The proud Roman general stood with his commanders and retinue as the wild hillsmen, dressed in the ragged but still-flamboyant clothes of corsairs, fell before him in turn, begging for clemency. It was about 75 B.C. in the rugged hills near Coracesium in Cilicia, an untamed region along the coast of southwestern Asia Minor, and the Cilician pirates, possibly the most successful race of brigands the world has ever seen, were surrendering to the Roman general Pompey.
Pompeius Magnus, as he was afterwards styled, would go on to conquer the Levant and to challenge Julius Caesar for supremacy over the fledgling Roman Empire, but his lightning-swift campaign against the Cilician pirates was perhaps his finest moment. The pirates, taking advantage of Roman naval weakness during a span of decades that saw Rome wracked by civil war, had controlled much of the Mediterranean, as far west as the Balearic Islands.*
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