Monday, October 28, 2013

Anicetus Ancient Pirate and Year of Four Emperors

Anicetus was the first recognized pirate in the Roman Empire around 69 AD although piracy had flourished in the Mediterranean earlier around 100 BC. He had been a slave freed under King Polemon II of Pontus and went on to command the Classis Pontica which was the Pontic Royal navy. He lost his command when the country was conquered and converted into a Roman province by Emperor Nero in 63 AD. 

The reclassified country was divided into three districts. Pontus Galaticus was in the west which bordered Galatia. Pontus Polemoniacus was in the center and contained the capital Polemonium. Pontus Cappadocicus was in the east and bordered Cappadocia.

Nero died in 68 and a civil war broke out for control. It was also known as the Year of the Four Emperors. Servius Sulpicius Galba was the governor of Hispania Tarraconesis and he was the first successor as Emperor Galba. He quickly became unpopular and was killed by the Praetorian guard which was bribed by Marcus Salvius Otho who soon became Emperor Otho. That was soon challenged by Aulus Vitellius who had been appointed governor of Germania Inferior by Galba just months earlier.

Vitellius was also commander of army of Germania Inferior and sent half its forces toward Italy. At this time Anicetus declared loyalty to Vitellius and led an attack on the city of Trapezus where the Roman fleet was docked. He helped destroy the fleet by setting the ships on fire. He also led an attack on the Roman forces at Colchis another city located on the eastern coast of the Black Sea. His efforts helped Vitellius become emperor after Otho committed suicide.

Anticetus sought refuge with the Iberian tribes and continued to be a disruptive force through piracy using a camarae. A camarae was a light weight double ended ship which could be rowed in either direction by 25 to 30 men. Yet the forces of Titus Flavius Vespasianus were quickly gaining power as he gained the supporters of Otho in addition to being declared Emperor first by Egypt and then by Syria. The Roman fleet was rebuilt and was in pursuit of Anticetus.

The forces of Vespasian put down the revolt under the leadership of Virdius Geminus. With a fleet of Liburnian ships they had pursued and overtook Anticetus at the mouth of the Cohibus River. His alliance with the tribesmen quickly dissolved as they turned him over to the Romans who executed him. Vitellius was negotiating his resignation but ended up being killed by Vespasian's troops. The reign of Vitellius had been short but cruel with torture and executions. He was beheaded, his body thown in the Tiber River and his head was paraded around Rome. Vespasian became the fourth emperor of the year 69 AD and he ruled until 79 AD.

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