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The Treasury was strained by its regular expenditures on the military and on hospitals, among a number of other commitments that the Senate was forced to uphold to maintain its public image. As a result, the Treasury was nearly empty and only a few public works projects could be enacted at any given time. Antonius had focused his efforts on a military academy and various monuments for propaganda in the face of growing fears of Germanic invaders but Scipio would devote available funds during his reign to the Mediterranean. Piracy was reaching a high point as the navy had languished and trade had continued to become concentrated in ports.

Scipio had a love for the sea and was acutely aware of the worsening crisis, feeling compelled to strengthen the grip of Rome on its internal sea while bolstering maritime trade to finance these endeavors.

For his work, Scipio earned the title Princeps Nautici Emperor of the Sea , a name that would be long remembered through the indelible mark he left on the Classis Romanis Roman Fleet. Receiving news of his father's death during his governing of Africa Proconsularis , Scipio was forced to end his term early and go to Rome for recognition by the Senate as princeps civitatis. His time in Carthage likely inspired him to renew the city, after it had failed to recover from a serious epidemic in the 3rd century, and emphasized the seriousness of the pirate threat to Mediterranean merchants, about which senators in Rome knew even though the issue was not salient enough to motivate a response.

Once he had a position of power, Scipio took measures to secure and expand Carthage in light of this threat.

He believed that if firm naval outposts were present at strategic points along the internal coastline , the navy could more easily combat piracy and stabilize the sea. At this time, Carthage had seen better days.


Although its military academy prospered, it took the brunt of most African plagues and its shipyards had fallen into disuse since their heyday under its former empire. Scipio resolved to return the city to its former glory. The hope was that naval battles would take place far from Carthage, once other naval defenses were established throughout the rest of sea, but these war docks were still designed to resupply ships between battles.

In practice, the docks primary purpose was as a storage site for warships, with enough space to hold and service well over galleys at any given time. A shipyard of ten drydocks was built a half a kilometer west of the ports. Some of the most adept shipwrights in the empire were brought by the emperor to work in this shipyard, concentrating production skills in one location. Scipio's efforts set a precedent for future emperors and the Senate, who would continue to bring expert shipwrights to this region.

The drydocks were arranged back to back in two columns of five. Resting on artificial stone supports, the shipyard stuck out from the edge of Carthage like a precarious cliff - in the form of a m by m peninsula emerging from the land. The Grand Harbor itself stretched out from within the coastline of the city. As its focus was a 1.

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At the center of this ring was the imperitus umbilicus , a control center for all of the port's activities. Every captain docking his ship in Carthage had to procure the equivalent of a parking permit before he could enter the city for his business. Stretching 3 km from this ring were the major docks, intended for larger vessels. The walls that enclosed this artificial lake of sorts rose 50 meters above sea level and were 23 meters thick near the base. Even the docks of Alexandria paled in comparison to the Magnus Portus Carthagorum.

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The former were immediately visible to any ships approaching the harbor, intimidating pirates and comforting honest merchants. Of course, the presence of the nearby military docks made these defenses seem superfluous, but they city were a comfort for a city still reeling after being sacked by pirates.

With both safeguards, even the largest navy in the world would have trouble penetrating into the Grand Harbor to attack Carthage. All of these ports were only a prelude to the vision that Scipio had for the maritime commerce of the Roman community. His greatest project was a focal point for traders sailing in the Mediterranean.

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Only moderate resistance was met under this incentive. The majority of these citizens would sell their temporary residences to return to their homeland once the state finished improving the island. The prominences of land that form the natural harbor point toward one central 3 km long prominence, where most of the infrastructure for the seaport would be located. Such numbers are an order of magnitude larger than other contemporary harbors. Similarly, merchants would come to Melita to buy goods for transport elsewhere. Revenue was only impressive due to the sheer volume of trade, as nothing except grain and water could enter the island except by their services.

A mercantile chokepoint of this sort had no precedent anywhere else in the empire. Scipio intended to gain several benefits by using this system:.

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  • Traveling by sea carried a host of risks such as piracy and storms. Every additional mile of a journey added to this risk, namely a personal and financial risk in the case of merchants. Even if the vessel survived the trip there was always the chance that there would be no buyer or an agreed buyer would break his deal. Knowing that there was a guaranteed buyer in Melita i. When a merchant once had to travel from Tyrus to Valentia, he could now choose to risk only half that distance by selling his cargo in Melita and getting a predictable price for his efforts the Senate advertised their prices in ports around the empire.

    For this reason, the profits gained from these warehouses represented payment for handling an investment and reducing its risk while such terms would be foreign to Ancient Romans, this accurately describes what they were doing here. The rest would be sold in the markets of the islands.


    Outdoor markets were spread throughout the seaport but these only distributed a fraction of what goods came to the islands. This marketplace was a multi-tiered building with hundreds of shops operating from within its halls i. From the viewpoint of demographics, Melita was an oddity. This state of affairs would mellow down over time as the wealth given to the populace deteriorated and people emigrated. The year is when Melita entered a more regular period of growth, with major construction on the port and markets being finished.

    Such a large population living on a dry island created a bizarre situation. Filling this cistern required an entirely new market to arise, one dedicated to bottling water into jars before shipment to Melita. When full, the cistern could sustain the island for over a month, with adequate measures for restricting water consumption. They would transport jugs of water from Italy and North Africa, fulfilling the water needs for the entire island. The way liburnian ships were integrated into the postal service was simple. A letter could be handed over from one zone to another until it reached its destination.

    As a supplement to this method, packages and letters destined for a city outside a zone would be transported to its designated port town, including the settlements of Carthage, Ostia, Byzantium, Athens, Tyrus, and Alexandria for specific regions. Mail would accumulate in the interval before being loaded for transport to its intended destination.

    This service was notoriously late in the months of fall.

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    Since there was never enough mail to fill one liburna, merchants would often rent space to transport their goods. To supply such a response, the empire would dip into its reserves on Melita, cutting into its profits there in order to lessen the impact of a famine. Although civil engineering is always expensive for a pre-industrial civilization, Rome was wealthy enough to afford an expansion of its military on top of the construction and public services although this would ensure that the treasury remained empty.

    Lately, the navy had fallen into disrepair, with less than a hundred ships in various states of decay. The weakness of the Roman fleets had left the empire vulnerable to rampant piracy and over his reign, Scipio made every attempt to combat this threat to Rome. These procuratores were of equestrian rank and reported directly to the emperor. The Mare Britannicus was patrolled by the Britannic Fleet. For fighting piracy, this high fleet usually had about 14 liburnae and for moving soldiers between the island provinces, it had anywhere from 20 to heavy transports over the years.

    Overall, the various fleets were not designed with emergencies in mind.

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