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Piracy in the Ancient Mediterranean and the Notorious Cilicians

Thursday, January 5, 2017 8:13
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Piracy in the Ancient Mediterranean and the Notorious Cilicians

Piracy (in its maritime context) is thought to have existed ever since the seas were used by merchants as trade routes. The Mediterranean Sea was no exception, and piracy has been notorious in this region since ancient times. Tales of pirates in the Mediterranean were recorded by the ancient Romans (the most famous incident being the kidnapping of Julius Caesar by the pirates of Cilicia), the ancient Greeks, and the ancient Egyptians.

Pirates in Egypt

The earliest known reference to piracy in the ancient Mediterranean is said to be found in the Amarna Letters. In one of these documents, numbered as EA38, the King of Alashiya (known as Cyprus today) mentions that the Lukki (possibly the Sea People of the Lukka) “year by year; seize villages in my own country” in response to the accusation by the Egyptian Pharaoh that men from his country were in league with the pirates.

The problem of pirates is also visible during the reign of later Egyptian pharaohs. Ramesses III, for example, is known to have battled these pirates, who are known also as the Sea Peoples, or the Nine Bows, as the ancient Egyptians called them. The pirates’ raids on the Nile Delta were so severe that Ramesses decided to do something about it. An account of this battle, which was fought in 1190 BC, can be found depicted and described on the wall of Medinet Habu, the mortuary temple of the pharaoh at Thebes. The battle, which involved the use of archers and hand-to-hand combat, saw the Sea Peoples defeated by the Egyptian forces.

Section: – Reconstructing the story of humanity’s past


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