Ancient pirates of Antikythera

A nest of ancient pirates who apparently preyed on Mediterranean shipping for nearly 300 years has emerged during excavations this summer on a remote island off the southeastern tip of the Peloponnese. According to a Culture Ministry announcement yesterday, archaeologists digging at the ancient city of Antikythera since 2000 have located sanctuaries, a large public building and a wealth of missiles – spear and arrow heads, slingshots and large catapult stones – in the settlement identified as the city of Aegila mentioned in ancient sources. Antikythera controlled the strait between Kythera and western Crete, a crucial passage for shipping. The site, occupied from the mid-fourth to the mid-first centuries BC, is surrounded by a strong, double enceinte of walls that today reach a maximum height of 5 meters. «Excavators believe the city may have been a nest of pirates, at a time when piracy was quasi-legitimate,» the ministry said. Archaeologists also located a large boat shed «which protected the constantly war-ready pirate ships.»

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