In the word rostrum we commemorate an event in Roman history dating back to 338 B.C.
It happened off the coast of Antium, a spot of Italy that will again be long remembered under its present historic name, Anzio.
The inhabitants of the region in those days had long been guilty of acts of piracy against Roman traders and of direct acts of aggression against the Roman people.
It was determined, therefore to suppress them conclusively, and the consul, Maenius, was sent against them. He was wholly victorious, and brought back with him to Rome the bronze prows or beaks of six of the ships that he captured.
These prows were attached to a platform, previously erected in the Forum, which was used by orators. That platform then became known as rostra, or “the beaks.”
The singular, rostrum, has become preferred in English use, although the plural, rostra, is historically correct.