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Sunday, 27 November 2011

Roman Galley - Artery Blood Flow of Cargo for Rome's Mighty Empire


The galley was the main type of ship used by the Roman Empire. Over the years it changed little though there were variations of size. These ships were off shoots of the Greek style vessels called Trireme. These Greek ships were very big galleys that required around 250 personnel. There were rows of oarsman and two masts. Because they were so big, Ancient Greece could not afford to make many.



When the Roman Empire came about, they took the idea of the Greek Trireme but reduced its size. This allowed them to make more and get a better overall output concerning logistics for overseas cargo and military capabilities.

The smaller Roman versions of what we now call galley ships were built on a large scale to service the growing Empire. One of the biggest Roman military ships was called a Quinquereme. Some historians call this a fiver due to the arrangement of decks and rowers. This ship was still not as big as the Ancient Greek Trireme, but was formidable as part of a fleet fighting pirates. These big vessels were used throughout the sea lanes of Rome's vast empire.
Most of the rowers were slaves or the lower of the five social classes, plus there were other navel ratings aboard. To get maximum effect from a ship’s company of rowers – whatever the size of the sea going vessel – there was a rating aboard who sat at the stern of the ship. He was above overling the deck tiers of the rowers. This man was called a Pasarius or Hortator and he would bang a drum to urge the rowers.  They were encouraged to sing in tune with the rowing strokes. This kept the galley oars working in unison among large numbers of slave oarsman. It also gave maximum propulsion with a coordinated rowing system.
Hortator
The sails consisted of a small mast to the bow of the ship with a main sail amidships when out on the high seas. There was also steering rudders at the port and starboard side of the stern.
Reconstruction of a small Galley that patrolled the River Rhine in Germany
Smaller versions of the Roman galley were used for different functions. One such vessel was called a Lembi. This was used for land patrol and up river tributaries. A sort of coastal defence vessel. These craft had limited proficiencies but were good for transporting small cargo or patrols of skirmishing soldiers.

Some of the older Roman vessels, or even adapted Lembi galleys, were converted into transporters called Bireme. However, they all had the oarsman for maximum propulsion and the front small sail with larger central sail.

Below are scale pictures of various sized and named Roman Galleys.



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