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The difference between the long, narrow ship of war and the short, broad merchant-vessel was much more pronounced in antiquity than in modern times, and existed as early as the time of Homer [Od. v 250, ix 323]. The former type, however, was not yet devoted to fighting by sea, but to the transport of troops, who also served as rowers. The merchant ships were generally worked as sailing vessels, and were only propelled by oars in case of need, so that they required a very small crew. On the other band, the ships of war depended for propulsion on a strong crew of rowers, who sat in a line on both sides of the vessel. A vessel with one bank of oars (moneres) was specially described according to the total number of the rowers; e.g. a pentecontoros was a vessel with fifty rowers (See fig. 1). For a long time the main strength of Greek fleets consisted in such vessels. Afterwards diereis (Lat. biremis), with two and (during the last ten years before the Persian Wars) triereis (triremes), with three banks of oars on either side, came into use. The latter were most generally employed until the end of the Peloponnesian War. Next came the tetrereis (quadriremes), introduced from Carthage. In 399 B.C. the elder Dionysius of Syracuse built pentereis (quinqueremes) and hexereis; Alexander the Great heptereis, octereis, ennereis, and decereis. In the wars of the successors of Alexander, a further advance was made to ships with fifteen and sixteen banks of oars, and (later still) thirty and forty banks. The most practically useful form of war-vessel was the penteres, which was especially used in the Punic wars. The rowers sat close together, with their faces toward the stern of the vessel; those in the highest row were called thranitae, those in the middle zeugitoe, and the lowest thalamitoe; but the question of the exact arrangement of their seats, and of the oars, is not yet made out with sufficient clearness. [Fig. 2, from an ancient monument, shows the thranitoe, and their oars; the rest of the rowers have their oars alone visible.] Figs. 3 and 4 are conjectural sketches, indicating the way in which the crew of a trireme was probably arranged. The number of rowers in an ancient trireme was 170, that of a Roman quinquereme in the Punic wars, 300; it is recorded that an octoreme of Lysimachus carried a crew of 1,600. The oars were very long, and the time was kept by means of the music of the flute, or solely by a stroke set by a boat-swain (Gr. keleustes; Lat. hortator, pausarius) with a hammer or staff or by his voice. The vessels were steered in ancient times by means of one or two large paddles at the side of the stern. The rigging of a ship of war was extremely peculiar. The mast, which was not very high, and carried a square sail attached to a yard, was lowered during an engagement, when a small foremast with a similar sail was used in its stead. Only merchantmen appear to have carried three sails. The war vessels of antiquity were in length seven or eight times their breadth, and drew almost 3 ft. of water. In order to attain the highest possible speed with manual propulsion, and to be easily drawn overland (a process frequently resorted to), they were lightly built, with rather flat bottoms, and very shallow. They were on this account not particularly seaworthy in stormy weather; whereas merchant vessels, owing to their heavier build and greater depth, were much more seaworthy. A stay made of two strong beams or a cable stretched between the two ends of the vessel (hypozoma) was usually employed to strengthen the hull lengthways. The bows and stern which were built alike, were alone covered with half-decks, while the middle of the vessel was at first open, and even in later times completely decked vessels were not so general as with us. Merchant-vessels, however, had a regular full-deck. The deck sometimes carried wooden turrets, usually two, fore and aft. Most ships of war had an eye painted or carved on the bows. At the bows, on a level with the water, was a horizontal beak (Gr. embolos; Lat. rostrum), usually with three spikes one over another, capped with iron; this formed the chief weapon of ancient naval warfare. We learn that it first came into Use in 556 B.C. The captain of a larger ship of war was called a trierarchos (commander of a trireme); the chief officer was the helmsman (Gr. kybernetes; Lat. gubernator); the second officer (Gr. proreus, prorates; Lat. proreta) was stationed on the bows. The total crew of an Athenian trireme, including the rowers, numbered about 200 men, of whom about twenty were sailors, and only ten to eighteen marines. This small number is explained by the fact that among the Greeks a sea-fight consisted chiefly in clever mancoeuvring, with the object of disabling the enemy's vessels by breaking their oars or of forcing them to run aground. When the Romans had established a fleet, during the first Punic War, they introduced the tactics of land-battles into their naval warfare, by carrying on their ships an increased number of land-soldiers (on their quinqueremes 120), who were posted on the bows, and attempted to lay hold of the enemy's vessels with grappling-irons and boarding-bridges, and to overpower their crews in hand to hand encounter. In the battle of Actium (31 B.C.) the lightly built triremes of Octavian, which were named liburnoe, after the Liburnians of Dalmatia, from whom this shape was borrowed, were matched with distinguished Success against the eight, nine, and ten-banked vessels of Antonius. Under the Empire the fleets were, as a general rule, no longer intended for great naval battles, but for the safeguard of the seas and coasts, for the convoy of transports and for purposes of administration. The consequence was that vessels of excessive height were continually becoming rarer, and triremes, and especially liburnoe, were almost exclusively employed. In later times the name liburna came to denote simply a ship of war. Augustus organized a Mediterranean fleet with two headquarters, Misenum. in the Tyrrhenian Sea and Ravenna in the Adriatic. These two fleets were called classes proetorioe, because, like the cohortes proetorioe, they were under the immediate command of the emperor. Other stations for the fleets were afterwards established in all parts of the sea, and the great rivers and inland seas of the empire. Their commanders were called proefecti, and were nominated by the emperor, as a rule, from among the military officers of equestrian rank. On the crews of the navy, See CLASSIARII. Besides regular men of war, the navies also contained various ships of the line to act as spies and carry despatches (Gr. keles and lembos; Lat. celox and lembus), or to convoy transport vessels, light cutters (acatos, acation), privateers (myoparo), etc. Fire-ships were used as early as 414 B.C. by the Syracusans against the Athenians. Of merchantmen there existed in antiquity various kinds and sizes. In the time of the Empire the art of shipbuilding was developed with extraordinary success at the great trading city of Alexandria, where ships were built of great seaworthiness, remarkable sailing powers, and immense tonnage. [See Torr's Ancient Ships, 1894.]

Pictures and Media
PENTECONTOROS (Millingen, Vases Grecs de Sir John Coghill, pl. lii.)
MARBLE BAS-RELIEF OF AN ATHENIAN TRIREME. (Found on the Acropolis about 1852, probably from a monument of victory in a trireme race; Annali d. Instituto, 1861, tav. d' adq. M 2.)
PLAN OF A TRIREME. (Designed by Graser, De Veterum re Navali.)
Type: Standard
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