Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Battle Identified

The battle in Rava's cover plate from Osprey NV244 is apparently that at Sena Gallica in 551AD.
I looked further on his FB.

This was a battle between an Italian Gothic fleet and Byzantines. The Goths lost heavily.

This is an obscure battle, mentioned only by Procopius. Quite helpful in making a fantasy-full reconstruction. My criticism of the galea-bireme-dromon ship stands. Elsewhere, Procopius clearly states that the ships of Belisarius reconquista were single-banked, cataphract, with possibly a lateen rig. (History of the Wars, Book III, xi). These were called dromon(es).

The depiction closest in time is here, from the Vatican Æneid folio 77.

A dromon of c.500AD

That the Goths had a fleet of similar vessels to the Byzantines of this time is ... debateable.

It is nice that Procopius mentions the sides engaged with arrows and lances and swords, But fire-projectiles, always a risky tactic at sea ? And super-explodey ones too.
The Gothic ship at lower right is ...odd. Why should a railing run up into the vertical on the stern ? Who is going to fall off sideways there ? And nice uniforms by the Gothic army.

A naughty detail is that the ship at the back - a galea-medieval-dromon , has the upper corne rof its mainsail colourd red. According to Procopius, Vandalic War xi - on his expedition to Africa in 533AD, Belisarius had the sails of his own and two other ships which carried his personal guard coloured red in the top third. Just a leetle tweaking to get his feature over to Sena Gallica eighteen years later.
Red sails in the sunset. (ish)
Anyway, the oncoming book is getting even more interesting.

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