The Bronze Age Ancestry Of Ancient Sailing Vessels
Peter Connolly, 8 May 1935–2 May 2012.
Before I begin this article I would like to make the following statement:
For any of you who follow my articles on a regular basis you may very well appreciate the work of Peter Connolly that I so admiring reproduce.
It grieves me to learn and it is with deep sadness and regret that I announce the untimely passing of Peter Connolly after a long illness, this most inspirational of individuals to me.
For myself and those countless others who have endlessly enjoyed his work for decades and who no doubt will enjoy his body of work for many more years to come, I now say farewell and salute you.
Peter Connolly mesmerised me as a young boy with his scrupulous attention to detail and accuracy and enthralling and brilliant illustrations artwork which brought the past to life so vividly, for one, I know that if it wasn’t for his body of work I would probably be much the poorer inspirationally and historically for the lack of it, I am forever indebted to his lifelong pursuit of bringing the past to life.
The gratitude and thanks I wish to convey is tempered only by the sadness of his passing but also in the knowledge that his influence and dedication and his remarkable gift will be felt for many years to come.
I have no doubt that his work will inspire a new generation to take up the challenge and endeavour to shake the pillars and shatter the boundaries of our understanding of the ancient past and in so doing further and broaden our appreciation of what in life so inspired Peter Connolly.
Peter Connolly, illustrator, author, historian, scholar and experimental .archaeologist was born on May 8, 1935. He died on May 2, 2012 aged 76.
As of learning this sad news I am now dedicating this Article to Peter Connolly’s memory.
COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF SAILING VESSELS FROM THE BRONZE AGE TO LATE ROMAN ERA VESSELS AND BEYOND.
THE SHIPS OF THE SEA PEOPLES — A POSSIBLE DESCEDANT.
In this entry I hope to show that there may be a highly plausible and obvious connection with the representation of the Proto-Geometric Ships illustrated on the Heraklion Vase to those represented on the Medinet Habu Friezes of the Sea Peoples Ships and Mycenaean galleys. I will also extensively cover the later periods of maritime History in Antiquity such as Greece, Rome and Carthage and beyond to set a more balance view of the similarities and differences these Maritime Super Powers held.
Whilst not all together conclusive, as such, as material of this nature can never really fully answer all the questions, it may take us down avenues not previously considered having had a connection to known ship designs.
I will take us on a journey from the Bronze Age Grecian Galleys to those of the Late Roman Empire to give you a broad and hopefully better understanding as to what I believe to be the Ancestral tree of Ship evolution in the Mediterranean stemming all the way back to the Bronze Age Aegean and Levantine Ship Building traditions.
We cannot overlook or dismiss the obvious just because the ‘criteria’ for what comprises a ship of the Sea Peoples does not match the only known examples from Egypt.
Bronze Age ships come in several but distinct styles, obvious to all whom have studied Bronze Age Maritime Vessels of the Mediterranean.
The question as to whether trade vessels doubled in times of conflict as war ships and that these ships were built with a dual purpose in mind is a question which I think bears a great deal of importance to our understanding of how ships designs were meant to function during Mediterranean Bronze age seafaring commerce and conflicts.
When we look at Egyptian fighting vessels and compare them with known Minoan, Mycenaean and Levantine examples we get a clear understanding and recognition as to how each of these cultures designed their ships along their very own and distinct ‘form follows function’ criteria.
It may raise the possibility that although the designs shown on the Heraklion vase are some several hundred years after the completion of the Medinet Habu friezes and fall of what we would term the Bronze Age, what we may be seeing is a descendent or family of designs not previously associated with the bronze age still in use some time well after the collapse of what we now would term the Bronze age Aegean world.
This does raise the question as to why we see in no other examples relating to the Sea Peoples any other representation of their ships other than at Medinet Habu. Those unique designs which are represented in the Naval Battle at Medinet Habu show obvious characteristics with Aegean designs but also show to some extent similarities with Levantine vessels of the same period.
What can be said here for sure is that we do not have a complete picture as to all the designs used by these cultures therefore cannot rule out that when examples as seen in the Heraklion Vase are studied we are not actually looking at another member of that family of vessels still surviving down to the proto-geometric period.
A parallel to this which I think will serve well in describing the reasoning behind this particular topic is the Greek Corinthian and Illyrian (what I would more accurately term Peloponnesian KEGEL) helmets, and the diverse variety which have been and are still being unearthed from as far as Italy to Greece, we see example after example bearing the same basic designs but with regional variations some of the earlier example show crude manufacture leading to later and more refined and ornate designs.
The same I think can be said of maritime Bronze Age vessels, we know from Mycenaean sources the large array of ship designs present and how those designs influenced the later Geometric, Homeric and classical designs of Ancient Greece.
Could the Heraklion Vase representations too also show another previously unknown or rarer design, maybe not as widely represented but still present as a design owing some of its characteristics to late Bronze Age vessels of which the examples at Medinet Habu are indicative.
THE HERAKLEION VASE SHIPS.
Now that I feel that I have explained why the Heraklion vase designs bears closer scrutiny I will attempt to show through the aid of constructional artwork the possible structural configuration of these ships and their similarity to those shown at Medinet Habu.
Heraklion Ship — Design №1. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987.).
Heraklion Ship — Design №2. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987.).
A detailed reconstruction of the Heraklion Ships. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987.).
THE HERAKLION VASE SHIPS — PLAUSABLE RECONSTRUCTIONS.
The following illustration of mine depicts a simple side profile and possible appearence of the Herakleion Vase Vessels.
A plausable reconstruction of mine based on the above illustration taken from the Heraklion Vase №1.
A plausable reconstruction of mine based upon the first illustration taken from the Heraklion Vase.
Another one of my Plausable reconstructions based upon the first illustration taken from the Heraklion Vase wit a more Mycenaean appearence to it..
THE SEA PEOPLES SHIPS — ANOTHER PLAUSABLE RECONSTRUCTION.
A plausable and more refined reconstruction of yet another possible appearence of one of the Sea Peoples Ships as depicted in the Naval Battle Frieze at Medinet Habu, Egypt.
CONCLUSION OF COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF THE HERAKLION SHIPS DESIGN.
As you can observe from the re-constructions I have attempted to be as accurate and faithful to known Bronze Age ship building techniques as I possibly could.
These two designs differ only by small degrees of variation and are by no means an attempt by me to “harmonise” these designs for my own benefit. Of course those of the Proto-Geometric period will differ from say those Mycenaean Galleys of the time of Jason of Iolkos and the Trojan War. All ships evolve with time even if certain designs Pieter out to give way to only a few vessels with all the incorporated wisdom of centuries past applied to them.
This should be obvious to anyone who has studies Aegean and Levantine Ships designs from the Bronze Age to Later Antiquity. For all we know the Heraklion Vase Ships may be commemorating vessels from as far afield as the southern Coast of Asia Minor and might not be Aegean at all. We may on the other hand be seeing a vessel commemorating the far flung Bronze Age colonies established by the Minoans and the Mycenaeans from as far afield as the Western Mediterranean or the coasts of Cilicia, Egypt and the Levant.
We can of course never know for sure but we can follow as far as the evidence will allow and then make an informed and educated deduction based on the next logical step.
There may be some areas of the ships designs that might open to speculation but in general so little hard evidence remains that hopefully even by using sound nautical sense to reconstruct these vessels a degree of inaccuracy is bound to creep in but I strongly believe that what I have re-constructed here is well within the bounds of common sense and reason and will help serve as a guide to understanding the “3F” statement of “Form Follows Function” I adhere to and follow when starting on my reconstructions.
AN ANCIENT EGYPTIAN SHIP-REVISITED — A DIGITAL RECONSTRUCTION OF THE MIN DESIGN.
I have decided to include at this point another reconstruction of an Egyptian galley similar to Min, from my previous post on the subject. This is a very well put together digital reconstruction of a similar vessel, though not as large or hefty as min but lighter and in many ways just as interesting to note as Min. I’ve given a digital model with Min comparison to give you an idea of what lighter versions may have looked like, with their shallower freeboard and draft and smaller compliment of rowers and crewmen.
I have done this for the benefit of the reader because I believe that though we see the more hard-core military vessels of the Pharaoh engaging the ships of the Sea Peoples in the great naval battle depicted at Medinet Habu I cannot help but think that other similar types such as Min and the lighter digital version were also present to a degree. It is always best to keep an open mind on what other possible vessels were used and not to be easily swayed by the constant attempt to show only one type of Egyptian vessels and call it at that.
I am including this variety, to a limited extent, to show us that there are other designs we should not forget and are worth mentioning, and that to represent as many different types or similar models can only help us increase our understanding and exposure more to each of the different design philosophies adopted by the different cultures of the Bronze Age and later Mediterranean world.
Across the world, and in no exception the Mediterranean, cultures borrow from each other and always have. It is the nature of cross-cultural exchange and trade, this fertilisation of different ideas and techniques and adoptions of methods from Arms and Armour to ship design to Religious and philosophical ideas that has always been at the heart of all known great civilizations. They borrow one idea of doing something, whether from Arms and armour or ship building and turn it into their own way and in so doing create something new but familiar and in so doing add to the next stage in a ships ancestry or a helmets evolution.
Digital reconstruction, rear-to-stern-port side view №1.
Min, rear-to-stern-port side view №1.
Digital reconstruction, front-to-bow-starboard side view №1.
Min, front port side view №2.
Digital reconstruction — stern-to-rear-starboard side view №2.
Min, stern-to–rear-starboard side view №2.
Digital reconstruction, starboard side view №3.
Min, port side view №3.
Digital reconstruction front-bow-to-port side view №1.
Digital reconstruction -stern-to- rear-port side view №1.
Digital reconstruction, view №1., bow-to-stern.
Min, bow-to-starboard view №1., Min under construction in dry dock.
Digital reconstruction, view №4., bow-to-stern Starboard side.
Min, Starboard side view №3. Min in pre-rigging phase fully afloat.
Digital reconstruction — stern-to-rear-starboard side view №3.
THE ARGO RECONSTRUCTED — THE ARGO PROJECT FROM GREECE.
I cannot start this chapter without the most pivotal design reconstruction to date regarding Bronze Age Aegean sailing vessels. The Team responsible for the following vessel have in my opinion outdone themselves in all aspects of ancient ship building in their modern reconstruction of an Ancient and Pre-historic fighting ship from the Aegean Around the time commonly purported to have been when Mycenaeans started their actual penetration into the Black Sea and into immortality.
Name after the Argo of Jason and the Golden Fleece fame this 93 ft long vessel has taken our understanding of the kind of technology available to the Mycaeneans at that time up a quantum level.
Before such a design, whether trading or fighting vessel, the opposing currents and perpetual northerlies that blasted ceaselessly down from the Bosphorus, all the way to the strategic opening to the Aegean Sea of the Dardanelles, gave the smaller vessels of the time a serious barrier to contend with.
It is not to say that such a journey was indeed not possible but mercantile trade was limited and in some cases off limits due to the limited period of good weather available each sailing season to actually penetrated into the Black Sea region.
We must also not forget that the Peoples that lived all along this coastline from what we now consider to be the Troy of Legend all the way to the land of Colchis were in possession of that much sort after commodity in the Bronze Age seafarer’s vocabulary, a safe anchorage.
Safe harbours and fresh water and provisions, from which no real trading vessel can hope to ply their trade further afield without, abounded in the Bronze Age and this, just as much as un-favourable weather conditions and hostile peoples, could do more to scupper an enterprise than anything else.
It is interesting that the modern Argo reconstruction addresses the need for a vessel powerful enough to overcome the sea and weather conditions capable of penetrating the Black Sea region and provide a sizable force of men capable of defending their precious cargo from marauding piratical attacks and hostile settlements.
Such a vessel as the legendary Argo may be an echo of the actual accounts handed down to us by Apollonius of Rhodus of a Mycaenean Royal expedition to further extend and secure exclusive rights to trade rights and ties and along with military alliance agreements with the then ruling and most powerful Kingdom in the Black Sea — the Colchians themselves.
I will interject here to give some of my thoughts on this legendary voyage and why I believe it actually took place, the Supernatural and divine shroud aside.
There is in my opinion no reason for the events of the voyage to retrieve the “Golden Fleece” to be a fantasy based on a flying Golden ram which bore the ancestors of Jason of Iolkos to such a far flung land. If the Golden Ram or Fleece was in fact a Totem of Royal recognition and kinship, a gift of respect and understanding to help bind two Kingdoms in prosperity, by not only opening up the Black Sea to the Mycenaeans but the Aegean and Beyond to the Colchians as well.
The attempt by Jason to secure the return of whom he considered to be his relatives is a theme common in many examples throughout Homer’s epic the Iliad. So this is not as uncommon an event as it may first appear to be.
So this expedition, though predating the events of the Iliad by a generation or so are not flights of fancies as we may be led to believe by those who care not to see the truth behind the real events that took place.
When looked at through the lens of cultural exchange and mutually derived benefits, a process that has been going on unabated across the Mediterranean as long as recorded history and before, events such as this must have occurred with the Black Sea too.
It is perfectly reasonable to consider that Mycaenean vessels similar if not comparable to the Argo reconstruction made several successful expeditions to the Colchian region before sustainable contact was achieved. Though wonderfully written and a fantastic journey full of mythical creatures and races and not least the divine aspect, this facet of the Legend, in my opinion, has marred the truth that may lay behind it all, though this may be even more stranger than any mythical tinkering that went on for whatever the real reasons where.
In the following section I have given a blow by blow account of the building of this stunning vessel and its maiden voyage with all the necessary commentary on its structure, building and sailing to let the reader become fully aware of what is truly a stunning piece of Experimental Archaeological for the benefit of the reader, to give us some appreciation as to what may actually have gone on in a Mycenaean Ship Builder’s ship yard, and hopefully give us a remarkable insight into a vessel and ship building craft not witnessed for more than 3000 years.
Included as further to the 2008 Argo Reconstruction are related areas of worthy inclusion which I feel should not go unrecognised.
This includes an extensive accounting of Geometric period Greek Galleys, classical Greek, Hellenistic Phoenician, Carthaginian, Roman and Viking fighting vessels all with the express intention of highlighting what can only be deemed as worthwhile and fascinating inclusive material, and although in many respects they fall outside of the remit of my work I feel they deserve a detailed mentioning as they too are the inheritors of that age old Bronze Age tradition of ship building now consigned to the pages of history.
ORIGINS — THE 2008 ARGO — SCALE MODEL.
The Argo Model, port side view. (From naftotopos.gr).
The Argo Model, stern-to port side. (From naftotopos.gr).
The Argo Model, front-to-port side view. (From naftotopos.gr).
The Argo Model, Another more elevated front-to-port side view. Illustrating the clean lines of the ship. (From naftotopos.gr).
The Argo Model, A lovely bow view, slightly a port, with a great view of the Argo’s sleek open-hull configuration and slender lines. (From naftotopos.gr).
The Ago Model, An excellent stern view of the Argo’s entire hull length and vantage point. (From naftotopos.gr).
The Argo Model, Another stern view of the Argo’s hull slightly elevated to port side. (From naftotopos.gr).
The Argo Model, A nice almost head-on view of the Argo Model in its completed form. (From naftotopos.gr).
The Argo Model, A close-up of the Argo’s gunwale screening and steering oar configuration. (From naftotopos.gr).
The Argo Model, A detailed close-up of the method to be used for securing the rear gunwale screening. (From naftotopos.gr).
The Argo Model, An excellent in-detail shot of the front-to-port side view of the bow section of the Argo. (From naftotopos.gr).
The Argo Model, Another excellent view of the Argo’s bow section this time from an above point of view reference showing the open hull design to full effect. (From naftotopos.gr).
The Argo Model, An excellent stern view of the Argo Model this time with a figure to scale and the open-hull configuration shown off to full effect in this early stage of the models’ construction. (From naftotopos.gr).
The Argo Model, A rear elevated view from port side a stern showing off the Argo’s internal open-hull design completed along with the mast step and gunwale screen and gangway in place. (From naftotopos.gr).
THE ARGO RECONSTRUCTED — THE BUILDING OF THE ARGO AND ANALYSIS OF THE DESIGN.
A STAGE-BY-STAGE ACCOUNT OF THE ARGO’S CONSTRUCTION.
The Model of the Argo showing the configuration and final appearance of the Argo’s bow-to keel design. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
An excellent view of the Argo model, and partially completed full-scale replica of the Argo side by side, during the final construction phase.
Close-up of the Argo Model’s gunwale and its fence screen configuration. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Members of the Argo Project discuss the finer points of the ship’s deign. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
It all started with nothing more than tree trunks. Roughly hewed tree trunks give all but the faintest hint of the ship that was to rise.
View of both the Argo model and full scale replica at the beginning stage of the ship’s construction. This shows the skeleton that would comprise the bow-keel-stern of the ship.
The bow section with the beam that comprises the keel now smoothed and bow with bow-strut beginning to take shape. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The bow section with the beam that comprises the keel now smoothed and bow with bow-strut beginning to take shape. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Hard to believe that from such a simple beginning you can sail to the ends of the earth. An excellent near-head-on view of the Argo’s initial frame construction, from here on a ship to take you to “The Ends of The World” would be constructed.
A top side bow view of the Argo’s frame starts to take shape, while sections of the hull planking fitted with tenon tongues (left of ship’s frame) begin to take shape. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The stern section begins to take shape as it is fixed into shape by spraying with water to soften the wood and stressed into the required shape with rigging and framing.
A close-up of the ship builders fixing tenon tongues to the first sections of the hull planking that will eventually be fixed to the keel section. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The keel begins to take shape as ship builders prepare the first keel planking units. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Chiselling out of a mortise hole for the tenon tongue/peg. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Glue applied to the mortise hole as the tenon tongue/peg is hammered home, the process is repeated throughout the ship’s hull planking. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The first sections of the hull planking are secured to the keel section, ready to start building on to form the hull. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
A locking peg used to secure sections of hull planking to the keel. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
A close-up of the Hull begins to take shape; the process repeated creates the hull, the struts keeping the hull shape whilst the mortise-tenon Joints, glued and fixed by the locking pins, dry. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Another view showing the hull coming together as the sections of hull planking with the locking pins still protruding, these will eventually be sawn off and smoothed down to give a seamless finish to the hull’s surface and a watertight seal to the mortise and tenon joints. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
A 3-Dimensional graphical representation of the mortise-tenon joint used to fix hull planking together and locked in place with the locking pins or Dowels. (WikiPedia).
The hull begins to take shape. The construction method is now more clearly appreciated now that the first few sections of hull planking have been attached to the keel and then to one another. The tenons are clearly visible in this shot. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
A yet to be finished hull plank is lowered into place for a test fitting where it will be finally inserted upon completion. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
A close-up of the previous image showing the same rough-hewed plank being lowered into test position and what will eventually be its final position in the hull. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
A fully finished and completed section of bow-hull-planking ready to be fixed into place, its mortise holes ready to receive the previous hull-plank’s tenon joints. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
An excellent view illustrating how the planking’s mortise-tenon Joints slot together to form the ship’s hull. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
A Close-up of initial contact between mortise hole and tenon tongue/peg. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The mortise and tenon joint slowly close together. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The next section of the hull’s planking being prepared for eventual mating with the ship’s hull. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The same piece of hull planking now with mortise holes visible, being raised to join the clearly visible tenons. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
A much clearer view of the actual size and spacing of both the mortise holes and tenon pegs, with already inserted locking pegs holding the previous hull planks together just visible in the lower section of the photo. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The mortise and tenon Joints being prepared to be connected to the previous run of hull planking. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Now that all joints are fully aligned and connected to each other the hull is then ready to receive the next section of planking, the mating of the two sections can then commence. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Mating of the two sections of the hull commences. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The two sections slowly begin to come together. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The Joints now fully engaged start to close the section of the hull together, forming a new section of the hull. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Sections now almost fully locked together formed perfectly by the skill of the ship builders. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Another view of the next section of hull planking with mortise holes ready to be united with the tenon pins of the lower hull. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The previous pictures planking being lowered into place with an excellent view of the keel and tenon pins and locking pins still in place forming the lower hull. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Fitting perfectly together, the sections of planking slot to form the next level of the hull. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The seam along this section of hull fits perfectly into place showing the intricate dove tailing of major sections of the ship’s hull. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
A unique view from eye-level with the stern along the entire Length of the Argo’s ever expanding hull. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The Argo’s Ship Builder Nick Reppos test fits a near complete section of planking that will finally make up the front section of the bow. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The Argo’s Ship Builder Nick Reppos makes some final adjustments before the completion stage that will mate this upper section of the bow to the bow’s vertical front beam or stem. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Another but much lighter section of finished hull planking is manually lowered into place by members of the Argo’s construction team, this section being fitted forming the upper hull planking close to the Argo’s soon to be gunwale. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
A Plane adds the finishing touches to the planking from the previous photo for the bow section. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Another scene, here the Argos’ plainer as he adds the finishing touches to the bow planking of the previous images, clearly showing the curvature of the section of the bow it is to be placed at, noteworthy is the almost complete Argo. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Members of the Argo’s construction team lift into place the finished section previously worked on by the plainer. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
In this repeated image, and the one below, you can clearly get an impression of the size of the Argo and an idea of what kind of designs would have been sailing the Aegean and Mediterranean some 3,500 years ago. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
This frontal view of the Argo clearly shows off its sleek lines, and once more reminding us that Argo’s name means “Swift one”, a design clearly built to be big enough and powerful enough, sleek and streamlined to be able to take on the strong currents of the Bosphorus, something that would have hindered trade expansion to the smaller class of vessel of which the Argo was clearly intended to be their successor.
An inside view of the same section of planking for the bow section, giving us another clear view of the mortise-tenon joints used throughout the ships’ construction. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The same section, viewed from the bow platform, now being aligned for mating with the tenon tongues/pegs. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Now the slotting together can begin as the section is lowered down into place. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Now positioning is complete the two sections come together. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The ship builders’ experience is everything as the two sections come seamlessly together. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The section is slowly lowered and force is exerted downwards to slot and lock the two sections seamlessly. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Closing together the section takes form but also any weaknesses previously undetected at this point could spell disaster and the process of removal and starting again with a new section is all too possible. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The two sections slowly come together in a perfect fit and masterful skill of the Ship Builder. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Contact! — The successful mating of another section of the ships’ hull completed. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
A Head on view of the bow section almost completed, here a member of the Argo’s construction team makes final adjustments prior to final mating of this section of planking to the bow. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
A repeat of the previous image now showing just how smoothly the new section of the bow now fits into its final position in the bow section, note the protruding sections of the locking pins on the lower section of the bow have been cut down and smoothed whilst those in the upper section port side are still to be completed. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
A unique close up of the lower bow section of the Argo clearly showing the position of the locking pins along the keel section, noteworthy is the ‘Ram’ or rostra section, not so much a ram as a beaching prow used to prevent the ship from sliding into a steep inclined beach head rather than contacting and pushing the ship up and over the surface of the beach’s incline. If you look closely you can see the locking pins along the top half section of the prow used to hold in place the reinforcement section cut into its front, obviously a design aspect used to reinforce a potential weak spot in the ships design, one which could have serious consequences for the ship’s hull integrity.
Section of the Ships’ stern being lowered into place, the hull’s lower and upper level decking supports add a further layer of structural integrity to the ship’s hull as well as the top level providing seating for the rowers whilst the lower level of decking provides the rowers with purchase for their feet and leverage for rowing and adding a secondary layer of structural integrity further reinforcing the upper decking planks where the rowers are seated. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The same piece of hull planking being lowered into place before finally being slotted together, note the tenon tongues/pegs along the seam. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The same piece of rear hull planking now firmly mated together with the main section of the rear hull. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The final section of the stern hull planking being lowered into place, again the sleek dimensions of the Argo rear hull are clearly evident from this shot. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The same section of the rear hull timber being lowered from an eye-level view point into place. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Section completed, the section of timber can now be finally secured in place. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
An excellent view of the Argo’s reinforcement decking planks which will provide seating for the rowers and their feet as can be evidently seen by the two members of the Argo’s construction team if they were to both to just simply sit down on the top level of decking planks their feet already on the secondary level of decking and level of structural support providing the Argo with additional level of structural integrity. The adoption of an open hull design as opposed to the Egyptian method of a closed Hull is very noteworthy and plainly evident in this shot. The Argo, some 93ft in length is a considerable design and a quantum leap in Aegean ship building and construction methods. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Sealing the Argo’s lower hull — The Argo’s bottom plank seams –As a final finishing touch to the Argo’s hull completion, the gaps no matter how small left between the individual planks are sealed watertight by the method of hammering with a chisel a winding of cotton twine between the plank seams. Eventually the entire lower section that which is constant contact with the sea will receive a coating of pitch to further seal the keel and lower hull providing a degree of protection against ship worm and infestations and undergrowth which would otherwise with time hamper the ships movement through the water. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Another view of the method of sealing the ships’ lower hull plank seams with a winding of cotton twine. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The completed Argo is now rolled out of its hanger ready for the final stages of completion that will allow it to become sea worthy. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The bow of the Argo looms heavily over this camera shot and we may well hark back to the time when the master ship builder Argus himself stood before the ship of his name sake admiring his legendary construction, little to his knowledge that the very same place some 3,500 years later would see his creation rise again to sail Aegeus’ Sea once again. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The full length of the Argo becomes apparent here in this shot as the roll-out to the beach continues. Some 93ft of Mycenaean naval muscle comes slowly into reality as the Aegean Sun beats down on its timbers for the first time. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The stern section and size of the now completed Argo becomes apparent as members of the construction team leaver the great vessel down to the beach were the final touches will be added before the launching. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
A step further to completion the Argo’s stern looms high over the men whom helped bring her to life, from design to model to full scale reconstruction the Argo is the first of its kind to see the Aegean Sea for over 3,500 years, an absence duly corrected. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The Argo’s Master Ship Builder Nick Reppos overlooks the hoisting by crane of the Argos mast onto the ship’s mast step. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The Argo’s Master Ship Builder Nick Reppos guides the ship’s mast into place and puts the final touches to the securing of the Argo’s mast. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Members of the ship’s construction team put finishing touches to the Argo’s stern fence screen, lashing the individual component beams together with rope to secure the fence screen beams to the gunwale extension beam. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
A close in view of how the ship’s stern-gunwale screen posts are lashed together, the same method is used throughout to produce all the screening on the ship. A simple yet very effective methode that can be repaired with minimal effort and no disturbance to the design. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
A lonely individual is left to lash together the raised stern’s gunwale cross-beams with those of the posts and beams comprising the rear screen of the Argo’s stern. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Baptism in Wine — The Argo is baptised with a clay jar filled with blood red wine as she lays in preparation to be launched. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Blood red wine spills across Argo’s bow as the baptism ceremony is completed and the ship is prepared for launch. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
A closer inspection reveals ropes used both above and below the bow’s buttress or primitive proembolon, this is part of the ships additional strengthening which is seen in the section of the Argo model which runs the length of the ship and is clearly evident. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
A closer view of the ropes used to give the Argo greater structural integrity be allow for the ship’s hull to flex to a certain degree without breaking, this can be comparable to a modern air passenger plane wing design where the wings are designed to ‘flap’ when in flight. This relieves tension in the wing which would otherwise cause the wing to snap! Unless a degree of give and flexibility is built into the design of the wing’s operational parameters catastrophe occurs and likewise a ships Hull’s structural integrity needs a degree of flexibility when moving through water so that tension does not build-up to ant certain degree at any one point in the ships structure, for want of a better explanation it can be said to be part of the ships’ load or stress bearing mechanism a characteristic essential for Blue Water navigations and operations in bad to extreme open water weather conditions. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The Argo launches! — The Argo finally slips into the Aegean after its baptism, oars now added and ready for sea trials the modern day reconstructed Argo echoes a bygone era in prehistoric naval design few would have ever thought likely to ever see again. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The Argo sitting by the water’s edge, a living testament to modern Greek Ship Builders’ prowess and their connection to a ship building heritage that spans some four millennia! (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Traditional male and female dancing marked the celebrations to the Argo’s launch as youths celebrate with ritual dance the re-birth of the Argo. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Fireworks rake the night time skies of modern day Volos as the Argo is lit up in the night time sky by the sounds of a brightly coloured fireworks spectacle in honour of its Legend. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
THE 2008 ARGO RECONSTRUCTION — THE ARGO UNDER SAIL.
This dramatic and stunning view of the Argo under full sail cutting through the choppy waters of the Aegean, here with a very evident full gust of wind in its sail, the rowers with their oars pulled in like a giant set of sea wings take a much needed break from rowing.
Under calmer conditions, the modern Argo ploughs the water showing just how the Argo manages itself through the trial, although effectively what we have is a single bank of oars or Monoreme this is eerily reminiscent of the later famous Greek triremes which were to dominate the waters of the Aegean and Mediterranean seas, centuries later.
A true testament and salute to the ancient Bronze Age Greek Ship Builders. A view of the Argo as it undergoes sea trials, a testament to the modern ship builders’ skill and the Bronze Age Greek Ship Builders tradition, an inheritance unbroken for millennia, such is their skill that such vessels take to the water for the first time and perform so well.
A scene of the Argo that could have you mistakenly believing you were once more in the Bronze Age, as this shot shows the Argo from a high vantage point on the Corinth Canal.
Ahead on view of the Argo as it enters and progresses through the Corinth Canal. The motion of the oars as they ripple from maximum elevated position through to mid-point and contact with the water are clearly evident and serve to show, in a glimpse, the mechanism of the ship’s ‘engine’ in progress.
A view slightly to port, here shows off more to advantage the oars as the rowers try to keep in rhythmic synchronism. The lower hull configuration shown to full advantage, note that even ships of this size and ancient design require only a single steersman to control the ship’s direction.
One of my favourite shots of the modern Argo is this photo which clearly shows the tightly packed lines of rowers crammed into the sleek and slender hull of the Argo. This configuration obviously makes most of the ship’s design to get the greatest possible amount of man power for the given length of hull.
A light and therefore open hull configuration, which strips the ship of additional and unnecessary weight in the form of a closed hull design, which would add to reducing the amount of overall energy transferred from the kinetic energy of the rowers and their oars into useful forward motion is negated, with the oars and oarsmen in a closer proximity to the water that overall potential energy stored in the rowers themselves and transformed into kinetic energy through the oars is maximised to its fullest extent.
Once again, if we look at the modern reconstruction of the Athenian trireme, the Olympias, here seen from the port side we see the same principles applied but this time we have three banks of oars with a low lying sleek heavy design powered by some 170 rowers.
A view of the Modern Full-Scale Athenian Trireme the Olympias in dry dock, from the starboard side.
This ship’s compact sleek design is a finely tuned high speed battering ram which at that time had no real equal, as is evident from both sides the most striking feature of this vessel is the overwhelming number of oar ports making up the vast majority of the ship’s length. Surprisingly the fully compliment of marines carried by an Athenian trireme was relatively small, where third century B.C. Roman quinqueremes, although not much larger than an Athenian trireme had a crew of 300 seamen and 120 marines!
Another view of the Olympias, this time giving us an excellent shot of the oar holes for the Zygotes and Thalamites rowers with the thole pins for the Thranites rowers visible on the top rail.
Built for speed and delivering a heavy punch the Athenian trireme fleet reigned supreme across the Aegean.
An interesting shot here depicts the Olympias in deep water under full sail whilst her crew, which can be clearly seen thanks to its open hull architecture, take a well-deserved rest, oars retracted almost completely in but for the paddles still visible.
In this artist’s impression of a fleet of Athenian triremes engages in a naval battle, possibly Salamis, we see very clearly that the number of marines carried by such a vessel numbers only some 20 or so individuals. An interesting point here is the canvas or leather screen draped over the rowers stations, such practises were designed to give the rowers added protection from missile fire. (From Conway’s History of the Ship — The Age of the Galley, 1995, Dust Jacket).
A close up of one of the Athenian triremes showing to good affect the position of all three tiers of oars as they strike the water ready to provide another pulse of forward propulsion to the vessel. (From Conway’s History of the Ship — The Age of the Galley, 1995, Dust Jacket).
Another excellent colourful illustration this time from the late and superb French Graphic Illustrator Jacques Martin.
Here the illustration has all three tiers of the oars raised to separation before the downward stroke begins, ready for the next propulsive pulse. The exposed Thranites, upper tier of rowers, have raised their oars to their maximum extent whilst the second tier Zygotes and bottom tier Thalamites rowers keep in unison.
In this illustration we see a representation of a ship very much like Min of the Desert, here with a clear representation of the way in which the vessel was rowed and the vessel’s hogging truss, passing suspended over the rowers heads down the centre of the ship by fork-shaped beams. What is instantly observable is the method used by the Egyptian rowers; all at whatever stage in their rowing movement are in the standing position.
Here we can clearly see the four key stages each of the Egyptian rowers would complete as per a typical rowing cycle, and just how different a technique it was as compared to the Mycenaean galleys depicted in the 2008 Argo reconstruction. (From Conway’s History of the Ship — The Age of the Galley, 1995, page 22.).
Here the rectangular horizontal shapes just behind and in front of the rower represent the reinforcing hull planking as seen in Min which double as seating and serve to show how in all four positions the forward plank provides purchase for the feet and hence a leverage point by which the rower pivots to exert his bodily force and transfer this energy into rowing movement and into the oars propulsive force through the water, whilst the rear plank sets the limitation of the rowers arc of movement and allows the rower to star the next phase of the rowing cycle in strict unison with his colleagues.
THE VIKINGS — THE SEA WOLVES OF THE NORTHLANDS.
Although somewhat removed from our topic I thought it appropriate to introduce a brief and but depictive account of the Viking Long ship to further illustrating to the reader the advantages to very low keel and hull designs and just how effective they are in proving a very stable and advantageous platform for naval engagements and the ability to penetrate deep into inland waterways and river systems, enabling strikes deep into territory which other larger vessels were not afforded.
In this colourful scene depicting a Viking naval battle we get a very realistic view as to how such vessels were used in boarding one another and other similar vessels and the general appearance of the bow section. What is evident from this very successful design is just how refined and simple it really is. Generations of vessel refinement lead to such ships and the driving force of form serving function is evidently clear. These vessels could carry large numbers of combatants on large stable and spacious platforms capable achieving impressive speeds under sail or when rowed. (From Story of the Vikings, A.G. Smith, 1988).
In this illustration we see a typical long ship design, sleek shallow closed-hull configuration with very low keel and a great deal of space to afford the occupants plenty of room for movement.
This simple and yet sophisticated and elegant design owes much to the philosophy of the culture that bore it and within its unique and revolutionary design lies a simple yet powerful design technique which was to provide the most advantageous performance characteristics yet afforded to a ship of its time.
The technique used to secure the hull planking was besides being revolutionary an extremely ingenious and well thought out and totally radical and completely out of the box method used for creating a ships’ hull design.
This method, commonly referred to as “Clinker “, incorporates within it a features the ability to allow the ship to ‘aquaplane’ on the surface of the water rather than typically plough its physical form through the water column thus eliminating much of the drag experienced by previous maritime vessel designs whose philosophy was to ‘cu’ through the water. These previous designs meant that they literally ‘ploughed’ through the water, this ‘ploughing’ producing much of the ships’ effort into overcoming the medium in which it was immersed in.
(From Story of the Vikings, A.G. Smith, 1988).
In this bow facing cross-sectional view of a typical Viking Long Ship we see to full affect the very low keel and hull and the spacious and broad hull design affording the crew a much more comfortable and uncluttered rowing movement.
The overlapping Clinker method of attaching the hull planking to one another is clearly evident here and goes to show that with this method and a combination of a long sleek double-ender design incorporating a spacious low platform greater performance characteristics can be achieved.
In this Stern facing cross-sectional view we get a slightly better appreciation of the individual rower’s position with oar deployed and the real kind of dimensions some of these vessels took.
(From Story of the Vikings, A.G. Smith, 1988).
A stunning illustration of the inside of a Viking Long Ship looking to the stern, giving us an appreciation of the refined and sophisticated craftsmanship of the Scandinavian ship builders’ tradition.
Here we see the “Clinker” method of fastening the hull planks together using rivets and washers rather than the more familiar mortise and tenon joints encountered so far. Through this method Viking ships were afforded a much lighter construction facilitating the requirement to allow these vessels to be moved over land when required where other ships would simply be unable to go. (From Story of the Vikings, A.G. Smith, 1988).
Being a ‘double-ender’, as they were, Viking Long Ships had a unique way of attaching their “strakes” or planks to the stem and stern sections of their hull and keel. This illustration shows how the planking was attached to the stem and stern sections, themselves unique and quite revolutionary as compared to previously mentioned ship manufacturing designs. (From Story of the Vikings, A.G. Smith, 1988).
In this illustration we are afforded a glimpse into a Viking Long Ship’s manufacture in full swing, this illustrates very clearly the different stages of manufacture in progress. (From Story of the Vikings, A.G. Smith, 1988).
From this view point we clearly see the way in which the ship was built up, using this rather sophisticated, yet uncomplicated, refined and ingenious manufacturing methods.
In yet another illustration of the manufacture of a Viking ship. Here a Viking merchant vessel, we see the same identical methods of manufacture as would be used for the long ship but here incorporated for a different function hence the modified hull arrangement(From Story of the Vikings, A.G. Smith, 1988).
THE 2008 ARGO RECONSTRUCTION — THE ARGO PROJECT FROM GREECE — THE ATHENIAN TRIREME — OFFSPRING OF THE 2008 ARGO.
Returning to the Athenian trireme Olympias we get a better appreciation of the different methods employed in manufacture, scale, form and function placed on the vessels of the Bronze Age Aegean and their successors as compared to a radically different manufacturing design philosophy and how they determined the type of vessel produced. Though of course of a much later period than our Bronze Age Galleys and their trireme descendants we still see the same need in both the Bronze Age Argo designs and the Viking vessels the requirement for sleek, fast and silent moving designs helping to facilitate rapid incursions, sometimes deep into potentially hostile lands, with the aim of using hit-and-run tactics to plunder at will with the element of surprise and afford a rapid exit before opposing forces can muster any discernible counter-attack.
A port side, rear stern-view of the Athenian trireme Olympias. Here The Olympias ploughs through the Aegean Sea powered by here 170 oarsmen, and once again we are treated to the open hull architecture of this vessel. When we look at the Olympias we can see echoes of the Argo, for if we strip the top decking away we get a rather familiar design surfacing. Though obviously bigger and more powerful than her distant relative the Olympias’ only requires a single Helmsman, clearly visible and with his own seat.
Another excellent view of the Olympias.
When seen from this view point the Olympias isn’t that much different from the Argo in design, though centuries of refinement have produced the Olympias. The Argo can clearly be seen as the design that set things off in the race to develop bigger and more powerful versions. One can only imagine the amount of heat given off by 170 rowers, and hence the need to keep to an open and aired hull design, heat stroke is something to be avoided at all costs when operating such a vessel the rowers must be cooled as much as possible and any access to cool sea breezes must have been most welcomed to trireme crews embarking on lengthy sea voyages.
A view from the Olympias’ gangway gives us a clear sense of just how crowded and short of space things really were.
Those fortunate to be on the uppermost of the three tiers of rowers and exposure to the air, the Thranites, had the longest oars but also had the hardest job. Zygotes rowers occupied the centre rank of oarsmen whilst the Thalamites rowers occupied the lowest benches and thus the shortest oars and lowest pay.
The internal seating arrangement of the Thranites crewmen all the way to the stern of the ship.
This very exposed and open hull architecture was vital to making the trireme such a success, this overall structure allowed the trireme greater speed and thus greater ramming power. Though later Greek galleys tended towards a more enclosed design with outriggers and greater numbers of men per oar, the Athenian Trireme had all that was required to do the job and more, its design was sleek and in some ways minimalistic and had the rowing power and speed necessary to destroy an enemy vessel with a single blow of its bronze ram.
Another shot of the internal seating arrangement of the Thranites oarsmen, this time with a clearer view of the seating arrangements with the ship at sea. The open and aired lower deck were all three banks of rowers sit is typical of classical Greek Trireme architecture and gives the top rowers who essentially guide the lower two tiers of rowers, as they are effectively rowing blind, or sets the rhythmic pace of the whole rowing crew with the help of the Aulos player seated at the rear of the vessel and behind and under the helmsman.
Here we have a clear view of the Olympias’ HoggingTruss.
The Hogging Truss was designed to prevent a ships’ hull from what is termed as ‘Hogging’, basically sagging at either end when the crest of a high wave would pass under the centre of the ships’ hull.
Since the Egyptians, and for that matter the earlier Babylonians and Summerians, had not yet developed keels for their ships with strong enough framing systems in their hulls they had to come up with a way to strengthen their hulls for sailing on the open sea.
The Hogging Truss was developed by Egyptian ship builders and comprised of cable girdles attached around both the bow end and the stern end of the hull .A long cable running the length of the hull along the deck was then attached at either end to the girdles. This cable was raised well above deck level by a series of fork stanchions. A stick was thrust between the cable strands near the centre of the cables’ length and twisted until the cable had achieved the desired degree of tension.
We see the Hogging Truss very clearly in images of Min and on the Argo scale model, The Peter Connolly reconstruction of a Thera ship fitted out as a galley with the lion figurehead and ram at the front and configured in almost identical fashion as that found on Min.
I would suspect that the ropes we see on the rear view of the Argo as the ship is rolled down to the sea out from her shelter. Also where the gunwale planking meets the keel beam where we see two ropes threaded at those points are the stern girdles, where ropes are threaded above and below the gunwale beam buttress or proembolon end of the bow section are the bow girdles from which the hogging truss cable is attached. (From The Greek Armies, Peter Connolly, page 19.).
The reality of rowing a full scale replica of an Athenian trireme.
All three tiers of just a section of the Olympias’ full complement of rowers. There is very little between each of the three tiers as Thranites, Zygotes and Thalamites rowers heave in unison. To be able to achieve this level of synchronisation amongst 170 oarsmen on three different levels takes an incredible amount of concentration sweat and muscle power control only achieved by a great deal of experience and training.
(From Great Battles of the World, Salamis 480 BC, The Wooden Walls that saved Greece, K.Papademetriou, G.Koufogiorgos, K.Grigoropoulos, D.Varsami, 2008, page 64.).
We cannot forget that as an ancient Athenian trireme oarsman we are dealing with professional seamen trained to know the most intimate behaviour of their ship. As a professional rowing team their experience would make the difference in any naval engagement and at the Battle of Salamis in 480.B.C.probably the greatest naval battle ever seen in the ancient world the Athenian seamen proved that they were the crucial element in dealing the death blow to Xerxes great ambitions to conquer Greece and the rest of Europe.
And whilst although hundreds of Persian ships were sunk and destroyed their Persian crews drowned as they could not swim and those Persians whom were not drowned or were mercilessly clubbed to death as they lay clinging to wreckage were slaughtered by Greek marines on the nearby Islet of Psystallia were they tried to seek refuge from the ensuing carnage. These fates did not befall Athenian rowers from crippled or damaged triremes as we are told that they were all trained swimmers.
A slightly less claustrophobic view, showing the three tiers of the starboard side of the Olympias, all the way to the bow.
I cannot emphasize enough the timing required to get all 170 rowers to move in unison so that all 170 oars move as one unified mass.
This level of skill can only be achieved through continuous professional training but there is another aspect that plays just as an important role, if not more so, and that is music.
As Greek Hoplite phalanxes were piped into battle from music played on the Aulos by pipers whom accompanied the warriors into battle using the piper’s tune to keep the hoplites marching in unison as the sung their war song the Paean so too were Greek rowers who manned the Triremes also piped in to Battle singing to the tune of their pipers’ Aulos and keeping the rhythmic synchronism of 170 oars beating, stroke after stroke after stroke.
The same rowers as viewed in the previous photo now stripped down to nothing more than their shorts and foot wear.
A crucial factor in staying focused and alert in such confined but moderately exposed hulls is the ability to keep cool and were possible Athenian rowers would have done the same thing. Some oarsmen event went naked as this completely removed any limitations in their movements. Even when not in full Aegean summer conditions the amount of heat a body generates is considerable and the ability to keep cool and replenish lost water is essential, there is no worst a morale sapper as a lack of fresh water to keep crew members hydrated and the soul sapping summer heat can render individuals completely useless after just a short while. What is certain is that without a question of a doubt that the Grecian oarsmen of Old were some of the toughest and fittest individuals anywhere in the ancient world and compared to today’s rowers were in many respects far superior in stamina, strength, endurance and downright toughness when it came down to such matters as national survival.
A rare shot of all three tiers in full swing, from the gangway.
Opportunities to see such marvels are rare indeed and the experience of those participants even rarer. We can also glimpse into what it must have been like to be a rower in the battle of Salamis from this and the previous view points, although gut wrenching adrenalin must have been coursing through the veins of all those thousands of Athenian rowers as they realised what lay at stake, nothing less than the complete annihilation of their beloved city and way of life.
The rowers were also lightly armed with either a dagger or short sword so they were not completely defenceless and the image of these men springing into action, if their ship ever became locked together from ramming an enemy vessel, in the defence of the Homeland, City and families certainly deserves more serious mention than in this brief discussion.
Another excellent view of the Olympias’ banks of oars. Here as seen from directly behind the port side stern steering oar.
Olympias in the Corinth Canal, August 1992. Photo, Rosie Randolph.
Some 18 years prior to the Argo passing through the same stretch of waterway the Olympias is put through its paces. Here under a steady stroke and sail stowed the Olympias strikes an imposing sight.
The view of literally hundreds of these war machines charging in unison like the jaws of some gigantic wooden bronze teethed vice slowly closing to an inevitable conclusion must have struck utter terror into the ranks of the Persian Navy as an enemy force they were told was now thoughroughly demoralised and dejected and ready to flee for their lives suddenly wheels around like some ferocious beast to devour the hapless and unsuspecting Persian host.
So into a mass of confused and bewildered Persian vessels now caught in one of history’s biggest traps the sight must have been horrendous to behold as the net slowly tightened and with nowhere to go and no space between galleys to manoeuvre ship now rammed ship in a desperate attempt to free themselves from the slaughter.
So like tunny caught in a net the inevitable outcome would draw to a bloody slaughtered conclusion of countless dead and dieing bodies drowning and floating everywhere chocking the narrow straights of Salamis with death as before his eyes The might of the ‘King of Kings’ and largest and most powerful empire the world had yet seen to date was humbled by the sailors and warriors of the tiny City-State of Athens.
This view of the Olympias under full sail with oars retracted gives us some idea as to what it must have been like for the sailors of a trireme when catching valuable rest time between lulls in the wind. A fair speed is being achieved here as the Olympias’ bronze ‘Ram’ churns the sea before it.
(From The Greek Armies, Peter Connolly, pages 42–43.).
This stunning representation of the Battle of Salamis by the military illustrated Peter Connolly is by far for me one of if not the most accurate representations of the great naval battle I have seen anywhere. The scene depicting an Athenian trireme tearing into the hull of a hapless Persian vessel is one of the most memorable battle scenes Peter Connolly has ever produced.
True to his methodical and meticulous eye for detail Peter Connolly has captured in a single image something of what it must have been like in the initial phases of the battle as the Persian galleys unable to manoeuvre in the narrow straights realize that a trap of immense proportions has been sprung and they are the hapless victims within it.
What is so remarkable is the attention to detail of the Athenian and Persian triremes. Even the hogging truss girdle of the stern section of the Athenian trireme in the direct foreground is represented whilst the number of marines present per trireme is correct and the detailed rendering and accuracy of the Persian galley is noteworthy.
Larger by far than their Athenian adversaries and sitting much higher in the water to the Persian galleys suffered from regional wind conditions that would cause sea conditions to dramatically change rapidly effecting the ability of the Persian fleet to manoeuvre correctly and thus aiding the lower lying Greek ships who took full advantage of the local weather condition.
It is very interesting that from the Modern reconstructed Argo to the trireme Olympias and that reproduced by Peter Connolly, there has been the desire to keep ship architecture pretty much to a design philosophy dating back to the Middle Bronze Age period and have it so successfully matured into one of history’s ubiquitous naval designs is a true standing testament to the ship builders of Ancient and Bronze Age Greece.
In yet another naval illustration by the hand of Peter Connolly we see a third-century .B.C. Roman quinqereme. With some 300 seamen and 120 marines this vessel was pretty much nothing less than a floating infantry platform able to deliver a large body of troops via its ‘Raven’ or ‘Corvus’ bridge thus allowing the Romans to maximise their one true quality as expert infantrymen whilst neutralising their Achilles heel — their lack of seamanship, which at this time was sorely lacking and further neutralising their opponents, the Carthaginians, top most quality and skill as expert seamen. (From The Roman Army, Peter Connolly, 1975, page 21.).
In this cut-away cross section of the starboard side of the same Roman galley, we get a close and detailed look at the construction and design philosophy followed by the Romans in the third-century.B.C. Though differing in many ways not least its size, use of outriggers and corvus, the Roman galley does follow similar design principles laid down by such ships as the Argo. (From The Roman Army, Peter Connolly, 1975, page 22.).
Both are relatively low lying with an open hull configuration and if one removes the outrigger (the section that juts out from the side of the galley from the level of the upper tier of rowers) you can see traces of similarities with that of the screen fence used in the Argo.
Of course this is a radically developed vessel incorporating many technical innovations but the principle design similarities are all there. The outrigger itself is another piece of technical innovation which served the galley design faithfully. It was discovered early on in the development of multi-tier oared vessels that if the rowlocks could be extended beyond the side of the ship a much greater leverage force could be applied to the oar. Some of the earliest examples of depictions of outriggers survive in marble near full scale representation of triremes from Greece.
An Ancient Greek rock carving of the stern of a classical ship, from Lindos (Rhodes). (From The Battle of Salamis, Richard Nelson, 1975, page 80.).
The ship is a Cataphract vessel and therefore later in date than Salamis, but the general shape of the stern is similar. The port steering oar may be seen swung up above the waterline — the usual practice when beaching a ship, to avoid damage. A person is here used for scale. The carving is probably half life-size.
An excellent shot here of the same Lindos Cataphract rock carving of the stern of a classical ship viewed in its entirety.
Another shot of the Lindos Cataphract rock carving of the stern this time in greater deatail.
An excellent shot here a head on view of the lindos Cataphract rock carving and meant to give the impression to those in the seating area that they are travelling on a galley.
In the above illustration of the component parts of a trireme’s bow and keel section we can clearly see just how little had changed from those methods used to construct the Bronze Age 2008 Argo replica, albeit the trireme’s bow section is more refined and design modified to incorporate a bronze battering ram and the accompanying mass of the vessel behind it there isn’t that much difference and even at a cursory glance between the two designs much had not change in some thousand years of Greek ship building design.
The bow component sections of the 2008 Argo replica showing the same design philosophy, albeit rather more rudimentary and less developed than its trireme equivalent, here we can clearly see for the first time where the trireme of later antiquity would get its design beginnings, owing much of its lineage to its Bronze Age ancestor vessel. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
A more detailed illustration of the Lindos Cataphract rock carving by Peter Connolly. Note the outrigger and the stern section rope girdle just below the stowed steering oar(From The Greek Armies, Peter Connolly, page 47.).
The side and rear view of the stern of a galley, showing housing of steering oar, first -Century.B.C. By Peter Connolly. (From The Greek Armies, Peter Connolly, page 47.).
The front of an armoured galley from Samothrace, around 200.B.C. This is a two banked galley, probably with several rowers to each oar. (From The Greek Armies, Peter Connolly, page 46.).
Another rare shot of the Argo, as sea trials progress. Though of Bronze Age design one must come to terms with the fact that to reach this stage of maturity just how much know-how and experience would have been required for the culmination of such a design. To effectively create a new design capable of handling stronger currents and allowing for prolonged blue water voyages requires knowledge of ship building passed down through generation after generation and held by truly privileged individuals.
A closer view of the above image fully brings home what a marvel of Bronze Age Greek Ship Building the Argo really is. This design even if we are to hypothesize as having given rise to such vessels as those sailed by the Sea Peoples encountered by Ramesses III, shows clearly how advantageous such a design can be for implementing of surprise attacks on coastal development scattered throughout the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean Seas. Much like the later Viking Clincker designed Long-Ship which in one recent documentary showed that such ships could attain under favourable conditions large distances at speed due to the fact that the Clincker designed Hull of Viking Long Ships actual allows the vessel to ‘aquaplane’ when under full sail as it traverses across the water! These Bronze Age Mycenaean vessels too had a shallow draft and shallow freeboard allowing for deep penetration into river systems and like Viking Long Ships of later time they also could be moved across land with relative ease, thanks partly due to their open and light hull designs.
A similar view again this time in stiller waters and a clearer and more organised structure to the rowing. Though open hull configurations ran the risk if caught in bad weather of being blown sideways into the wind and swamped by large waves the advantages of such designs were followed because the benefits far outweighed such risks and in the hands of experienced and hardened seamen such situations under adverse weather condition could be easily dealt with and avoided. With safer methods such as following the coast and island hoping such risks were significantly reduced, but even Blue-water crossings in this and later Greek designs ensured a greater degree of safer sea travel. Such ships as Min could because of their higher freeboard run greater risks of such events occurring but because of their closed hull design didn’t run the risk of swamping and therefore the likelihood of being swamped and thus sinking.
In this shot we get a chance to glimpse the Argo under oar at a steady pace from the starboard side. It would not be too much to stretch the imagination and certainly a good probability that if you were to create a similar ship but with the stern repeating the design of the bow section, and Bird-Headed designs atop the bow and stern posts, we would in essence get a double-ender very similar if not close to, in approximation with the ships of the Sea Peoples as depicted at Medinet Habu.
A stunning Aerial shot of the Argo in Patras, Northern Peloponnese, Greece in July of 2008. This shot shows of the Argos sleek lines and light construction to full advantage. The name ‘Argo’ means ‘Swift One’ and no more a suitable name can be found for such a stunning vessel.
Is It is not then a highly plausible possibility that such ships share a common ancestry even if the Argo depicted here varies somewhat to those ships that appeared in the latter half of the late Bronze Age, Ships whose designs were to disappear shortly thereafter to be replaced with what is essentially a more powerful version of the modern reconstructed Argo, a design that kick-started this lineage in the first place.
This lovely shot showing the Argo being followed by a flotilla of small boats during its sea trials easily conjures up images of the Mycenaean fleet sailing to sacred Ilios, more so because unlike the truly false and completely inaccurate and oversized examples represented in recent cinema we have been seeing, this design is of the Bronze Age and thus allows us to see an accurate picture, for the first time I may add, of a real Bronze Age Mycenaean sea going vessel and what it must have been like to have sailed such beautiful vessels across the Aegean and Mediterranean seas.
This shot with the Argo seemingly at rest clearly shows the relatively shallow freeboard and draft of the ship to full effect. It would be very interesting to see how the crew would move such a vessel as the Argo across an expanse of land to another body of water and thus address an age old academic question as to whether such feats were possible.
We have, at last, a Bronze Age Aegean design to be able to test this hypothesis with against the full rigors of land traversing; the results I think would lay to rest may an answered question.
A nice view from port-side of the Argo’s sleek design, noteworthy is the rowers whom for whatever reason have decided to up oars. The way that a fully laden vessel of this kind would perform would be interesting to observe, for surely such designs were meant to have an optimum sea worthy performance once supplies and equipment along with Arms and Armour were included.
It does raise the interesting question that if the Greeks on their Journey to sacred Ilios would have taken along with them chariots and presumably horses, how such designs or variations of them could be used in the Cargo capacity. These modified versions with larger hulls and the capacity to take horses and chariots would present their own problems, if they ever existed, but this would raise the question as to how would the Mycenaeans and their predecessors the Minoans have moved horses and chariots across the Aegean and further afield.
THE 2008 ARGO RECONSTRUCTED — ANALYSIS OF THE DESIGN OF THE SHIPS’ STERN.
VIEWS OF THE STERN OF THE ARGO.
A stunning view from the Argo’s Stern Post, showing in very clear detail the seating and screen configuration along with the position of the oars at rest.
It is a constant source of amazement to me that such designs of Bronze Age origin begin with nothing more than the lashing together of trees!
The Argo from this view point feels very organic and fundamentally designed to be part of its environment and not simply just a vessel designed to float on the sea and move through it.
Obviously there are some vessels better suited to open see voyages than others and preference of design to one side the Argo does, when compared to Min show clear design advantages, obviously at the cost to other factors. Min does show just how well Egyptian ship builders knew their craft. They designed a very sturdy heavy duty and powerful vessel capable of taking on, I would believe to be quite adverse weather conditions, to a point, In many respects Min is a vessel designed to be robust and proof against some of its competitors across the sea to the coasts of Cyprus, The Levant, Asia Minor, the Aegean and the Greek mainland proper.
Though essentially a vastly different design the reconstructed Min shows certain advantages that are surprisingly supported in the Naval Battle scene at Medinet Habu that further reinforce my belief that when the Egyptians engaged the Sea People ships the advantage went to the defender not just because they were fighting on home turf with the element of surprise and battle tactics designed to neutralise the fighting prowess of the Sea Peoples warriors in naval engagements but that ships exactly like the min have the advantage of a higher freeboard and what seems like Bow section raised from the water.
The fact that there are fewer oarsmen, and that also the Min has a closed hull with essentially no screening. The addition of a wooden screen would be simply executed when required.
The closed hull would allow for a far larger number of troops to be present on board than would be normally used, plus the fact that these troops would be able to move freely across the ship’s deck thanks to the closed hull, the higher freeboard coupled to the absence of a screen would allow Egyptian marines to rain down missiles but more importantly board an enemy ship quickly from a higher point.
From this view point the Argo does have certain characteristics that are not at a glance obvious to ascertain but are revealing just the same.
Built for speed the design of the Argo lends itself to rapid deployment, especially from the beached position, faster speeds due to the large number of oarsmen at its disposal would allow for a swift attack on settlements or military outposts of limited strength, a dozen of these Argos with fully armed men could pose a formidable force capable of taking out unwary coastal garrisons or outposts.
This raiding capability is in many ways very similar to those tactics used by history’s later ‘bad boys’ the northern ‘wolves of the sea’, The Vikings. These hit and run tactics allowed the Vikings to swoop down out of the blue and attack wealthy coastal settlements seize loot, captives and whatever else took their fancy and disappear as quickly as he had arrived thus removing the ability of an opponent to counter attack.
In the previous aerial shots of the Argo I count some 57 men. For the sake of argument let us say 60 fully armed and ready marines per Argo sized ship.
That for a fleet of 12 vessels comprises a Bronze Age Mycenaean galley squadron of 720 men! This by Bronze Age Aegean standards is a very large number of men, and if we allow reasoning to further extend to the topic of Odysseus we have a Mycenaean King at the head of some 700+ men, for Odysseus’s squadron comprised of 12 fighting ships. If we extend his further then Idomeneus the King of Crete had at his disposal 90 black-hulled ships, if we follow the same reasoning then we have a Mycenaean King of Crete at the head of an army some 5,400 men!
This number of Argo type ships would be enough to cause any Bronze Age kingdom serious concerns for securing its territorial integrity when we consider that these ships could effectively navigate, due to their shallow hulls, considerable distances up waterways to effectively launch naval attacks at the door step of what might seem to inland settlement as previously impossible.
Another Stern view of the Argo but from a slightly elevated view point.
It is evident even here that the Argo, although a quantum leap over previous Aegean ship designs still holds in its design a light, swift, shallow open hull configuration, harking back to its earlier ancestry of smaller similarly designed vessels.
It is interesting to note that in the Argonautica, the recounting of the Mycenaean prince Jason’s voyage to the Black Sea kingdom of Colchis, the Argo penetrates some way up the River Phasis before Jason and his crew hide the Argo amongst reeds. The interior of King Aeetes’ Kingdom was effectively penetrated under the cover of night via the river Phasis by a ship with no previous knowledge of the rivers’ depth or hidden dangers.
This excellent Starboard view of the New Argo cannot illustrate any better the argument in favour of sleek shallow hulled designs.
Even without the screens, which run the entire length of the ship, the ship has the appearance of a light and fast design. Swift in name, swift in nature the Argo lives up to its reputation as a true attack platform. Whether raiding coastal settlements or penetrating up river to attack unsuspecting settlements further inland this design has more than just the ability to negotiate strong current, such as encountered in the Bosphorus or the Hellespont and Sea of Marmara.
A close up of the Argo’s stern section clearly showing the light yet strong construction that lends itself to the ship’s name.
Even the boarding ladder is of such simple construction yet effective. The ability to keep the ships’ design simple but effective is a testament to those ship builders and their craft. There is no need to overcomplicate a design like the Argo’s, her form perfectly demonstrates function and no better example of Bronze Age ship design can be seen than in the Argo, A ship that strikes the perfect balance of speed with lightness, strength with flexibility.
There are in the ships of the Minoans an the Mycenaeans an ethos embodied from previous centuries of craftsmanship, trial and error are not the only factors working here to create the Argo, The most important factor which I feel is overlooked at almost every level is the Aegean sea itself. It is the real designer of the Argo. For the Argo to be what it is in its aspect of structural design you have to have an environmental shaper, the factor by which the ship builders decide to form their workmanship around. The Aegean Sea and for that matter the waters surrounding the Greek mainland determine what kind of vessel can be built but also as important is how far you can take that design to achieve on optimum performance.
In his Invasion of Greece in 480.B.C. the Persian King Xerxes was warned by his uncle Artabanus, brother to Darius I, not to attack Greece because the land and the sea would be the ruin of his mighty army and navy. Ignoring this advice, Xerxes continued further into Greece and finally lost hundreds of supply ships of the coast of Euboea in a violent storm, hundreds more ships in the Battle of Salamis, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of men and material lost in the Battles of Thermopylae, Salamis, Plataea and Mycale and finally defeat. How interesting that the very forces that eventually helped shape the vessels we would call the Argo and the Athenian trireme would be responsible for rendering the war machine of the Greatest Empire the world had yet seen to utter defeat.
In this shot it is quite noticeable that even with or without a full complement of men the Argo does not seem to show much variance in its freeboard. There is an obvious difference when loaded with men but not to be so noticeable, therefore weight distribution must be playing an important role in the way the design has come about. It is not something that is clearly evident, but it is there. We must also remeber that Golden Maxim in Seafaring — ‘ Boyancy over Ballast’.
This stern view of the Argo clearly shows the methods by which the sections of the ship have been constructed and held together with nothing more than rope. Clearly the designers went to great lengths to reduce wherever possible the unnecessary use of additional timber and material that would add significant weight to the overall design.
Another view from the stern, showing the gangway and the method of resting the oars against the Gunwale when not in use.
The screen plays an important role in fixing the oars into position whilst the hull planking used by the sailors to sit on and perch their feet upon helps further prevent the oars from moving, obviously the open hull configuration and the method of alternating the position of the hull cross beams, responsible for further structural integrity, and providing the sailors with seating and purchase for their feet which allows for full control of the oar cannot be a design accident, and must clearly demonstrate the ship builders intention to make as much of the structure of the ship carry out as many functions as possible and thus reducing the number of eventual components needed to build such a ship and very importantly the weight, or more correctly the mass of the ship, its displacement and deadweight.
A unique opportunity to see the Argo in the water without its oars. This Stern view once again illustrates just how simple but effective the ship builders were at giving the Argo as many advantages as possible whilst limiting the design but not hindering its full functional capability. The design philosophy probably has a great deal to do with previous ship designs which probably looked very much like the Argo but on a smaller scale.
Thus the design that would eventually breech the Black Sea and the strong currents of the Bosphorus and Hellespont was probably already in place in earlier smaller examples.
Although it is highly probable that Mycenaean and before them Minoan seafarers managed to breech the Black Sea and trade all the way up to Colchis, it was designs like the Argo that made it much easier and therefore allowed much more frequent visitations and eventually some centuries later colonization by Geek settlers along the majority of the Black Sea’s coats. What we cannot rule out is the motivational drive to do so was not merely driven by trade and settlement alone but also by a very important commodity prized throughout the ancient world all the way back to its beginnings — Gold!
With this shot can be clearly seen the steering oars of the Argo. Designed to be controlled by just one individual it clearly has the ability to be steered by a two man crew. The need for a two steering oar configuration helps give greater directional control of the vessel from the slightly elevated stern platform and also allows the ship to respond to inputs from the helmsman/helmsmen to be made much quicker as two steering points contacting and controlling the ship reduce the time the ship responds to input/s from the helmsman/helmsmen and therefore a more sensitive control of the ship is produced.
This design function of having two rather than one steering oar greatly improves control of the ship in bad or adverse weather conditions. If the ships oars were all removed and the ship was only steerable with a single steering oar then control of the ship is much reduced, put a second steering oar and greater control is achieved because now the ships is controllable in both halves of its directional-stability plane. It’s much like paddling a small boat or canoe built for two people, if only one person paddles they will have to course correct more frequently by placing themselves in the middle for the boat alternating their paddle strokes from port to starboard side, if two individuals now seated on the boat side by side or one in front of the other as in the canoe, and they begin to paddle together there is greater control of the boat or canoe.
An excellent shot of the stern of the Argo. Exemplifying the shape of the ships design to the full and showing off to full effect the position of the steering oars and their positioning.
Whether the two horizontal beams positioned through the rear of the Argo’s hull are an original design feature or a modification to limit the amount of movement an protect the steering oars from breaking, I do not know for sure but such a configuration gives greater control of the ship whilst allowing the steering oars to rest on an extension of the ships’ hull therefore alleviating pressure on the helmsmen/helmsman to control such a large piece of equipment and thus the ship.
Now the Argo prepares to set sail. This shot evidently shows the one factor that the Argo’s crew cannot avoid — A closed condition, as sailors jostle to their positions and the sail is hoisted upon the mast. This very close and personal contact with the ship is clearly evident.
A nice close-up of the Stern section with emphasis on the Steering Oars.
The woven section of the stern comprising of thatching is a noteworthy feature here and is probably intended to avoid difficulty in construction by relying on simple methods of screening to do the job of sections of heavier timber, rather than raising a screen as in the bow section the use of lighter, easily replaceable materials is used instead. There would be no real problem raising a stern screen like at the bow section if the ship builders so required, but we have to remember that the designs we are shown at Medinet Habu of the ships of the Se Peoples may very well be an ultimate expression of which the Argo is the progenitor of.
A ready to board Argo sits upon the sea. This excellent view clearly shows how as in the ships of The Sea Peoples a duplicate bow screen can be erected at the stern. This does require the steering oars to be placed further up, therefore increasing their length and the way the steering oars are configured to provide the same degree of movement to allow the ship to be steered in the same manner.
The high stern screen and elevated stern decking required to give the helmsman/helmsmen a better commanding view of the sea ahead and directly in front of the bow of the ship is another similarity the stern of the Argo would share with the ships of the Sea Peoples if such a modification was to be carried out.
Another stunning shot of the Argo’s stern, with the oars in stowed position, as the ship rests up somewhere in Greece during its sea trials.
This level-shot of the Argo’s stern clearly shows how prominantly low, yet with a relatively high freboard for a Bronze Age Waship, the Argo really is.
A stuning shot from the stern of the Argo that would be offered to the Helmsmen steering the vessel. At this point in the ships hull gives a commanding view of the entire surrounding without penalizing the Helmsmens’ ability to asses a critical situation second-hand.
This shot of the Argo from Port-side shows off the vessel’s sleek lines to full effect. Many recent commentators have rebuked the idea that Jason of Iolkos Ever managed to navigate the waters of the Danube, finally exiting to the Adriatic Sea, but these individuals understanding and appreciation of Bronze Age Greek Fighting vessels and their designs must have been poorly lacking, and without such Marvels as the Argo reconstruction to base their rather premature comclusions on it does show a serious lack of understanding about these type of vessels and their shallow-keel and relatively high freeboard required to negotiate such stretches of major waterways as the Mighty Danube throughout its courses and its ability to eventually make it through to the Adriatic.
One very important factor that is obvious from many places in the Aegean and the surrounding Greek Penisular is that of Enviromental changes due to Volcanic and Siesmic events which amongst other factors has change in many places the complete appearence of coastlines throught the region of some 3,500 years ago. This steady silting of river estuaries and their resultant course changes can have serious consequences and effects on our understanding and identification of locations in the landscape of prehistoric antiquity.
THE GREEK GEOMETRIC PERIOD SHIP BUILDING TRADITIONS AND THEIR IMPACT ON LATER GALLEY DESIGNS.
This design feature amongst the ships of the Sea Peoples seems not to have been kept much after the collapse of the Bronze Age. The fact that we still see similar examples as depicted in the Heraklion vase paintings well into the Proto-Geometric period in Crete shows that this design persisted for some time after the end of the Bronze Age world. This aside we see no further development of the ship design which so typifies the vessels of the Sea Peoples in the archaeological record in terms of graphical depiction, with the pentekonter taking centre stage and the obvious development of the Greek bireme just around the corner and its eventual culmination in the form of the Athenian trireme design so exemplified by the modern trireme reconstruction the Olympias.
A re-construction of a Pentekonter Monoreme galley of the geometric period.
Geometric pottery fragment around 850.B.C. depicting the bow section and part of the hull of a Greek Monoreme, worth noting is the uncanny similarity with of the bow section of this type of ship so typically illustrated on geometric vases with that of the Heraklion Vessels.
In this image, if we look in the right hand side of the picture we see two individuals standing up, only their legs are apparent here.
We are clearly being show by the artist a very shallow draft ship with a very shallow hull and keel configuration almost as if we are being shown a very large oversized canoe. A ship meant for very rapid deployment and easy of transport if so required.
The individual standing on the ship’s Ram is either exiting the vessel or getting ready to board the ship via the boarding steps clearly visible in this image.
Attempts by the painter to show were the oars would be fitted are clearly evident in most of the shot in this section and are unmistakable.
Another Greek geometric period galley circa 850.B.C. Note the distinctive bow section and curved Bow beam decoration so typical of this type of vessel.
Typical of this type of geometric period galley is the bow section’s ram, distinctive eye symbol, curved horn-like bow decoration and the peculiar straight horn like protrusions that run down the front of the bow down to where the upper portion of the ram begins. In some examples we see three such protrusion, whilst here some four to five protrusions. These bear an uncanny similarity with the five obtrusions seen on both the bow and stern portions of the two ship examples of the Heraklion vase.
An interesting Example of a geometric period Greek galley of the Bireme style.
It is difficult to ascertain whether the artist is showing two banks of oars, which would make it a true bireme or just attempting to represent both the port and starboard side rowers at the same time.
In the above enlarged image of the previous image we see the two front rowers with the unusual appearance of oars in the water but with no rowers to man them.
This example gives us a clear and rather detailed rendering of a Geometric period bireme galley even if there are several anomalies such as the lack of lower tier rowers and unmanned oars on the deck level manned by just a handful of rowers.
This original piece of artwork by Peter Connolly shows the bow section of what is a very close representation of some of the geometric-period monoremes in this section and goes along way into explaining the arrangement of rowers and the like appearance of these ships.
There is a strong impression that these vessels first started out as rather oversized canoes when compared to their bireme offspring but this I find rather odd when we look at the Argo of 2008.
Since if we look at the 2008 Argo were have what can be rightly called a true galley but go forward some 500 years from say the traditional time of the Trojan War, say 1250–1300 B.C. to 800–750 B.C. we seem to have replaced the large Mycenaean galleys with smaller more canoe-like vessels, definitely designed in the images in this section to look as if they were specifically tailored for sea raiding an with a long shallow hull and keel definitely capable of reaching further up rivers and waterways that the later relatives.
Here we can see the rear, stern half, of the Peter Connolly reconstruction of the geometric period monoreme. The gunwale fence screen here does show them extending out at an angle away from the rowers which is interesting, considering that geometric paintings are completely devoid of any attempt to show such detail. But for such narrow vessels this configuration in the gunwale fence is logical and essential in allowing the rowers unobstructed free range of motion.
I would tend towards the idea that what we are seeing in this image is a bireme, though the odd arrangement of the top most rowers seems to suggest this, as those on the top nearest the bow have their oars pointing in a direction which might be attempting to suggest the oars are falling to the port side of the vessel thus the painter is attempting to show both sides of the ship in a single instance.
Here in his illustration we can clearly see how Peter Connolly arrived at his interpretation of his geometric period galley. Although the stern section differs from the Connolly interpretation these vessels are essential the same ship design, the above being a not so apparent bireme example.
What is odd though is the that there is only the top deck of rowers present, they seem to be apparently seated right on top of or high enough up the ship’s gunwale as to appear perched on or close to it, with no attempt to show if the part of the hull that is sandwiched (unpainted blank section) between the hull and upper hull section occupies the space for the bottom tier of rowers and hence makes up part of the lower gunwale section fence. Even more unusual is the lack of the bottom tier of rowers.
In the previous bireme example, looking at the height of the rowers and the rather high oar angle would suggest that something is quite amiss here. We would in a corrected image expect to see the rowers with just their heads and shoulders above the gunwale fence or slightly higher, not seated as in this painting on it. But this could simply be representing the limitation of the art form not the possibility of the artist’s misinterpretation.
Interestingly as we progress to half way along the top row we get the impression that either there are two men per oar divided into two levels the top seated slightly higher than those on the bottom row, as there only ever seems to be a single row of paddles ever displayed or as the oars from the top deck seem to terminate on contact with the torsos of the lower tier of rowers that the oars’ paddles are out of sight and therefore are really coming down to port side.
What is confusing if you look closely is that the bow and stern of the galley although typical of a geometric period monoreme suggest a taller, larger hulled vessel indicative of biremes. But again when viewing examples of illustrations of monoremes on geometric pottery it is evidently clear for all to see that these ships are powered by a single bank of rowers. If this is a bireme then the artist responsible for trying to convey a bireme design was not attempting to be clear enough in his depiction, thus leading to the confusing array of anomalies present.
The absence of the Large radial patterned eye motif so evident in other example of geometric period monoremes seems to be absent here and might be the artists attempt to convey that what is being depicted is a new type of design, either a two-tier two-man per oar monoreme or an example of the step towards multiple bank oared vessels.
Though this image of another example of this geometric period is simpler and in no way attempts to show any details as in our previous example it is rather more accurate in terms of showing the rowers seated in the correct manner at the correct height in the hull, only ever exposing the upper torso and illustrating a smaller example as that depicted by Connolly, a 26 oared vessel here compared to the 48 oared Connolly example. Here we have a very clear representation of a geometric period Monoreme, bow, stern and a clear representation of a single row of oarsmen.
This cross-section of a much smaller vessel, probably a small canoe-type vessel, clearly illustrates the side-by-side seating arrangement of the geometric period vessels. Although we would expect to see a deeper and broader hull and seating arrangement we get an idea of what these ships would look like in cross-section.
An unusual and hypothetical rendition of a proto-geometric and geometric galley, of which the previous illustration is attempting to represent in cross-section. This simple design made from what appears to be three sections of a hollowed out tree would elsewhere in early Bronze Age cultures not evolved in experienced ship building would represent some of the earliest attempts made by man in designing boats, but here it is both contradictory and a retrograde step from the Bronze Age vessels represented by the Argo replica of 2008 and such ships produced by the Minoans, Mycenaeans and the Sea Peoples.
The actual geometric period vase from which the image of previous stacked-tier bireme is taken from.
The next important question we must ask ourselves is why there is such a striking similarity to contemporary Phoenician vessels of the period.
If we compare this vase painting of a Greek geometric period vessel to that of the following Phoenician example below, we see striking similarities, differences, yes, but still one could be mistaken at a glance for interpreting the geometric vase vessel with that of a Phoenician example.
A typical Phoenician/Levantine bireme galley and contemporary with our Greek geometric examples.
With an elevated platform to separate rowers from a dedicated fighting force along with the obvious height advantages that are conferred by such a design and make up this exemplary vessel.
This model of a Phoenician/Levantine Galley, here on display at the Haifa Maritime Museum in Israel shows an exceptional reconstruction of vessels depicted in the Sennacherib Assyrian fleet of Phoenician Assyrian boats in the Persian Gulf.
This gives us a very clear interpretation as to the ship’s real dimensions and importantly the rather obscured seating arrangements of the rowers that make up this Levantine galley.
As we cans evidently see in this modelled reconstruction, that there is a much larger capacity on the upper decking for a much more sizable military force to be transported that on the previous Phoenician example which although allows for a certain number of troops only give the ship the capacity to carry a relatively small number of additional personnel.
What is further more exemplified is how this type of hull configuration released the ship builders to eventually add another tier of rowers and produce the Phoenician triremes we see so clearly in Peter Connolly’s reconstruction of the battle of Salamis.
This is an excellent comparison example of how the Phoenician ships evolved from a monoreme ancestry to a truly fully fledged and large trireme galley configuration.
An illustration of the Sennacherib Assyrian fleet of Phoenician-Assyrian vessels in the Persian Gulf.
This illustration faithfully reproduces the two main types of Phoenician naval vessels operated during Sennacherib’s reign from 705–681 B.C. While the second example is clearly not as obvious a military vessel as its beaked relative, it can be meant to show a type of non-military vessel.
It can none the less be construed as another type of ‘warship’ in such terms as having a cargo or secondary troop carrying capability. The lack of a ‘ram’ and apparently shorter raised upper deck does not preclude to the ship not having a military function only that they would not necessarily seem as obvious at a glance but still may have been used as front line vessels.
A close up of a fragment of one of the Assyrian Warships as depicted from the actual Sennacherib relief. If you look carefully you can make out the line that runs along the width of the vessel just underneath the rowers and is meant to convey with its upward curvature towards the ram of the ship the curvature of the upper portion of the hull.
Here we have a schematic line drawing illustration (illustrator Unknown) of an earlier example Phoenician bireme galley. What is clearly evident here is the hull and seating section of the rowers, and is evidently an example of a ship undergoing evolution from the two-tiered open hulled seating arrangement to a more enclosed structure with upper decking, though the rowers are still clearly not situated within the hull itself proper the principle design philosophy which will give rise to the examples illustrated in Connolly’s Salamis Battle scene are clearly shown off in this diagram.
Where the two types of vessels clearly diverge, if they ever had a common ancestor, or both civilizations were simply borrowing from one another is not certain, is the way in which the rowers were seated.
Those certain key attributes that each of these cultures wanted to incorporate into their own vessels are evidently clear, but the way in which we see them evolving to incorporate similar design philosophies is striking.
With the Phoenician example the rowers are clearly separated from the main hull section and from each other, whilst the Greek example keeps the rowers inside the hull and in close proximity to each other.
What is for sure is that whilst the Greek geometric period vessel has close structural affinities with early Phoenician warships its design disappears from the archaeological record to be replaced by more elaborate and larger designs whilst the Phoenician example undergoes change after change but still retains its unquestionably ancestry to become the ships we see in the Connolly Salamis Battle scene of 480 B.C.
What’s more the illustrator of this particular diagrammatic reconstruction has decided to place a small ram-like protrusion on the ships upper bow section and a small radial-eye symbol as well, this is very reminiscent of the Greek geometric monoreme and bireme examples. Whether the illustrator is showing mere artistic license or is borrowing from an earlier actual historical depiction I cannot tell but it is very noteworthy none the less.
An overhead view of the previous same design.
In this aerial view of this line drawing representation of a Phoenician galley (illustrator unknown) we can clearly see the attempt to show the rather narrow upper decking, which became a natural extension as time went by of the actual original hull and the peculiar and unique separate seating arrangement of the rowers the Phoenicians employed on their vessels of the time.
If we look back at the vase painting of the Greek geometric period depicting a two-tier system packed with rowers we see that the Greek example would also need a similar raised upper decking to accommodate the next tier of rowers but in both tiers the rowers would be stationed within the ship’s hull and not seated like the Phoenician examples where the lowest tier rowers are somewhat exterior to the internal upper-tier rowers.
In the Greek example this would make for an unusual arrangement and would require the ship to be broader than its monoreme relations so as to avoid creating a top heavy, narrow design liable to show marked instability in bad weather with the likelihood of overturning or capsizing.
Fragment from a Late geometric vase (735–710 BC) showing us a clear representation of a two-tier multi-banked oared galley, found at the Acropolis, Athens and now in the Athens National Museum. (From Conway’s History of the ship — The Age of the GALLEY, page 27).
The same fragment but here with the benefit of a clearer depiction of the structure of the vessel, showing the seating positions of both tiers of rowers and the upper deck screen and lower deck open side structure, here in this example comprising of apparent solid timber work. (from Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 182.).
Another Fragment from the Late geometric period (735–710 BC) showing us a clear representation of a two-tier multi-banked oared galley.
This Fragment of a geometric period Crater clearly showing the two-tiers of rowers, now in the Louvre Museum, Paris. (From Conway’s History of the ship — The Age of the GALLEY, page 27).
(from Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 172.).
(from Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 172.).
The same previous fragment but here highlighted to bring out the detail of the two levels of rowers, although no lattice frame work is depicted here supporting the upper deck.
Geometric period galley with 39 men counted but could really be meant to represent 40, the oarage exaggerated at the cost of decks fore and aft, Athens circa 735–710 BC. (British Museum). (From Conway’s History of the ship — The Age of the GALLEY, page 39).
A pictorial representation of the previous galley here the left-hand representation with the bottom row, Line A representing the starboard side and gunwale with accompanying Thole pins for the oars to rest and be supported by, whilst the top row of oars and their accompanying (from Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 165.).
Thole pins are meant to show the oars on the port side(Lines C and B), where line B is an ideal representation of the gunnel of the ship and the thole pins numbered 1 through to 11 with line C represents the gunwale where the oars rest and are supported on.
The image on the right would be the same ship as depicted in aspect that would be the ship if it had been painted seen in profile, according to a ‘realistic’ perspective.
Fragment of geometric period crater here showing both level of rowers in the unusual open and un-supported upper and lower decks with both steering oars and a helmsman represented. (from Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 172.).
Fragment of a crater from the geometric period with its accompanying pictorial representation depicting the Bow section of the same ship, now in the Louvre Museum, Paris. (from Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 172.).
Hypothetical cross-section of decked galley, (Eikosoros), with and without the prospective Parexeiresia or outrigger. (From Conway’s History of the ship — The Age of the GALLEY, page 38).
Hypothetical cross-section of an open two-level galley. (From Conway’s History of the ship — The Age of the GALLEY, page 40).
Reconstruction line-drawing of a geometric period Penteconter based on the data furnished by the Athenian pottery sherds of circa 760–710 BC. (From Conway’s History of the ship — The Age of the GALLEY, page 40).
Geometric period warship depicted on an Attic crater of the period and now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Museum Photo. (from Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 178.).
Another very similar Attica geometric period warship depicted on a crater of the same period and now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Museum Photo. (from Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 178.).
Figures A and B shows us the very clear representation of single banked Attica geometric galleys decomposed from the previous two photos of the geometric period warships now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Museum Photo (from Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 179.).
Another fragment from an attic geometric period vase depicting a galley under full sail and what clearly shows a single banked warship. (from Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 179.).
A fragment of an Attica vase from the geometric period clearly showing a single banked galley, the rowers sitting just level with the gunwale. From the Agora Museum Athens. Museum Photo. (from Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 182.).
Diagram of the horizontal beams, seen in profile, with the top of the gunnel, which appears on many representations. (from Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 182.).
An Attica bowl of the period around the end of the geometrical style or the beginning of the proto-Attica style towards 710–700 BC. Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada. (from Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 184.).
Clearly depicted are the two-levels with Parexeiresia, manned by Thranites oarsmen, tholes on both banks are shown, oarage is exaggerated at the cost of the decks fore and aft, Corinth circa 735–710 BC.
Details of the Bow and Stern Section of the previous vase galley. (from Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 184.).
This galley does show some curious anomalies, if my interpretation is correct. If we look carefully we see what appear to be both an upper and lower deck clearly illustrated by what appears to be a lower row of thole pins but without the accompanying tier of rowers.
A line drawing detail of the galley in the previous three images of the bowl from the Museum of Toronto. The straight and higher lines indicated at point A meet at the point C which thrusts out acting as a form of Bow step, forming a Proembolon. Curve X seems to indicate a bulge of the hull in this place. (from Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 186.).
GALLEY DEVELOPMENT — AN INSIGHT INTO THE DESIGN EVOLUTION AND COMBAT TECHNIQUES OF THE ANCIENT CLASSICAL GALLEYS OF GREECE, ROME AND CARTHAGE.
The proembolon is clearly explained as an ornamental but functional protrusion just above the Ram of the ship and used in later Greek and Roman galleys to prevent an enemy ship from damaging the ramming vessel.
(Adapted From Warfare in the Classical World, John Warry, 1980.).
The Problem with Rams as with most naval engagements in the ancient world the issue of the physics involved in deliberate collision with an enemy vessel.
We basically have a situation that runs counter to the actual process because as the galley rams an enemy vessel it uses all its inertia to push the enemy ship forward and away but in so doing is swiped as a result. This is due to the rotation of the enemy vessel because the point of the ram’s impact is low enough as to set up a rotational axis running through the enemy vessel’s hull which in turn causes the enemy vessel to rotate about that axial plane.
In the above illustration we have a Late Roman Deceres galley, note the reinforced iron clade plating at ram-level, ramming a like vessel to show how such action, although de-stabilising to the enemy vessel, can cause damage to the ramming vessel if its bow and stem are not properly reinforced or protected with a proembolon.
It is interesting to note the curvature of the stem of the galley which other than being ornamental could be used, if reinforced, to deflect an enemy vessel’s outrigger and hull and prevent any portion of an enemy vessel gaining purchace on the ship’s bow section and thus cuase entanglement or serious damage.
(Adapted From Warfare in the Classical World, John Warry, 1980.).
In the above sequence we have a Hellenistic Hepteres (Septireme,) of the period of Demetrius, ramming a like vessel. If such like vessels were ever to encounter one another in such a situation we can clearly see how a reinforced proembolon, here in the shape of a ram’s head, would act to prevent damage to the bow section’s integrity. The small curved stem acting to deflect the enemy vessel’s outrigger and hull along its length and down and away, thus preventing entanglement.
No oars are included in the above, in this or next set of ramming sequences, but the splintering and smashing of oars must have been as a big as a disabling event as the enemy vessel being rammed in the hull and tilted. If we look at any Ram design we see it as a blunted tool used to puncture an enemy vessel’s hull.
There is no need for the edges or points of a ram to be sharpened for the inertia of the ramming ship coupled to the tremendous force applied to such a localised and small point, relative to the size and mass of the ramming vessel, is huge and thus the unfortunate crew of the vessel being rammed go through a sort of navalised ‘whip-lash’ when impact occurs, further added to the confusion and chaos of knowing the vessel will almost certainly sink.
(Adapted From Warfare in the Classical World, John Warry, 1980.).
In the above sequence we have a an early Roman Quinquereme of the kind which carried a ‘Raven’ or Corvus, so named for its resemblance of its iron spiketo a crow’s beak, boarding bridge, here removed for convenience sake, ramming a like vessel.
The vessels both have a reinforced proembolon, though not the protruding variety, this was to come later, as trial and error gave way to modifications and improvements in the bow section’s design specifically in relation to the process of ramming.
An early Roman Quinquereme with a ’Raven’s Beak’ Corvus. (From Warfare in the Classical World, John Warry, 1980, page 118.).
When the corvus was employed, Roman infantry would simply turn their superior fighting skills onto an enemy crew, more suited to ship to ship engagements, thus the Romans were able to nullify the Phoenicians ‘ superior seamanship.
A Corvus according to Connolly. (From The Roman Army, Peter Connolly, 1975, page 21.).
The corvus boarding bridge was dropped onto an enemy vessel were the ‘beak’ would become stuck in the enemy vessel’s deck or gunwales, thus locking the two vessels together, initially the Romans had great success with this device up to 350 B.C. and though the ships was an unrivalled naval fighting platform, it was unseaworthy.
A cross-section of a Roman Quinquereme with Corvus. (From Warfare in the Classical World, John Warry, 1980, page 118.).
Note the Corvus’ size and height and prominent location, pivoting on a relatively small point at the farthest possible position away from the ship’s centre of stability, which could give rise to serious instability issues during anything other than fair weather sea conditions.
To any the aspirations of the fledgling Roman Empire a dominant naval arm is essential for sustained growth and prosperity, and where the enemy was unsuccessful the weather would often win out.
The Corvus in action! Rome’s superb infantry training allowed her troops to engage the enemy on their own terms. (From The Roman Army, Peter Connolly, 1975, page 21.).
In one such incident a Roman fleet off the coast of Sicily was caught in a storm and 270 ships were wrecked and sunk with an estimated loss of 100,000 lives. It has been surmised that the Corvus probably made the ships too top-heavy and therefore destabilised the vessel in anything other than fair weather, whatever the reasons the Corvus is never mentioned again.
In the below sequence we have a line-up of the major-type naval vessels of antiquity presented to give the reader an appreciation of naval design philosophies from the three major naval powers of antiquity, namely from Rome, Carthage and Greece respctively.
(From Warfare in the Classical World, John Warry, 1980, pages 98–99.).
(From Warfare in the Classical World, John Warry, 1980, pages 118–119.).
(From Warfare in the Classical World, John Warry, 1980, pages 182–183.).
(From Hannibal and the Enemies of Roman, Peter Connolly, 1978, pages 38–39.).
(From The Greek Armies, Peter Connolly, pages 44–45.).
A reconstruction of a Hellenistic 16-“banked” galley by Peter Connolly. (From The Greek Armies, Peter Connolly, pages 46–47.).
A cross section illustrating the 16-man or 16-“banked” configuration of the Hellenistic galley (left) along with the positions of maximum sweep obtained by the oarsmen (right). (From The Greek Armies, Peter Connolly, page 47.).
Front, Bow section of a Hellenistic galley illustrated in the previous two images, Greek coin, circa 300B.C. (From The Greek Armies, Peter Connolly, page 46.).
Front, Bow section of another Hellenistic galley similar to the example illustrated in the previous three images, note the reinforced bows, Greek coin. (From The Greek Armies, Peter Connolly, page 45.).
A Greek coin, showing the front, Bow, Section of an Athenian Trireme, typical of those used in the Great naval Battle of Salamis of 480 B.C. (From The Greek Armies, Peter Connolly, page 45.).
A reconstruction of the side-on front half of a Greek trireme of circa 480 B.C., (Peter Connolly). (From The Greek Armies, Peter Connolly, pages 44–45.).
A reconstruction of the overhead-view of the front half of a Greek trireme of circa 480 B.C., (Peter Connolly). (From The Greek Armies, Peter Connolly, pages 44–45.).
A reconstruction of the cross-section of the same vessel, (Peter Connolly). (From The Greek Armies, Peter Connolly, pages 44–45.).
An excellent illustration depicting an Athenian trireme ramming a Persian trireme.
Impression of the bow of a Greek trireme showing the probable position of the Apobathra, boarding gangways which Greek ships rigged before going into battle, situated in front of the Parekseiresia or outrigger.(From The Battle of Salamis, Rchard.B. Nelson, 1975, page 28.).
Carving from Carthage depicting the Bow section of a galley. The ram illustrated on this carving and on the coin below were of the most common form. (From Hannibal and the Enemies of Roman, Peter Connolly, 1978, page 39.).
A Carthaginian coin of circa 220 B.C. depicting the front or Bow section of a Carthaginian galley. (From Hannibal and the Enemies of Roman, Peter Connolly, 1978, page 39.).
Side-view reconstruction of a Carthaginian quinquereme without the lead sheathing to the hull or bronze ram. (From Hannibal and the Enemies of Roman, Peter Connolly, 1978, pages 38–39.).
A sculpture of the front or Bow section of a Roman Lilybaeum galley from Trajan’s column interestingly the Roman Lilybaeum shares the same ram design as its Carthaginian counterpart and may verywell have adapted this ram design to carry out a different type of dissabling function to previous Roman designed galley bow sections. This is more fully described in the ramming sequence of a Carthaginian quinquereme in the previous image by Peter Connolly. (From Hannibal and the Enemies of Roman, Peter Connolly, 1978, page 39.).
The rear or Stern section of a Carthaginian quinquereme showing the relatively light, open and simple construction employed as compared to Roman vessels of the period. (From Hannibal and the Enemies of Roman, Peter Connolly, 1978, page 38–39.).
Cross-section of a Carthaginian quinquereme showing the arrangement of three oars and five oarsmen, hence the name given to all vessels rowed by five oarsmen “Quinque” equating to “five” — the number of rowers per “bank” and not the number of oars per bank. (From Hannibal and the Enemies of Roman, Peter Connolly, 1978, page 38.).
Front or Bow section of a Carthaginian quinquereme fully clad in lead sheeting. (From Hannibal and the Enemies of Roman, Peter Connolly, 1978, page 39.).
Side-view of an unclad (without the lead sheathing to the hull) Carthaginian quinquereme. (From Hannibal and the Enemies of Roman, Peter Connolly, 1978, pages 38–39.).
Parts of the hull of the first two Carthaginian galleys discovered near Lilybaeum in Sicily. (From Hannibal and the Enemies of Roman, Peter Connolly, 1978, page 38.).
A. : Method for joining planks together with tenons and dowels. (From Hannibal and the Enemies of Roman, Peter Connolly, 1978, page 38.).
B. : Method for nailing planks to ribs. (From Hannibal and the Enemies of Roman, Peter Connolly, 1978, page 38.).
Section.1. : Hull Stern-section. (From Hannibal and the Enemies of Roman, Peter Connolly, 1978, page 38.).
C. & D. : Sections of the ship’s keel. (From Hannibal and the Enemies of Roman, Peter Connolly, 1978, page 38.).
E. : Section of the ship’s rearmost ribs. (From Hannibal and the Enemies of Roman, Peter Connolly, 1978, page 38.).
F. : Section of the ship’s fifth rib showing planking nailed to rib and keel. (From Hannibal and the Enemies of Roman, Peter Connolly, 1978, page 38.).
Section.2. : Part of the Ram-section of the ship. (From Hannibal and the Enemies of Roman, Peter Connolly, 1978, page 38.).
G. & H. : Sections of the ship’s ram and keel interface. (From Hannibal and the Enemies of Roman, Peter Connolly, 1978, page 38.).
(Adapted from Hannibal and the Enemies of Roman, Peter Connolly, 1978.).
I thought it appropriate that since we have analysed the physics involved in Roman galley ramming, it would be appropriate to analyse the above sequence of a Carthaginian quinquereme ramming an opposing vessel.
I would say here that the analysis is my hypothesis based on the unusual shape of the Carthaginian ram.
The ram section of a Carthaginian quinquereme is highly unusual and has lead me to believe that if we follow the reasoning behind ‘form dictates function’ then we can begin to understand the reason behind the Carthaginians choice in such a design.
At first one would think that the Carthaginians, by this ram example, had only moderate appreciation of the ram and its uses. But if we examine it further we can come to the appreciation of a technique mostly overlooked and not so apparent.
In the above sequence we see what should happen to an opposing vessel when ‘rammed’ by a Carthaginian quinquereme.
I say rammed loosely here because I believe that the ram on Carthaginian vessels of this design played a very special and unique function unlike other conventional galley rams.
It is my belief that the peculiar shape of the Carthaginian quinquereme ram enabled the ram to apply a resultant force equivalent to a lift and push technique, essentially rolling the enemy vessel away from the ship’s bow altogether and avoiding the impact and possible entanglement experience by Roman galleys in which the use of the reinforced bow section and proembolons was required to prevent being stuck ni the opposing vessel’s hull.
It is my Belief that the tip of the Carthaginian quinquereme’s ram is so designed as the instant the tip of the upturned portion of the ram contacts the opposing vessels hull it automatically digs in due to the huge inertia of the galley, when impacting with the opposing vessel, that the resultant vector sum of forces applied in the forward and upwards planes of motion result in the opposing vessel tipping in the opposite direction away from the ship as it is essentially rolled over by these two forces acting at that point.
Whether the opposing vessel’s lead clad sheathing is enough to prevent being punctured, I cannot say, but I would go as far as to say that such cladding may certainly help prevent a ship from holing it if hit broadside.
This though is really inconsequential when compared to the devastating effect of rolling a ship possibly more than 40 degree or more, then reversing and watching it slap down back into the water.
If my hypothesis is correct the resultant action would have devastating and unimaginable consequences for the crew of the opposing vessel. Forget the fact that the ship may or may not have punctured a hole in the opposing vessel’s hull, the damage done to the crew would essentially immobilise the vessel instantly, if it doesn’t capsize, allowing the Carthaginians to simply board and capture the ship rather than destroy it, the captured ship would be far more of a valuable commodity intact than at the bottom of Poseidon’s inky depth and for one, whatever remaining crew are captured can be used as that most valuable of commodities in the ancient world — slaves.
The Carthaginians were the first naval power in the Mediterranean to mass produce galleys with of the shelf parts. All they needed to do was put together all the pre-constructed parts of the vessel to produce a galley. Were as we see ship building being a process of construction in situ, with all the material brought together and fashioned keel upwards, the Carthaginians simply constructed their galleys from component parts that were already manufactured, thus manufacturing a Carthaginian quinqureme was much like procuring furniture today. All parts were ‘labelled’ or marked and it was a matter of following the ‘instructions’, thus a fleet could be easily and quickly assembled.
An excellent aerial starboard side view of a reconstruction of a Carthaginian Quinquereme, here only displaying a single row of oars.
A side-on starboards side view of the same vessel depicted with no oars but showing the hull fully clad in lead sheathing.
A cross section of the side-on view of the same vessel, note the apparent light structure to the vessel and the relatively open hull design, completely opposite to Roman galleys which tend towards heavy, closed hull designs.
A top-side view of the same vessel. This gives us an appreciation of just how spacious the vessel really was.
An excellent 3D cross section of a Carthaginian Quinquereme’s hull in scale with a crewman.
Clearly visible are the ship’s ribbing, as shown in the previous Peter Connolly illustration of the remains of two Carthaginian galley wrecks found at Lilybaeum near Sicily. What is also worth noting is this 3D rendition is the ship’s outriggers, visible through cross-section and internally.
The Praeneste relief depicts an ornamental proembolon shaped as a crocodile.
The Praeneste relief depicting an ornamental proembolon as a crocodile, and thus from its shape and rough contours cannot be impaled onto , grip or become stuck to another ship, thus the function of the proembolon must have served not only to prevent this but to cause as much damage as possible on impact as well.
An illustrative reconstruction based on the Praeneste relief, showing the highly reinforced bow section and ornamental crocodile proembolons and unique upward-curving rostra or ram.
A first-century roman galley depicting the reinforced bows with a lion or dog’s head proembolon fully reinforced along with a prominent ram and unusual arrangement for the oars in which the oars do not alternate per level by are positioned on top of each other. (From The Roman Army, Peter Connolly, 1975, page 20.).
An stunning wooden model reconstruction of a Late Roman Bireme from the Museum für Antika Schiffahrt or Museum of Ancient shipping Mainz , Germany, which employs expert model ship builders to draw up plans, produce the patterns and painstakingly build the vessel to exacting scale, plan and stunning detailing.
The Mainz museum hosts a collection of the remains of Roman vessels found in the River Rhine as Mogontiacum (Mainz) was once a strategic position for the Roman army in the then Germania.
I will bring to your attention the zigzag pattern of the ship’s Bow and Stern fences, reminiscent, maybe, of what Greek Geometric period painters might have been trying to convey with similar type patterns on their rendering of Geometric period galleys on pottery ware.
Another stunning Roman Bireme reproduction from the Museum für Antika Schiffahrt or Museum of Ancient shipping. Here we see the Bireme accompanied by a smaller relative of unusual bow configuration The larger of the two bireme models, depicted in this photo, has a semi- closed hull and are is more typical of the Roman vessels discussed in this article, and displaying an unusual rowing arrangement and lack of proembolon, as in the previous bireme model from the Mainz Museum.
A final and excellent Port-side view of the same Roman Bireme reproduction from the same Museum für Antika Schiffahrt or Museum of Ancient shipping. Here we see the Bireme, from the previous image, lines shown off to good effect, noting, from this angle, the absence of any reinforcements to the bow and lack of proembolon. This bireme model has a semi- closed hull, shown off to better effect in this shot, the diminutive Stem of the ship and Greek-style ram used is noteworthy.
THE AEGADIAN ISLANDS RAMS.
The remains of a sunken warship were recently found in the Mediterranean Sea may confirm the site of a major ancient battle in which Rome trounced Carthage.
The year was 241 B.C. and the players were the ascending Roman republic and the declining Carthaginian Empire, which was centered on the northernmost tip of Africa. The two powers were fighting for dominance in the Mediterranean in a series of conflicts called the Punic Wars.
Archaeologists think the newly discovered remnants of the warship date from the final battle of the first Punic War, which allowed Rome to expand farther into the Western Mediterranean.
“It was the classic battle between Carthage and Rome,” said archaeologist Jeffrey G. Royal of the RPM Nautical Foundation in Key West, Fla. “This particular naval battle was the ultimate, crushing defeat for the Carthaginians.”
A map of the Aegadian Isles situated of the west coast of Sicily and the location of one of the most exciting discoveries in recent ancient maritime archaeology of the Mediterranean.
RAMS REVEAL CLUES.
The shipwreck was found near the island of Levanzo, west of Sicily, which is where historical documents place the battle.
In the summer of 2010, Royal and his colleagues discovered a warship’s bronze ram — the sharp, prolonged tip of the ship’s bow that was used to slam into an enemy vessel. This tactic was heavily used in ancient naval battles and was thought to have played an important role in the Punic fights.
The ram is all that’s left of the warship; the rest, made of wood, apparently rotted away.
“There’s never been an ancient warship found — that’s the holy grail of maritime archaeology,” Royal told LiveScience. “The most we have are the rams and part of the bow structure.”
Yet a ram alone can reveal intriguing clues about what these archaic vessels were like.
“The ram itself gives you a good idea of how the timbers were situated, how large they were, how they came together,” Royal explained.
The new ram is the third such recent discovery near that site.
In 2008, the same team uncovered a beaten-up warship ram with bits of wood still attached, which the scientists were able to carbon-date to around the time of the end of the first Punic War.
Another ram that had been pulled out of the water by a fishing boat three years earlier in the same area bore an inscription dating it to the same time period.
This third ram, Royal said, is almost identical in shape and size to the one found in 2008.
“At this point you’ve got to begin to say, ‘We have for the first time archaeologically confirmed an ancient naval battle site,’” Royal said.
CARTHAGINIAN OR ROMAN?
The researchers can’t be absolutely sure whether the new ram belonged to a Roman or a Carthaginian ship, but Royal’s betting on the latter.
The inscription on the first ram, brought up by the fishermen, was in Latin, establishing that one as Roman. It was decorated with intricate carvings, including rosettes.
By comparison, the rams found in 2008 and this year are plain, with no decorations, and rough finger marks still left from when the cast was made.
“They were very utilitarian, very hastily made,” Royal said.
That fits in with the historical accounts of the Carthaginians. While Rome already had a standing fleet before the war, “the ancient sources state that the Carthaginians hurried to rush a fleet together very quickly and then outfitted the ships and sent them off,” Royal said.
Plus, because the Carthaginians were the losing side of this battle, more of the sunken ships belonged to them than to Rome.
All in all, the evidence points toward the newly discovered ram belonging to Carthage, Royal said.
Royal and Sebastiano Tusa of Sicily’s Superintendent of the Sea Office are co-directors of the RPM Nautical Foundation. For more information about their work, visit the RPM site.
The third out of ten Aegadian rams discovered as it has lain for almost 2,500 years on the Tyrrhenian Sea floor.
One of the ten Aegadian rams discovered near the island of Levanzo, Aegadian Isles, west of Sicily and brought up to the surface in 2010. The Aegadian rams are thought to be of Carthaginian origin.
The eight out of ten Aegadian rams discovered by an R.O.V. off the coast off the Island of Levanzo wreck site. July 2010.
The third Aegadian ram discovered and in the process of being raised from the seabed, September 2010. (Regione Siciliano/George Robb, RPM Nautical Foundation Florida).
One of the ten Aegadian rams discovered near the island of Levanzo , Aegadian Isles, west of Sicily and brought up to the surface in 2010. The Aegadian rams are thought to be of Carthaginian origin as researchers know that the naval engagement fought here between Rome and Carthage was lost by the Carthaginians and therefore the rams discovered are thought to be from the Carthaginian galleys sank in the battle, the most likely casualties of that engagement.
The eigth Aegadian ram brought up to the surface in July 2010 discovered near the Coast of Aegadian Island of Levanzo off the West coast of Sicily.
Another of the Aegadian rams and one of five rams discovered near the Aegadian islands off the West coast of Sicily.
A near head-on view of the Athlit ram, now in the Israeli National Maritime Museum in Haifa. The head of the ram with its three distinctive ‘fins’ clearly evident here and shown off to good effect whilst the rivet holes used to attach the ram to the ship’s bow section are clearly visible in this shot, and lacking any evidence of corrosion even after some 2,500 years submerged beneath the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Another view of the Athlit ram, this time from the rear and peering into the ram’s interior. Now in the Israeli National Maritime Museum in Haifa. The tail piece of the bottom plate is clearly evident here and shown off to good effect whilst the rivet holes used to attach the ram to the ship’s bow section are clearly evident in this shot, and lacking any evidence of corrosion even after some 2,500 years submerged beneath the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
This time almost head on, of the Athlit ram in the Israeli National Maritime Museum in Haifa. The Caduceus or Herald’s Wand, prominently displayed on the Cowl nosing slope is still prominent and well defined, lacking any evidence of corrosion even after some 2,500 years submerged beneath the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
A side-on view of the Athlit ram at the Israeli National Maritime Museum in Haifa. Note the Model of the Olympias Trireme in the background illustrating the type of vessel thought to have once furnished the Athlit ram.
A Hypothetical reconstruction with the Athlit ram affixed to the type of ship common to the period. Noteworthy is the prominent Ram-like Proembelon. It is not known whether the ship was of the bireme or trireme type. Photo by William M. Murray. (From The Age of Titans: The Rise and Fall of the Great Hellenistic Navies, William Murray, 2012).
A three-view illustration of the Athlit ram, with all portions of the ram fully described. (From The Age of Titans: The Rise and Fall of the Great Hellenistic Navies, William Murray, 2012).
A 3D rendering of a virtual reality model illustrating the Athlit ram, note the Caduceus or Heralds wand on the front slope of the ram known as the Cowl Nosing, that fits into one of the sockets at the Augustine Monument at Actium, Greece.. From the Institute for the Visualization of History Inc. 2002.
A 3D rendering of a virtual reality model illustrating the Athlit ram that fits into one of the sockets at the Augustine Monument at Actium, Greece, here looking from behind and partially into the ram’s interior. From the Institute for the Visualization of History Inc. 2002.
The Augustus Monument dedicated to the battle of Actium as it appears today. Clearly visible from what remains of the monument wall are the slots were the rams of enemy vessels were mounted.
Line-Drawing Reconstruction of the Augustus Monument dedicated to the battle of Actium showing us what the finished display would have appeared like and how the captured rams would have looked like mounted.
An initial 3D rendering of a virtual reality model illustrating the Augustus Monument at Actium, Greece, note the array of trophy rams in their original position on the monument. From the Institute for the Visualization of History Inc. 2002.
The final 3D rendering of a virtual reality model illustrating the Augustus Monument at Actium, Greece, note the now full array of trophy rams in their original position on the monument. From the Institute for the Visualization of History Inc. 2002.
The actual Athlit ram socket №4. from the Augustine Monument at Actium, Greece.
An initial 3D rendering of a virtual reality model illustrating the Athlit ram socket №4. from the Augustine Monument at Actium, Greece, From the Institute for the Visualization of History Inc. 2002.
The proportionately enlarged ram that fits into one of the sockets next to the Athlit ram socket №4, at the Augustine Monument at Actium, Greece. From the Institute for the Visualization of History Inc. 2002.
A 3D rendering of a virtual reality model illustrating the Athlit ram (the smaller of the two rams) and the proportionately enlarged ram that fits into one of the sockets at the Augustine Monument at Actium, Greece, here a human figure is shown to scale. From the Institute for the Visualization of History Inc. 2002.
Another 3D rendering of a virtual reality model illustrating the Athlit ram (the smaller of the two rams) and the proportionately enlarged ram that fits into one of the sockets at the Augustine Monument at Actium, Greece, here seen from an elevated perspective and a human figure to scale. From the Institute for the Visualization of History Inc. 2002.
A 3D rendering of a virtual reality model illustrating the proportionately enlarged ram that fits into one of the sockets at the Augustine Monument at Actium, Greece. From the Institute for the Visualization of History Inc. 2002.
Drawing of the Athlit ram as it would be readied to be placed on the Athenian Olympias Trireme. (From Building The Trireme, Frank Welsh, 1988, page 96.).
The business end of the Olympias Trireme. Note the head on view of the tip of the ram with all three fins diverging out to a broad front.
In this menacing view of the Olympias’s business end we get a very clear impression as to why the three fins, fanning out in such a broad manner were successful as a ramming tool. The designers of this ram could very well have given the trireme a simple and well tested ram similar to those seen in their Persian-Phoenician counterparts, but the trireme was a significant step in warship evolution so a ram of the same calibre was needed to maximise this new vessels full potential.
We can see how the ram follows the shape of the ship’s bow section, converging to a point like a bronze glove, best imagined without the fins.
If the head of the ram was simply shaped like the end of a chisel it would probably have been enough. This in its self would need real-life experimentation on a dummy vessel fitted out like an opposing galley to fully document what type of damage would be caused to an enemy ship and the impact on the trireme as a consequence, if any, on it.
Adding the three horizontal fins at these strategic points on the ram I believe helped not only to remove the possibility of any chance of an enemy vessel’s hull snagging the trireme in its hull structure but actually aided the trireme’s impact by so completely disintegrating the enemy vessel’s hull at that point that the death blow came with the first punch, so to speak.
The peculiar u-shaped devices lying on their sides in the fin cavities would help prevent the ram from progressing too far into an enemy vessel and become snagged.
I reason this because there is no real portion of the ram at any point along its length that would stop the ship’s fins from carrying on into the enemy vessel’s hull where they not there.
This is speculation on my behalf and the u-shaped devices may very well be there for reinforcement of the fins, but it does seem obvious that when such a device has punched a hole in the opposing vessels side it needs to be able to stop progressing and allow the trireme to reverse out at some point quickly.
I think the following photo best illustrates my point when looking at the shape of the ram, imagined without the fins then progressing by adding the fins back, with the fin cavity u-shaped devices in place. What is interesting in the Connolly reconstruction of the Athenian trireme and that of the Olympias is that neither have by traditional definition any proembolon or multiples of them.
Instead we have, in Olympias’s case, a very strong set of reinforcement buttresses along and directly over the protective ‘eye’ of the ship, and in the Connolly re-construction a bow that is shaped like an arced set of steps moving away from the ram and reinforced at regular intervals by a set of bronze cladding where all three of the ship’s wales converge on the bow section.
It is interesting to note that with the actual bow platform and stem are further back that in any other known galley example the Connolly reconstruction shows a bow section designed to hole an enemy vessel but in progressing into an enemy vessel’s hull deflect away oars and open up the outrigger and hull from the trireme and in so doing completely ‘knock out’ they opposing vessel.
In the Connolly re-construction the ram is very much, in Plan-view, shaped like a chisel. Maybe the Athenian and other Greek Ship Builders realised that to further reinforce and add greater destructive effectiveness to their ships rams the addition of these fins, fanning out from the ram’s simple ridges would be a simple and effective solution to what may have caused them to reconsider the design in the first place.
(From The Age of Titans : The Rise and Fall of the Great Hellenistic Navies. William Murray.2012.).
The design proliferation of the ancient galley ram is well illustrated in the above image of a variety of galley rams, actual examples along with stone carvings and paintings.
If we take the first example, the Athlit ram, as an example of an Athenian Trireme ram we can see just how the ram evolved but different the accompanying ram examples are. All are variations on a theme but more importantly each illustrates a design suited to the dimensions and build of the vessel and its function. The ram is a very specific tool designed for a very specific function, so it would be reasonable to infer that all these different designs hold more than just an artistic whim and a desire to be different.
Rams from “warships of larger build” :
A: The Athlit ram.
B: Ram depicted on a warship relief from the Palantine. Augustan period.
C: Detail from a fresco panel showing paired warships. Temple of Isis, Pompeii first-Century CE.
D: Marble ram Ostia. Second half of first-century BCE.
E: Marble ram, Nikopolis, Greece (now lost). Image (mirrored) from Papademetriou, 1941, 30, Figure.6. By permission of the Archaeological Society at Athens.
F: Bronze model of a ships prow, formerly in the Altes Museum, Berlin (now lost).
G, H: Warship rams sculpted in relief on a triumphal arch at Orange (Ancient Arausio) France. Reign of Tiberius.
I: Marble ship prow from Aquileia, Italy. First Century CE. After a line drawing by A.L. Ermeti.
J: Marble ram, presumably from Rome or its environs (findspot unrecorded). Agustan period. Federico Zeri Collection, Mentana, Italy.
K: Ram on relief panels showing naval trophies and priests’ emblems from Rome (precise findspot unrecorded). Augustan Period. Palazzo dei Conservatori, Rome.
L: Marble ram, findspot unrecorded. Augustan period. Antikenmuseum, University of Leipzig.
(From The Age of Titans: The Rise and Fall of the Great Hellenistic Navies, William Murray, 2012).
The other piece of data I can offer to further back up my argument for the correct interpretation of the ram and bow section illustrated by Connolly’s re-construction is the seventeenth-century drawing from the Cavaliero dal Pozzo, Italy, now in the British Museum. This drawing is a further example of the front section of the galley so wonderfully brought to life in Connolly’s Battle of Salamis painting.
Although there are obvious discrepancies in the oar arrangement of the drawing, probably bought on from a long history of incorrect observations being handed down, the dal Pozzo drawing is a remarkably faithful reproduction predating that of the Athenian Trireme of Connolly and the coin from which he bases his re-construction on.
The seventeenth-century Cavaliero dal Pozzo drawing. (From Building the Trireme, Fank Welsh, 1988, page 51.).
Another quick example to ilustrate my point which is based on the incorrect interpretation of the trireme’s oar arrangement in th Cavalerio dal Pozzo drawing comes from a piece of a relief discovered by Lenormant in the ruins of the Erechtheion in 1859 from the Acropolis at Athens showing the central section of a three banked galley.
Firstly we have the actual example, with clear but worn detail of the central structure of the galley hull and oar arrangement with the Thranites rowers seater atop the ships gunwale. From this we can see the three tiers of the trireme, but not very clealrybut the deatails aremore obvious on closer inspection.
Then we have the Connolly illustration of the Lenormant relief with a detailed and faithful rendering of the oar arrangement which is easier to understand at a glance and on closer inspection is accurately reproduced.
Though the Lernomant relief is confusing to many, mostt of all the lay person, the illustration follwing Connolly’s accurate reproduction gives us a very well expalined and easy to understand illustration of what we are actually seeing in the original marble relief.
Original Lenormant relief from the Acropolis at Athens showing the central section of a three banked galley. (From Building the Trireme, Frank Welsh, 1988, page 40.).
Lenormant relief fragmnet, reproduced by Peter Connolly, from the Acropolis at Athens and clearly showing the central section of a three banked galley.(From The Greek Armies, Peter Connolly, page 44.).
Illustration explaining the Lenormant relief oar arrangement in detail. (From Building the Trireme, Frank Welsh, 1988, page 41.).
Section of the Olympias Trireme for comparison with the Lernomant relief. (From Building the Trireme, Frank Welsh, 1988, page 205.).
So from original and rather confusing relief carving we arrive at a clearly explained and unambiguous illustration obvious to any that examine it and from this an actual life size full scale, fully functioning replica.
Therefore Connolly not only accurately reproduced an entire fifth-century Athenian galley, typical of those encounter at the Battle of Salamis, from the fragmentary evidence available, other observers have also reached the same conclusion with accurate and detailed explanations, leading to a fully functioning full scale replica, in this case the Olympias Trireme..
So if we now Looking more carefully at the ram of the Connolly re-construction it shows us that it would be a natural progression for the Ship Builders to extend horizontally all three points of the ram to fan out as fins and in so doing not just simply disperse and reduce the energy of the impact in a more efficient and effective manner but by also taking away some of the energy on impact from the cutting edge of the head of the ram and in so doing assisting the ‘punch and slice’ trauma effect and deliver a more effective ‘killer blow’.
To the enemy ship’s hull the chisel edge of the rams head and the three horizontal fins helped destroy an enemy vessels hull so effectively both in the vertical and horizontal planes at these four points that it wasn’t just a disabling or crippling blow that was delivered but essentially ‘game over’ on impact.
Ram ready for action as the Olympias sails the sea, the bronze ram strikes a fearsome appearance as the main armament of the ship.
In the above image we can appreciate a little more what it was like to see an ram on an actual working reconstruction of a fifth-century Geek trireme. Noteworthy is the reinforced bows of the ship which are represented by the two prominent buttress style proembolons, here as simple extensions of the reinforced portion of the bow and not as in later roman examples with extended protrusions terminating in animal heads or ornate animal figures as crocodiles, as shown in this article.
The Olympias Trireme in dry dock having weathered the seas with obvious signs of a lengthy period at sea evident on her timbers.
In the above shot we get an exemplary view of the Olympias trireme’s bronze ram in dry dock. As would have been the case in actual combat the Olympias’s ram would have been just submerged under the water-line and ready to hole an opposing vessel’s hull with what we can only call a Grecian naval vessel blunt force trauma weapon.
The devastation such a device would have brought on Persian galleys in the battle of Salamis in all too plainly evident. And though from Peter Connolly’s reconstruction of the Battle, the Persian-Phoenician galleys tend to have a longer more beak-like bronze ram device, which would in theory produce a small hole to begin with and as the ship’s ram proceeded further in steadily open a bigger and bigger hole.
Greek triremes and for that matter later Roman galleys who adopted the device, realised that to prevent damage, entanglement to their own vessel only a certain amount and shaped ram needed to penetrate an enemy vessel to cause the maximum amount of damage and allow the ship to pull away quickly. This was already in use designed and developed by the Greek Ship Builders for their navies; hence we see this very successful design of ram being used by the later Roman navy on their biremes in Germania and the Rhine.
A monstrous and silent weapon of the seas, the Bronze Ram of the Greek Trireme tradition juts out in menacing pose.
In the above shot we see just how menacing a weapon the Greek Ram really was. Like some monstrous oversized bronze chisel with menacing triple blades this weapon spelt certain destruction to any vessel that fell afoul of its intentions.
As we have seen this design had a particularly successful career in all three Major seafaring naval powers of the Mediterranean, and for good reason, a successful design predominates and none more so than the Greek bronze trireme ram.
Though not as ornate as the Athlit ram now in the Israeli National Maritime Museum in Haifa, the Olympias’s ram is the only fully operational ram of its kind and it would be interesting to see whether there will be a test carried out some time in the future to see just what kind of damage the Olympias’s ram can do to another similarly constructed dummy vessel.
With its bronze blades sitting just above the water-line the Olympias’s main offensive weapon brings to life an image straight out of the past with a sight that would have been commonplace to any naval personnel and lay person alike living by the sea.
It is more evident in this side shot of the Olympias’s bow and ram sections as to why this particular design of ram was chosen and dominated for so long.
If we pay careful attention to the slope of the ram and the portion of the bow, its upper section, called the Cowl and more specifically the cowl nosing slope, we can see that the three horizontal blade-like portions of the ram call the fins which terminate in the portion of the ram called the head and fan out to a degree as they do so, act like a giant bronze triple-bladed can opener. The cowl acting to reinforce the fins and open up an enemy vessel’s hull to just the right mount required to hole the ship and allow quick exit.
For instance if we were to take each of the described galleys mentioned here, from Roman (non-Greek ram), Carthaginian (non-Greek ram) and Persian-Phoenician and have them rake an opposing vessel along its hull length, then neither would cut a gash along the opposing vessel’s hull, yes they would smash to splinters the oars, but that would be the extent of it. And this could be done by the sheer momentum and inertia of the vessel alone with or without a bronze ram as the ship would simple splinter in a hail of wood all the oars it comes into contact with.
The above illustration by Peter Connolly shows clearly how with its compact and rather minimised outrigger one Greek trireme can disable another with a manoeuvre to destroy all the opposing vessels oars on one side, and render it completely helpless in the water, and finish of the stricken vessel by ramming it in the stern and then boarding or leaving the vessel to sink. (From Warfare in the Ancient World, Sir John Hackett, 1989, pages-90–91, Illlustration by Peter Connolly,).
On the other hand if a trireme fitted with a Greek Ram, as used by the Olympias and exemplified by the exceptionally well preserved Athlit ram, that vessel could not only smash the oars to pieces but use its three bronze fins to act like a can opener along the portion of the opposing vessel’s hull it came into contact with, thus causing tremendous damage without running the risk of being caught up in the ship’s hull and risk being pulled down with the sinking vessel.
Another view of a proembolon here a model of a late Roman galley showing off its very prominent reinforced proembolon tipped with a ram’s head.
A marble relief of a roman warship with prominent reinforced proembolon.
The Relief bearing the prow of a Roman warship from Rome, circa. 30 BC belonged to part of a public monument, and possibly celebrating Octavian’s victory at the battle of Actium which took place on 2 September 31 BC, on the Ionian Sea near the city of Actium at the Roman province of Epirus Vetus in Greece. The prow is protected by a three-pointed rostra and a proembolon with an animal’s snout, here sadly lost.
In the below set of hypothetical reconstructions (1–9), we have a speculative set of nine possible rowing arrangements for galleys throughout the development period of ancient warships. Speculative is used here to convey the lack of actual information known about galley rowing and oar configuration, but does serve us well in appreciation of the most likely configurations to have existed. (From Warfare in the Classical World, John Warry, 1980, pages 98–99.).
1. : Illustrates the simplest arrangement of oars as seen in Greek Geometric period Pentekonter galleys.
2. & .3. : Limitations in ship length gave rise to further tiers of rowers and oars being added.
4. : Represents the configuration found on Phoenician triremes which incorporated a raised central gangway.
5. & .6. : Quadriremes and Quinqueremes were developed from example .4. by simply adding more rowers per oar whilst other design developments included larger enclosed outriggers and full decks, i.e. a fully closed deck, these ships became known as Cataphracts.
7. : The next developmental stage to occur was to revise the layout of the oars.
8. & .9. : This revision of oar layout spawned new systems of oar configuration for smaller vessels.
From then on the term “Quinquereme” could refer to ships fitted with three banks of oars arranged in a 2–2–1 system of rowers, that is 2 Thranites, 2 Zygotes and 1 Thalamites rowers per oar, or to ships fitted with just two banks of oars arranged in a 3–2 system of rowers, that is 3 Thranites and 2 Thalamites rowers per oar.
THE GREEK GEOMETRIC PERIOD SHIP BUILDING TRADITIONS AND THEIR IMPACT ON LATER GALLEY DESIGNS.
The familiar bireme of the Geometric period galley, with some fifteen Thranite tholes, ‘manned’ by four oversized oarsmen, Athens circa 735–710 BC. Louvre Museum, Paris. (From Conway’s History of the ship — The Age of the GALLEY, page 37).
I’ve come back to this rendering of what is very likely a bireme configuration but not fully manned for several reasons. It may just very well be that what we are seeing is an attempt by the artist to do as much as he could within the space offered by the handles, which makes sense since the flow of the ship itself is not interrupted but made to fit within and below the handles. As seen. Therefore if seen from that perspective, it is not at all anomalous rather an economic use of space by the painter and the ‘anomalies’ are there to imply further rowers.
As we see from the above enlarged image of the stern of the ship in question what was at first a curious arrangement now clearly makes sense from an economical use of the space available to the painter. (From Conway’s History of the ship — The Age of the GALLEY, page 37).
In images where we can clearly see that the vessel is indeed a monoreme we see the helmsman/helmsmen position on the same level as the rowers as if he was the furthest rower to the rear of the vessel because he sits in much the same way and height as the rest of the crew.
In the above image of the stern section of the ship we see an elevated portion, a platform section with its own fence screen, a ‘step’ above the position of the Thranites rowers. Furthermore what can also throws confusion in categorising this vessel as a monoreme and not a bireme, is the fact that no thole pins are indicated for the suggested Thalamites lower deck rowers, something that is show in other examples identical to this rendered ship.
The bow section enlarged from the previous image of the above mentioned galley. (From Conway’s History of the ship — The Age of the GALLEY, page 37).
In this enlargement of the bow section we can clearly see the four ‘boarding’ steps typical in so many of the Geometric period galleys described in this section. Along with the familiar curved bow beam or stem and partially fenced bow platform and radial ‘wheel-spokes’ ‘eye’ and probably used as a protection device for the ship to ward off evil.
Though the rostra or ram of the ship isn’t shown clad in a bronze sheath, another observation which no Geometric period painter seems to have taken the time to differentiate from the rest of the vessel, in much the way we’ve come to know many examples of ancient Mediterranean galleys there is no reason to suggest that it wasn’t so.
The Bow section of a two-level geometric period galley similar to the previous vase painting, thole pins of both banks is clearly shown, Athens circa 760–735 BC. Louvre Museum, Paris. (From Conway’s History of the ship — The Age of the GALLEY, page 38).
Fragment of a geometric period Crater from Pithecusae (Ischia) here clearly depicting a simple design of the geometric vessel and possibly a small merchant or transport vessel, though the prominent inclusion of a multitude of sea life might indicate a fishing vessel of a simplified yet same design. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 188.).
The same vessel from the previous image shows it at first glance to be a rather simplified version of the larger galleys, though on further inspection it still has a prominent Ram and proembolon section typical of the larger types. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 188.).
An unusual vessel in that in most cases we never see a raised sail and simplified hull, it is interesting to note that this ship’s proembolon is in the shape of a hammer, whilst the curved bow beam extension decoration sports unusual protrusions and a rather thin and extended Ram or rostra. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 188.).
A pair of geometric period iron fire-dogs discovered in a tomb at Argos and dating to the eight-century B.C. Argos Museum, photos, Ecole Francaise. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 189.).
A close up of the second, bottom, example of the Argos fire dogs, here on the bow section is clearly visible one of the ‘boarding’ steps which forms part of the extension to one of the upper most wales in the ships’ bow section. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 189.).
Another shot of the same fire dog this time showing us the separate upper ridge running up to half way along the fire dog’s back and might be an attempt to show a stylised representation of part of the upper half of the ship’s hull. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 189.).
A fragment of a geometric vase depicting part of the open side structure with pillars defining the oarsmen’s ‘room’. What can be confusing with such paintings to the un-accustomed eye is that although there is what appears to be an upper deck structure it can also just as well be interpreted as the gap from which the rowers oars are placed through, note the thole pins, whilst the upper section would represent the top half of the gunwale fence screen covered with canvas or hide to provide protection for the crew. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 189.).
This is much the same way as the 2008 Argo replica gunwale fence is designed and constructed, although the Argo replica does not use any type of material to provide a screen against such possibilities.
The design of the previous image brought into detail. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 166.).
We cannot rule out the possibility that the above rendering does depict a geometric period bireme, though if we look carefully at the depth of the hull it does bear closer relation to the monoremes and the figure which is slightly elevated could possibly be standing on the gangway of the vessel. An attempt to portray as many features of the ship within such a limited artistic concept is noteworthy.
Attica geometric Crater fragment now in the Louvre Museum, Paris. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 166.).
In the geometric Attica Crater fragment on the left, of which the image on the right is an enlargement of the two individuals stationed on the right, the image of warriors on board the vessel clearly indicates a ship with a shallow keel and hull, the vertical lines can be interpreted as gunwale fence posts along with the two horizontal lines which enclose the thicker horizontal line running the length of the ship which could represent a canvas or leather screen stitched onto the fence.
The fact that the vertical lines terminate above the uppermost horizontal line bears consideration as the 2008 Argo replica’s gunwale fence posts terminate in the same manner.
If certain aspects of the ships design are being sacrificed or reduced to promote another aspect of the scene then we can be no clearer as to whether we can say if this is a monoreme or bireme.
A clearer illustration of the previous Crater fragment showing the occupants of the vessel. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 166.).
It is interesting to note that the line the individuals are standing on is more than likely the upper seating planks that act to further strengthen the vessels structural integrity and possibly integrating the gangway , the lower run of hull planks which the rowers place their feet for stability and leverage are implied.
This would make perfect sense as the thole pins are present in a manner denoting a large number of single banked rowers, the gaps between each vertical line separating the thole pins would translate perfectly with the image of the 2008 Argo replica’s gunwales fence allowing the rowers to see their oars clearly whilst the uppermost portion provides a degree of protection from the water, low sun and missiles.
A fragment of an Attica geometric vase, now in the Athens National Museum. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 166.).
In this, yet another depiction of an actual bireme Thranites rower pulling on his oar, we have an actual seated individual, the artist is telling the viewer that this is a two deck galley, the thole pins on the lower portion of the deck indicate this.
A fragment of an Attica geometric period Crater, now in the Louvre Museum, Paris. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 166.).
Whether the artist who rendered this image was going more for effect than accuracy is anyone’s guess. Whilst the figure to the left suggests that he is atop the bow platform perched on the ornate bow beam extension, note the vertical lines that run of the extension, the individual to the right brandishing a bow and arrow seem to be walking what could only be an elevated gangway, whilst the individual in the middle brandishing a sword and at mid-height to the other two figures seems to be moving up to the bow platform from the lower deck gangway or seating.
Another fragment of an Attica geometric period Crater from the National Museum, Athens. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 167.).
The reproduced and detailed image on the left showing the original figures from this fragment give us no doubt that the upper portion of the ship does incorporate a gangway or similar structure and possibly the upper level of the hull planks used as seating for the uppermost rowers in a bireme. This could conversely be interpreted as a raised gangway I n a monoreme whereby the gangway is implied whilst the three horizontal line represent gunwale fence posts and material screen, the position of the rowers being further down just below the thole pins and very much like the configuration of the 2008 Argo replica.
Constructional diagrammatic characteristics of a geometric period galley according to conventional interpretations of the author. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 168.).
A re-constructional cross-section of the above hypothetical geometric galley. Note that in each of the above two images the letters correspond to each image. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 169.).
Horizontal lineaments :
A : Portside of ships’ Hull.
A’ : Starboard side of ship’s Hull.
B :Gunwale of ship’s Port side with Thole pins.
B’: Gunwale of ship’s Starboard side with Thole pins.
C : Gangway.
Vertical Lineaments :
X :Port side support for the ship’s thole pins
Y : Spacing between rowers Seating and foot rest Bench Beams.
Z : Starboard side ‘beams’ extending horizontally away from the ship’s Hull.
As seen in profile view : A, B, A’, B’ X.
As seen I Plan view : C, Y, Z.
Just like in Peter Connolly’s reconstruction of a geometric monoreme but now incorporating a gunwale fence and screen with a gangway only evident when individuals are shown standing or fighting on them.
Clearly and a point that has to be raised is that if the above figure is meant to represent a Bireme and not a monoreme, with raised gangway and rowers screen, suggests then the artists has produced a flawed and misleading image, which is not the case.
As the hull design of a bireme would be structurally different to allow for the accommodation of a second raised platform for more rowers and hence require a distinction by the artist to allow the viewer to distinguish this fact at a glance.
Since both ships designs remain the same with only the addition of what may very well be nothing more than a possible structural upgrade for the benefit of the rowers as the only plausible conclusion derived from this change.
Two possible reconstructions of a geometric period galley as seen in profile, as interpreted by the author. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 169.).
In the above two illustrations of stylised geometric monoreme galleys we see two possible configurations for the rowers thole pins and gunwale decking, the second only differing from the first by the extension of the likely gunwale fence posts.
Four possible reconstructions of a geometric period galley as seen in cross-section, as interpreted by the author.
In all four of the possible cross-sectional reconstructions, A & C representing biremes, with B & D a monoreme, we have ship hull designs possible in all the examples here illustrated in this article, and to some extent may very well show what actual ship structures were present during the geometric period.
In D we see the most common and likely configuration for a monoreme with the unambiguous hull structure present in many examples of geometric sea vessel Art.
It must be said here at this point that the possible number and configuration of such vessels is likely to be no more than the above stated examples as there is a limitation as to how many plausible ship-worthy designs can give rise to the Art rendered on geometric period vases and craters alike.
The above four designs cover all likely outcomes in vessel design at this moment in the historical records and are sound in their structural make-up. With B we can see a number of the ships illustrated if we take to adding raised gunwale fencing and screening.
What must be remembered is that the upper decking may have and would most likely have been identical to the seating arrangement of the lower tier rowers, that is, alternating High and Low hull planking acting as the seating and foot rest benches as of the lower tier rowers, thus reducing were possible the weight and allowing an ‘aired’ open-hull structure all the way from bottom to top rowers.
This in turn would allow for a fairly compact design, as stability is a number one key factor in such high sided vessels, and would mean that every bottom tier rower’s head would have plenty of space being located directly under the bench beam where the upper rowers would seat themselves.
Fragments from a Crater of the geometric period, now in the Louvre Museum, Paris. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 171.).
A rare set of fragments depicting a geometric galley under sail with helmsman or warrior to the stern platform.
The fragment depicting the warrior or sailor clearly shows him on what must be a raised decking and or gangway as depicted in examples A, B and C.
Fragment of a geometric Crater now in the Louvre Museum, Paris. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 171.).
The above fragment shows an unusual variant in the typical geometric galley design in that it has no so called ‘boarding’ steps running along the rostra and bow beam. From what can be gleamed, from the section of the forward hull that has survived, I would say that although this ship is not complete either bireme or monoreme can apply here with a tendency to come down on the bireme side as from what we now know biremes were more typically represented with the upper decking regardless of whether we can discern the possibility of a second upper set of rowers in the absence of any such individuals.
Fragment of an Attica geometric Crater, in the National Museum, Athens, photo courtesy of the German Archaeological institute, Athens. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 171.).
Another similar Attica Geometric Crater fragment, National Museum, Athens. According to Pernice (1892). (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 171.).
In all three instances of this type we have the now familiar upper decked galley more than likely a bireme but never ruling out the possibility of an ‘upgraded’ monoreme.
Again we come across the one of the first mentioned ‘peculiar’ geometric galley to be discussed in this section and described as a ‘single’ level galley as described in ‘THE AGE OF THE GALLEY’ from ‘CONWAY’S HISTORY OF THE SHIP’ with fifteen Thranites thole pins, four ‘manned’ by oversized oarsmen, Athens circa 760–735 BC, Louvre Museum, Paris. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 172.).
In this example from an Attica geometric crater we see the recurrent theme of birds present in many of the fragments previously mentioned, and in the following section of this article covering decorated geometric period fibula.
We could easily dismiss the imagery of birds as a simple fill, as evident amongst the many examples of fragments with an abundance of geometric shapes and stylised animals.
But the fact remains that from the imagery of Bronze Age vessels like those described in my previous entries of ‘THE SHIPS OF THE SEA PEOPLES PART 1 & 2’, the image of the bird atop the bow beam or stem cannot be ruled out as simple additional artwork.
In the above fragment birds are perched, probably seagulls, on both the upper bow beam or stem and stern beam extension in very much the same manner as we see in Mycenaean vase paintings of galleys 500 years earlier.
They are not to be mistaken for totems or mystical figure heads offering protection at sea, as some might see them, but they are noteworthy none the less even if it’s a long established custom amongst artisans to portray ships with birds present above, in front of, on or over a vessel.
Fragment of an Attica geometric Crater, Louvre Museum, Paris. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 172.).
In this depiction we get a rather ambiguous display of a geometric galley. If we follow the same line of reasoning as previously mentioned we could go either way or assume that because what appears to be two levels is most likely a two level bireme. The artist does not show the oars from the apparent ‘top’ deck of rowers falling down on the same side of the vessel as those of the bottom bank, an secondly the oars terminate into the apparent upper decking presumably trying to show the oars disappearing down the opposite side of the vessel, with the possibility that the artist is trying to show the port and starboard sides simultaneously. Since no kind of support structure is present to show that the top most rowers are actually above the bottom bank of rowers we are confronted with yet another dilemma of trying to decipher another different artistic style and trying to gain some kind of continuity from it.
The actual geometric Crater fragment from which the above illustration is derived. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 172.).
What appears to be an illustration derived from the same fragment of the above Attica Crater of the geometric period, this time depicting the stern of the same ship. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 172.).
If we take the line of argument and say that the above vessel has a different and rather higher stern section denoting it to be of bireme configuration then we can proceed with the description, noting that in the obvious cases of single banked galleys we see very little or in some cases no change in the shape of the stern’s structure, rather a smooth and clean uninterrupted flow from bow to stern of the ship.
A fragment from a geometric Attica Crater depicting the stern section of a galley and accompanied by its clearer illustration, Louvre Museum, Paris. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 172.).
It is worth noting that in these three examples depicting two of the same type of vessel we get the impression that the artist or artists are trying to emphasise the size of the ships as in all three cases the rowers and crew members all feel rather small and in proportion with the ship’s dimensions, thus alluding to the possibility that a bireme, which would naturally be larger is illustrated here.
We must all the while never forget the artistic preoccupation of the peoples of the geometric period with all designs mathematical and geometric, hence the use of such an artistic style to represent an image as faithfully as possible must not be lost here, for although we see rather simplified art form, to those whom consider this style to be a rather retrograde step it is in keeping with the amount of detail put into it and remains up to the modern eye as to whether we can see or train ourselves to see with geometric ’eyes’ what was then self-evident.
A geometric Attica Crater Fragment with accompanying rendered illustration, Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 173.).
B: A: Hull view from ship’s Port side.
A’: Starboard part of the ship’s Hull.
B: Gunwale rail Port side of ship’s Hull.
B’: Gunwale rail Starboard side of ship’s Hull.
Fragment of a geometric attiac Crater, National Museum, Athens. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 173.).
In the above as well as following example of geometric period galleys we get some insight into the way in which these vessels are rowed. As can been clearly seen in both these and nearly all previous examples in this article there is the relatively high position taken by the rowers. The impression of sitting so high up with no apparent means of preventing the individual from falling overboard is what tends to be noted, but is in fact just representative of the position within the hull of the ship and not as in say the 2008 Argo Replica where the rowers are clearly recessed some way into the hull.
Fragment of a geometric Attica Crater, Louvre, Paris. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 173.).
This apparent high position taken by the rowers and the steep angle at which the oars seem to present to the water may be implying that this certain method yielded better results than those given by recessed rowers whose oars are at a shallower angle to the water.
Getting the maximum amount of deliverable thrust from each oar stroke for the least amount of work required must have been a major priority for shipbuilders of the geometric period. These geometric galley designs worked at an optimum when the most energy extracted from each oar stroke was delivered by rowers with the greatest point of leverage for the best possible oar angle achieved.
A fragment of a geometric period Attica Crater, Museum of Varsovie,№142172 ( ex Konigsberg), from MONUMENTI INEDITI PUBBLICATI DAL’ INSTITUTO DI CORRISPONDENZA ARCHEOLOGICA, IX, PLATE.40,3. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 174.).
Actual fragment of the previous illustration depicting a warrior seated above and behind a fellow crew member on the raised bow platform. In this case, we can see that the vessel is clearly a monoreme, where the artist has avoided presenting any structure above that of the ships gunwale. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 174.).
An Attica geometric Crater showing a single bank monoreme galley, Louvre, Paris. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 175.).
In this excellent example of a geometric monoreme we can see how the rowers are clearly shown seated slightly recessed into the ship’s hull and not like our previous occupants whom occupy a much higher seated position.
From bow to stern we see that even the stern platform is level with the gunwale of the ship and occupies the same level as the raised bow section.
If we look at the Peter Connolly reconstruction of a geometric period galley it might stand us in good stead to hypothesise that there were geometric monoremes with a much broader hull cross-section than implied by Connolly’s reconstruction. With this in mind it is possible to come to the conclusion that there were several monoreme designs all of the same basic design but whilst others resembled giant oversized canoes some were built to true galley proportions and may very well have been as the 2008 Argo Replica in excess of 93ft!
It is easy to dismiss such artist renditions of geometric ship designs when the form of art representing them relies heavily on reducing everything to its bare minimal representation pictorially, and in some cases goes out of its way to completely distort the proportions of the vessel and its crew.
Bronze relief, from the caves of Mount Ida (Crete), Museum of Heraklion. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 175.).
I’ve decided to include this unusual and unique bronze casting of what appears to be geometric period monoreme galley with a complement of rowers and helmsman.
What is intriguing about this relief it that if you look carefully at the overall design of the vessel it bears an uncanny resemblance to the 2008 Argo Replica, even down to the way the stern tapers off and the bow section and prow or rostra of the ship are shaped.
Although this may just be an over simplification at beast, it does raise the question as to how does a design not present and closely matching a vessel not seen for some 500 years manage to show up in a geometric dated deposit in a cave on one of Crete’s Highest peaks.
A close-up of the Bow section of the above bronze relief. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 176.).
In this close-up of the ship we can see a crew member perched on top of or close to the gunwale of the ship, here depicted as a protruding ‘shelf’ running almost the complete length of the ship.
Though this is not typical of geometric galley bows which curve out and away, it does show us where the likely origins of such vessels may have come from. Although the prominent bow beam extension or stem which curves back and gives the vessels their distinctive and recognisable appearance is present here, this according to the Connolly’s rendition may have come later and been added as a permanent fixture.
A close-up of the rowers seated as in many of the vase and crater paintings relatively high and with no gunwale fence and screen to provide protection, though this is a simplified artist’s rendering it shows us a physical if not rudimentary model of the ship and its crew, a tangible and welcome example. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 176.).
A close-up of the stern section of the bronze relief galley, focusing on the gunwale directly next to the helmsman’s steering position. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 176.).
The artist responsible went to great lengths to render this figure, probably using the lost wax method of casting, with as much detail as possible and avoided giving us a simple flat shape with inscribed lines and patterns denoting hull sections painted patterns on the upper hull and specifics like the gunwale and so on.
(From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 169.).
By including this ledge-like gunwale the artist maybe giving an insight into an actual part of a real geometric period galley, and does bear a striking resemblance to the reconstructed illustration of the cross-section of the hypothetical geometric galley where the Vertical Lineament Z represents the starboard side ‘beams’ extending horizontally and away from the ship’s hull, indicated by the red circles in the following illustration, for the reader’s convenience. Note also just how high the rower is seated, identical to the bronze relief and many of the vase and crater paintings.
Fragment of a geometric period Attica vase depicting the bow section of a galley, The Agora Museum, Athens. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 176.).
From this fragment we see an unusual bow section, whilst appearing to be a monoreme, as indicated from the single row of gunwale fence posts, and devoid of any apparent attempt to show the presence of upper decking.
The two vertical protrusions atop the bow section platform remain a mystery at present. They may very well be simply the tops of fence posts an nothing more.
Though the lack of ‘boarding’ steps and the presence of a prominent proembolon, for a monoreme, are worth consideration, if only to help in classification purposes.
If we follow the following example in extrapolating the remaining portion of the vessel then we can clearly see what category and style of vessel it falls into.
Simplified and stylised Image of a galley from the Attic geometric period, Location currently unknown as of 1940. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 176.).
This simple yet elegant representation of a geometric monoreme goes to show that, with the previous and following example included, the variety of styles of ship bow, stem and stern sections that are present.
Although a basic design runs through all ships of the geometric period of ship building, there are many localised styles all a variation on a theme.
Another simplified and stylised image of a galley from the Attica geometric period, Location currently unknown as of 1940. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 176.).
In the above example we see another typical monoreme design with its sail yet to be unfurled. From such examples as illustrated by Connolly and implied here in this article from correct analysis of types found on geometric pottery wear of the period it would be safe to conclude that a number of size vessels all with the same basic design were present during this period rather than infer that all these examples merely represent the same type of ship but with local artistic variations as an artistic addition or afterthought.
A Geometric Attica Oenochoe wine jug, Munich Museum, Museum Photo №8696. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 177.).
From the above example and throughout this article we see just how just how important the ship was to the geometric period Greeks. This period was a time when the Greeks undertook colonizing to new heights, reaching out all across the Mediterranean from as far north as the Crimean Black Sea coast to the coasts of southern France and Spain.
It would hold true then that the tool in the success and scale of their colonial expansion and settlement should be so prominently reproduced in such abundance as the image adorning such a common place and ubiquitous artefacts as storage and drinking vessels, one of this civilisation’s major agricultural exports at that time — wine.
Geometric Attica cup, University of Tasmania, 1967. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 177.).
In this example we see warriors boarding and preparing to board a galley from the stern. If we examine the vessel more closely we can see that the two individuals representing rowers are seated and enclosed in much the same way as geometric bireme crews were. Though fragmentary and incomplete we note that the first warrior to board is at a much higher position that what could be seen as the Thranites top level of rowers and therefore well above the lower level of implied but not seen lower level bank of rowers.
The presence of another warrior already seated or preparing to take up his rowing position, his upper torso missing but evident from the seated position atop the upper deck gunwale or fence, further illustrates the point in question. The steering oar that is visible is markedly different from the section on which the second warrior has just moved onto indicating that the device he is on is more than likely a boarding plank of some sort, as it is markedly different in all respects from any oar represented.
A Geometric period Attica Skyphos two-handled deep win-cup, Eleusis Museum, №741, Photo by Ekdotike Athenon. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 177.).
In this above example we can clearly see a bird or seagull clearly perched upon the stem or the ornamental bow beam extension or stem. This previously mention characteristic with its roots stemming all the way back to the Mycenaean period and possible even earlier is a recurring theme throughout Greek naval art of the period, as is the ever present warrior with double spears, sword or rapier and the iconic image of the Dipylon shield strapped onto his back.
We can clearly see a monoreme design represented in this artist’s depiction of a warrior about to launch an arrow at the warrior to the bow of the ship. Note the protruding vertical lines representing possible thole pins and the apparent off-vertical slightly diagonal lines running across the length of the ship’s hull, this could very well depict ship decoration in the form of a painted pattern evident in the Bireme examples.
Whether they also might depict an actual gunwale fence surmounted by a wooden gunwale beam, the thole pins fixed atop of it is also another likely interpretation as both points of analysis are valid.
This gunwale beam does run to the stern of the ship and curve up following the shape of the stern and if we look carefully we can see that it does not seem to terminate with contact to the bow section’s wooden beams but with the bow section’s fence posts.
What is clearly evident is that the warriors are not shown recessed into the vessels hull but atop of the apparent gunwale beam and would imply they are moving along a raised gangway.
A geometric period Attica Oenochoe Wine Jug, National Museum of Copenhagen, №1628.A. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 177.).
In the above example of another very similar design to the previously mentioned ship we see the same recurring slightly off vertical lines. In this example and possibly the previous I would come to the conclusion once again of raised posts surmounted by a gunwale beam and only imply the possibility that in clearer examples where the hull section is well defined by hull wales that they may be actual decoration painted on to the ship’s hull as they are too closely set together and at the wrong angle to imply a raised gunwale fence.
We can never be totally sure of the size of vessel Hence trying to glean an idea of its true size would be pointless. These depictions as you may very well now know follow a very distinctive artistic style presenting figures in different scale to one another and the ships they are on or in proximity to all in the same image therefore we must approach such art cautiously when attempting to try and give them a thoughrough analysis.
Fragment from a geometric Attic Crater, National Museum of Athens. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 200.).
Here in this geometric sherd we are very lucky in having preserved a detailed section of the bow of one of these ships. Clearly visible are five ‘boarding steps which the warrior would have used to either board or depart the ship from. These prominent ‘Proemboloi’, if we can call them that, would need to be primarily resistant to vessel collision as well as allow for the movement of crew on and off the vessel.
The fact that in our Heraklion vase depictions of the two proto-geometric vessels such devices were evident even though they show a differently designed vessel from a slightly earlier period which echo the shape of vessels from an even earlier time is noteworthy.
Fragments of a geometric period Attica find from Megara Hyblaea — the Ancient Greek colony on the east coast of Sicily, north-west of Syracuse, after Treziny, 1980. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 177.).
In these final examples of geometric pottery wear we gleam an unusual design. The first example shows the reoccurring theme of birds, or seagulls, perched upon the rostra or ram section of the ship. More importantly we see a completely different and possible new development in ship design when our attention is directed to the bow section.
The obvious difference is noteworthy to say the least. What we appear to have is a ship that has abandoned the now familiar curved stem section to the bow in favour of a less prominent and decidedly less restrictive platform.
We see directly behind the bow section the familiar lattice screen structure typical of later bireme examples presented in this article. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 177.).
This is surmounted by an apparent gunwale or wale and fence which forms part of the bow section fence rather than planks of timber as seen in the Connolly example for instance.
The section then has several smaller vertical posts surmounted by a beam which protrudes at one end and terminates by mating with the top section of the bow stem. All of these new features are very noteworthy and may very well possibly show the next step in the design evolution of the Greek bireme.
The second Fragment associated with the previous sherd shows us the familiar single bank of rowers atop of the now familiar upper hull section of closely packed vertical lines surmounted by a possible gunwale beam and either a raised fence or decorated hull section with gunwale. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 177.).
From the two examples of vessels with only several crew to those now fully manned we can make a clearer decision as to what we are actually seeing in these three remaining fragments.
There has to be a significant amount of clearance or freeboard from the top most section of the ship’s hull (gunwale) to the water level for these types of ship to have a degree of sea worthiness in rough or any type of weather. Anything less regardless of ballast would allow the ship to be inundated and swamped even in moderately rough weather conditions and be counter intuitive since making a vessel so shallow of keel and hull with such a narrow beam as to render a ship of these dimension little more than an overcrowded and glorified canoe only capable of short fair weather crossings or voyages restricted to coastal hugging in order to achieve any degree of appreciable travel.
The third Fragment of a geometric period Attica pottery from Megara Hyblaea. After Treziny, (1980). (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 177.).
In this last fragment presented from the same find at Megara Hyblaea we see yet another example of the high position of the rowers relative to the keel. This does make a great deal of sense in terms of providing the vessel with a greater propulsive force courtesy of the dynamics of oar and rower positioning discussed previously but we must not forget that what we might very well be seeing is an attempt by the artist to sacrifice accuracy for artistic impact.
We must not take the way in which we see the rowers so prominently seated atop what seems to be the gunwale too literally. Instead we must understand that the artist is limited by the scope of his art in representing as much as he can with such a minimalistic art form. Rowers in this position were seated relatively high in relation to the keel but not literally on top of the ships gunwale rather seated hip level with the gunwale or torso level above it.
In all likelihood what we perceive in this art form as rather flimsy, cramped and narrow may very well belie the fact that we are dealing with a considerable advancement, since the Mycenaean galley, in ship building design and does not truly represent the actual size some of these ships may have attained.
In conclusion the art does bear taking with it a certain degree a refrainment, the Connolly reproduction goes a long way into explaining the majority of the vessels depicted in this section of the article but we must not forget that Connolly’s work was carried out in the 70s and to some extent certain aspects of the ships structural design, such as the seating for the rowers, may very well not be as accurate as his reproduction illustrates.
A geometric period bronze Fibula, From the British Museum, Elgin Collection, Museum Photo. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 191.).
In the above original geometric fibula engraving and the same image more clearly illustrated below it clearly shows us another very unusual geometric galley incorporating features found in the two proto-geometric ships from Heraklion Museum and the standard, now familiar geometric galley with some unusual and unique differences.
Whilst sporting only two but major proembolons on the upper section of the bow beam, we see the unusual inclusion of some six closely packed horizontal lines emanating from the stern of the ship just as in the proto-geometric vase examples from Heraklion.
What is striking about this example id the unique shape of the bow’s stem or ornate paddle-like bow beam extension and the sterns’ similarly styled decorated extension beam.
Again we are faced with another variation on an already established design. The rostra or ship’s ram tends to be blunted and squared-off with a distinct line running all the way from the underside of the stem to the tip of the ram and possible indicating the keel of the ship much the same way as in the 2008 Argo Replica.
A monoreme in appearance with the typical bow and stern fence posts this ship design though less common does show that such design were present in the geometric period and clearly illustrates that we cannot rule out future finds with similar variations to the bow and stern sections. The same similar line this time running just below what would be the gunwale could very well be the lower wale or middle wale of the ship which would make the line previously considered as the keel the lower wale of the vessel.
A geometric period bronze Fibula from the ceramic cemetery, Athens, probably beginning of the 8th century, Museum of ceramics, Athens, photograph, German Institute of Archaeology, Athens. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 191.).
In the above image we are faced with yet another example of this rarer style of geometric galley in now what seems to be a version with a lower and prominent proembolon in the correct position used to prevent becoming stuck in an enemy vessel.
These unusual curved paddle-like totems along with their more common curved horn-like relatives serve a purpose yet unknown but could be purely decoration or symbolic as they seem to serve no apparent practical purpose, and if from the above line drawing of the original bronze example if we simple delete it the ship seems to be none the worse for its absence.
A bronze geometric period Fibula from Thebes, Boeotia, Berlin Museum (1936). (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 192.).
In the above image taken from a bronze fibula we see a rather rare depiction of a large horse figure inside our paddle-like stem post galley. This example sports three prominent proembolon-type protrusions or ‘boarding’ steps and an unusual twin stern post totem decoration.
Illustration of a fragment of a seal from Knossos circa 1200 BC, Knossos Museum.
What is even more striking from the depiction of a large image of a horse being ferried by this geometric period galley is the depiction of another similarly large image from a seal of a horse being ferried in a Minoan ship from a Late Minoan III period, 1200 BC, some 500 years earlier!
The geometric image of the Horse on a ship wouldn’t be so intriguing if it wasn’t so eerily echoed on a Minoan Bronze Age seal, further raising questions as to the symbolism and meaning of the horse and ship and its significance over such a long period of time from essentially from two quiet different places in time and cultures in the Aegean world.
Though essentially the geometric period Greeks were the inheritors of the post-palatial period the ‘Dark Age’ period that followed the collapse of the Bronze Age world, there is no reason to doubt that whatever meaning this image carried it was just as important to the Greek tradition 500 years later, and may very well be directing us to remember that not too distant event that marked the pinnacle of the glory of an earlier Greek culture, one sung of by the father of poets, Homer Himself.
Image from a bronze geometric period Fibula from Thebes, Boeotia, Berlin Museum (1936). (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 192.).
A rare, though incomplete image, from an original geometric fibula broche depicting what may be warriors, though speculative, with bossed round shields with raised spears or oars.
Image from a bronze geometric period Fibula from Thebes, Boeotia, Berlin Museum (1936). (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 192.).
In the above reproduced image we see an excellent example of a geometric period galley, here with shields fastened to the gunwale fence posts, all the way back to the helmsmen’s position and stern platform a warrior leaps from the bow whilst another prepares himself at the stern.
The four prominent ‘boarding’ steps are clearly evident as well as the unusual number of horizontal protrusions, some ten to be exact, to the stern of the vessel, echoing the two proto-geometric ships depicted on the Heraklion vase, but here, must be serving as more than just ‘boarding’ steps and might be incorporating an artistic element from an actual vessel of the time, which had a larger number of ‘boarding’ steps introduced.
A bronze geometric period Fibula broach from Thebes, Boeotia, depicting a galley. British Museum, №121, Museum Photo. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 192.).
In this well preserved bronze fibula from Thebes, Boeotia we see a paddle-like totem stem decorated bow section to this ship. The now familiar scene of birds perched atop the bow and stern sections of the ship may very well have its origins too in the Bronze Age.
If we refer back to ‘The ships of the Sea Peoples’ PT1&2. We see a bird like figure on the bow section of the ship and mistakenly reproduced as some form of totem for the bow beam in past illustrated reproductions.
A detailed close-up of a line drawing reproduction of the bronze geometric period Fibula broach from Thebes, Boeotia, depicting a galley. British Museum, №121, Museum Photo. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 192.).
In the line drawing reproduction we get a clearer view of the ship’s detail. Evident straight away is the number of what appear to be ‘boarding’ steps both on the bow and stern sections. All in all the same number appear as in the Heraklion Vase ships, if the interpretation is correct.
If we reason this through then the examples from the Heraklion Vase may be a distortion of this very design, though again the ships from the Heraklion vase do show unique and obvious differences, even if the date from an earlier time in the geometric period.
The bronze Geometric period Fibula broach from Thebes, Boeotia, from which the previous line drawing is taken from depicting the galley mention in the text. (From Geometric Greece, J.N. Coldstream, 1977).
We could be looking at an intermediary stage that spans both the Late Bronze Age and the geometric period, were vessels much like those of the Sea Peoples seen at Medinet Habu which are represented in the Heraklion examples were undergoing an evolution displaying structural aspects that incorporated both periods, coming from the Bronze Age and following through to the beginnings of the geometric period. These hybrid vessels, if that is what we are looking at, have features that are common to both periods yet uniquely separate from both.
Line drawing reproduction of a geometric period bronze Fibula, Museum of Thebes, Boeotia (1936). (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 193.).
In the above reproduction we see once again the familiar shape of a geometric period galley with the paddle-like bow stem and stern decoration totems, whilst just visible on the bow and stern sections are the ‘boarding’ steps. In this example we have a bird and a pair of horses depicted in what seems to be a battle scene between the crew and another individual, external to the ship, brandishing a bow and arrow.
Though fragmentary this vessel seems to have a bow platform completely surrounded with a timber section rather than the part fence-timber mix we are accustomed to seeing.
A bronze fibula broach from Thebes, Boeotia, British Museum, №3204, from H.B. Walter’s ‘Catalogue of the Bronzes’ in the British Museum, (1899). (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 193.).
In this example we see a monoreme example with a lattice fence surmounting the stern section of the vessel, whilst the bow section has a similar lattice fence. With only the paddle-like stern decoration beam present, this example is a design not fitted with a stem post decoration beam, which is rather intriguing and may show us another example this time with prominent lattice fences similar to Mycenaean vessels in appearance, rather than fully enclosed stern and bow platforms of timber planking seen in other geometric period galleys.
An interesting reconstruction of a sixth-century Boar’s head Greek Bireme, showing in Plan-view the seating arrangement of the rowers.
The eight or so ‘boarding’ step-like protrusions on the stern of the ship tend to be present more with this particular example than with others and may just reflect the fact that we are seeing this kind of vessel undergoing further evolution to the bireme style we see around 550 BC with their typical Wild Boar/Wolf-like battering ram and lattice fencing.
(From The Greek Armies, Peter Connolly, page 41.).
Another depiction, this time from an actual painting of a sixth-century Greek bireme with wild boar’s head ram, the crew desperately trying to furl the sail as the galley rides a potentially destructive wave. Though the oars and gunwale fencing are not applied correctly and completed it gives us a good idea as to the overall design configuration of these vessels.
Geometric period bronze Fibula broach, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England, Museum Photo. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 193.).
Whilst sporting all the typical features of a geometric period galley this vessel has some rare differences. Whilst a monoreme design it does have unusual fencing to the bow and stern sections and though it bears the paddle-like stem and stern posts we have become accustomed to and the ‘boarding’ steps at either end it may be illustrating a smaller vessel only manned by some twenty to twenty-two rowers, similar to the Argo of Tim Severin. Again the bird motif significance is well illustrated and may just be a fill representing seagulls.
Geometric period Fibula from Thebes, Boeotia, Staatliche Museum, Berlin, №8396, ARCHAOLOGISCHER ANZEIGER (1894). (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 193.).
Another example well illustrated here in the fibula example of the period. Whilst lacking rear ‘boarding’ steps this ship has all the hallmarks of a monoreme of the period. With prominent proembolon ‘boarding’ steps to the bow and the paddle-like stem and stern posts the image of an over-sized horse is again repeated. Though the fish is easy to explain and possibly the bird too, as simple fills, the horse is harder to explain.
We cannot rule out the possibility that though the horse is shown not to scale with the ship, as are the fish and bird, we may be seeing an attempt to show a galley used to ferry horses for chariots. This was common amongst the Minoan and Mycenaeans and there is no reason to doubt that the Greeks of the geometric period did any different with their galleys.
Artwork retelling famous events from the past or mythical scenes cannot be ruled out as a possible explanation to this or any of the previous fibula and terracotta ware examples, but the image of the horse is so out of context with the marine environment in which ships are the pre-eminent representations that it does beg the question as to just what is the true meaning of the horse atop a ship imply in context to the geometric period Greek’s mind-set.
Geometric period bronze Fibula from the cave of Zeus, Mount Ida, Crete, National Museum, Athens, №11765, Museum photo. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 193.).
In this final depiction, from a geometric period bronze fibula from Mount Ida, Crete, we see diamond-shaped markings usually reserved for the patterns depicted on the upper decking of bireme examples of the period. Though this gives us the impression of a monoreme with a possible upper hull painted pattern and it does bear all the usual features of paddle-like stem and stern posts ‘boarding’ steps to the bow and stern sections and here only a stern platform fence, it is none the less a unique example.
It cannot be said for sure if the artist was attempting to faithfully reproduce a known example or just merely following artistic convention, here or in any of the depictions of geometric period galleys depicted in this article, but the fact that the bow section lacks any fencing whilst the diamond pattern could be representative of a gunwale fence does lead to some intriguing questions as to how many types of this vessel were built during this period.
Are they in fact a simple form of historical record, represented in the one and only form possible, to any degree of accurately, of capturing and preserving elements of the period.
Example.A : Hypothesised reconstructed cross-section of a galley from the geometric period from Khaniale Tekke, Near Knossos, Crete. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 196.).
Example.B : Hypothesised reconstructed cross-section of a galley from the geometric period, Attic example. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 196.).
Example.C : Hypothesised reconstructed cross-section of a galley from the geometric period, Attic example from the Dipylon Workshop. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 196.).
Example.D : Hypothesised reconstructed cross-section of a galley from Marseilles(From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 196.).
Example.E : Hypothesised reconstructed cross-section of a galley from the geometric period around 700 BC. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 196.).
The following two Hypothesised reconstructed cross-sections of a galley from the geometric period from the example of the bowl from the Toronto Museum.
In the first reconstruction the bench of the lower oarsman, Thalamites, is used as lead rower, this time seated on the inside farthest from the gunwale rather than that of the Thranites oarsman of the upper bench. Where A-B represent hypothetical sea level surfaces.
(From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 186.).
In the second reconstruction the bench of the lower oarsman, Thalamites is again used as the lead rower but this time he is positioned on the outside closest to the gunwale rather than that of the Thranites oarsman of the upper bench. Where A-B represent hypothetical sea level surfaces.
(From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 186.).
Another more detailed and very noteworthy reconstruction of the geometric galley from the bowl at the Toronto museum.
(From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 186.).
A : Upper Gunwale and Thole pins position for Thranites oarsman.
B : Lower Gunwale and Thole pins position for Thalamites oarsman.
C : Upper deck-beam used as seating for the Thranites oarsman.
D : Lower deck-beam being used as seat to the Thalamites oarsman.
E : Main Vertical Central support beam.
F & G : Major and minor side vertical support deck-beams for rower’s feet respectively.
H & H’ :Major and minor side horizontal support deck-beams for rower’s feet respectively.
S : Strengthening Wale.
P : Support struts/beams between the upper and lower gunwales.
To further help in our understanding of the previous hypothetically reconstructed cross-section of a geometric period galley I have included the following illustration.
The hull structure of the reconstructed Olympias trireme, showing the strengthening wales and the internal stiffening.
(Drawing by John Coates). (From Conway’s History of the ship — The Age of the GALLEY, page 131).
The necessary light structure of the classical galley depended on the age old tradition of the Mortise and Tenon joint and secured with wooden dowels and illustrated in the following image.
(From Conway’s History of the ship — The Age of the GALLEY, page 131).
Though essentially the same techniques, there is, of course , a slow evolution in this method of hull construction taking place when compared to the same but much older technique used in the construction of the 2008 Argo re-construction.
In the following diagram we see a clear and steady evolution in the mortise and tenon joint technique for fixing hull planking together. Though essentially the same techniques, there is, of course , a slow evolution in this method of hull construction taking place when compared to the same but much older technique used in the construction of the 2008 Argo re-construction.
(From Conway’s History of the ship — The Age of the GALLEY, page 96).
Example A is that encountered on typical Graeco-Roman joinery with large thick tightly fitted joints, just as in the previous image, typical of the Olympias Trireme.
Example B the joints are hexagonal, smaller and more loosely fitting with more widely spaced mortise and tenon joints much like the vessel found on the fourth century shipwreck at Yassi Ada in Asia Minor.
In example C, we have an even smaller, wider spaced, hexagonal unpegged tenons, typical of late sixth and seventh century A.D. vessels such as the Byzantine wreck excavated at Yassi Ada in Asia Minor.
A Phoenician Warship sails.
In this wonderful colour illustration of a Phoenician Warship we can clearly see the ship’s unique and peculiar design shown off to the full. The next step in becoming the Sennacherib-Haifa example would only require the elevated upper portion of the hull to be extended all the way around the perimeter of the vessel from the bow along the gunwale of the outermost an exposed rowers to the stern and we arrive at the Sennacherib- Haifa example.
Now that the Sennacherib-Haifa example has been reached we have all our rowers contained within the hull of the ship and a further tier can now be added with some further adjustments to the seating arrangements of all three tiers we arrive at a Trireme. Which could be clearly developed into the Sennacherib carving and Haifa museum example.
A cross-sectional view of a Phoenician Warship’s Hull showing the two-tier rower configuration as depicted in the previous colour image.
We can come to some sort of idea as to hoe the Greek geometric bireme hull was configured if we take a hull with just the outer tier of upper rowers and extend the freeboard up to accommodate another tier directly above or a portion of the way into the hull to give us our Greek geometric bireme.
Another cross-section here depicting a generic hull configuration applicable to a number of early ship designs. (From Lucien Bacsch’s book Le Musee imaginaire de la marine antique, Athenes 1987, page 196.).
If we were to continue the three main support elements running throughout the ship’s hull vertically to produce a second level of decking whilst raising the freeboard to match it we would get the Greek geometric bireme design without having to undergo relatively extreme structural changes, and thus satisfying the possibility that we are not seeing a monoreme expressed in the geometric-style in just another slightly more revealing depiction.
For a more stable platform if an additional outermost support is placed closer to the gunwale then the weight of the crew is more evenly distributed rather than centred which could give rise to rocking and unstable conditions in rough seas.
This in conclusion would mean a larger vessel but then the depiction of the vase painting of the supposed Greek geometric bireme would work quite well and we have to conclude, because we have no surviving archaeological material to say otherwise that such larger versions of the geometric monoreme were being built and successfully sailed along with their Phoenician/Levantine contemporaries.
AN ILLUSTRATED GALLERY DEPICTING THE DEVELOPMENT OF GALLEYS FROM THE GREEK GEOMETRIC PERIOD — MY RENDITIONS.
A plausable reconstruction of mine based on a very early Greek Geometric Period Monoreme Galley and incorporating features of several vessels of the period from incomplete Art from vase ware and personal items such as fibulas worn by the peoples of the period.
A plausable reconstruction of mine depicting a Greek Geometric Period Galley with a more open lower hull section an possibly an earlier design pre-dating the Follwing Vessel design.
A plausable reconstruction of mine of a Greek late-Geometric Period Bireme with almost enclosed lower hull design, according to depictions from the period from pottery ware.
These three examples of some of my simple illustrations of three Geometric Period Greek galleys from Monoreme through to open-hull and semi-closed hull as seen in pottery fragment representations are based on my intepretation of the evidence given throughout this article.
THE 2008 ARGO RECONSTRUCTED — ANALYSIS OF THE DESIGN OF THE SHIPS’ STERN…CONTINUED.
A close-up view of the stern without the steering oars attached.
The way that the screens are put together, lashed with ropes, is not just an attempt to save on weight and keep the structure as simple as possible. Repairs are a common lot for the hard worked sailor, and screens such as this no doubt would take a bashing and therefore need to be easily replaceable, hence the simplicity of construction but we must not forget just how functional and practical they must have been to merit developing a bireme example of it.
The screens can be draped with canvas to provide protection against the sun or enemy missiles or spray from rough seas as well as shields can be fixed to the screen for added armoured crew protection. So in its simplicity the screening that runs full length on either side of the ships gunwale are there for a very good reason, as obstructive one might think they at first appear their height is designed to facilitate all the above capabilities at the minimum expense to weight, maintenance and time to repair.
An excellent shot of the seating arrangement of the Argo and the construction and positioning of the fence Screen and its attachment to the gunwale.
This shot clearly exemplifies the design philosophy of Bronze Age Mycenaean Ship Builders had when constructing their ships. At first, to the unfamiliar eye this construction method seems simple and rather basic and somewhat understated, but there is in the design of this ship everything that is needed to create a fast moving sleek and tough ‘Blue Water’ deep sea naval vessel. There is no requirement to produce heavy and expensive to maintain vessels. As can be seen in the previous photos of the Argo under sail in different types of sea conditions that the design holds up extremely well when being put through its paces.
A rare shot of the Argo in dry dock. An excellent view of the lower half of the Argo rarely seen.
If you can imagine the gunwale screening, bow screen timbers and stern post comprising the ships’ tail being removed then we have a very simple but extremely effect design with a shallow keel and hull cross section enabling the vessel to access inland waterways and rivers in much the same way as Viking clincker designed Long ship were capable of doing.
THE ARGO RECONSTRUCTED — THE ROWERS AND STEERSMEN.
THE OPERATIONAL PARAMETERS OF THE ROWERS.
Since the design of the Argo is being discussed here in some detail I thought it only fair that the crew of the Argo are given a say. Their efforts breathe life into this ancient vessel the way no other attempt to show a static scale model can. The real test of any ships sea worthiness and performance is the feedback from the men whom sail in it.
Their experience is invaluable in calculating what kind of fine tuning needs to be carried out whilst on sea trials. By showing what it must be like to sail in the Argo from a sailor’s point of view we can hopefully gleam an insight into the hardships and real physical requirements and conditions aboard a Bronze Age Mycenaean fighting vessel. The real physical requirements need to move such a vessel through the water and successfully optimise the ships’ performance parameters.
This shot taken from the port side looking astern gives us a very clear view of how the Argos’ oars are positioned and to some extent the degree of movement or limitation of it. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
An altogether exemplary shot from the port side looking from a position just in front of the bow platform. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
This shot shows the oars at the top most part of their movement just before lowering. The close proximity of the sailors in their seated positions and of their colleges on the starboard side dramatically illustrate just how sleek and narrow the Argos’ frame is and how important it is to strike a rhythmic and sustainable rowing pattern to keep all the oars in unison so they touch the water at roughly the same time an optimise the amount of propulsion the sailors can offer the ship. It further shows just how low lying the Argo is to the waters’ surface and how open the hull is to the elements and rough weather. The gangway offers just enough width to allow ease of movement across the full length of the ship.
In this shot the oarsmen lean forward to move the oars to the middle position in the rowing cycle before lowering the oars and providing another propulsive burst of energy. The amount of thrust provided by the fifty or so oarsmen propels the Argo along at a steady speed. The Argos’ open-hull design and attention to keeping the weight down to a minimum by only choosing the strongest and lightest materials for the job makes all the difference in optimizing the ships’ speed and handling. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Looking along the gangway up to the bow from an oarsman’s eye view. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The above image gives you a real appreciation on the conditions faced by these men. Although close together the oarsmen are spaced at a comfortable enough distance to afford good movement from each other but also more importantly at a distance close enough to their colleges on the opposite side as to offer a sense of unity and team work. On long voyages a key factor is getting the sailors to feel a real sense of comradery, oarsmen who pull together work better together and the key to a successful journey lies in also keeping the oarsmen happy and contented. Singing to a tune or beat of a musical instrument helps take some of the attention of the work at hand and lightens spirits. This form of psychology helps to take the minds’ attention off the journey time, a very important factor indeed.
One of my favourite shots is the view the helmsman/ helmsmen have. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
This shot clearly shows off the Argo’s open plan architecture to full extent. The elevated stern offers a commanding view so important in steering such o vessel. The lightweight simple and non-obtrusive screens give a sense of even greater openness and allow the helmsmen a quite uninterrupted view of the water below.
Being able to see all the oars all the way down to the tips of their paddles all working in unison as the plough the water must be an exhilarating sight to behold even more so when your very movements on the steering oars control the very direction of all that human muscle power translated into forward propulsion. From this vantage point the captain can correct slackening in a particular rower control the pace of the rowing, increase or decrease it at will.
A stunning sunset shot from the rower’s perspective. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The height of the screening is shown off to good effect here, as can be clearly seen the rowers view remains surprisingly clear but with just the right height to offer good protection from enemy missiles if shields or a canvas cover is required to form a protective screen.
Plus the fact that on exiting the ship the sailors can use the framework of the screen as a good point of purchase to help climb over and onto a dockside, beach or water’s edge, offering an excellent purchase to allow the sailors to exit the ship safely is of paramount importance.
A unique shot from a nearby cliff top gives us the opportunity to see the Argo’s crew working to round a nearby promontory. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Noteworthy is the addition of horns on the top portion of the bow beam or stem as decoration. Even in this shot we can clearly see that the Argo’s displacement is remarkably low and that even with a full complement of crew the ship’s upper keel is still clearly visible.
A single individual steers the Argo on. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
As I have mentioned before though the Argo is steered essentially by a single helmsman and can be steered by two individuals if so required, but here we see a single helmsman steering the Argo with just one steering oar. This in not to say that there is a set way to steer such a vessel but as can be clearly seen when calmer conditions present themselves all that is needed for some gentle course correction is a single helmsman.
Taking a well-deserved break from a hard session of rowing. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
A view from the bow platform shows the sailors enjoy the opportunity to rest up as a strong wind blows full sail propelling the Argo onwards. The oars pulled in and slid under the gang way stay firmly in place and out of the way as the crew enjoy a much needed break. Where ever possible strong winds were always sought after by sailors the world over and none less so than in the Aegean.
The key to transversing any open body of water as large as the Aegean or Mediterranean is taking full advantage of every opportunity to exploit the wind, an experienced captain will follow known currents and wind patterns to minimise as much as possible the crews rowing time, seasonal variations in the direction of sea currents and wind directions are a captain and his crews’ best tool, knowledge such as this can make all the difference to the journey times of such Bronze Age vessels.
An intimate knowledge of the environment is an invaluable tool when navigating the waters of the Aegean and can make all the difference between life and death. Not being tuned into the weather patterns of the surrounding seascape, sudden changes in wind direction and current flow, can turn the best laid plans for a successful journey to disaster.
Even if caught up in sudden and violent storm conditions, a very common condition surprisingly in the Aegean, a captains’ ability to find safe harbour for his ship and crew all rest on how well he balances the need to keep the coastline insight with the requirement to utilize the best currents and winds which may lie just out of sight of the coastline and a safe anchorage. A very important tool at any captains’ disposal is the use of landmarks. Landmarks are as an essential tool in Bronze Age seafaring navigation and are crucial to navigating any waters.
When having to use open bodies of water to reach the next stage of a journey a captain and his crew work to get across it as quickly as possible so that landmarks can be established and safe anchorage obtained in case the need arises.
A very clear shot of the seating arrangements of the rowers, the screen and oar positions. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
As pleasant a picture as I have painted so far of such a vessel as the Argo one cannot escape the hard grind of long periods of rowing and the effects it can have on individuals. There is no escaping it and as unavoidable as it is it still the one best mode of operation guaranteed to take you anywhere.
With its sail down and a calm sea, the Argo’s rowers take an easy pace during this leg of the sea trials. The oars sitting at mid-point before full elevation give us an un-hindered view of the ships freeboard and draft, remarkably the Argo’s draft seems to have been hardly dented even with some sixty or so crew members.
Even though the ship is designed to sit at this level in the water column it’s testament to the ship builders and the Bronze Age design that so much of the ship’s hull still remains above water and further reinforces the argument of just how a vessel as the Argo could have easily navigated the full length of the Danube and exited out to the northern Adriatic as now seems highly probable and more than likely to have occurred as an historical event.
Much debate has been generated as to whether a Bronze Age Mycenaean Greek galley could have possibly traversed the Danube, but here at least in my mind we can clearly see the facts for ourselves.
Even if this Argo reconstruction is not an exact copy of the Actual legendary ship it comes very close to approximating it. Those who doubt that such a journey could ever take place might well do to take note of such an image and put more faith in the ancient accounts rather than dismiss them out of hand because they do not fit into the pre conceived idea as to what Mycenaean vessels looked like and how they moved on water.
(From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The lack of serious research and attention to actual authentic reconstructions which dispel much of the nonsense behind such scepticism come from not fully appreciating the need to study and research such topics as ship design in the Bronze Age and be aware that to full understand an epic like the Argonautica or Odyssey you first have to research a whole gamut of material on seafaring and ship building to fully appreciate that these journeys where not as mythical as they are presented by modern translation but an actual everyday factual event occurring daily back in the Bronze Age.
We cannot simply read an epic such as Jason’s or Odysseus’s and from that think we have the right to comment or criticise it without any real historical examination of the methods of ship building and seafaring used in the Bronze Age. Nor can we allow ourselves to be smitten or overtaken by the mythical supernatural elements in these epics so that we can dismiss all of it, even the more mundane or historically probable sections of it out of hand.
In this almost identical shot we see the Argo’s oars at the maximum elevation the roars can achieve before lowering. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
It is not hard to see how such vessels dominated not just the Aegean but managed to penetrate the eastern and western Mediterranean Seas with such ease. Such a design offers all the benefits of rapid transportation with a rugged design capable of handling open water journeys this coupled with the voracious appetite for trading and colonial expansion.
It is no wonder that almost all of the entire Black Sea coastal regions, southern Italy, Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia, Asia Minor and as far afield as the south coast of France, Spain, Libya and the Levant came under Minoan, Mycenaean and then later Geometric and Homeric Greek control.
(From The Legendary, Experimental Journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
A view from the stern-to-port side just behind the helmsman’s position gives us a very clear representation of the oarsmen at work. The sleek but narrow hull design of the Argo belies the fact that although a good number of men are placed in close proximity to one another to give the impression of a crowded vessel the Argo actually seems quite spacious.
There is plenty of room for the rowers to their seaward side and ease of access to the gangway is relatively un obscured, a simple retraction of oars and the crew can step up to the gangway and move to the stern or bow relatively quickly. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
The fact that the bow does not have a raised platform as is depicted in the ships of the Sea Peoples but stays level with the gangway whilst the stern although elevated to a degree is still relative to the gangway almost level with it and quickly reached.
The rowers pull their oars to maximum elevation ready to begin another oar cycle, note the three oars which for some reason are completely out of synchronism with the rest of the oars.
A second view of the rowers, as they complete their movement.(From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
A full appreciation of the effort required by these men is not lost in the shot as full concentration and strict rhythm is required to get the most out of each stroke of their oars.
The ‘ram’ of the Argo joins with the front section of the keel. Though highly debatable as to whether this device had a secondary function relating to smashing an opponent ships’ hull it is certain that such devices were crucial in allowing the vessel to beach on steep incline beaches and prevent the ship from ploughing into the beach and fixing itself.
It is interesting to note in this, the previous and following shot of the prow that although the ship is fully laden with a full complement of men and some provisions that the upper portion of the keel is so prominently above water. At no time do we see the beaching prow of the ship disappear under the waters’ surface. Here it’s just about to reach its maximum depth in the water before rising again as seen in the following shot, and it’s hardly getting the lower hull wet.
(From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
(From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
As the beaching prow or ram of the ship pulls up, it exposes even more of the keel section. The design of the Argos’ keel section shows just how much care has gone into creating a light but strong and rugged hull of quite shallow keel even when fully laden with an entire crew.
Although there is an enormous historical time gap between the Argo and the Viking Long Ship both show how different designs deal with the same requirements and how radically different approaches to ship building can result in such similar operational parameters.
There is no way that the two designs compare really, the Viking Long Ships have crossed and endured some of the most harshest and demanding expanses of sea dealt by any vessel of that period designed by man, but more so than that of the Argo-type vessel?
Here we come across something quite unexpected and just as frightening as being caught in a storm in the North Sea or North Atlantic — an Aegean Sea in full storm force conditions!
If you have ever experience an Aegean storm you will be forgiven in believing you’re in a North Sea or Atlantic Ocean storm going full kilter. The Aegean seems pleasant enough to all those whom traverse it whether for pleasure or business whilst the sun shines down merrily on them in the spring and summer months, in general.
But Experience the Aegean in the out of season sailing months and you can be forgiven in believing you’ve been in an Atlantic fury whose sole intention is to pick you personally and send you down to the bottom of Poseidon’s inky black depths.
The waves of the Aegean Sea reach as high as any I have ever seen in the North Sea or Atlantic. So to say that the unfortunate crew of some Argo-type ship would not have encountered comparable sea conditions as those experienced by Viking long ships — think again!
The Aegean Sea may seem like a fair maiden warm and inviting when the sun is shining but the reality is that she can be as violent or if not more so than her sisters further to the north.
So the Clincker Long Ship may be so radical in its design and construction methods that it stands alone, it is singularly by far a revolution in ship building and sailing not really matched anywhere by ships of the same period, but long before the advent of the Viking Long Ship we have the Mycenaean Long Ship and its experience of equally brutal storm conditions, something never really touched upon be definitely experienced by Mycenaean mariners as a fact.
This argument aside, we can rightfully say that the Mycenaean Long Ship in the shape of the now familiar Argo reconstruction can be said to be a true inheritor of an ancestry scared by some of the most violent sea conditions experienced anywhere, more so when you consider the Aegean, as most do misguidedly, a relatively quiet and closed body of water scattered with thousands of beautiful picturesque Islands.
(From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
Pulling away from the prow or ram section to this stunning shot of the Argo with sail down and engaged oarsmen we can clearly see just how high the keel and beaching prow or ram section really is.
There is no doubt in my mind that at some stage further on from the historical Argo Mycenaean Long Ships did get longer and larger, though this is dealing with such a remote period of History, some 3,500 years, we can neither prove or disprove of the existence of such vessels unless we believe the accounts of Homer that mention ships manned by 120 men!
(From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
In Homer’s Iliad, specifically “The Catalogue of Ships”, we have mentioned on two occasions the number of crew, (lines 509–10), that the fifty Boeotian ships carried 120 men each! — Making a total of 6000 men from the Boeotian contingent alone! Whilst in lines 719–20 the seven ships of Philoctetes have 50 men per vessel making a total of 350 men!
What is also very revealing is that in Thucydides accounts of The Catalogue of Ships he refers that the crews were as all fighting men as well as rowers. So we can clearly say that although Ships like the Argo were a common place vessel by the time of the Trojan War there were in Places like Boeotia where ships were big enough to accommodate 120 men.
If we accept this then Mycenaean Long Ships of even bigger proportions than those of the Argo had been developed and were busy plying the waters of the Aegean well before the time of the Trojan War. Thucydides’ accounts clearly shows that he had an intimate knowledge of the Catalogue of Ships, and in the Iliad (1:10) he tells us that in his mind the two types of ship, Boeotian and those of Philoctetes, indicated the largest and smallest size vessels in the Achaean fleet.
In the following three shots we have the three distinctive phases the oars go through in propelling the Argo forward through the water. Position.1. shows the oars as they begin the upward motion just after completing a stroke. Position.2. shows the oars as the reach the mid-point on their way up and lastly Position.3. shows the oars in the fully elevated position ready to start a new stroke.
(From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
(From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
(From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
A last view of the oarsmen of the Argo, from an excellent view point. (From The Legendary, experimental journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
At this angle we can clearly see there is a good clear freeboard and quite shallow draft to the ship’s design even with a full complement of crew, whilst the position of the rowers is covered well by the gunwale screening or fence giving us a good eye level appreciation of the screening fences’ actual height and further illustrating its function as a mechanism for keeping the oars in a relatively fixed position along the gunwale thus facilitating the smooth movement of the oars through their full range of motion and allowing to some degree the oarsmen to achieve a synchronised rowing regime.
(From The Legendary, Experimental Journey Argo — Argo Experimental Trip Video).
A final but eloquent view of the Argo, the ship under a strong wind and full sail, its oars tucked in typical stowed fashion its crew rested for now, thanks to the strong wind sails off into the Aegean Sea, on towards a distant horizon an a new adventure.
THE 2008 ARGO RECONSTRUCTION — CONSTRUCTION AND SAILING VIDEO.
I think it only fitting that I include at this point the wonderful video from which the Images of the 2008 Argo’s construction and sailing were taken. In no way does the video prepare you for the truly inspirational and breath-taking sequence from initial drawing phase of the project to the final sailing vessel. For all those who long to grab an oar and plough with back breaking enthusiasm the wine dark sea in such a vessel, I include this video to wet your appetites with.
THE ARGO — TIM SEVERIN & THE JASON AND ULYSSES VOYAGES — A BRIEF INTRODICTION AND ANALYSIS OF THE ‘OTHER’ ARGO.
SCHEMATICS OF THE ARGO OF TIM SEVERINS’ VOYAGES.
The Argo’s Sail and Rigging Plan. (From The Jason Voyage, The Quest for the Golden Fleece, Tim Severin, 1985).
The illustration above clearly shows off the Earlier Argo’s lines to good effect. We also get a good idea of the ships’ freeboard and draft and can quite easily deduce that although this design differs markedly from the 2008 Argo a shallow draft has been incorporated into the boats’ design.
Whether we can take this to mean that a shallow draft and relatively shallow Freeboard were incorporated into such Bronze Age vessels merely for the ease of transporting goods on and off the ship as well as allowing crew members easy access on and off and not have also incorporated into its design the need for penetrating deep up river and shallow inland water ways we cannot be certain but that these designs have that capability is none the less a very interesting feature.
Although cost was an issue in the size of Severin’s Argo it none the less illustrates what larger versions might have looked like for instance if we were to produce a version of Severin’s Argo with 50 oars, effectively more than doubling the overall length of the Severin design. We are still well within the structural limits of such a design and we can safely deduce that a Hogging Truss similar to both versions of the Argo would have been employed in this and such larger vessels.
Some very important conclusions which cannot be overstated here about both the Colchis and Odyssey voyages undertaken by Severin and his crew does show that a vessel of this size, as small as it was in comparison to the 2008 Argo, was more than capable of traversing the waters of the Aegean, Black Sea and Mediterranean.
It stands to reason and common sense that in the hands of experienced and motivated crews who would know how to fully exploit such designs that such endeavours to reach even further afield than their homeland shores did take place.
I find it more that plausible that Aegean sailors did exploit that much hotly contested and debate topic between scholars of old and new as to whether the Minoans and successor Mycenaeans did in actual fact make it in such vessels to the furthest reaches of the western Mediterranean and beyond the pillars of Herakles to the Atlantic Ocean and beyond.
We hear of such tales but have been conditioned and constantly persuaded in the pass that such events are mere flights of fancy and that such evidence would never be forth coming in the archaeological record.
An overhead view of the Argo’s Hull Layout. (From The Jason Voyage, The Quest for the Golden Fleece, Tim Severin, 1985).
One only has to look at the Severin Argo overhead view of the hull layout to see just how many features are common to both ships. We are seen here the birth of the later Greek, Roman, and to a degree, Carthaginian galleys. With such humble beginnings grew ships of serious dimensions and oar power.
Though it has to be said that being smaller the Severin design does incorporate advances in terms of the construction methods, for instance if we remove the section we now traditionally call the ram or rostra of the ship we get a familiar cargo design seen through the Mediterranean in the Bronze age all the way through to the Roman era before the advent of the later and Larger closed hull trading vessels of the Romans.
Mortise and tenon joints for hull planking, on the Tim Severin Argo.re-construction. (From The Jason Voyage, The Quest for the Golden Fleece, Tim Severin, 1985).
Sailing through Greek waters Severin’s Argo under full sail glides effortlessly over the wine dark sea so poetically brought to life through Homer’s epics the Iliad and especially the Odyssey. Or a vessel of this size to have navigated the Aegean sea and surrounding expanses of open water is an achievement in itself for as vulnerable as it would be to storm conditions and capsizing such a vessel coped exceptionally well as various weather conditions were thrown at it from all directions in both its journeys and is a testament to the professionalism of its mix crew of sailors from around the world who at various stages helped bring the Argo safely to its journey’s conclusion.
Without such individuals as Tim Severin who had the foresight to build such ships and actually test them out on what we consider to be the original and likely voyages undertaken by the heroes of Homer’s epics and retraced by such vessels we would probably never be the wiser for knowing whether it was at all possible and shows the power of re-constructional archaeology and how it can shed new light on very old subjects which have for millennia remained lost in the fog of time.
A noteworthy shot illustrating the very useful boarding steps running down the Argo’s bow beam shown to good effect here as the Severin Argo is anchored up.
The above shot of the Severin Argo at rest shows off to good effect the shallow hull typical of Greek sailing vessels of the period and although hardly spacious when fully laden and crewed it gives us a good ideas as to why ship builders of the Bronze Age decided to go with this design philosophy rather than simply copy the Egyptian and Levantine designs.
A deliberate attempt not to just simply copy what was encountered in the Eastern Mediterranean was in motion from a very early stage in the ship designs of the Minoans and Mycenaeans.
This might very well have something to do with the darker side of Aegean seafaring — the all too familiar piratical raiding which was all too common and the violent face of commerce — aggressive predatory raiding along the entire coastline of Asia Minor, the Levant and the shores of North Africa for the all too lucrative trade in crucial materials and that most important commodity from which Bronze Age Palatial system so heavily relied on — manpower.
Whilst on the subject of slavery we must be careful here not to confuse the term ‘slavery’ with the later concepts and practises employed by later Greek and Roman Cultures where we see the separation of families and as in the later Roman era the complete degradation of captured populations to the whim of Roman imperial Power.
Whilst it is true that in such raiding and predatory forays the Mycenaeans especially tended to kill the mail population and ‘enslave’ only the young and capable with valuable skills the women and children were kept together and for a very good reason, women ‘captives’ worked much better if kept with their children and remained ‘loyal’ to their lord but as importantly the children would thus become the next generation of weavers, Blacksmiths, farmers, ship builders and the like thus is was in the Bronze Age ruling classes interests to safeguard the well-being of all those peoples whom worked under their rule.
For if we look more closely at one very likely possibility for the collapse of the Palatial system across the Aegean world we come across the likelihood of a massive population uprising across the Aegean, now fitted out with all the skills and tools to overthrow their masters for whatever reasons given themselves a new start without the all-pervasive bureaucracy or so possibly migrating to their ancestral homes once more or to newer greener pastures.
An all too well know image may now be seen to be coming into focus of a populace rising up or so seriously affected by factors beyond even their Ruling classes control.
This coupling of upheavals occurring in the climate such as poor rainfall patterns brought on by changing weather patterns, volcanic activity, tectonic movements and agriculture over development all bringing about unprecedented and unforeseen circumstance that not even the ruling classes could predict or avoid.
Putting this together we must not get beyond ourselves here and allow the practise to be clouded with events that occurred in such poetic narratives as the Iliad and Odyssey and later brutalities meted out to subjugated peoples, and although the tendency to kill the male population was probably one facet of this practice and possibly towards the era just before the collapse of the Bronze Age World more common it would be overstating the subject to say that it was the norm, an over emphasis by scholars to explain the subject successfully would be a better expression of the reality.
it no doubt did take place for whatever reasons Bronze Age Aegean culture thought it necessary, male captives were as valuable and as prized as any of the opposite sex and such modern terms as ‘commodities’ should not allow us to view with different cultural lenses and experiences of the practice when examining such controversial topics as ‘slavery’ in the Minoan and Aegean world.
I am not in any way attempting to map or fully understand the mind-sets of peoples that lived some 3,500 years ago but it is as interesting to delve into this one subject as it is to uncover the exploits of warrior heroes and the legacies of Bronze Age ‘Knights in Bronze’ that tends to be overlooked when dealing with accounts given in the Iliad and Odyssey.
The all too human side of it all, the people whom really do make the Bronze Age come to life, the unsung population whom toiled to bring the visions of their Lords to reality and through their labours create whole civilizations. This is the reality all too easily overlooked and to some extent one which is sorely neglected for the more ‘exiting’ and ‘glamorous’ side of such High cultures and should have us seriously thinking more deeply on the impact such practises had on the peoples throughout the Aegean.
Close-up of the Severin Argo’s ‘Boarding’ steps, note the difference between the first ‘step’ and the next.
In the above shot the example of the use of boarding steps is viewed to great effect. Although these steps are not shown on the ships of the sea peoples it is interesting to note that while those examples at Medinet Habu are step-less examples there is no reason to exclude the possibility of similar examples outfitted with boarding steps.
Though the ships of the Sea Peoples tend to give the impression of vessels more suited to carrying large ‘War Bands’ for either raiding or military purposes and hulls with little or no curvature to either ends anywhere above the draft line of the ship.
Therefore the purpose of boarding steps is simply not required in these examples, the bow and Stern wooden screen sections tend to rise quite high all the way up to the swan-headed figure-heads, whilst the bow and stern ends of the ship which the figure heads are affixed to are straight and tall with no real place to gain purchase, the beaching prow or ‘ram’ portion illustrated seems so small as to only really carry out just that specific function of preventing the ship from fixing itself into steep inclined beaches and facilitate easy movement of the ship onto shore if so required, so again highly unlikely.
This negates the need to use boarding steps of any fashion or to clean the ‘ram’ section of the ship’s bow, though this does tend towards the likelihood that the ships of the Sea Peoples had a shallow freeboard, and gunwale screens aside, facilitating an easy exit from the ship by some other method when beached or in shallow water facilitating rapid exit without the need for ladders or boarding planks.
A crew member of the Severin Argo takes the opportunity to cool off and jumps overboard.
In the above shot, we get a clear view of the freeboard of the Argo and thus those of typical Minoan and Mycenaean vessels. This crew member may be unwittingly participating in an actual reconstruction of one of the methods employed in exiting the ship, though albeit in an almost sky-clad and blasé manner. The gunwale fence or screen is rather minimalistic and all that is required in this vessel and again shows that with a firm grip on the rail one can exit in a brisk and relatively controlled manner with minimum risk, even possibly kitted out with a bronze horned helmet, or the more well-known ‘feathered’ helmets preferred by the predominant more numerous of the two groups, cuirass, segmented or not in the ‘lobster’ style with shoulder-guards and wielding shield and spear.
The Severin Argo undergoing some very necessary inspection and cleaning of the hull during a rest period in the shallow clear waters of Oxbelly Bay, in the Peloponnese, the place famed by Homer, and properly re-excavated by Carl Blegen, to be the legendary home of King Nestor of ‘Sandy Pylos’ during the Ulysses Voyage. (From The Ulysses Voyage, Sea Search for the Odyssey, Tim Severin, 1987).
As is obvious from the above shot ships with predominantly large ram sections require such boarding steps to facilitate ease of maintenance and no where do we see their need more aptly utilised than in this shot of members of the crew carrying out cleaning above and below the water level.
Tim Severin with Tom Vosper, the genius model maker. (From The Jason Voyage, The Quest for the Golden Fleece, Tim Severin, 1985).
The scale model of the Argo held by Tim Severin gives us an idea, as with the model of the 2008 Argo what the finished version will look like. Such scale models are an invaluable way of getting to know the ship design beforehand and similar models may very well have been produced by Bronze Age Shipwrights to test before final construction begun, and could very well explain how the design process might have begun in Bronze Age ship building and further give us an invaluable insight into the ship builders craft.
The final full scale replica Argo came in at some 54 ft. long with a 9’4” beam and benches to accommodate twenty rowers. This gives us an idea of the Severin Argos capabilities were as the 2008 Argo comes in at some 95ft. and 50 rowers. I’m not aware of the type of timber used in the construction but would likely speculate that it might be the Aleppo Pine Pinus brutia, a ship timber widely preferred amongst Greek ship builders for its superior qualities in ship building and used in the construction of their fishing boats.
Argo, with a strong wind in her sail, sets off at speed from her winter resting place, to Begin The Ulysses Voyage at Troy, now widely accepted as being the location for Homer’s Sacred Ilios.
Another view of the Argo used in Tim Severin’s Ulysses Voyage and shows the type of wave encountered by such a design. Though there is no way of knowing for sure whether such a vessel of that from 2008 was sailed by the legendary King of Ithaca it does tell us though a great deal about how similarly designed vessels of the era would handle under moderate conditions.
The Greek ship builders of the Bronze Age new their craft extremely well, designing vessels to fully exploit the sailing conditions of the Aegean and surrounding Mediterranean seas while minimising the risk to crew .Such simple and elegant lines as with both Versions of the Argo are born from necessity to exploit the surrounding environment to the full, and whilst the terrain of Greece may have divided communities, giving rise to later city states, it was the sea that was the great unifier in Greek history. Through their maritime trade and seafaring skills early Greeks set sail in such vessels to colonise and exploit the rich resources of both the Black and Mediterranean sea regions and with such vessels as Tim Severin’s and the 2008 Argo they were able to dominate the maritime scene for millennia.
A full sail and a strong wind to guide you, the crew of the Severin Argo take a well-deserved rest whilst the ship takes advantage of a strong wind in its sail during the Jason Voyage. (From The Jason Voyage, The Quest for the Golden Fleece, Tim Severin, 1985).
Another dramatic view as Tim Severin can be clearly seen in the helmsman position, both steering oars under his full control and clearly illustrating just how easy it was under such conditions to steer such vessels.
This shot really does give the impression of a galley in motion, and the closeness of the waves to the ship’s gunwale is clearly evident in this shot. With not much distance between themselves and the deep blue one can imagine the quite hairy experiences encountered in not so ideal sailing conditions, here in this particular shot though under full sail the sea does seem to be reminding the crew of its all too controlling presence. It shows us again, as in the 2008 Argo reconstruction.
One can be mistaken at first glance, from the above shot, that the Argo and its crew, Tim Severin wears the red sailors cap and blue shirt, are about to be sent to the bottom of Poseidon’s inky blue abyss. (From The Jason Voyage, The Quest for the Golden Fleece, Tim Severin, 1985).
In fact it dramatically illustrates just how vulnerable and exposed such open hull shallow keel and freeboard designed ships can be if caught off guard by freak rouge waves and sudden storm-like winds which can appear out of nowhere blow to gale force and disappear just as quickly, a common condition encountered in the Aegean. It requires sailors of exceptional skill and experience to navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas no less so today as was the case thousands of years ago.
Though the ship is in no real danger here and is owed more to the angle of the camera shot than anything else it does bring home the altogether ever-present fear that must have lurked in the back of all Bronze Age sea Captains minds and those of their crews. It is also interesting to note that though these ever present dangers were obvious in the minds of Bronze Age ship builders, the decision to use such designs obviously far outweighed the risks they would encounter.
Map of Currents, prevailing winds (summer), and trunk routes of the Mediterranean and Black Seas. (From J. H. Pryor, Geography, Technology and War [Cambridge 1988]). (From Conway’s History of the ship — The Age of the GALLEY, Chapter 13, page 206).
Map of Normal Mediterranean sea-level pressure systems, front tracks, and prevailing winds — winter. (From J.H. Pryor, Geography, Technology and War [Cambridge 1988]). (From Conway’s History of the ship — The Age of the GALLEY, Chapter 13, page 207).
Map of Normal Mediterranean sea-level pressure systems, front tracks, and prevailing winds — summer. (From J.H. Pryor, Geography, Technology and War [Cambridge 1988]). (From Conway’s History of the ship — The Age of the GALLEY, Chapter 13, page 207).
Map of the Mediterranean showing localised winds. ( Denys Baker after an original by the author of Conway’s History of the Ship). (From Conway’s History of the ship — The Age of the GALLEY, Chapter 13, page 211).
‘Under the gaze of a Mycenaean noble painted on the sail and the charm of a lucky eye on the bow’, Argo cuts through the Ionian Sea, staying — as Bronze Age boats sought to do-insight of land. 2it was not unknown for ancient sailors to be blown off course, says Severin, “but they were not lost or hopeless. They could track their direction by winds, wave patterns, the Sun and stars.” Sailing in 54-foot Argo, he and a 12-man international crew could motor when necessary, unlike Ulysses’ men, who would 2dash in with their oars…to save their skins.” (National Geographic, August 1986, page 204).
Argo beneath the monumental towering cliffs of Gramvousa Island, which match Homer’s ‘bronze walls’ around Aeolia, the home of the ruler of the winds. (From The Ulysses Voyage, Sea search for the Odyssey, Tim Severin, 1987).
‘by some trick of the western light, the entire rock wall of Gramvousa, which faced west, was changing colour — Gramvousa’s rampart turned a rich red, the colour of new bronze, the metal of Aeolus’ island. From (The Ulysses Voyage,Sea search for the Odyssey, Tim Severin, 1987).
I feel that at his point in relation to Bronze Age seafaring in the Aegean we should read the startling discovery made by Tim Severin on his Ulysses Voyage and a revelation that only became apparent to him after returning from the voyage.
I strongly believe that we ignore Homer at our peril, and to dismiss such poetic master pieces as fictions of an over imaginative mind we must also ask those who make such statements the reasons for such dismissive and unsubstantiated lack of reasoning and research on their behalf.
For more than 3,300 years, give or take, the portion of the wanderings of Odysseus regarding Aeolus the ruler of the winds and the leather bag that held all except the west wind needed by Odysseus to return safely to Ithaca, were as always dismissed by certain authorities as imaginings, but here for all those with eyes to read and a mind to reason with I have reproduced a section of that chapter dealing with Aeolus The Ruler of the Winds from Tim Severin’s book The Ulysses Voyage.
It is for you, the reader, to make up your own mind as to whether you believe Homer was not really recounting and encoding actual places and names that the legendary king of Ithaca encountered, places who’s meaning, now lost to us busy modern mortals has be re-discovered buried among the millennia of Chinese whispers, miss-understanding brought about by cultural ignorance.
The following is from Tim Severin’s The Ulysses Voyage, Sea Search for the Odyssey, Chapter : Aeolus Ruler of the Winds, and accompanying map;
‘By contrast, after Argo’s visit to Gramvousa I found the Island had so many features to match Homer’s story that it seemed a far better qualified candidate for Aeolus’ island. There was its key position on the homeward route, its remarkable bronze-coloured rock wall, the ideal terrain for a Bronze Age settlement, the anchorage where vessels waited for a favourable wind going back up to Cape Malea. Geography and practical navigation therefore supported the identification, but I would have preferred some additional evidence that Gramvousa was associated long ago with a fable or a tale, which connected the Ruler of the Winds with the island. I would have liked to have uncovered a similar link to the one we had found between the triamates and the Cyclopes, but I seemed to have come to a dead end.
Three months after my return home, I wrote to a historical geographer who taught at the University of Sheffield, asking for information on the classical history of Gramvousa. She consulted a colleague expert in both classical and modern Greek. In her letter she told me that Gramvousa’s early name had been Korykos or Corycus — a fact I already knew — but the next sentence in her letter was a revelation. Korykos (- a leather bag) is a Greek Placename.’
Korykos was a leather bag. The link was obvious. The most memorable detail of the entire Aeolus story is how the Ruler of the Winds bottled up the winds in a leather bag.
Why would anyone have called Gramvousa the Island of the Leather Bag unless there was some reason. It was a bizarre name and surely the most likely cause was that this island was associated with the folktale of the Leather Bag of the Winds. Eratosthenes the sceptic, I felt, had his answer after more than 2,000 years. Argo and her crew hadn’t found the cobbler. But we had located the bag.’
“They rowed…in a spirit of rivalry, each trying to outlast the others at the oars.” Such descriptions of the saga, as recounted by the third-century B.C. scholar Apollonius Rhodius, inspired Severin’s crew as they pressed through the Black Sea. (National Geographic, September 1985, page 412.).
“The whole world talks of my stratagems, and my fame has reached the heavens,” boasted Ulysses, who devised the Trojan horse to sneak Greeks into Troy, thus finally ending the decade-long conflict chronicled by Homer in the Iliad.
The map frieze portrays scenes from the Odyssey, the story of Ulysses’ ten-year-long journey home to Ithaca. His 12-ship squadron first plundered “a generous supply” of wine in an attack on the Cicones of Ismarus. “Accursed winds” at Cape Malea pushed the “across the fish-infested seas” to the land of the Lotus-eaters, whose “honeyed fruit” caused men “to forget that they had a home to return to.”
Escaping, they sailed to Crete, Severin believes, where the encountered the Cyclops Polyphemus. He devoured several crewmen before Ulysses blinded the giant’s single eye and helped the men slip away.
The spellbinding goddess Circe transformed crewmen into animals, but Ulysses foiled her magic and lingered as her lover for a year on her island-probably Paxos in Severin’s theory.
Six men were lost to the jaws of Scylla as Ulysses’ only surviving ship passed beneath her lair to avoid the adjacent whirlpool, Charybdis (inset).
Poseidon, god of the sea, sent fierce storms to punish the hero for blinding Polyphemus, his son. Only Ulysses survived when Zeus destroyed the ship after its crewmen slaughtered the prized cattle of the sun god, Hyperion.
The kind “sea-faring Phaeacians” ferried him home, where, in a contest among suitors courting his wife, Penelope, only the disguised Ulysses could string his powerful bow. Slaying the dozens of competitors, he reclaimed his home. (National Geographic, August 1986, pages 200–201).
(Reconstructed mythical map of the Voyage undertaken by Jason and the Argonauts to the land of Cholchis and re-traced by Tim Severin and his International crew. From the National Geographic article “The Jason Voyage, Search for the Golden Fleece”, National Geographic, September 1985, pages 410–411).
A scene from Tim Severin’s book ‘The Jason Voyage, The quest for the Golden Fleece.’ As is all too common in unfamiliar country, the Argo’s crew, along with help from Georgian locals, heaves the Argo to and from to release it from a hidden mud bank. Such perils that would have face Bronze Age Greek seafarers would have been all to frequent and we here of such accounts in Menelaus’s account of his North African travels. (From The Jason Voyage, The Quest for the Golden Fleece, Tim Severin, 1985).
Though the Severin Argo was a 20 oared vessel, one can imagine heaving a 50 or 60 oared Bronze Age Greek Galley, comparable to the 2008 Argo re-construction, over sand banks and associated terrain.
This shot more than any other really bring to life the actual hardships encountered by Bronze Age seafarers, the ship acts like a dead weight in such conditions and only a skilled and experienced crew hardened by years of seamanship would be able to overcome such setbacks.
The Argo at anchor. Resting somewhere in the Seas around Greece.
With this final shot of the Argo we see how the spare sail could be used to protect against a harsh summer sun or a heavy shower at sea or elsewhere. When unable to land ashore for the night to stretch their limbs and get some much needed food and sleep the preferred method was to adopt such practises. This method of resting up would also be necessary in unfamiliar and unfriendly coastal regions or areas awaiting possible exploitation.
Through such journeys undertaken by Severin we can paint a much more accurate picture as to the kind of sailing times such vessels undertook and more importantly required to gain an insight as to the possible locations of some of mythologies most sort after locations.
Though debated and argued over ceaselessly by scholars and lay persons alike the fact remains that a great deal of the locations as mentioned by Homer in the Iliad and the Odyssey have now been confirmed by actually building ships of the period and sailing them to see what kind of locations lay within reach of such vessels of that period and further cross referencing them with known accounts of the descriptions left to us by the likes of Homer we now have incredible accounts of places once hidden to us through the fog of History but now evidently having always been with us in plain sight.
Favourable conditions that meant the time of the year when the weather and sea currents were working in unison to provide sailors with the best sailing conditions possible were fully exploited by the Minoans and the later Mycenaeans. As one may know all too well that once the sailing season comes to a close, especially in the Aegean, passage by sea can become so treacherous as to strand the unsuspecting sailor for months on end, doubly compounding the poor mariners misery were by both land and sea can work against the best endeavours of the most seasoned of mariners, unless Poseidon wills it otherwise.