September 2017

     Sometimes, when teaching others about complex issues of the past, to give an accurate, well-rounded perspective, the good and the beautiful do not convey the right messages. That's when the worst in history, real artifacts, and evidence of disaster and crisiscan relay much more than a piece of art. A shipwreck's artifacts verify activity of one leader who ruled ocean and land during Rome's Late Republic and forever changed the course of history.  His name was Pompey.

     Ancient sunken artifacts show in 67BC, a cargo of plunder from Greece collapsed in upheaval. The event validates Pompey the Great's campaign against Cilician Pirates. His naval legion steered this craft asunder in an unrelenting mission to curb pirate looting, for the Roman Senate granted Pompey a proconsular power to govern Roman provinces within a fifty mile range of the Mediterranean. Though many did not see eye to eye with Pompey on political matters, his authority was accepted worldwide.

     Barely in his twenties, this invincible leader did conquer the bad, and probably other entities besides. Augustan chroniclers support the existence of Lex Gabinia, which gave Pompey unique legal powers across the Mediterranean, despite his lack of formal time in office. Indeed, the Antikythera island was a base port for Cilician pirates in first century BC. , a time during which Pompey led a war against naval violence that blocked vital imports, as grain, to Italy.  In Pompey's eyes, this was a very necessary war in order to defend his fellow Roman citizens. Americans seem to lead in discoveries about theancient Romans.

     In 1901, the discovery of a large Roman shipwreck yielded an ancient device, the Antikythera mechanism, and evidence that Pompey did take conflicts to battle at sea. Along with peace, the Romans also wanted the astronomical clock that configured planetary positions; it would become an important tenet of Republic and Imperial Roman culture, known as augury.

     Later, Simossi and a team of Americans led a discovery of this ancient Roman shipwreck lost off the Greek coast. In Seattle, 2013, Foley of Woods of the Hole Oceanographic Institution reported the discovery, and dated the vessel at 67 BC. This date leaves little doubt as to the leader's identity: the vessel had to be part of Pompey the Great's enormous fleet.

     Discoveries and Roman chronicles reveal the world as a violent dangerous place well before the Greeks and Romans made it safe. Those struggles began before the Pirate War. They entailed extensive regions, complex issues, and millions of men to ward off opponents.

     On the other hand, curriculum based around the roles of ancient gladiators or pirates do not necessarily communicate appropriate messages to young students, for the social status of these individuals was typically based on slavery, false allegations, and a very complex political system hinged upon inequality.  Why teach that?

     Better choices for curriculum based on ancient studies should include real archaeological evidence, such as ship-building, import products, and cultural dress.  A more recent example of abundant cultural finds is the renaissance wreck, the Portuguese ship Flor de la Mar, which relayed an intense age of exploration and colonization. Such examples reveal more than a wealth of beautiful artifacts and works of art, now housed at the Malacca Maritime Museum. They are testimonies to the historical routes of travel, culture, and economy.