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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Deipnosophistae


published in Vol. II
of the Loeb Classical Library edition,

The text is in the public domain.

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(Vol. II) Athenaeus

Book V
(Part 3 of 5)

 p421  (203E) But since we are on the subject of naval equipment, come, let us speak also of the ships constructed by King Ptolemy Philopator, for they are worth hearing about. The same Callixeinus gives an account of these in the first book of his work On Alexandria, in these words:1 "Philopator constructed his forty-bank ship with a length of four hundred and twenty feet;2 its beam from gangway to gangway3 was fifty-seven feet; Fits height to the gunwale was seventy-two feet. From the top of the stern-post to the water-line it measured seventy-nine and a half feet. It had four steering-oars,  p423 forty-five feet long, 204 and the oars of the topmost rowers, which are the longest, measured fifty-seven feet; these, since they carried lead on the handles and were very heavy inboard, were yet easy to handle in actual use because of their nice balance. It had a double bow and a double stern, and carried seven rams; one of these was the leader, others were of gradually diminishing size, some being mounted at the catheads. It carried twelve under-girders, each of them measuring nine hundred feet.4 It was extraordinarily well proportioned. Wonderful also was the adornment of the vessel besides; Bfor it had figures at stern and bow not less than eighteen feet high, and every available space was elaborately covered with encaustic painting; the entire surface where the oars projected, down to the keel, had a pattern of ivy-leaves and Bacchic wands. Rich also was the equipment in armament, and its satisfied all the requirements of the various parts of the ship.5 On a trial voyage it took more than four thousand men to man the oars, and four hundred reserves;6 to man the deck there were two thousand eight hundred and fifty marines; and besides, below decks was another complement of men and provisions in no small quantity. CAt the beginning it was launched from a kind of cradle which, they say, was put together from the timbers of fifty five-bank ships, and it was pulled into the water by a crowd, to the accompaniment of shouts and trumpets. Later, however, a Phoenician conceived the method  p425 of launching by digging a trench under the ship near the harbour, equal in length to the ship. He constructed for this trench foundations of solid stone seven and a half feet in depth, and from one end of these foundations to the other he fixed in a row skids,7 which ran transversely to the stones across the width of the trench, leaving a space below them six feet deep. DAnd having dug a sluice from the sea, he let the sea into all the excavated space, filling it full; into this space he easily brought the vessel, with the help of unskilled men; . . . . when they had barred the entrance which had been opened at the beginning, they again pumped out the sea-water with engines. And when this had been done, the ship rested securely on the skids before-mentioned.

"Philopator also constructed a river boat, the so‑called cabin-carrier,'8 having a length of three hundred feet, and a beam at the broadest part of forty-five feet. EThe height, including the pavilion when it was raised, was little short of sixty feet. Its shape was neither like that of the war galleys nor like that of the round-bottomed merchantmen, but had been altered somewhat in draught to suit its use on the river. For below the water-line it was flat and broad, but in its bulk it rose high in the air; and the top parts of its sides, especially near the bow, extended in a considerable overhang, with a backward curve very graceful in appearance. It had a double bow and a double stern which projected upward to a high point, because the waves in the river often rise very high. FThe hold amidships was constructed with saloons for dining-parties,  p427 with berths, and with all the other conveniences of living. Round the ship, on three sides, ran double promenades.9 The perimeter of one of these measured not less than five furlongs. 205 The structure of the one below decks resembled a peristyle; that of the one on the upper deck was like a concealed peristyle10 built up all round with walls and windows. As one first came on board at the stern, there was set a vestibule open in front, but having a row of columns on the sides; in the part which faced the bow was built a fore-gate, constructed of ivory and the most expensive wood. entering this, one came upon a kind of proscenium11 which in its construction had been roofed over. Matching the fore-gate, again, a second vestibule lay aft at the transverse side,12 Band a portal with four doors led into it. On both sides, left and right, potholes were set beneath to provide good ventilation. Connected with these entrances was the largest cabin; it had a single row of columns all round, and could hold twenty couches. The most of it was made of split13 cedar and Milesian14 cypress; the surrounding doors, numbering twenty, had panels of fragrant cedar nicely glued together, with ornamentation in ivory. The decorative studs covering their surface, and the handles as well, were made of red copper, which had been gilded in the fire. CAs for the columns, their shafts were of cypress-wood, while the capitals, of the Corinthian  p429 order, were entirely covered with ivory and gold. The whole entablature was in gold; over it was affixed a frieze with striking figures in ivory, more than a foot and a half tall, mediocre in workmanship, to be sure, but remarkable in their lavish display. Over the dining-saloon was a beautiful coffered ceiling of Cyprus wood; the ornamentations on it were sculptured, with a surface of gilt. Next to this dining-saloon was a sleeping apartment with seven berths, Dadjoining which was a narrow passage-way running transversely from one side of the hold to the other, and dividing off the women's quarters. In the latter was a dining-saloon, with nine couches, which was similar to the large saloon in magnificence, and a sleeping-apartment with five berths.

"Now the arrangements up to the first deck were as described. Ascending the companion-way, which adjoined the sleeping-apartment last mentioned, was another cabin large enough for five couches, having a ceiling with lozenge-shaped panels; near it was a rotunda-shaped shrine of Aphrodite, in which was a marble statue of the goddess. EOpposite to this was a sumptuous dining-saloon surrounded by a row of columns, which were built of marble from India. Beside this dining-saloon were sleeping-rooms having arrangements which corresponded to those mentioned before. As one proceeded toward the bow he came upon a chamber devoted to Dionysus, large enough for thirteen couches, and surrounded by a row of columns; it had a cornice which was gilded as far as the architrave surrounding the room; the ceiling was appropriate to the spirit of the god. FIn this chamber, on the starboard side, a recess was built; externally, it showed a stone fabric artistically made  p431 of real jewels15 and gold; enshrined in it were portrait-statues of the royal family in Parian marble. Very delightful, too, was another dining-saloon built on the roof of the largest cabin 206 in the manner of an awning; this had no roof, but curtain rods shaped like bows extended over it for a certain distance, and on these, when the ship was under way, purple curtains were spread out. Next after this was an open deck16 which occupied the space directly over the vestibule extending below it; a circular companion-way extending from this deck led to the covered promenade and the dining-saloon with nine couches. This was Egyptian in the style of its construction; for the columns built at this point bulged as they ascended, and the drums differed, Bone being black and another white, placed alternately. Some of their capitals are circular in shape; the entire figure described by them resembles rose-blossoms slightly opened. But around the part which is called the 'basket'17 there are no volutes or rough18 leaves laid on, as on Greek capitals, but calyxes of water-lilies and the fruit of freshly-budded date-palms; in some instances several other kinds of flowers are sculptured thereon. The part below the root of the cap, which, of course, rests upon the drum adjoining it, had a motif that was similar; it was composed of flowers and leaves of Egyptian beans, as it were, intertwined. CThis is the way in  p433 which Egyptians construct their columns; and the walls, too, they vary with alternating white and black courses of stone, but sometimes, also, they build them of the rock called alabaster. And there were many other rooms in the hollow of the ship's hold through its entire extent. Its mast had a height of one hundred and five feet, with a sail of fine linen reinforced by a purple topsail."

All the wealth of King Ptolemy Philadelphus, after being retained for so long a period, Dwas dissipated by the last Ptolemy, the same who got up the Gabinian war;19 he was not a man, but a flute-player and juggler.

With regard to the construction of the ship built by Hieron of Syracuse, which was superintended by the mathematician Archimedes, I hold it not right to be silent, since a certain Moschion has published a treatise on it which I have recently read with care. Moschion, then, writes as follows: "Diocleides of Abdera is admired for his description20 of the siege-engine which was brought to bear against the walls of the city of Rhodes by Demetrius;21 ETimaeus, for his description of the funeral pyre built for Dionysius, tyrant of Sicily; Hieronymus, for his account of the carriage built to convey the body of Alexander;22 Polycleitus, for the description of the chandelier  p435 made for the Persian king.23 But Hieron, the king of Syracuse, he who was in all respects friendly to Rome, not only interested himself in the building of temples and gymnasia, but was also a zealous shipbuilder, constructing wheat-transports, the construction of one of which I will proceed to describe. FFor material he caused timber to be brought from Aetna, enough in quantity for the building of sixty quadriremes. In keeping with this,24 he caused to be prepared dowels, belly-timbers, stanchions, and all the material for general uses, partly from Italy, partly from Sicily; for cables hemp from Iberia, hemp and pitch from the river Rhone, and all other the gates needful from many places. He also got together shipwrights and all other kinds of artisans, and from them all he placed in charge the Corinthian Archias as architect, 207 urging him to attack the construction zealously; and he personally applied himself diligently to the work during the days it required. One half, then, of the entire ship he finished in six months . . . and as each part of the ship was completed it was overlaid with tiling made of lead; for there were about three hundred artisans working on the materials, not including their assistants. This part of the ship, then, was ordered to be launched in the sea, Bthat it might receive the finishing touches there. But after considerable discussion in regard to the method of pulling it into the water, Archimedes the mechanician alone was  p437 able to launch it with the help of a few persons. For by the construction of a windlass he was able to launch a ship of so great proportions in the water. Archimedes was the first to invent the construction of the windlass. The remaining parts of the ship were completed in another period of six months; it was entirely secured with bronze rivets, most of which weighed ten pounds, while the rest were half as large again; these wit were fitted in place by means of augers, and held the stanchions together; fixed to the timbers was a sheath of leaden tiles, under which were strips of linen canvas covered with pitch. When, then, he had completed the outside surface, he proceeded to make complete the inner arrangements.

C"Now the ship was constructed to hold twenty banks of rowers, with three gangways. the lowest gangway which it contained led to cargo, the descent to which was afforded by companion-ways of solid construction;25 the second was designed for the use of those who wished to enter the cabins; after this came the third and last, which was for men posted under arms. Belonging to the middle gangway were cabins for men ranged on each side of the ship, large enough for four couches, and numbering thirty. The officers' cabin could hold fifteen couches and contained three apartments of the size of three couches; that toward the stern was the cooks' galley. All these rooms had a tessellated flooring made of a variety of stones, in the pattern of which was wonderfully wrought the entire story of the Iliad; Dalso in the furniture, the ceiling, and the doors all  p439 these themes were artfully represented. On the level of the uppermost gangway there were a gymnasium and promenades built on a scale proportionate to the size of the ship; in these were garden-beds of every sort, luxuriant with plants of marvellous growth, and watered by lead tiles hidden from sight; then there were bowers of white ivy and grape-vines, the roots of which got their nourishment in casks filled with earth, and receiving the same irrigation as the garden-beds. EThese bowers shaded the promenades. Built next to these was a shrine of Aphrodite large enough to contain three couches, with a floor made of agate and other stones, the most beautiful kinds found in the island; it had walls and ceiling of Cyprus-wood, and doors of ivory and fragrant cedar; it was also most lavishly furnished with paintings and statues and drinking-vessels of every shape.

"Adjoining the Aphrodite room was a library26 large enough for five couches,27 the walls and doors of which were made of boxwood; it contained a collection of books, and on the ceiling was a concave dial28 made in imitation of the sun-dial on Achradina. FThere was also a bathroom, of three-couch size, with three bronze tubs and a wash-stand of variegated Tauromenian marble, having a capacity of fifty gallons. There were also several rooms built for the marines and those who manned the pumps.29  p441 But beside these there were ten stalls for horses on each side of the ship; and next them was the storage-place for the horses' food, and the belongings of the riders and their slaves. 208 There was also a water-tank at the bow, which was kept covered and had a capacity of twenty thousand gallons; it was constructed of planks, caulked with pitch and covered with tarpaulins. By its side was built a fish-tank enclosed with lead and planks; this was filled with sea-water, and many fish were kept in it. On both sides of the ship were projecting beams, at proper intervals apart; on these were constructed receptacles for wood, ovens, kitchens, handmills, and several other utensils. BOutside, a row of colossi, nine feet high, ran round the ship; these supported the upper weight and the triglyph, all standing at proper intervals apart. And the whole ship was adorned with appropriate paintings. There were also eight turrets on it, of a size proportional to the weight of the ship; two at the stern, an equal number at the bow, and the rest amidships. To each of these two cranes were made fast, and over them portholes were built, through which stones could be hurled at an enemy sailing underneath. CUpon each of the turrets were mounted four sturdy men in full armour, and two archers. The whole interior of the turrets was full of Saracen and missiles. A wall with battlements and decks athwart the ship was built on supports; on this stood a stone-hurler, which could shoot by its own power a stone weighing one hundred and eighty pounds or a javelin eighteen feet long.  p443 This engine was constructed by Archimedes. Either one of these missiles could be hurled six hundred feet. After this came leather curtains30 joined together, suspended to thick beams by means of bronze chains. DThe ship carried three masts, from each of which two stone-hurling cranes were suspended; from them grappling hooks and lumps of lead could also be directed against assailants. An iron paling which encircled the ship also protected it against any who attempted to climb aboard; also grappling-cranes31 of iron were all about the ship, which, operated by machinery, could lay hold of the enemy's hulls and bring them alongside where they would be exposed to blows. Sixty sturdy men in full armour mounted guard on each side of the ship, Eand a number equal to these manned the masts and stone-hurlers. Also at the masts, on the mast-heads (which were of bronze), men were posted, three on the foremast, two in the maintop and one on the mizzenmast;32 these were kept supplied by the slaves with stones and missiles carried aloft in wicker baskets to the crow's-nests by means of pulleys. There were four anchors of wood, eight of iron. The trees for the mainmast and mizzenmast were easily found; but that for the foremast was discovered with difficulty by a swineherd in the mountains of the Bruttii; Fit was hauled down to the coast by the engineer Phileas of Tauromenium. The bilge-water, even when it became very deep, could easily be pumped out by one man with the aid of the screw, an invention  p445 of Archimedes. The ship was named 'Syracusia';33 but when Hieron sent her forth, he changed the name to 'Alexandris.'34 The boats which it had in tow were first a pinnace of three thousand talents35 burden; this was propelled entirely by oars. After this came fishing-boats of fifteen hundred talents burden, and several cutters besides. The numbers composing the crew were not less than . . .36 Next to these just mentioned there were six hundred more men at the bow ready to carry out orders. 209 For any crimes committed on board there was a court composed of the skipper, pilot, and officer at the bow, who gave judgement in accordance with the laws of Syracuse.

"On board were loaded ninety thousand bushels of grain, ten thousand jars Sicilian salt-fish, six hundred tons of wool, and other front amounting to six hundred tons. Quite apart from this was the provisioning of the crew. BBut when Hieron began to get reports of all the harbours, either that they could not receive his ship at all, or that great danger to the ship was involved, he determined to send it as a present to King Ptolemy at Alexandria; for there was in fact a scarcity of grain throughout Egypt. And so he did; and the ship was brought to Alexandria, where it was pulled up on shore. Hieron also honoured Archimelus, the poet who had written an epigram celebrating the vessel, with fifteen hundred bushels of wheat, which he shipped at his own expense to Peiraeus. The epigram runs as  p447 follows: C'Who hath set these giant timbers on the ground? What mighty master hath hauled them with untiring cables? How was the flooring fixed to the ribs of oak, or by what axe hewn did rivets make this hollow mass, matching in height the peaks of Aetna, or stretching with walls on both sides broad as one of the isles which Aegean waters bind together in the Cyclades/ Verily the giants have planed these timbers Dto traverse the paths of Heaven. For its mastheads touch the stars, and it hides its three-ply bulwarks37 within the mighty clouds. Its anchors are secured with such cables as those with which Xerxes bound together the twin passage of Abydos and Sestos. Letters freshly charactered on its stout prow reveal who it was that sent forth this keel from the dry land; for they declare that it was Hieron, son of Hierocles, Ebearing gifts of a rich harvest to all Hellas and the isles, wielder of the sceptre of Sicily, the Dorian. Nay then, Poseidon, guide this bark homeward over the blue surging sea.' "

I38 have intentionally omitted the sacred trireme of Antigonus,39 in which he defeated Ptolemy's generals off Leucolla, in Cos, where, in fact, he dedicated it to Apollo; for this trireme could not contain a third or perhaps not even a fourth of the "Syracusia" or "Alexandris," the ship of Hieron's just described.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 F. H. G. III.55.

2 The Athenian trireme had a length at the water-line of not over one hundred and twenty feet.

3 The jjj was a gangway running from bow to stern on each side.

4 Since the ship was 420 ft. long and these cables were 900 ft., this passage would seem to prove decisively that the girders ran outside the ship from bow to stern. See Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, XXII.173 ff.

5 lit. "all the requiring parts"; see critical note.

6 Or "men to manage the sails and rigging."

7 Or "rollers."

8 The barge of state.

9 i.e. on upper and lower deck.

10 cryptoporticus.

11 lit., the front wall of the scene-building in a theatre, facing the audience.

12 i.e. the quarter-deck, the "side" connecting the two lateral decks.

13 Or Syrian; see critical note.

14 Probably the Miletus in Cyprus is meant.

15 Or "agates"; see critical note.

16 Or possibly "atrium."

17 The part of the column which spreads out between shaft and entablature.

18 i.e. acanthus.

19 58‑55 B.C.; he was known as Ptolemy Auletes, but he was not the last Ptolemy.

20 See critical note.

21 Demetrius Poliorcetes, who captured Rhodes in 304 B.C. after a siege which lasted a year.

22 From Babylon to Alexandria, 323 B.C.

23 What king is meant is unknown. For the historian Polycleitus of Larisa cf. Athen. 539A.

24 The text is defective, since jjj requires a main verb. Something like jjj is required, "with the idea of carrying out this (huge) project."

25 As opposed to the open circular staircase 206A; jjj ordinarily means a ladder, which was more common in early Greek houses than solidly built stairs.

26 lit. "room for leisurely, i.e. studious or literary, occupations."

27 The Greeks had no desks or library-tables, but usually reclined on a couch when they wrote or read. "Couch" is also a unit of measure in determining the size of a room.

28 lit. "vault" (of the sky).

29 lit. "who guarded the bilge" (cf. Aristoph. Eq. 434).

30 To protect the upper tiers of rowers.

31 Different from the jjj before mentioned; see Polybius, I.22; Diodorus, XVII.44.

32 lit. "less by one each successively."

33 lit. "Lady of Syracuse."

34 lit. "Lady of Alexandria."

35 About 90 tons.

36 See critical note.

37 Apparently meaning the turrets (208B) built with three layers of timber.

38 Masurius, 196A.

39 Antigonus Gonatas is meant. The date of the battle is placed ca. 265 B.C. by Niese, Gesch. d. griech. u. maked. Staaten, II.131; ca. 256 B.C. by Kaerst in Pauly-Wissowa, I.2415. Plutarch 545B shows that jjj in Athenaeus is not a mistake for jjj, as older editors thought.

Page updated: 24 Aug 10