Sunday, January 31, 2010

Plus ça change ...

The chairs were arranged in a semicircle, and when all his guests were seared, Pompey stood. He was, as I have said, no orator on a public platform. But on his own ground, among those whom he thought of as his lieutenants, he radiated power and authority. ... He began by giving the latest deatils of the pirate attack on Ostia: nineteen consular war triremes destroyed, a couple of hundred men killed, grain warehouses torched, two praetors - one of whom had been inspecting the granaries and the other the fleet - seized in their official tobes, along with their retinues and their symbolic rods and axes. A ransom demand for their release had arrived in Rome yesterday. "But for my part," said Pompey, "I do not believe we should negotiate with such people, as it will only encourage them in their criminal acts." (Everyone nodded in agreement.) The raid on Ostia, he continued, was a turning point in the history of Rome. This was not an isolated incident, but merely th most daring in a long line of such outrages ... . What Rome was facing was a threat very different from that posed by a conventional enemy. These pirates were were a new type of ruthless foe, with no government to represent them and no treaties to bind them. Their bases were not confined to a single state. They had no unified system of command. They were a worldwide pestilence, a parasite which needed to be stamped out, otherwise Rome - despite her overwhelming military superiority - would never again know security or peace.
- from Imperium by Robert Harris

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