some coastal areas of the Mediterranean, piracy was a way of life. The most infamous area was along the coast of Asia Minor in a region called Cilica. Piracy was most rampant in periods when central authority was weakest. The Late Republic was one of the worse times, pirates gangs attained the power of small kingdoms.
No one was safe from them, as illustrated by the fact that when Julius Caesar was young he was captured by pirates who held him for ransom. However, he was insulted that his captors asked for only 20 talents of ransom when Caesar thought that he was worth at least 50. He told his captors that as a result of this offence, he would have them all crucified. As soon as his ransom was paid and he was released, he gathered together some ships and soldiers, tracked down the pirates, and as he said he would had them all crucified. Eventually piracy became so severe piracy became so severe that the Romans had to act. In 67 BCE, a special law called the Lex Gabinia was passed, giving the general Pompey the Great and extraordinary command. He was awarded absolute power over the entire Mediterranean Sea as well as along the coasts to a distance of 50 miles in land. He was given 20 legions and 270 ships, and he was ordered to solve the pirate problem. He divided the sea into 13 regions and set up blockades so that no one could pass from one region to another. He then began at one end of the Mediterranean and swept across it, capturing and destroying all the pirates strongholds on the coasts while driving the fleets ahead of him. Ian only three months, pompey succeeded in purging the Mediterranean of piracy. Piracy naturally came back, but after the establishment of Rome naval bases, it was never as much of a threat as it had been during the Late Republic.
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