CHAPTER II. CAESAR'S EARLY YEARS.
On the opposite side of Asia Minor, that is, on the southern shore, there was a wild and mountainous region called Cilicia. The great chain of mountains called Taurus approaches here very near to the sea, and the steep conformations of the land, which, in the interior, produce lofty ranges and summits, and dark valleys and ravines, form, along the line of the shore, capes and promontories, bounded by precipitous sides, and with deep bays and harbors between them. The people of Cilicia were accordingly half sailors, half mountaineers. They built swift galleys, and made excursions in great force over the Mediterranean Sea for conquest and plunder. They would capture single ships, and sometimes even whole fleets of merchantmen. They were even strong enough on many occasions to land and take possession of a harbor and a town, and hold it, often, for a considerable time, against all the efforts of the neighboring powers to dislodge them. In case, however, their enemies became at any time too strong for them, they would retreat to their harbors, which were so defended by the fortresses which guarded them, and by the desperate bravery of the garrisons, that the pursuers generally did not dare to attempt to force their way in; and if, in any case, a town or a port was taken, the indomitable savages would continue their retreat to the fastnesses of the mountains, where it was utterly useless to attempt to follow them.
[The Cilicians wanting in poets and historians.] [Robbers and pirates.]
But with all their prowess and skill as naval combatants, and their hardihood as mountaineers, the Cilicians lacked one thing which is very essential in every nation to an honorable military fame. They had no poets or historians of their own, so that the story of their deeds had to be told to posterity by their enemies. If they had been able to narrate their own exploits, they would have figured, perhaps, upon the page of history as a small but brave and efficient maritime power, pursuing for many years a glorious career of conquest, and acquiring imperishable renown by their enterprise and success. As it was, the Romans, their enemies, described their deeds and gave them their designation. They called them robbers and pirates; and robbers and pirates they must forever remain.
[Depredations of the Cilicians.]
And it is, in fact, very likely true that the Cilician commanders did not pursue their conquests and commit their depredations on the rights and the property of others in quite so systematic and methodical a manner as some other conquering states have done. They probably seized private property a little more unceremoniously than is customary; though all belligerent nations, even in these Christian ages of the world, feel at liberty to seize and confiscate private property when they find it afloat at sea, while, by a strange inconsistency, they respect it on the land. The Cilician pirates considered themselves at war with all mankind, and, whatever merchandise they found passing from port to port along the shores of the Mediterranean, they considered lawful spoil. They intercepted the corn which was going from Sicily to Rome, and filled their own granaries with it. They got rich merchandise from the ships of Alexandria, which brought, sometimes, gold, and gems, and costly fabrics from the East; and they obtained, often, large sums of money by seizing men of distinction and wealth, who were continually passing to and fro between Italy and Greece, and holding them for a ransom. They were particularly pleased to get possession in this way of Roman generals and officers of state, who were going out to take the command of armies, or who were returning from their provinces with the wealth which they had accumulated there.
[Expeditions sent against them.] [Boldness and courage of the Cilicians.]
Many expeditions were fitted out and many naval commanders were commissioned to sup press and subdue these common enemies of mankind, as the Romans called them. At one time, while a distinguished general, named Antonius, was in pursuit of them at the head of a fleet, a party of the pirates made a descent upon the Italian coast, south of Rome, at Nicenum, where the ancient patrimonial mansion of this very Antonius was situated, and took away several members of his family as captives, and so compelled him to ransom them by paying a very large sum of money. The pirates grew bolder and bolder in proportion to their success. They finally almost stopped all intercourse between Italy and Greece, neither the merchants daring to expose their merchandise, nor the passengers their persons to such dangers. They then approached nearer and nearer to Rome, and at last actually entered the Tiber, and surprised and carried off a Roman fleet which was anchored there. Caesar himself fell into the hands of these pirates at some time during the period of his wanderings.
[They capture Caesar.]
The pirates captured the ship in which he was sailing near Pharmacusa, a small island in the northeastern part of the Aegean Sea. He was not at this time in the destitute condition in which he had found himself on leaving Rome, but was traveling with attendants suitable to his rank, and in such a style and manner as at once made it evident to the pirates that he was a man of distinction. They accordingly held him for ransom, and, in the mean time, until he could take measures for raising the money, they kept him a prisoner on board the vessel which had captured him.
[Caesar's air of superiority.] [His ransom.]