Chapter I - Piratæ

Please note that this chapter may contain sexually explicit and violent images and text. If you strongly object to any of these images please contact the blog author at and the offending material can be removed. Equally please do not view this chapter if such material may offend.


'Pirates' - Young Marcus is a Roman citizen, and is on his way from Athens to Rome, via Brundisium.
Marcus Gaius Aelius, we subsequently find out, is considered, particularly by his strict and ambitious father, to be a 'bad boy'. Although he is a Roman citizen (but not yet come of age'), he hangs around the gymnasion in Athens, showing off his youthful, lithe physique, and consorting with other 'street boys' - who are, by and large, Greek. He is poor at his studies, and his Latin is spoken ungrammatically, and with a distinct Greek accent. His father, Gaius Agrippa Aelius, who is a minor Roman official, is deeply concerned for his only son, and is relieved when he is recalled to Rome, as he believes that this can provide a new - and truly Roman - start for the wayward boy. His relief is misplaced, however, as the ship on which they are sailing his attacked by Cilician pirates. The ship is captured, and the boy's mother and father are killed, along with most of the crew.

'Caresse sur l'océan
Porte l'oiseau si leger
Revenant des terres enneigées
Air éphémère de l'hiver
Au loin ton echo s'éloigne
Chateaux en Espagne
Vire au vent tournoie déploie tes ailes
Dans l'aube grise du levant
Trouve un chemin vers l'arc-en-ciel
Se découvrira le printemps..''

Touch the ocean gently,
Carry birds so light
Returning from places covered in snow
The fleeting air of winter.
Far away your echo is leaving
Castles in the air
Turn with the wind, swirl around, use your wings
In the grey dawn of the rising sun.
Find your way towards the rainbow
And Spring will unfold....

'It was daybreak - the sea was calm, with hardly a ripple.
The teenage boy was standing by the cargo ship's rail, looking expectantly and hopefully for the first sight of land, and watching the sea-birds circling high above.
For years afterwards - and for good reason - the sun on the sea represented to the boy the 'breath of freedom'......
Marcus was slim, and of moderate height, with reddish blond hair.
As you could probably guess from his name, he was a Roman boy, but his hair belied the fact.
Roman boys usually had their hair cut very short, but Marcus' hair was longer, and tended to curl.
His father was always ordering him to have it cut, and a slave would escort his young charge to the barbers - but then Marcus would run away, and the old slave would not be able to catch him
And the same thing was always happening when Marcus was escorted to school, but instead of attending to his lessons, Marcus would break free, and spend his time in the local gymnasion.
And there would always be hell to pay at home when Aelius, Marcus' stern, Roman father found out.
Gaius Agrippa Aelius 
Marcus Aelius
And at the Gymnasion, where Marcus spent his time with his teenage Athenian friends, when he should have been at school, Marcus quickly became fluent in the local 'street Greek', Koine, and eventually he even spoke Latin with a Greek accent.
But to get back to that crisp early morning on the boat taking Marcus to Brundisium as the sun rose ........
   the teenage boy who was standing by the cargo ship's rail had never been to sea before - in fact he had rarely seen the sea, except on a few occasions when his father took him to Piraeus on official business to meet a senator or legatus arriving from Brundisium.
Piraeus was the port of Athens, and Athens was the capital of the Roman province of Achaea (which we now call Greece).
Marcus couldn't remember waking and leaving his bunk - but there he was watching the sea-birds wheeling above, and looking expectantly out to the horizon.
What Marcus didn't know was that the danger when travelling by sea, even in the relatively settled time during the reign of the Emperor Nerō was the risk of encountering pirates.
Nerō Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus  (15 December 37 AD – 9 June 68 AD) was the Roman Emperor at the time that our story begins, and his subsequent fall from power has important ramifications for many of the events later in the story. Nerō was the last emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. He was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius, and became Claudius' heir and successor. Like Claudius, Nero became emperor with the consent of the Praetorian Guard. 


Cilician Pirates
'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.


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.
Pompey Magnus
Finally, after heated debate, Pompey was granted extraordinary powers to eliminate the Cilician pirates.
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus - (29 September 106 BC – 28 September 48 BC), usually known in English as Pompey the Great, was a military and political leader of the late Roman Republic. He came from a wealthy Italian provincial background, and his father had been the first to establish the family among the Roman nobility. Pompey's immense success as a general while still very young enabled him to advance directly to his first consulship without meeting the normal requirements for office. His success as a military commander in Sulla's Second Civil War resulted in Sulla bestowing the nickname Magnus, "the Great", upon him. He was consul three times and celebrated three triumphs.
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.
Pompey's Ships Defeat the Pirates
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, however, 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.

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.
Roman Athens
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.
Gaius, his wife and their teenage 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.
Roman Cargo Ship
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.
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.


'The Pirates Attack' - 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.
Gaius Aelius - Hung and Emasculated
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 brutally 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 Marcus' father, Gaius, from the rigging
In the Harbour at Crete
Still alive, and begging pathetically for mercy, the pirates, laughing and joking, threw the sexually mutilated and naked Roman into the sea.
With his wrists still tied, Gaius, despite his pointless struggling, 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 -
'young Marcus is taken from Crete to Brundisium in the extreme south of Italy - where he is sold to the slave dealer Arion. While Arion tries to discover just who Marcus really is, Marcus meets Terentius - an agent of one of the richest men in the Empire. A day later Arion gives a special showing of Marcus (naked) to his wealthiest clients, and the boy is sold to .. yes, you've guessed it... Terentius.. for an enormous sum of gold.
To begin 'The Story of Gracchus' follow the link below

Please note that this chapter contains sexually explicit and violent images and text. If you strongly object to any of these images please contact the blog author at and the offending material can be removed. Equally please do not view this chapter if such material may offend.

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