Friday, 11 November 2016

Curiouser and Curiouser...

Osprey New Vanguard  225 keeps giving.It gives one so much more faith in the illustrators of  Look and Learn and their ilk.
Battle of Salamis, Andrew Howat (20th Century) / Private Collection / © Look and Learn
Salamis a la Look and Learn
 Despite the blurb, Osprey push out fodder for eager boys of all ages just as Look and Learn did.

Plate H is all about a Liburnian.

The Liburnian was a type of lembus. That is, a lighter ship. They were heavier than most lembi because they were cataphract - i.e. they had a deck which covered the oarsmen and hold, and they could be  'boxed-in' - i.e. the oars were worked through ports to further protect the rowers in battle and from the weather. Possibly those used by the Romans were inspired in their design by the vessels of Illyrian pirates. Pirates prized speed and manoeuverability in a compact, light ship that did not require a large crew.

The plate caption tells us that the reconstruction is based upon a liburnian of Agrippa from Isernia.
The relief fragments, from the Santa Maria del Monache National Museum at Isernia, on the eastern side of Italy, are shown, in cropped photographs on page 39.  Found in the River Sordo, near the Ponte Nuovo. Probably from a tomb monument, and to be dated in the years after the battle of Actium (31 BCE), there is nothing to link this relief with Agrippa as far as I can find.The only features the reliefs contribute are the prow volute ornament, the proembelion and the ram decoration.

If we examine the rest of the caption we learn that the ship depicted has 82 oars 'dispersed in two orders'(whatever that means), that its length is 'about 108ft(sic)', and that its crew is 114 oarsmen, 10-15 sailors and 40 marines.

No sailors or marines are depicted in the plate.

We also learn from the caption that  ..
'The ram which the word pointed suggests confirms the epithet  of Propertius as rostrata and  the presence of an armament to be used as occasion might demand for defence or offence.'

Now, call me a curmudgeonly old nit-picker but in 1995 John Morrison, writing in 'Hellenistic Oared Warships 399 -31BC' in Conway's 'The Age of the Galley' wrote thus..

'The ram, which the word 'pointed' suggests and which Propertius' epithet rostrata confirms as a regular characteristic of the liburnian, adds an armament to be used as occasion might demand for defence or offence.'

Morison's construction is a little odd. A ram is essentially an offensive armament. The chances that D'Amato lighted by chance upon the same phraseology is slim. Him being Italian and all that.

Earth to Osprey's editorial staff. Come in Osprey's editorial staff, Come in Osprey's editorial staff....

If we do the unmentionable and count things shown we find that there are, on each side, 20 single-manned oars and 21 double-manned oars on each side.

Firstly, there is NO evidence for differently-manned oars in a dikrotic ship unless we are talking about heavier polyremes from a Five and up. Dikrotic ships - biremes -  are known from the seventh century BC down to medieval times. The only suggested case for double-manned oars combined with single-manned is that of the hemiolia, where the mid-half of each side on a MONOKROTIC ship could have had double-manning. Plate H here has a radical interpretation which is not explained or backed-up. Or it is plain wrong.

Secondly, add 20 times 1, to 21 times 2. This gives 124 in my system of arithmetic. There are places for 124 rowers in this picture. The caption says there should be 114. Plain wrong.

With all those men crammed into the ship let us see if there is space for them.

Space to work the oars
Space in a galley is crucial. There must be enough space to work an oar effectively. We know from antiquity and from the Olympias project that the separation between oars should be in the order of a metre 21 oars on a single level needs 21 metres. The ship shown here is 108ft long (why feet ?). This is 32,4 metres. We do not know if this is waterline length or maximum length. If the distance between the outermost oar ports  is 20 metres this would give a ship, as depicted, of 27 metres hull length. The picture is too short. A Four is generally reconstructed as having 88 oars - 22 on one level. A Four is generally reconstructed as being 37 metres long at the waterline. Rather longer than this ship which has just about the same number of oars in a level. The reconstruction is plainly wrong.

The ship shown in plate H has an oarbox. This is a straight-sided closed extension to the hull in which oarports are pierced. Both levels or oars are shown rowed through the oarbox. No ship of this size could have two levels of oars rowed through the oarbox. There is not enough space available inside the ship to allow oars to penetrate the box side and hit the water without having wildly different oar lengths. The smallest ships with oarboxes so large are Fours or maybe trihemiolia.
The most likely configuration for a liburnian with an oarbox is that one level would penetrate the oarbox and the second issue from its underside. In fact, we have no evidence for a liburnian with an oarbox. They can be boxed-in in that they have sides with protection for the oarsmen but oarboxes ? No. In addition, it is essential that an oarbox is straight, because then the oars can be the same length. this drawing has the oarboxes tapered at the stern which defeats their function.
The liburnians from Trajan's Column speak volumes.
Incorrectly positioned oarsmen but no oarbox. These would have been decked and the lattice is ventilation in the sides. The men are sculpted larger than life-size compared to the ships.
Should I go on ? I will.

The profile shows a crennelated bulwark topping a layer of interlocked shields. Where is this structure in the plan view ? Is it represented by the red line running fore-aft ? If so, why would a protective deck bulwark be located where no one can stand behind it unless they tread on a rower's head ? How do they get the shields ?

The caption states that the liburnae were 'decked and boxed-in'. In the context of galleys, 'decked' usually means cataphract - i.e. the deck covers the ship. Plate H shows a ship with an incomplete deck. It is at odds with the caption.

All these details stirred some dusty entry in my mental archive. I checked New Vanguard 225's bibliography and, as one may expect, there stood John Warry's excellent 'Warfare in the Classical World'. In this book is an illustration of a Liburnian, by Clive Spong or Jeff Burns.
Liburnian from John Warry's Salamander book 1980
Clive Spong or Jeff Burns' Liburnian has 48 oars per side. A liburnian with more oars than a Four !

BUT Warry wrote and his illustrator worked before 1980. Much has been discovered since.

If we take the ratios of the oared-length to the total-ship-lengths on these illustrations we can see they are similar.  Rava 1.44,   Spong-Burns1,36.

If we compare the pictures we see a tapered oar-box, alternate single then double-manned oars, an incomplete deck with an arrow shape and a similarity in prow plan, one side of the oar benches unoccupied., no plan representation of the bulwark shown in profile.

It gives the impression of a colouring-in exercise on the earlier drawing.

If we compare the details given alongside the drawing it is conclusive.
Even though the number of rowers changes, the length is kept the same ?

Why would one do that when many interested readers will have Warry's book on their shelves ? How could one concoct a ship which is essentially a trieres - having three men in each interscalmium and call it a Liburnian.

It is not unknown for artists to 'reference' others' work. It is undersandable for an illustrator who has to churn out a lot of stuff quickly to use cut-and-paste. What is taking the piss out of the buyers and readers of Osprey books is when they boldly state

'expertly pieced together from written sources, archaeology and artefact evidence. With meticulously researched artwork..'

(Osprey New Vanguard 225 REPUBLICAN ROMAN WARSHIPS 509-27BC)

We know from Sr. Rava's comment,previously blogged about here, that the author and illustrator collaborate closely to produce the Osprey illustrations. Neither can avoid credit for Plate H.

Jackson, Embleton, Doughty, Lawrence et al who lavishly illustrated the weekly comics of the past were working, apparently, in a similar vein to those hired by Osprey so many years later. Much more is known but this is not always applied due to pressures of time. At least Look and Learn did not claim to be the last word in historical and archaeological accuracy. Look and Learn was an exciting weekly magazine for young people and the broader-minded adult. Is Osprey doing anything more?
Let's row away from this shipwreck (backwards) ! (Don Lawrence)
Oh , I almost forgot. Here is John Coates' drawing of a Liburnian. This is a light version, they could be a little larger, but most had 50 or so oars. his detailed technical drawing and its supporting evidence have been available since 1994. 'expertly', 'meticulously' .. give me strength...

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