Author Topic: Ram Sizes at Actium  (Read 1992 times)

Patrick Waterson

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Ram Sizes at Actium
« on: March 30, 2019, 11:30:34 AM »
The Nicopolis victory momument, raised to commemorate Actium and decorated with 35 rams from captured ships, has been investigated by archaeologists with a view to working out ram dimensions from the size of the display niches.

Story here.

The archaeologists have been impressed by the dimensions of the niches.  It looks as if Antony and Cleopatra did, as tradition and our sources suggest, field ships of considerable size.
  • Patrick Waterson
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Jim Webster

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Re: Ram Sizes at Actium
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2019, 08:58:42 PM »
The Nicopolis victory momument, raised to commemorate Actium and decorated with 35 rams from captured ships, has been investigated by archaeologists with a view to working out ram dimensions from the size of the display niches.

Story here.

The archaeologists have been impressed by the dimensions of the niches.  It looks as if Antony and Cleopatra did, as tradition and our sources suggest, field ships of considerable size.

Interesting. Certainly a proportion of the ships were impressively big, almost by definition at least 10%.
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manomano

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Re: Ram Sizes at Actium
« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2019, 01:49:49 PM »
Deceres.
Almost invulnerable to ramming but very slow.
3 mt high on water.
Rec in " Warfare in classical world"
Not the biggest ship ever.
 Demetrio Poliorcete perhaps had some 16-er , surely Philp V one.
Reconstruction at page 257 in "Greek and Roman warfare" W.L.Rodgers ,
J.Morrison in the "Age of galley" described it as unmanageable.
I'm more interested in  hexeres, a better ship.
But two or three levels of oars ? I think two.
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Re: Ram Sizes at Actium
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2019, 07:49:28 PM »
That is the standard 'book' summary, but like most such attempts there are one or two points which do not fit the original sources.

Dekeres were not necessarily slow; Plutarch refers to 15s and 16s as:

"However, in the ships of Demetrius their beauty did not mar their fighting qualities, nor did the magnificence of their equipment rob them of their usefulness, but they had a speed and effectiveness which was more remarkable than their great size. " - Life of Demetrius 43

Octeres (8s) could be rapid and effective, despite their size:

"When he heard what had happened, Antigonus the son of Demetrius tried to cross over to Macedonia with an army and a fleet, in order to forestall Ptolemy; and Ptolemy went to confront him with Lysimachus' fleet.  In this fleet were some ships which had been sent from Heracleia, six-bankers and five-bankers and transports and one eight-banker called the lion-bearer [Leontophorus], of extraordinary size and beauty. It had 100 rowers on each line, so there were 800 men on each side, making a total of 1,600 rowers. There were also 1,200 soldiers on the decks, and 2 steersmen.  When battle was joined, the victory went to Ptolemy who routed the fleet of Antigonus, with the ships from Heracleia fighting most bravely of all; and of the ships from Heracleia, the prize went to the eight-banker Leontophorus." - Memnon of Heracleia 8.4-6

Given that 15s and 16s impressed with their speed and effectivness, and the Leontophorus (an 8 ) was considered the most effective ship in Cyzicus' fleet, it seems very unlikely that dekeres (10s) would be slow, and quite certain that they would be readily manageable.  At Chios in 201 BC, Philip V's dekeres managed to catch and ram a trireme, which tells us something about its manoeuvrability and handling.  (The fact that it then became stuck and could not avoid being sunk by several opposing ships was unfortunate; it looks as if Philip had the real-life equivalent of bad dice.)
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manomano

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Re: Ram Sizes at Actium
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2019, 09:13:52 PM »
Yes,
also Tiger I was "wonderful" tank, 88 mm gun could destroy 8 enemy tanks before a single  Tiger was disabled.
Unfotunately with the some cost to built a Tiger, americans builted 9 M4 and Russians 10 T-34.
Next time 10-11 against one, and after 11-12 against one and so on, the end is history.
In the Punic wars we have only 3-4-5-6, and Carthaginian Navy was the best in ancient world,
Romans won at Egadi Islands because  copied a captured Punic ship improving it.
A Chios  Phillip V had no luck  with his great ships ? or the ships are wrong?
5-6 were the best, they could catch also a fast 3-4 with slightly  rough sea.
Royal Navy used primary 74 guns  not 98-100 or 36. Why?
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Jim Webster

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Re: Ram Sizes at Actium
« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2019, 06:43:17 AM »

Royal Navy used primary 74 guns  not 98-100 or 36. Why?

Interestingly one answer to this question may be relevant to this discussion. RN ships managed to get aboard the maximum number of crew and guns for the minimum amount of timber. Indeed during and after the Napoleonic wars work was done on producing ships using smaller pieces of timber which were easier to come by
Effectively RN ships were more cost effective if you needed lots of them
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Patrick Waterson

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Re: Ram Sizes at Actium
« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2019, 09:12:47 AM »
In addition to the building economics Jim mentions, there were manning economics: the Royal Navy was perpetually short of men (and, usually, money).  For this reason the majority type was always a compromise between cost, manpower and effectiveness: up to AD 1750 or so, most line-of-battle ships were 64s and most frigates were 28s or 32s.  By AD 1800, with the Royal Navy's opponents habitually fielding increasing numbers of 80-120-gun warships, the standard line-of-battle ship was a large 74 and the standard frigate a 38, both with several carronades over and above their nominal gun rating.  The Royal Navy also possessed 80s, 98s and 100s during the period AD 1750-1800 and converted some 64s into 44 razee frigates to provide a number of ships with extra gunpower for special situations.

The USA adopted the 'build the largest and the best' approach, starting the War of 1812 with a high proportion of 44s - which had originally been designed as 74-gun ships of the line but were instead built as 44-gun frigates (they actually carried 52), so they were larger and stronger (and, with 24-pounders, better armed) than any other 44s and indeed any frigates in the world.  They chewed their way through British 38s, so the Royal Navy reacted by making their standard new frigate a 40 and also building some larger frigates - 56s - specifically to take down the US 44s.  (In the event, a US 44 - the President - was taken by a Royal Navy 40 - the Endymion - and thereafter the other US 44s stayed at home rather than risk meeting a 56 or a blockading squadron.)

After the Napoleonic Wars, the standard Royal Navy line-of-battle ship became the 120.

The Hellenistic Navies saw a similar tendency to build larger and harder-hitting warships, but with the constant wars draining treasuries the navies appear to have been 'rationalised' after the final set of Diadochoi wars culminating in Ipsus (301 BC).  Most fleets described after that date used ships in the 3-6 range (triremes to hexeres) as the main proportion of the fleet, with a number of 7-10s and occasionally something larger.

There would be reasons for this, including cost, but the primary constraint would be crew training.  It is much easier to train a crew of 160-200 oarsmen than it is to train a crew of 1,600 oarsmen.  And it is much easier to mobilise smaller crews at short notice.  The obvious solution is to retain a few large polyremes (10s and above) for use as flagships and to provide useful fighting power while filling out the fleet with whatever else is handy (and for which you can muster crews).

On the whole, it seems that the larger ships were very desirable but that manpower and perhaps also financial limits led to not many being used.

Quote
A Chios  Phillip V had no luck  with his great ships ? or the ships are wrong?

The ships were fine.  The problem was that his dekeres hit an opposing trihemiola and got stuck - because the dekeres had a high ram, it did not sink its target, and because it had hit too fast, it penetrated too deeply and could not disengage.  With a trireme stuck to its bow, it could not manoeuvre effectively and was soon rammed by two enemy ships in quick succession, which resulted in it being lost.  In effect, being stuck to the trireme had reduced its manoeuvrability to the level today's scholars allow for an unencumbered dekeres.  Poor luck - or poor judgement of ramming speed and angle - caused the loss of this dekeres.

It was the only dekeres in the whole battle; Philip V's fleet was composed of 53 warships (3s-10s) and 150 lemboi (lembi) and other small, light vessels, while the opposition (combined Pergamene and Rhodian fleets) had 65 warships of various sizes (plus an uncertain number from Byzantium), nine trihemiolae and three triremes (which were now considered 'light' ships rather than warships).  Macedonian tactics included having their lembi 'oar rake' opposing ships, which was very effective when the lembi could get into position to do so, which was not often.

Polybius also describes two further encounters in the battle: in one, a Pergamene polyreme rams a Macedonian 8, gets stuck and is being defeated when the Pergamene flagship frees it by smashing through the interlocked rams of the two vessels; in the other, another Pergemene polyreme tries to ram a Macedonian 7, misses and has its oars on one side sheared off by the Macedonian ship, then being swarmed and sunk by other Macedonian vessels.  It is noteworthy that as soon as a ship had its movement impeded, it was attacked by every enemy ship in the vicinity; otherwise it could avoid trouble and choose its targets, and size seemed to make little if any difference to speed and manoeuvrability.

An interesting feature is that the Macedonian ships appear to have been built with high rams, which were suitable for oar raking and did not sink the ships they rammed, allowing them to be captured.  This was not always a good thing, as Philip's dekeres flahgship proved when it got stuck in its trihemiola target; it might have done better with a low ram, which would have broken the trihemiola in two.
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manomano

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Re: Ram Sizes at Actium
« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2019, 10:51:49 AM »
Why a large galley  ( over 7er ) cannot have  the same vel and manovrabilty of a smaller vessel?

An example may be   japanese Unryo class aircraft carrier:
with the same hull ( 20.400 -20.600 T)
Unryo with 152,000  SHP developed  34.0 kts
Katsuragi with  with 104,000 SHP 32.0  kts
So to gain only 2 kts we have a machinery 1/3 more powerful.

But ancient galleys moved only  on oars  and the machinery were men.
Double the rowing crew dont' double power, because more a man is near the fulcrum point
of the oar less his stroke is powerful and otherwise double the crew  dont' double the hull but more, increasing
drag and draft.
A ten was over 300 T , a five just a little more that one third of this, a triere only 70 T.
A man's  full stroke in a triere have a force of 200W  and so a total force of 170x200=  34000 W or 46 HP and
the triere have a neligible drag and draft : it fly over water.

Oars of a ten were over 12 m long ,for a five is just sligtly over half of this.

So we have a huge  hull , long oars  and  turning radius was poor,  a ship  not suitable for a diekplus.

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USS Constitution was a best ship,gave many sorrows to the Royal Navy.
But she never  had a encounter with a 74, ever avoiding it.
The four of Annibal Rodio was similar in concept, a fast almost imprendible ship,
but  wars are not won only with guerrilla.

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But returning to deceres and similar ships , the reasons of their origin are:
- A wrong concept about warfare that led to Yamato battleship, B-17 or to the PzKpfw Maus
- The political image created by these huge ships
- An overstimate effects on a ship by ballista hits : a single hit can disable only 2-3 men on the rowing crew of 5 or
   4-6 men on the entire single bank of  10  over  two oars.
( Ballista's shots were not radar's controlled missiles so  hits were rarely)
- It's suffiicient only a trained man for oar , the others follows him.
(You can put on oars also an unxeperienced man, a slave or a peasent)
- The ship was not much  more expensive to built that a 5-6, only more wood.
- 7-8-9-10... ...the ancient greek bulit first the hull and after structure, so they put in the ship the men according to the space of the hull.
 




« Last Edit: May 11, 2019, 08:25:33 AM by manomano »
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Patrick Waterson

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Re: Ram Sizes at Actium
« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2019, 09:07:24 PM »
Why a large galley  ( over 7er ) cannot have  the same vel and manovrabilty of a smaller vessel?

An example may be   japanese Unryo class aircraft carrier:
with the same hull ( 20.400 -20.600 T)
Unryo with 152,000  SHP developed  34.0 kts
Katsuragi with  with 104,000 SHP 32.0  kts
So to gain only 2 kts we have a machinery 1/3 more powerful.

This can be misleading: every ship has a natural best speed, and attempting to drive the ship over that speed requires considerably more power; 50,000 shp would get an Unryu class to 28 knots (compare the Junyo: 4,500 tons heavier, 56,000 shp, 25.5 knots), but to get to 32 knots took another 50,000 shp  A further 50,000 shp was needed to reach 34 knots.  This is why WW2 ships were rarely designed for more than 35 knots in a loaded condition.  (They could go much faster when empty - a feature Italian shipyards took full advantage of because they were paid big bonuses if ships exceeded trial speeds, so they did the trials with no stores or ammunition and a minimum of crew and fuel - until it was realised that the ships they built could not make their design speeds in service.)  Ship design also makes a big difference to possible speed; fast ships are narrow, with a fine entry and run (finely tapered front end and back end for non-nautical types among us) and HMS Courageous, one of Britain's 22,000 ton 'light' WW1 cruisers, was said to have reached 47 knots unloaded at full power.  Fully loaded, her service speed was about 33 knots.

Before WW1, the Royal Navy tried to get additional speed out of coal-burning cruisers.  The Drake class required 1/3 more machinery by weight and 400 additional stokers to achieve one knot more than its 22-knot predecessors.

As far as I know, Hellenistic ships were not designed to 'push the envelope' in this fashion; they had, as you mention, a power-to-weight ratio limit, but the records of their performance suggest they made very good use of it.  The octeres (8 ) Leontophorus had as many oarsmen as a 16, and appears to have been double the length of a normal '8'.  This was probably found to be a more effective arrangement than building a 16, as only eight banks of oars were required, which meant the ship could be lower and slimmer.

This may in fact be the reason we find fewer polyremes as the Hellenistic era advances: by doubling the length of the ship, it was possible to include as many oarsmen with only half the number of oar banks.  Hence a 12 would be replaced by a long 6, a 13 or 14 by a long 7, a 15 or 16 by a long 8, and 17s-20s were presumably replaced by a long dekeres.

Quote
But ancient galleys moved only  on oars  and the machinery were men.
Double the rowing crew dont' double power, because more a man is near the fulcrum point
of the oar less his stroke is powerful and otherwise double the crew  dont' double the hull but more, increasing
drag and draft.

Classical ships had one man per oar, as did all ships where free men rowed.  More than one man per oar applied only with slaves (classical galleys did not use slaves; too inefficient).

Quote
The four of Annibal Rodio was similar in concept, a fast almost imprendible ship,
but  are not won only with guerrilla.

A minor point of detail: Hannibal the Rhodian's ship was actually a quinquereme (Polybius I.59.8 ) but was taken by a captured quadrireme.

Incidentally, it is nice to talk to someone who knows his WW2 ships.
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manomano

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Re: Ram Sizes at Actium
« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2019, 02:45:59 PM »
I have done the example of the Unryu only to demostrate that  with a determinate hull
the max speed  can be archieved only with the right power.
Incidentally Unryu's hull  were designed with a power of 152000 shp, Katsuragi had boliler and tubines of a destroyer so
less power and less speed.
As it's impossible  obtain more that 34 kt from the of the Unryo's  hull ( machinery space ) so
it's impossible obtain more that a determinated speed from  a determinated  hull propelled by oars ( men = machinery space)
Junyo's hull and machinery dates are inappropriate because the hull was a commercial one and machinery was DIY.

An other problem much more sensible, length to beam ratio.
Furious and her sisters had a battlecruiser hull with 9,7 : 1
during conversion to improve stability bulged were added and ratio was reduced to 8,7 : 1 ( D.Brown Aircraft Carrier, Mac Donald)
so speed decresed by 1.5  knots to 30.5 in 1925.(91.000 shp)
Italian cruisers... good idea:
Capitani Romani class was developed from Taskent ,builted for Soviet Navy:
 (JIN Shimakaze and some French super-DD  similar in concept)
they have a machinery of 110.000 SHP with a hull with 10:1 ratio  of only 5 334 t FL,
during trial (almost void)  speed was 41 kn, paradoxically under operational circumstances
R.N.Scipione Africano reach 43 kn, but sovrastructures were made with papier-mache.

Why these examples of WW1-2 ships?
Simple, physics is not an opinion: water, sea status,power,mass, draft, drag,structural strength are not opinions.

Our ancient galleys were limited in length /beam ratio to 8 : 1 , over this value  a wooden hull simply broke.
Pentecontere's length was the max possible for its beam, so to increse power the only solution were one-two
more banks of oars with a limited enlargement of lenght and beam.
Over these the only solution possible was put more men on the same oar,
so 4  may be 2-1-1 or 2-2 or 4 , 5   2-2-1  or 3-2  and so on.
You lost some power but have a better hull and a better endurance:
Later athenian navy discarded all trieres and substituted them with four, why?



« Last Edit: May 19, 2019, 04:54:41 PM by manomano »
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Re: Ram Sizes at Actium
« Reply #10 on: May 13, 2019, 02:31:34 PM »
Our ancient galleys were limited in length /beam ratio to 8 : 1 , over this value  a wooden hull simply broke.

Interesting; do you have a source for this?  It seems like a useful rule of thumb.

Quote
Pentecontere's length was the max possible for its beam, so to increse power the only solution were one-two more banks of oars with a limited enlargement of lenght and beam.

Partly true; this assumes the same techniques of ship construction were employed - which was the case before the Hellenistic period.  The Athenians refined the basic design for lightness, using a hypozomata (strain-bearing rope) to give the ship longitudinal strength.

Then came the polyreme era; Alexander intended to build 500 septemremes for his Arabian campaign, and Demetrius Poliorcetes started building fifteens and sixteens and, as Plutarch mentioned,

"However, in the ships of Demetrius their beauty did not mar their fighting qualities, nor did the magnificence of their equipment rob them of their usefulness, but they had a speed and effectiveness which was more remarkable than their great size." - Life of Demetrius 43

So someone had managed to overcome the limitation of the basic pentekonter concept.

Quote
Over these the only solution possible was put more men on the same oar,

There was actually another solution: add more banks of oars.  The basic oar bank (on a pentekonter) was 25 men.  In an Athenian trireme, this could stretch to 31 men.  A bireme had one bank of oars above the other.  A trireme added a further bank inboard or outboard of the top bank (hence the name 'zeugites' - 'yoke-fellows').  For a quadrireme, it was a simple matter to add a further bank inboard or outboard of the lower oar bank.

The challenge came with quinqueremes and larger.  The Romans could build ships up to quadriremes, but had no idea how to build quinqueremes until they captured an example.  This suggests a major design step, probably the same design step which permitted septemremes and for that matter fifteens, sixteens, twenties etc.  At the same time the number of oarsmen per oar bank seems to have been raised to approximately 50; the ships were getting longer at the same time as the increased number of oar banks was broadening their beams.

The Leontophorus is interesting because it is stated to be an 8 and had 1,600 oarsmen.  This means each oar bank had 100 men, considerably more than any preceding ship.  This gives the Leontophorus the approximate length of a Second World War destroyer (over 300 feet), twice as long as its predecessors.  Such a hull form would be faster than its predecessors, and eight banks of oars would have been easier to control than sixteen, giving the ship better manoeuvrability.

Quote
Later athenian navy substitute all trieres for four, why?

I have no idea why; perhaps the important point to note is that no other powers did.

Quote
As it's impossible  obtain more that 34 kt from the of the Unryo's  hull ( machinery space ) so
it's impossible obtain more that a determined speed from  a determined hull propelled by oars ( men = machinery space)

Yes, but are we looking at the right part of the performance curve?  If a ship like the Shimakaze were rowed, one would not get more than about 12 knots out of her no matter how many oarsmen one put on board.  Giving her 79,000 shp meant that she could reach her performance limit of about 40 knots.  Put the Shimakaze's machinery in the Leontophorus and the latter would easily exceed 30 knots (and perhaps break up under the stresses).

My point is that while a particular hull form has an effective speed limit, oar power takes it nowhere near that limit.  There are of course design measures which will increase the efficiency of the hull form for the power one has, and a longer ship is usually a faster ship given the same power (and approximate weight).  The speed and power limits of the steam turbine era are misleading if directly transferred to the polyreme era, because polyremes were not operating anywhere near the top of their power-speed relationship for their hull form.
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manomano

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Re: Ram Sizes at Actium
« Reply #11 on: May 15, 2019, 01:24:11 PM »


There was actually another solution: add more banks of oars.  The basic oar bank (on a pentekonter) was 25 men.  In an Athenian trireme, this could stretch to 31 men.  A bireme had one bank of oars above the other.  A trireme added a further bank inboard or outboard of the top bank (hence the name 'zeugites' - 'yoke-fellows').  For a quadrireme, it was a simple matter to add a further bank inboard or outboard of the lower oar bank.


I hope you are kidding.
Never mind the work of several competent naval experts of ancient ship structure and management,
their explanations about are exhaustive and based on scientific reasons.
Never mind archeological edvidences about ancient naval installations.
But , also so, we cannot ignore that there is no any  ancient iconografic proof of
ships manned with more that three orders of oars.
I am sorry, I don't want to sound rude, but if we not agree on this notion,
it is perfectly useless to descant further.




« Last Edit: May 15, 2019, 01:26:24 PM by manomano »
  • Mariano Rizzi

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Re: Ram Sizes at Actium
« Reply #12 on: May 15, 2019, 02:09:12 PM »
In a spirit of re-using content, rather than starting afresh, there was an extensive earlier exchange on the subject in a topic about Slingshot 298, starting around #29 http://soa.org.uk/sm/index.php?topic=1661.msg18861#msg18861

Patrick lays out his personal interpretation of polyreme construction from #62 to the end.  As a caveat, this was about four years ago and Patrick may have modified his interpretation since.
  • Anthony Clipsom

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Re: Ram Sizes at Actium
« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2019, 06:31:20 PM »
Never mind the work of several competent naval experts of ancient ship structure and management,

Actually experts seem to be split over the matter, with the fashion in vogue changing from generation to generation, and it is worth pointing out that until a ship is built, everyone is essentially guessing.

Quote
Never mind archeological edvidences about ancient naval installations.

We have plenty of evidence for Carthaginian ship sheds, but as far as I know we lack even a single Hellenistic ship shed.  Carthaginians rarely used anything larger than a quadrireme, so their ship sheds are of no real help for Hellenistic polyremes.

Quote
But , also so, we cannot ignore that there is no any  ancient iconografic proof of
ships manned with more that three orders of oars.

The problem here is that evidence is very incomplete: Hellenistic monarchs tended to put elephants, deities etc. on their coins rather than ships (and the engravers might have demurred over depicting a polyreme).  'Iconographic proof' is only as good as the artists, and Roman engravers seem to have struggled even with triremes.  Paintings might have been more representative, but have not survuved.

Literary sources, on the other hand, are quite clear about multi-banked ships, although this clarity does not usually make the transition to the modern mind.  On the basis that our literary sources are more likely to be complete than our archaeological efforts so far, a good look at the primary sources is essential before drawing any conclusions.  We might note in passing that no classical literary source of which I am aware mentions more than one man to an oar in anything except ships rowed by slaves - and these are usually vessels such as lake pleasure craft.

In a spirit of re-using content, rather than starting afresh, there was an extensive earlier exchange on the subject in a topic about Slingshot 298, starting around #29 http://soa.org.uk/sm/index.php?topic=1661.msg18861#msg18861

Patrick lays out his personal interpretation of polyreme construction from #62 to the end.  As a caveat, this was about four years ago and Patrick may have modified his interpretation since.

Thanks, Anthony.  Mariano, if you can stand looking through that mass of posts, it does outline many of the essential considerations.  If you would prefer not to bother discussing the subject further, I shall understand.
  • Patrick Waterson
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manomano

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Re: Ram Sizes at Actium
« Reply #14 on: May 16, 2019, 08:43:29 PM »
Dupuy de Lome had some personal speculation about ancient warships and fail,
Olympia work, with some imperfections but work.
The base for working is this real ship, not surmises.
Science is not an opinion,
"Hic Rodus ,hic salta"

All the answers we need are in this relief,

  • Mariano Rizzi