Thursday, April 1, 2010

Propelled by teams of 170 oarsmen...

The Age of the Galley: Mediterranean Oared Vessels since Pre-classical Times. / Edited by Robert Gardiner. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1995. ISBN 155750024-X. 256 p., illustrations.

… galleys of Ancient Greeks were first pictured on pottery, coins and stone carvings. Oar-powered galleys were built as warships, merchantmen, or transports and plied the waters of the Mediterranean and other small seas from 3000 BC to the Middle Ages. Galleys are known by different names: pentecontors, biremes and triremes, indicating two and three levels of rowing oarsmen. In triremes, up to 170 oarsmen pushed and pulled their ship at a speed of 8 to 10 knots in short bursts called flights of half-days or more. These ships were long and narrow, would capsize in ocean waters and so in wars were best for maritime attack along coastlines. Conditions for oarsmen were severe: they were permitted about two quarts of water per day but were given no bathrooms aboard and very little space for air. Modern authors give us details of the battles collected from the ancient scripts of Homer and others. These were confirmed by the reconstruction and sailing of triremes like the OLYMPIAS, a joint project of the Hellenic Navy and the Trireme Trust of Britain in 1987.
See The Age of the Galley for the archaeology of galley ships, their design and architecture, and the human power that propelled the fleet of ancient navies.

More books from the Maritime Museum Library* on galleys and triremes:
The Athenian Trireme: the History and Reconstruction of an Ancient Greek Warship. / J.S. Morrison and J.F. Coates. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987. ISBN 0521311004. 266 p., illustrations, photographs and maps.

The Earliest Ships: The Evolution of Boats into Ships. / Edited by Robert Gardiner. Edison, N.J. : Chartwell Books, 2001, c1996 by Conway Maritime Press. 143 p., illustrations.

Oared Fighting Ships: From Classical Times to the Coming of Steam. R. C. Anderson. London, England: Percival Marshall, 1962. 102 p., illustrations and plates.

The Ancient Mariners. / Colin Thubron. New York, N.Y.: Time-Life Books, Inc., 1981. ISBN 0809427389. 176 p., illustrations, some in color.

* also available in public libraries.

Explanation of terms from the pages of The Age of the Galley:

Ancient Greeks = Minoans from the island of Crete who were explorers.
The Mediterranean = The Mediterranean Sea opening to the Atlantic Ocean on the western side and the Red Sea at the eastern extreme.
3000 BC to the Middle Ages = the period in history from about 5000 years ago to about 600 years ago.
pentecontors, biremes and triremes = long, narrow ships propelled by oars.
Homer and others = Greek Classical writers Herodotus and Thucydides.
reconstruction = a replica or exact copy of a historical ship.
OLYMPIAS = the reconstruction of a Greek trireme.
ancient navies = Egyptian, Cretan or Minoan, Phoenician.

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