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 p783  Navis

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on pp783‑792 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

NAVIS (ναῦς). The beginning of the art of ship-building and of navigation among the Greeks must be referred to a time much anterior to the ages of which we have any record. Even in the earliest mythical stories long voyages are mentioned, which are certainly not altogether poetical fabrications, and we have every reason to suppose that at that early age ships were used which were far superior to a simple canoe, and of a much more complicated structure. The time, therefore, when boats consisted of one hollow tree (Monoxyla), or when ships were merely rafts (Rates, σχεδίαι) tied together with leathern thongs, ropes, and other substances (Plin. H. N. VII.57), belongs to a period of which not the slightest record has reached us, although such rude and simple boats or rafts continued occasionally to be used down to the latest times, and appear to have been very common among several of the barbarous nations with which the Romans came into contact (Codex; cf. Quintil. X.2; Flor. IV.2; Fest. s.v. Schedia; Liv. XXI.26). Passing over the story of the ship Argo and the expedition of the Argonauts, we shall proceed to consider the ships as described in the Homeric poems.

The numerous fleet, with which the Greeks are said to have sailed to the coast of Asia Minor, must on the whole be regarded as sufficient evidence of the extent to which navigation was carried on in those times, however much of the detail in the Homeric description may have arisen from the poet's own imagination. In the Homeric catalogue it is stated that each of the fifty Boeotian ships carried 120 warriors (Il. II.510), and a ship which carried so many cannot have been of very small dimensions. What Homer states of the Boeotian vessels applies more or less to the ships of other Greeks. These boats were provided with a mast (ἱστός) which was fastened by two ropes (πρότονοι) to the two ends of the ship, so that when the rope connecting it with the prow broke, the mast would fall towards the stern, where it might kill the helmsman (Od. XII.409, &c.) The mast could be erected or taken down as necessity required. They also had sails (ἱστία), but no deck; each vessel however appears to have had only one sail, which was used in favourable wind; and the principal means of propelling the vessel lay in the rowers, who sat upon benches (κληιδες). The oars were fastened to the side of the ship with leathern thongs (τροποὶ δερμάτινοι, Od. IV.782), in which they were turned as a key in its hole. The ships in Homer are mostly called black (μέλαιναι), probably because they were painted or covered with a black substance, such as pitch, to protect the wood against the influence of the water and the air; sometimes other colours, such as μίλτος, minium (a red colour), were used to adorn the sides of the ships near the prow, whence occasionally Homer calls ships μιλτοπάρῃοι, i.e. red-cheeked (Il. II.637, Od. IX.125); they were also painted occasionally with a purple colour (φοινικοπάρῃοι, Od. XI.124). Herodotus says (III.58) that all ships were painted with μίλτος. When the Greeks had landed on the coast of Troy, the ships were drawn on land, and fastened at the poop to large stones with a rope which served as anchors (Il. I.436, XIV.77, Od. IX.137, XV.498; Moschopul. ad Il. I.436). The Greeks then surrounded the fleet with a fortification to secure it against the attacks of the enemy. This custom of drawing the ships upon the shore, when they were not used, was followed in later times also, as every one will remember from the accounts in Caesar's Commentaries. There is a celebrated but difficult passage in the Odyssey (V.243, &c.), in which the building of a boat is described, although not with the minuteness which an actual ship-builder might wish for. Odysseus first cuts down with his axe twenty trees, and prepares the wood for his purpose by cutting it smooth and giving it the proper shape. He then bores the holes for nails and hooks, and fits the planks together and fastens them with nails. He rounds the bottom of the ship like that of a broad transport vessel, and raises the bulwark (ἴκρια), fitting it upon the numerous ribs of the ship. He afterwards covers the whole of the outside with planks, which are laid across the ribs from the keel upwards to the bulwark; next the mast is made, and the sail-yard attached to it, and lastly the rudder. When the ship is thus far completed, he raises the bulwark still higher by wickerwork which goes all around the vessel, as a protection against the waves. This raised bulwark of wickerwork and the like was used in later times also (Eustath. ad Od. V.256). For ballast Odysseus throws into the ship ὑλη, which according to the Scholiast consisted of wood, stones, and sand. Calypso then brings him materials to make a sail of, and he fastens the ὑπέραι or ropes which run from the top of the mast to the two ends of the yard, and also the κάλοι with which the sail is drawn up or let down. The πόδες mentioned in this passage were undoubtedly, as in the later times, the ropes attached to the two lower corners of the square sail (cf. Nitzsch. Anmerk. z. Odyss. vol. II p35, &c.; Ukert, Bemerk. über Hom. Geogr. p20). The ship of which the building is thus described was a small boat, a σχεδία as Homer calls it; but it had like all the Homeric ships a round or flat bottom. Greater ships must have been of a more complicated structure, as ship-builders are praised as artists (Il. V.60, &c.). Below, under Ceruchi, a representation of two boats is given which appear to bear great resemblance to the one of which the building is described in the Odyssey (cf. Thirlwall, Hist. of Greece, vol. I p219).

 p784  It is a general opinion that in the Homeric age sailors did not venture out into the open sea, but that such was really done is clear from the fact, that Homer makes Odysseus say that he had lost sight of land, and saw nothing but the sky and water (Od. XII.403; compare XIV.302; Virg. Aen. III.192, &c.), although on the whole it may be admitted, that even down to the historical times the navigation of the ancients was confined to coasting along the shore. Homer never mentions engagements at sea. The Greeks most renowned in the heroic ages as sailors were the Cretans, whose king Minos is said to have possessed a large fleet, and also the Phaeacians (Thucyd. I.4; Hom. Od. VIII.10, &c.)

After the times of the Trojan war, navigation, and with it the art of ship-building, must have become greatly improved, on account of the establishment of the numerous colonies on foreign coasts, and the increased commercial intercourse with these colonies and other foreign countries. The practice of piracy, which was during this period carried on to a great extent not only between Greeks and foreigners, but also among the Greeks themselves, must likewise have contributed to the improvement of ships and of navigation, although no particulars are mentioned. In Greece itself the Corinthians were the first who brought the art of ship-building nearest to the point at which we find it in the time of Thucydides, and they were the first who introduced ships with three ranks of rowers (τριήρεις, Triremes). About the year 700 B.C. Ameinocles the Corinthian, to whom this invention is ascribed, made the Samians acquainted with it (Thucyd. I.13; Plin. H. N. VII.57); but it must have been preceded by that of the Biremes, that is, ships with two ranks of rowers, which Pliny attributes to the Erythraeans.​1 These innovations however do not seem to have been generally adopted for a long time; for we read that about the time of Cyrus the Phocaeans introduced long sharp-keeled ships called πεντηκόντοροι (Herod. I.163). These belonged to the class of long war-ships (νῆες μακραί), and had fifty rowers, twenty-five on each side of the ship, who sat in one row. It is further stated that before this time vessels called στρογγύλαι, with large round or rather flat bottoms, had been used exclusively by all the Ionians in Asia. At this period most Greeks seem to have adopted the long ships with only one rank of rowers on each side;

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their name varied accordingly as they had fifty (πεντηκόντοροι), or thirty (τριακόντοροι), or even a smaller number of rowers. A ship of war of this class is represented in the previous woodcut, which is taken from Montfaucon, l'Antiq. Expliq. vol. IV part 2 pl. 142.

The following woodcut contains a beautiful fragment of a Bireme with a complete deck (Winckelmann, Monum. Antich. inedit. pl. 207). Another specimen of a small Bireme is given further on.

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The first Greek people whom we know to have acquired a navy of importance were the Corinthians, Samians, and Phocaeans. About the time of Cyrus and Cambyses the Corinthian Triremes were generally adopted by the Sicilian tyrants and by the Corcyraeans, who soon acquired the most powerful navies among the Greeks. In other parts of Greece and even at Athens and in Aegina the most common vessels about this time were long ships with only one rank of rowers on each side. Athens, although the foundation of its maritime power had been laid by Solon [Naucraria], did not obtain a fleet of any importance until the time of Themistocles, who persuaded them to build 200 Triremes for the purpose of carrying on the war against Aegina. But even then the ships were not provided with complete decks (καταστρώματα) covering the whole of the vessel (Thucyd. I.14; Herod. VII.144).

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Navigation remained for the most part what it had been before: the Greeks seldom ventured out into the open sea, and it was generally considered necessary to remain in sight of the coast or of some island, which also served as guides in daytime: in the night the position, rising and setting of the different stars answered the same purpose. In winter navigation generally ceased altogether. In cases where it would have been necessary to coast around a considerable extent of country, which was connected with the mainland by a narrow neck, the ships were sometimes drawn across the neck of land from one sea to the other, by machines called ὁλκοί. This was done most frequently across the isthmus of Corinth (Herod. VII.24; Thucyd. VIII.1, III.15, with the Schol.; Strab. VIII p380; Polyb. IV.19, V.101).

Now as regards the various kinds of ships used by the Greeks, we might divide them with Pliny according to the number of ranks of rowers employed in them, into Moneres, Biremes, Triremes, Quadriremes, Quinqueremes, &c., up to the enormous ship with forty ranks of rowers, built by Ptolemaeus Philopator (Plin. l.c.; Athen. V p203, &c.). But all these appear to have been constructed on the same principle, and it is more convenient to divide them into ships of war and ships of burden (φορτικὰ, φορτηγοὶ, ὁλκάδες, πλοῖα, στρογγύλαι, naves onerariae, naves actuariae). Ships of the latter kind were not calculated for quick movement or rapid sailing, but to carry the greatest possible quantity of goods. Hence their structure was bulky, their bottom round, and although they were not without rowers, yet the chief means by which they were propelled were their sails.​d

The most common ships of war in the earlier times were the pentecontori (πεντηκόντοροι), but afterwards they were chiefly Triremes, and the latter are frequently designated only by the name νῆες, while all the others are called by the name indicating their peculiar character. Triremes however were again divided into two classes: the one consisting of real men-of‑war, which were quick-sailing vessels (ταχεῖαι), and the other of transports either for soldiers (στρατιώτιδες or ὁπλιταγωγοί) or for horses (ἱππηγοί, ἱππαγωγοί). Ships of this class were more heavy and awkward, and were therefore not used in battle except in cases of necessity (Thucyd. I.116). It seems to have been a common practice to use as transports for soldiers and horses such Triremes as had become useless as men-of‑war. The ordinary size of a war galley may be inferred from the fact that the average number of men engaged in it, including the crew and marines, was two hundred, to whom on some occasions as much as thirty epibatae were added (Herod. VIII.17, VII.184; cf. Epibatae and Böckh, Publ. Econ. p278, &c.). The rapidity with which these war galleys sailed may be gathered from various statements in ancient writers, and appears to have been so great, that even we cannot help looking upon it without astonishment, when we find that the quickness of an ancient trireme nearly equalled that of a modern steam-boat. Among the war-ships of the Athenians their sacred state-vessels were always included (Paralus; cf. Böckh, Urkunden über d. Seewesen des Att. Staats, p76, &c.); but smaller vessels, such as the πεντηκόντοροι or τριακόντοροι, are never included when the sum of men-of‑war is mentioned, and their use for military purposes appears gradually to have ceased.

Vessels with more than three ranks of rowers on each side were not constructed in Greece till about the year 400 B.C., when Dionysius I, tyrant of Syracuse, who bestowed great care upon his navy, built the first Quadriremes (τετρήρεις), with which he had probably become acquainted through the Carthaginians, since the invention of these vessels is ascribed to them (Plin. H. N. VII.57; Diodor. XIV.4142). Up to this time no Quinqueremes (πεντήρεις) had been built, and the invention of them is likewise ascribed to the reign of Dionysius. Mnesigeiton (ap. Plin. l.c.) ascribes the invention of Quinqueremes to the Salaminians, and if this statement is correct, Dionysius had his Quinqueremes probably built by a Salaminian ship-builder. In the reign of Dionysius II Hexeres (ἑξήρεις) are also mentioned, the invention of which was ascribed to the Syracusans (Aelian, V. H. VI.12, with the note of Perizonius; Plin. l.c.). After the time of Alexander the Great the use of vessels with four, five, and more ranks of rowers became very general, and it is well known from Polybius (I.63, &c.) that the first Punic war was chiefly carried on with Quinqueremes. Ships with twelve, thirty, or even forty ranks of rowers (Plin. l.c.; Athen. V p204, &c.), such as they were built by Alexander and the Ptolemies, appear to have been mere curiosities, and did not come into common use. The Athenians at first did not adopt vessels larger than Triremes, probably because they thought that with rapidity and skill they could do more than with large and unwieldy ships. In the year B.C. 356 they continued to use nothing but Triremes; but in 330 B.C. the republic had already a number of Quadriremes, which was afterwards increased. The first Quinqueremes at Athens are mentioned in a document (in Böckh's Urkunden, N. XIV. litt. K) belonging to the year B.C. 325. Herodotus (VI.87), according to the common reading, calls the theoris, which in Ol. 72 the Aeginetans took from the Athenians, a πεντήρης:  p786 but the reading in this passage is corrupt, and πεντετηρίς should be written instead of πεντήρης (Böckh, Urkunden, p76). After the year 330 the Athenians appear to have gradually ceased building Triremes, and to have constructed Quadriremes instead.

Among the smaller vessels we may mention the ἄκατος or ἀκάτιον, which seems to have been sometimes used as a ship of burden (Herod. VII.186; cf. Pind. Pyth. XI.62, Nem. V.5). The acatus must generally have been very small, and the same as a scapha, for Suetonius (Caes. 64) in describing Caesar's escape from Alexandria, says that he jumped into a scapha, which Plutarch, in narrating the same event, calls an acation. From Thucydides (IV.67) with the remark of the Scholiast, we must infer that it was a small boat in which every person sailing in it managed two oars, one with each hand. The name Scapha (σκάφη) denotes a small skiffº or life-boat, which was commonly attached to merchantmen for the purpose of saving the crew in danger (Act. Apost. xxvii.30).

Liburna, or Liburnica, in Greek λιβυρνίς or λιβυρνόν, is a name given apparently to every warship, from a bireme up to those with six lines of rowers on each side (Lucian, vol. V p262, ed. Bip.; Flor. IV.2; Sueton. Aug. 17); but in the time of Augustus, liburnae even with six lines of rowers were considered small and swift in comparison with the unwieldy ships of Antony at Actium (Horat. Epod. I.1). Pliny (X.32) informs us that they were constructed sharp in the bows to offer the least possible resistance to the water. They were usually provided with a beak, whence a navis rostrata is generally the same as a Liburna. They were first constructed by the Liburnians (whence they derived their name), and first used by the Romans in the battle of Actium (cf. Gell. XVII.3; Plin. H. N. IX.5, XVII.3;​a Appian, de Bell. Illyr. 3; Juven. III.240).

Every vessel at Athens, as in modern times, had a name given to it, which was generally of the feminine gender, whence Aristophanes (Eq. 1313) calls the Triremes παρθένους, and one vessel, the name of which was Nauphante, he calls the daughter of Nauso (Böckh, Urk. p81, &c.; and a list of names in p84, &c.). The Romans sometimes gave to their ships masculine names. The Greek names were either taken from ancient heroines such as Nausicaa, or they were abstract words such as Εὔπλοια, Θεραπεία, Πρόνοια, Σωζουσα, Ἡγεμόνη, &c. In many cases the name of the builder also was added.

We now proceed to describe the principal parts of ancient vessels.

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  1. The prow (πρώρα or μέτωπον, prora) was generally ornamented on both sides with figures, which were either painted upon the sides or laid in. It seems to have been very common to represent an eye on each side of the prow (Böckh, Urk. p102; Becker, Charikles, vol. II p60). Upon the prow or fore-deck there was always some emblem (παράσημον, insigne, figura) by which the ship was distinguished from others. At the head of the prow there projected the στόλος, and its extremity was termed ἀκροστόλιον, which was frequently made in the shape of an animal or a helmet. It appears to have been sometimes covered with brass and to have served as an embole (ἐμβολή) against the enemy's vessels (Aeschyl. Pers. 414). The ἀκροστόλιον is sometimes designated by the name of χηνίσκος (from χήν, a goose), because it was formed in the shape of the head or neck of a goose or swan, as in the accompanying woodcut (Etym. Magn. s.v.). The cheniscus was often gilt and made of bronze (Lucian, Ver. Hist. 41, Jup. Trag. 14). A cheniscus of bronze is preserved in the Royal Library at Paris (Millin, Dict. des beaux Arts). [Insigne]

	Just below the prow and projecting a little above the keel was the Rostrum (ἔμβολος, ἔμβολον) or beak, which consisted of a beam, to which were attached sharp and pointed irons, or the head of a ram and the like. This ἔμβολος was used for the purpose of attacking another vessel and of breaking its sides. It is said to have been invented by the Tyrrhenian Pisaeus (Plin. l.c.). These beaks were at first always above the water and visible; afterwards they were attached lower, so that they were invisible, and thus became still more dangerous to other ships (Diodor. XI.27, XIV.6075; Polyb. I.26, XVI.5, VIII.6). The annexed woodcuts, taken from Montfaucon (L'Antiq. Expliq. IV.2 tab. 133), represent three different beaks of ships.

     p787  Connected with the ἔμβολος was the προεμβολίς, which according to Pollux (I.85) must have been a wooden part of the vessel in the prow above the beak, and was probably the same as the ἐπωτίδες, and intended to ward off the attack of the ἔμβολος of a hostile ship. The command in the prow of a vessel was exercised by an officer called πρωρεύς, who seems to have been next in rank to the steersman, and to have had the care of the gear, and the command over the rowers (Xenoph. Oecon. VII.14)

  2. The stern (πρύμνη, puppis) was generally above the other parts of the deck, and in it the helmsman had his elevated seat. It is seen in the representations of ancient vessels to be rounder than the prow, though its extremity is likewise sharp. The stern was, like the prow, adorned in various ways, but especially with the image of the tutelary deity of the vessel (tutela). 
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		In some representations a kind of roof is formed over the head of the steersman, and the upper part of the stern frequently has an elegant ornament called aplustre, and in Greek ἄφλαστον, which constituted the highest part of the poop. It formed a corresponding ornament to the ἀκροστόλιον at the prow. At the junction of the aplustre with the stern on which it was based, we commonly observe an ornament resembling a circular shield: this was called ἀσπιδεῖον or ἀσπιδίσκη. It is seen on the two aplustria here represented (cf. Apollon. Rhod. I.1089, II.601; Apollod. I.9 §22; Hom Il. XV.716; Herod. VI.114). The aplustre rose immediately behind the gubernator, and served in some degree to protect him from wind and rain. Sometimes there appears, besides the aplustre, a pole, to which a fillet or pennon (ταινία) was attached, which served both to distinguish and adorn the vessel, and also to show the direction of the wind. In the column of Trajan, a lantern is suspended from the aplustre so as to hang over the deck before the helmsman.

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I knew all that time I spent stalking Trajan's Column would eventually come in useful! Here are three Roman ships: notice the aplustria, see the lantern hanging from the middle one.

The aplustre commonly consisted of thin planks, and presented a broad surface to the sky. In consequence of its conspicuous place and beautiful form, the aplustre was often taken as the emblem of maritime affairs: it was carried off in triumph by the victor in a naval engagement (Juven. X.135), and Neptune is sometimes represented on medals holding the aplustre in his right hand, as in the annexed woodcut; and in the celebrated Apotheosis of Homer, now in the British Museum, the female personating the Odyssey exhibits the same emblem in reference to the voyages of Odysseus.

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  1. The τράφηξ is the bulwark of the vessel, or rather the uppermost edge of it (Hesych. s.v.). In small boats the pegs (σκαλμοί, scalmi) between which the oars move, and to which they are fastened by a thong (τροπωτήρ), were upon the τράφηξ (Böckh, Urkund. p103). In all other vessels the oars passed through holes in the side of the vessel (ὀφθαλμοί, τρήματα, or τρυπήματα). (Schol. Aristoph. Acharn. 97, &c.)

  2. The middle part of the deck in most ships of war appears to have been raised above the bulwark or at least to a level with its upper edge, and thus enabled the soldiers to occupy a position from which they could see far around and hurl their darts against the enemy. Such an elevated deck appears in the annexed woodcut representing a Moneris. In this instance the flag is standing upon the hind-deck (Mazois, Pomp. Part I tab. XXII fig. 2).

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  3. One of the most interesting, as well as important parts in the arrangements of the Biremes, Triremes, &c., is the position of the ranks of rowers, from which the ships themselves derive their names. Various opinions have been entertained by those who have written upon this subject, as the information which ancient writers give upon it is extremely scanty. Thus much, however, is certain, that the different ranks of rowers, who sat along the sides of a vessel, were placed one above the other. This seems at first sight  p788 very improbable, as the common ships in later times must have had five ordines of rowers on each side, and since even the lowest of them must have been somewhat raised above the surface of the water, the highest ordo must have been at a considerable height above it, and consequently required very long oars: the apparent improbability is still more increased, when we hear of vessels with thirty or forty ordines or rowers above one another. But that such must have been the arrangement is proved by the following facts: First, In works of art, in which more than one ordo of rowers is represented, they appear above one another, as in the biremes given on pp784a, 791a, and in several others figured by Montfaucon. Secondly, the Scholiast on Aristophanes (Acharn. 1106; compare Aristoph. Ran. 1105) states that the lowest rank of rowers having the shortest oars and consequently the easiest work, received the smallest pay while the highest ordo and the heaviest work and received the highest pay. Thirdly, In the monstrous τεσσαρακοντήρης of Ptolemaeus Philopator, the description of which by Callixenus (ap. Athen. V p203, &c.) is as authentic as it well can be, the height of the ship from the surface of the water to the top of the prow (ἀκροστόλιον) was 48 cubits, and from the water to the top of the stern (ἄφλαστα) 53 cubits. This height afforded sufficient room for forty ranks of rowers, especially as they did not sit perpendicularly above one another, but one rower, as may be seen in the above representation of a Bireme, sat behind the other, only somewhat elevated above him. The oars of the uppermost ordo of rowers in this huge vessel were 38 cubits long.

    In ordinary vessels from the Moneris up to the Quinqueremis each oar was managed by one man, which cannot have been the case where each oar was 38 cubits long. The rowers sat upon little benches attached to the ribs of the vessel, and called ἑδώλια, and in Latin fori and transtra. The lowest row of rowers was called θαλάμος, the rowers themselves, θαλαμῖται or θαλάμιοι (Schol. ad Aristoph. Acharn. 1106). The uppermost ordo of rowers was called θράνος, and the rowers themselves θρανῖται (Thucyd. VI.31). The middle ordo or ordines of rowers were called ζυγὰ, ζύγιοι or ζυγῖται (Pollux, I.9).º Each of this last class of rowers had likewise his own seat, and did not, as some have supposed, sit upon benches running across the vessel (Böckh, Urkund. p103, &c.).

We shall pass over the various things, which were necessary in a vessel for the use and maintenance of the crew and soldiers, as well as the machines of war which were conveyed in it, and confine ourselves to a brief description of things belonging to a ship as such. All such utensils are divided into wooden and hanging gear (σκεύη ξύλινα, and σκεύη κρεμαστά, Pollux X.13; Athen. I p27). Xenophon (Oecon. VIII.12) adds to these the σκεύη πλεκτά, or the various kinds of wickerwork, but these are more properly comprehended among the κρεμαστά.

I. Σκεύη ξύλινα

  1. Oars (κώπαι, remi). The collective term for oars is ταῤῥός, which properly signified nothing but the blade or flat part of the oar (Herod. VIII.12; Pollux, I.90), but was afterwards used as a collective expression for all the oars with the exception of the rudder (Eurip. Iph. Taur. 1346, Hel. 1554; Polyb. XVI.3). The oars varied in size accordingly as they were used by a lower or higher ordo of rowers, and from the name of the ordo by which they were used, they also received their special names, viz.κώπαι, θαλάμιαι, ζύγιαι, and θρανίτιδες. Böckh (Urk. p119) has calculated, that each Trireme on an average had 170 rowers. In a Quinquereme during the first Punic war, the average number of rowers was 300 (Polyb. I.26); in later times we even find as many as 400 (Plin. XXXII.1). The great vessel of Ptolemaeus Philopator had 4000 rowers (Athen. V p204), and the handle of each oar (ἐγχειρίδιον) was partly made of lead, that the shorter part in the vessel might balance in weight the outer part, and thus render the long oars manageable. The lower part of the holes through which the oars passed, appear to have been covered with leather (ἄσκωμα), which also extended a little way outside the hole (Aristoph. Acharn. 97, with the Schol.; Schol. ad Ran. 367; Suidas, s.v. Ἀσκώματα and διφθέρα: compare Böckh, Urk. 106, &c.). The ταῤῥός also contained the περίνεῳ, which must consequently be a particular kind of oars. They must have derived their name, like other oars, from the class of rowers by whom they were used. Böckh supposes that they were oars which were not regularly used, but only in case of need, and then by the Epibatae. Their length in a Trireme is stated at from 9 to 9½ cubits, but in what part of the vessel they were used is unknown. Respecting oars in general see the Appendix in Arnold's Thucyd. vol. II p461, &c.

  2. The rudder (πηδάλιον, gubernaculum). Before the invention of the rudder, which Pliny (H. N. VII.57) ascribes to Tiphys, the pilot of the ship Argo, vessels must have been propelled and guided by the oars alone. This circumstance may account for the form of the ancient rudder, as well as for the mode of using it. It was like an oar with a very broad blade, and was commonly placed on each side of the stern, not at its extremity. The annexed woodcut presents examples of its appearance as it is frequently exhibited on gems, coins, and other works of art.

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    The figure in the centre is from one of Bartoli's lamps (Luc. Ant. I.5), and shows a Triton blowing the buccina, and holding a rudder over his shoulder. The left-hand figure in the same woodcut is from a cameo in the Stosch collection. It represents a rudder with its helm or tiller crossed by the cornucopia. In the third figure taken from another cameo in  p789 the same collection, Venus leans with her left arm upon a rudder to indicate her origin from the sea. The rudder was managed by the gubernator (κυβερνήτης), who is also called the rector navis as distinguished from the magister. A ship had sometimes one, but more commonly two rudders (Aelian, V. H. IX.40; Heliod. Aethiop. V p241, ed. Comm.; Acts XXVII.40), and they were distinguished as the right and left rudder (Hygin. Fab. 14); but they were managed by the same steersman to prevent confusion (Bartoli, l.c. III.31). In larger ships the two rudders were joined by a pole which was moved by the gubernator and kept the rudders parallel. The contrivances for attaching the two rudders to one another and to the sides of the ship, are called ζεῦγλαι (Eurip. Helen. 1556) or ζευκτηρίαι (Acts, xxvii.40). The famous ship of Ptolemaeus Philopator had four rudders, each 30 cubits in length (Athen. V p204; cf. Tac. Ann. II.6).

  3. Ladders (κλιμακίδες, scalae). Each Trireme had two wooden ladders, and the same seems to have been the case in τριακόντοροι (Böckh, p125).

  4. Poles or punt poles (κοντοί, conti). Three of these belonged to every Trireme, which were of different lengths, and were accordingly distinguished as κοντὸς μέγας, κοντὸς μικρὸς, κοντὸς μέσος. Triacontores had probably always four punt poles (Contus; Böckh, p125, &c.)

  5. Παραστάται or supports for the masts. They seem to have been a kind of props placed at the foot of the masts (Isidor. Orig. XIX.2.11). The mast of a Trireme, as long as such props were used, was supported by two. In later times they do not occur any longer in Triremes, and must have been supplanted by something else. The Triacontores on the other hand retained their παραστάται (Böckh, p126, &c.).

  6. The mast (ἱστός, malus). The ancients had vessels with one, two or three masts. From Böckh's Urkunden we learn that two masts were issued at Athens from the νεώριον for every trireme. The foremast was called ἀκάτειος, while the mainmast was called ἱστός μέγας. A triaconter, or a vessel with 30 rowers, had likewise two masts, and the smaller mast here as well as in a trireme was near the prow. In three-masted vessels the largest mast was nearest the stern. The masts as well as the yards were usually of fir (Plin. H. N. XVI.76). The invention of masts in navigation is attributed to Daedalus (Plin. H. N. VII.56). The part of the mast immediately above the yard (antenna), formed a structure similar to a drinking cup, and bore the name of carchesium (καρχήσιον).​b Into it the mariners ascended in order to manage the sail, to obtain a distant view, or to discharge missiles (Eurip. Hecub. 1237, with the Schol.; Lucil. Sat. 3). The ceruchi or other tackle may have been fastened to its lateral projections which corresponded to the hands of a cup (cf. Pind. Nem. V.94). The carchesia of the three-masted ship built for Hiero II by Archimedes were of bronze. Three men were placed in the largest, two in the next, and one in the smallest. Breastworks (θωρακία) were fixed to these structures, so as to supply the place of defensive armour; and pulleys (τροχηλίαι, trochleae) for hoisting up stones and weapons from below (Athen. V.43). The continuation of the mast above the carchesium was called the "distaff" (ἠλακάτη), corresponding to our topmast or top-gallant-mast (Apollon. Rhod. I.565; Athen. XI.49). The carchesium was sometimes made to turn upon its axis, so that by means of its apparatus of pulleys, it served the purpose of a crane (Vitruv. X.2, 10, with Schneider's note).

  7. The yards (κέρας, κεραῖα, antenna). The mainyard was fastened to the top of the mast by ropes termed ceruchi, as seen in the annexed woodcut.

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    To the mainyard was attached the mainsail, which was hoisted or let down as the occasion might require. For this purpose a wooden hoop was made to slide up and down the mast, as we see it represented in an antique lamp, made in the form of a ship (Bartoli, l.c. III.31; cf. Isid. Orig. XX.15). In the two extremities of the yard (cornua, ἀκροκέραιαι), ropes (ceruchi, χηροῦχοι) were attached, which passed to the top of the mast; and by means of these ropes and the pulleys connected with them, the yard and sail, guided by the hoop, were hoisted to the height required (Caes. de Bell. Gall. III.14; Lucan, VIII.177; Val. Flacc. I.469). There are numerous representations of ancient ships in which the antenna is seen, as in the two woodcuts here appended. In the second of them, there are ropes hanging down from the antenna, the object of which was to enable the sailors to turn the antenna and the sail according to the wind.

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II. Σκεύη κρεμαστά

  1.  Ὑποζώματα. This part of an ancient vessel was formerly quite misunderstood, as it was believed to be the boards or planks covering the outside of a ship and running along it in the direction from poop to prow. But Schneider (ad Vitruv. X.15.6) has proved that the word means cordage or tackling, and this opinion, which is supported by many ancient authors, is confirmed by the documents published by Böckh, where it is reckoned among the σκεύη κρεμαστά. The ὑποζώματα were thick and broad ropes which ran in a horizontal direction around the ship from the stern to the prow, and were intended to keep the whole fabric  p790 together. They ran round the vessel in several circles, and at certain distances from one another. The Latin name for ὑπόζωμα is tormentum (Isidor. Orig. XIX.4.4; Plato, de Re Publ. X. p616). The length of these tormenta varied accordingly as they ran around the higher or lower part of the ship, the latter being naturally shorter than the former. Their number varied according to the size of the ship. The Tessaracontores of Ptolemaeus Philopator had twelve ὑποζώματα, each 600 cubits long (Athen. V p204). Such ὑποζώματα were always ready in the Attic arsenals, and were only put on a vessel when it was taken into use. Sometimes also they were taken on board when a vessel sailed, and not put on till it was thought necessary (Act. Apost. xxvii.17). The act of putting them on was called ὑποζωννύναι or διαζωννύναι, or ζῶσαι (Polyb. XXVII.3; Appian, B. C. V.91; Apoll. Rhod. Argon. I.368). A Trireme required four ὑποζώματα, and sometimes this number was even increased, especially when the vessel had to sail to a stormy part of the sea (Böckh, pp133‑138).

  2. Ἱστίον (velum), sail. Most ancient ships had only one sail, which was attached with the yard to the great mast. In a Trireme too one sail might be sufficient, but the trierarch might nevertheless add a second. As each of the two masts of a Trireme had two sail-yards, it further follows that each mast might have two sails, one of which was placed lower than the other. The two belonging to the main-mast were called ἱστία μεγάλα, and those of the fore-mast ἱστία ἀκάτεια (Xenoph. Hellen. VI.2 §27; Bekker, Anecdot. pp19, 10). The former were used on ordinary occasions, but the latter probably only in cases when it was necessary to sail with extraordinary speed. The sails of the Attic war-galleys, and of most ancient ships in general, were of a square form, as is seen in numerous representations on works of art. Whether triangular sails were ever used by the Greeks, as has been frequently supposed, is very doubtful. The Romans, however, used triangular sails, which they called Suppara, and which had the shape of an inverted Greek 
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	, the upper side of which was attached to the yard. Such a sail had of course only one πούς (pes) at its lower extremity (Schol. ad Lucan. Phars. V.429; Isidor. Orig. XIX.3, 4; Böckh, pp138‑143).

  3. Τοπεῖα, cordage. This word is generally explained by the grammarians as identical with σχοινία or κάλοι: but from the documents in Böckh it is clear that they must have been two distinct classes of ropes, as the τοπεῖα are always mentioned after the sails, and the σχοινία before the anchors. The σχοινία (funes) are the strong ropes to which the anchors were attached, and by which a ship was fastened to the land; while the τοπεῖα were a lighter kind of ropes and made with greater care, which were attached to the masts, yards, and sails. Each rope of this kind was made for a distinct purpose and place (τόπος, whence the name τοπεῖα). The following kinds are most worthy of notice:

    a. καλῴδια or κάλοι. What they were is not quite clear, though Böckh thinks it probable that they belonged to the standing tackle, i.e. that they were the ropes by which the mast was fastened to both sides of the ship, so that the πρότονοι in the Homeric ships were only an especial kind of καλῴδια, or the καλῴδια themselves differently placed. In later times the πρότονος was the rope which went from the top of the mainmast (καρχήσιον) to the prow of the ship, and thus was what is now called the main-stay.

    b. ἱμάντες and κεροῦχοι are probably names for the same ropes which ran from the two ends of the sail-yard to the top of the mast. In more ancient vessels the ἱμὰς consisted of only one rope; in later times it consisted of two, and sometimes four, which uniting at the top of the mast, and there passing though a ring, descended on the other side, where it formed the ἐπίτονος, by means of which the sail was drawn up or let down (Böckh, pp148‑152). Compare the lower woodcut at p789, which shows a vessel with two ceruchi, and the upper woodcut p789, which shows one with four ceruchi.

    c. ἄγκοινα, Latin anquina (Isid. Orig. XIX.4.7), was the rope which went from the middle of a yard to the top of the mast, and was intended to facilitate the drawing up and letting down of the sail. The ἄγκοινα διπλὴ of Quadriremes undoubtedly consisted of two ropes. Whether Triremes also had them double, is uncertain (Pollux, l.c.; Böckh, p152).

    d. Πόδες (pedes) were in later times as in the poems of Homer the ropes attached to the two lower corners of a square sail. These πόδες ran from the ends of the sail to the sides of the vessel towards the stern, where they were fastened with rings attached to the outer side of the bulwark (Herod. II.36). Another rope is called πρόπους, propes (Isid. Orig. XIX.4.3), which was probably nothing else than the lower and thinner end of the ποὺς, which was fastened to the ring.

    e. Ὑπέραι were the two ropes attached to the two ends of the sail-yard, and thence came down to a part of the ship near the stern. Their object was to move the yard according to the wind. In Latin they are called opifera, which is, perhaps, only a corruption of hypera (Isid. Orig. XIX.4.6).​c

    f. The last among the τοπεῖα is the χαλινός, or bridle, the nature of which is quite unknown (Böckh, p154, &c.).

  4. Παραῤῥύματα. The ancients as early as the time of Homer had various preparations raised above the edge of a vessel, which were intended as a protection against high waves, and also to serve as a kind of breast-work by which the men might be safe against the darts of the enemy. These elevations of the bulwark are called παραῤῥύματα, and in the documents in Böckh they are either called τρίχινα, made of hair, or λευκά, white. They were probably fixed upon the edge on both sides of the vessel, and were taken off when not wanted. Each galley appears to have had several παραῤῥύματα, two made of hair and two white ones, these four being regularly mentioned as belonging to one ship (Xenoph. Hellen. I.6 §19; Böckh, p159, &c.).

  5. Κατάβλημα and ὑπόβλημα. The former of these occurs in Quadriremes as well as in Triremes, the latter only in Triremes. Their object and nature are very obscure, but they appear to have been a lighter kind of παράῤῥυμα (Polyaen. Strat. IV.11, 13; Böckh, p160, &c.).

  6. Σχοινία are the stronger and heavier kinds of ropes. There were two kinds of these, viz. the σχοινία ἀγκύρεια, to which the anchor was attached, and σχοινία ἐπίγυα or ἐπίγεια (retinacula), by which the ship was fastened to the shore or drawn upon the shore. Four ropes of each of these two kinds is the highest number that is mentioned as belonging to one ship. The thick ropes were made  p791 of several thinner ones (Aristoph. Pax, 36; Varro, de Re Rust. I.135; Böckh, pp161‑166).

  7. The anchor (ἀγκύρα, ancora). We have already remarked that in the Homeric age, anchors were not known, and large stones (εὐναὶ, sleepers) used in their stead (Hom. Il. I.436, XIV.77, Od. IX.137, XV.498). According to Pliny (H. N. VII.57), the anchor was first invented by Eupalamus and afterwards improved by Anacharsis. Afterwards, when anchors were used, they were generally made of iron, and their form, as may be seen from the annexed figure, taken from a coin, resembled that of a modern anchor (cf. Virg. Aen. I.169, VI.3).

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    Such an anchor was often termed bidens, διπλῆ, ἀμφίβολος or ἀμφίστομος, because it has two teeth or flukes; but sometimes it had only one, and was then called ἑτεροστόμος. The technical expressions in the use of the anchor are: ancoram solvere, ἀγκύραν χαλᾷν, to loose the anchor; ancoram jacere, ἀγκύραν βάλλειν or ῥίπτειν, to cast anchor; and ancoram tollere, ἀγκύραν αἴρειν or ἀναίρεσθαι, to weigh anchor, whence αἴρειν by itself means "to set sail", ἀγκύραν being understood. The following figure, taken from a marble at Rome, shows the cable (funis), passing through a hole in the prow (oculus).

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    Each ship of course had several anchors; the one in which St. Paul sailed had four (Acts, xxvii.29), and others had eight (Athen. V.43). The last or most powerful anchor, "the last hope", was called ἰερά, sacra, and persons trying their last hope were said sacram solvere. To indicate where the anchor lay, a bundle of cork floated over it on the surface of the waters (Paus. VIII.12; Plin. H. N. XVI.8).

The preceding account of the different parts of the ship will be rendered still clearer by the drawing on the following page, in which it is attempted to give a restoration of an ancient ship.


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		A. Prora, πρώρα.
B. Oculus, ὀφθαλμός.
C. Rostrum, ἔμβολος.
D. Cheniscus, χηνίσκος.
E. Puppis, πρύμπη.
F. Aplustre, ἄφλαστον, with the pole containing the fascia or taenia.
G. τράφηξ.
H. Remi, κώπαι.
I. Gubernaculum, πηδάλιον.
K. Malus, ἱστός.
L. Velum, ἱστίον.º
M. Antenna, κεραία, κέρας.
N. Cornua, ἀκροκέραιαι.
O. Ceruchi, κηροῦχοι.
P. Carchesium, καρχήσιον.
Q. κάλοι, καλῷδια.
R. πρότονος.
S. Pedes, πόδες.
T. Opifera, ὑπέραι.

The Romans in the earlier period of their history never conceived the idea of increasing their power by the formation of a fleet. The time when they first appear to have become aware of the importance of a fleet, was during the second Samnite war, in the year B.C. 311. Livy (IX.30), where he mentions this event, says: duumviri navales classis ornandae reficiendaeque causa were then for the first time appointed by the people. This expression suggests that a fleet had been in existence before, and that the duumviri navales had been previously appointed by some other power [Duumviri]. But Niebuhr (Hist. of Rome, III p282) thinks that the expression of Livy only means, that at this time the Romans resolved to build their first fleet. The idea of founding a navy was probably connected with the establishment of a colony in the Pontian islands, as the Romans at this time must have felt that they ought not to be defenceless at sea. The ships which the Romans now built were undoubtedly Triremes, which were then very common among the Greeks of Italy, and most of them were perhaps furnished by the Italian towns subject to Rome. This fleet, however insignificant it may have been, continued to be kept up until the time when Rome became a real maritime power. This was the time of the first Punic war. That their naval power until then was of no importance, is clear from Polybius (I.20), who speaks as if the Romans had been totally unacquainted with the sea up to that time. In the year B.C. 260, when the Romans saw that without a navy they could not carry on the war against Carthage with any advantage, the senate ordained that a fleet should be built. Triremes would now have been of no avail against the high-bulwarked vessels (Quinqueremes) of the Carthaginians. But the Romans would have been unable to build others had not fortunately a Carthaginian Quinquereme been wrecked on the coast of Bruttium, and fallen into their hands. This wreck the Romans took as their model, and after it built 120 (Polyb. l.c.), or according to others (Oros. IV.7) 130 ships. According to Polybius one hundred of them were πεντήρεις, and the remaining twenty τριήρεις, or, as Niebuhr proposes to read, τετρήρεις. This large fleet was completed within sixty days after the trees had been cut down (Plin. H. N. XVI.74). The ships, built of green timber in this hurried way, were very clumsily made, and not likely to last for any time; and the Romans themselves, for want of practice in naval affairs, proved very unsuccessful in their first maritime undertaking, for seventeen ships were taken and destroyed by the Carthaginians off Messina (Polyb. I.21; Polyaen. Strat. VI.16; Oros. IV.7). C. Duilius, who perceived the disadvantage with which his countrymen had to struggle at sea, devised a plan which enabled them to change a sea fight, as it were, into a fight on land. The machine, by which this was effected, was afterwards called corvus, and is described by Polybius (I.22; cf. Niebuhr, III. p678, &c.; Corvus). From this time forward the Romans continued to keep up a powerful navy. Towards the end of the Republic they also increased the size of their ships, and built war vessels of from six to ten ordines of rowers (Florus, IV.11; Virg. Aen. VIII.691). The construction of their ships, however, scarcely differed from that of Greek vessels; the only great difference was that the Roman galleys were provided with a greater variety of destructive engines of war than those of the Greeks. They even erected turres and tabulata upon the decks of their great men-of‑war  p792 (naves turritae), and fought upon them in the same manner as if they were standing upon the walls of a fortress. Some of such naves turritae occur in the woodcuts given above. (Flor. l.c.; Plut. Anton. 66;º Dion Cass. XXXII.33; Plin. H. N. XXXII.1; cf. Caes. de Bell. Gall. III.14; Dion Cass. XXXIX.43; Veget. de Re Milit. IV.44, &c.)º

For a more detailed account of the ships and navigation of the ancients, see Scheffer, De Militia Navali, Upsala, 1654; Berghaus, Geschichte der Schiff-fahrtskunde der vornehmsten Völken des Alterthums; Benedict, Gesch. der Schiff-fahrt und des Handels der Alten; Howell, On the War-galleys of the Ancients; A. Jal, Archéologie Navale, Paris, 1840; and for the Attic navy especially, Böckh's Urkunden über das Seewesen des Atischenº Staates, Berlin, 1840; K. Haltaus, Geschichte Roms im Zeitalter der Punischen Kriege, Leipzig, 1846, p607, &c.).

The Author's Note:

1 Biremes are sometimes called by the Greeks δίκροτα (Cic. ad Att. XVI.4; Hirt. Bell. Alex. 47). The name biremis is also applied to a little boat managed by only two oars (Horat. III.29, 62; Lucan, VIII.562, X.56).

Thayer's Notes:

a I have been unable so far to find any reference to Liburnian vessels in Book 17, in the place cited or elsewhere; but Pliny does mention them in Book 16 (XVI.7.39).

b Our writer seems to imply that the lookout was named after the cup; but at least one ancient author — Asclepiades, as quoted by Macrobius (Saturnalia, 5.21.5) — believes it was the other way round.

c But note that the reading as established in the Oxford edition linked to, is Opisphora; the manuscripts give Opisfora and Opisfeta.

For the management of commercial ships, see the article Exercitoria Actio.

d Confusingly written and partly wrong. "Ships of the latter kind" refers not to "ships of burden" (as opposed to "ships of war"), but to naves actuariae (as opposed to naves onerariae) — but these were the fast boats of Antiquity, precisely because propelled by both rowers and sails (Isid. Orig. XIX.1.24). Among many other possible citations, Hirt. Alexandrian War9, 4445 make it clear; and in each case the modern translator has appropriately rendered navis actuaria by "fast boat".

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