Tuesday 19 December 2017


On Blog -Safari I stumbled on this....


At Fine Scale Modeller. A great account of converting the diminutive old Heller kit of 1/225 biremes.

And then I found a remarkable and beautiful trieres carved from ivory ! And it was not alone......

 This is the work of a master craftsman, David Warther II. He has carved ships since the age of 6 and has a museum containing an entire 'History of the Ship' in ivory. His technique includes scrimshaw and super-fine construction. All at 1/8" to the foot. STUNNING.


Wednesday 13 December 2017

All tiny hands on deck


maybe a touch larger than 2mm...
The most common scales for model galleys are 1/600 and 1/1200.

1/600 ships can look very nice with the extra space for detail and one can put figure blocks on the decks to represent deck troops.

1/1200 ships are perfectly good but no longer have space enough to accommodate figures or even a marker on their decks.

In terms of table space 1/600 gives a c.1km table edge on the traditional 6x4 whilst 1/1200 gives c.2km.
A game with Athenians v Spartans
I decided that deck troops look good and wanted to use some figures. The only options are 1/300 – 6mm figures and Irregular's 2mm range.

6mm is out straight away for these smaller scales. They look like giants on 1/600 ships and collossi on 1/1200.

2mm being the only option it is immediately apparent that they are too small on the 1/600 ships and still too large to use on 1/1200. Basically, 1/1200 is a scale where one cannot use any kind of figures or markers on deck.

What is 2mm scale ? If we take a fighter as 5'8” to six feet tall in his boots and helmet then a 2mm figure is modelled at 1/900-1/800.
2mm deck fighters on 1/800 triereis
Now, to ground scale. A 40 metre 'Mark II' trieres at 1/1200 is 3.3cm long. At 1/600 this will be 6,6cm. I noticed that a nice, round,5cm lies between, at 1/800 – 40 metres divided by 5cm is 800. Lo and behold it is Irregular's scale....

The ground scale can be rounded to 1/1000 which gives a table side of 1.8km and makes translations from maps easier.

But ships !? It is necessary to produce one's own for this scale. However, this is not so bad as it seems because they are not so fiddly as 1/1200 and not so detail-demanding as 1/600. Maybe I will cast some in lead eventually but until now they can be built from card, plastic and paper – and plenty of glue and paint.
2mm deck fighters ready for action

Sunday 10 December 2017


 A blog discovery. A fantasy campaign using Rob Langton's Naumachia rules with 1/1200 ships.
A nice game at Battle for Breakfast and Theatre for Tea Blog  HERE

Friday 8 December 2017

Dehydrated naumachia at Nimes Amphitheatre

A jolly re-enactment of a Roman games at Nimes. In a Roman amphitheatre with thousands of spectators and hundreds of costumed re-enactors. Cleopatra and the Battle of Actium featured!

A 2016 article from Mail online. A colourful gallery of photos and a video to boot. HERE

The ships look like fun - I wonder how they were propelled ? 

Sunday 3 December 2017

The Background Music for Galley Battles

Belgians have no idea about the real thing....sigh...
Trieres included a maybe unexpected member of the crew. He was the auletes /αυλήτης or trieraules.
His purpose was to give the oarsmen the beat for their rowing rhythm. The instrument he played was the ancient two-pipe flute called the aulos.

The Poseidonia aulos
 The auletes was used by the rowing master - the keleustes - to maintain a steady beat over time. In larger or later vessels a drum may have been used by an individual entitled the portisculus/pausarius - the hammer-wielder or beat-giver. The auletes used a strap-brace to keep the instrument in place.

When Olympias was on trials a tannoy system was implemented to allow direct and simultaneous communication with the whole crew. Getting 170 men to work in unison is no easy matter..
On each trial  usually took some days before the oarsmen rowed properly in unison and once this basic standard was reached the necessity for communication was lessened. One must remember that the ancient crews grew up rowing and had the technique instilled in them. They needed occasional prompting not an ear-lashing to get them to work together and at the right rhythm.
'We're riding along on the crest of a wave...'
This year the Edinburgh Lyceum, in conjunction with the Actors Touring Company have a production of Aeschylus' 'The Suppliants' or 'Suppliant Women' directed by Ramin Gray. Passing over the rather tatty production values and the attempts to make modern political  parallels, one aspect of the production is worthy of note. The music includes an aulos. The auletes for the production is Barnaby Brown and he spent a year learning the instrument. He was , of course an accomplished flautist already. The Chorus of the Greek theatre sang and danced to the aulos, and so too did the oarsmen work to it.
                                     'Suppliant my arse - give them five minutes and they'll be telling you to tidy the house and change your underpants more often..'

Aeschylus, the renowned Athenian playwright, was not one of your modern Ivory Tower scribblers. In ancient Athens the Middle Class put their hoplons on the line for the city in order to maintain both their state and their status. Aeschylus definitely fought at Marathon and he may have fought at Salamis too - he would certainly have been present there. His brother lost a hand in the fighting. Listening to the aulos brought back to life by Barnaby Brown and others is to listen to the sound created by the auletes in the ships at Salamis. Not only that, but the all the galleys plying the seas of the Athenian Empire, the Black Sea and all over the Mediterranean. 170 sweaty, toiling men under the canopy of a trieres would share the drone and reedy wail of the aulos. They must have keenly eyed the auletes at the start of the voyage and hoped the new face knew his stuff - chaos and crumpled eardrums could otherwise ensue.

'Yes, Sire, I can confirm the Greeks are playing the theme from 'Das Boot',                                  just to wind you up...'
There are some excellent videos of aulos playing on YOUTUBE. Shut your eyes and imagine you are resting on your oar and just listening to the auletes for a minute. No doubt he could also whistle up a festive tune for the evening to relax by.

VID 1 - Barnaby Brown does the technical stuff...

VID 2 - Barnaby Brown at the breathtaking temples of Pæstum.

VID 3 - If you survived the first two, this is a reward. Not such an accurate copy but a great musician playing a nice melody. Anton Platonov gives it gas. See his other aulos videos too.

There is also the triple pipe from Sardinia, still played today, but I am subjected to this regularly on CD by my girlfriend. It is not 50% better than the aulos. I would rather face the Persians than a bunch of pipe-wielding Sardinian shepherds!

Friday 1 December 2017

Tabletop Galleys

Have a look at the blog 'One Sided Miniature Wargaming Discourse'for some galley action with Xyston and Hotz ships and Galleys and Galleons rules. HERE

Thursday 30 November 2017

Pitassi's Tower - Again

I found some nice photos of the Roman frescoes which include the 'tower' ship.

 They are  from  Villa Farnesina ,  Trastevere and were found in 1879. They were moved to The National Museum of Rome in  2010.
A really evocative port scene, somewhat faded but very immediate.
 I found them on the Blog 'Tomatoes from Canada' HERE. Luckily the Blogger has a keen eye for nice frescoes and took some very nice photos of items which non-nautical visitors and bloggers often overlook. There are other nice photos to look at there.

These colour photos are clearer than the b/w version in Pitassi's book. But still the limitations of the medium and the age, and the materials mean we are not dealing with sharp clean images.
 Shifting colours again, one can see there are perhap two warriors in the front of the ship with their shields raised.
 I did  not find any reason to change my analysis. The pictures are still wonderful. Active and dramatic. The ship in the foreground  seem to be something small like Triakonters or Pentekonters, with visible oarsmen and a few warriorS on each ship.The central ship could be a Liburnian with enclosed oarsmen and fighters on deck.

Thursday 23 November 2017

Research Proposal : Digital Simulation of Galley Warfare

Take a look at Dr.Jorit Wintjes proposal for a research project that would examine the realities of ancient galley warfare. How would the naval tactics really have functioned?
 A  slideshow  lays out his ideas and can while away a few minutes.
Proposed in 2016,  wonder if it progressed any further ?

Take a look HERE

 Wintjes has a prolific output in connection with ancient naval themes. Some interesting titles below... Hopefully the digital galley battle simulator is coming soon?
  • The ghost fleet of Seleucia Pieria, in: N. Hodgson, P. Bidwell, J. Schachtmann (ed.), Roman Frontier Studies 2009. Proceedings of the XXI International Congress of Roman Frontier Studies (Limes Congress) held at Newcastle upon Tyne in August 2009, Oxford 2017, 699-702.
  • Sea power without a navy? Roman naval forces in the principate, in: M. Jones (ed.), New Interpretations in Naval History. Selected Papers from the Seventeenth McMullen Naval History Symposium, Newport (Rhode Island) 2016, 13-24.
  • The classis Britannica - Just a "normal" provincial fleet? in: A. Morillo (ed.), Proceedings of the 20th International Congress of Roman Frontier Studies (2006). Leon 2009, 47-56.
  • Defending the Realm: Roman Naval Capabilities in Waters Beyond the Mediterranean, in: M. M. Yu (ed.), New Interpretations in Naval History. Annapolis 2009, 1-13.
  •  The Classis Britannica - aspects of the history of Roman naval units in North Western Europe, in: Hadrianic Society Bulletin 2, 2007, 13-19.
  • On a plank and a prayer – The Roman “navies” of the 5th to 7th centuries – The Roman Army School 2014, Hadrianic Society, St Chad's College, Durham, April 2014.
  • Fleeting Shadows on Shifting Sands? Roman Naval Bases in NW-Europe – The Roman Army School 2014, Hadrianic Society, St Chad's College, Durham, April 2014.
  • Challenging the orthodoxy – the late Roman navy – The Roman Army School 2013, Hadrianic Society, St Chad's College, Durham, März 2013.
  • Navy ranking, or: The tale of the troublesome trierarchs – The Roman Army School 2013, Hadrianic Society, St Chad's College, Durham, März 2013.
  • The Trireme – the ship that changed the ancient world? – International Commision of the History of Technology Conference, Barcelona Juli 2012.
  • East of Suez – Roman Sea Power in the Eastern Mediterranean – Israeli Society for the Promotion of Classical Studies Symposium, Jerusalem Juni 2012.
  • The “real” navy? The classis Ravennata – a case study  – The Roman Army School 2012, Hadrianic Society, St Aidan's College, Durham, April 2012.
  • Sea power without a navy? Roman naval forces in the principate - 2011 Naval History Symposium, United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, September 2011.
  • The battle of Bedriacum reconsidered - 2011 Spring Conference, British Commission for Military History, Lady Margaret Hall College, Oxford, Mai 2011.
  • New research on the Roman navy - The Roman Army School 2011, Hadrianic Society, St Aidan's College, Durham, April 2011.

Wednesday 22 November 2017

203 Men in a Boat : Stunning Build of Dusek's 1/72 Trireme Kit

Go to Dusek's site for a stunning set of photos which show modeller 'Mr Cryns' from Amsterdam's detailed and artistic build of their wooden kit. There are many authentic features added to the already excellent kit. The crew are individually modelled and it certainly beats the hell out of the usual  'three men and a panzer' type of diorama!
Go HERE to see the rest

The  basic wooden 1/72 kit is enhanced and manned with superb figures and the whole is beautifully painted. Makes me almost want to padlock my workshop forever...

Look at the photos in full screen..marvelous. Right click and 'open new link in new window' then click to enlarge - then you get thephoto  full size instead of the slideshow format.

Sunday 12 November 2017

Paper Liburnian-Dikrotic Pentekonter/Lembus

Here is a wonderful simple model of a 'Roman Liburnian / Fleet Liburnian' in 1/72 scale.

Some more photos at photobucket HERE.

The modeller, who has copyright and has made the model available for private use on the web, is a member of 'Mondorf Mens' Club' , 'Kallboys' - a group who unashamedly enjoy mens' stuff like bowling, modelling and drinking (in moderation). KALLBOYS.
Thier linked model forum, with some nice diorama etc. is HERE.

The ship is a two-tiered, 50-oared galley based on John Coates 1995 reconstruction of a Liburnian. The Liburnian had much in common with the original ramming warship, the ancient dikrotic pentekonter, and with the Lembus as used by the Illyrians and Macedonians in the 3rd century BC. The Liburnian became the workhorse of the Imperial navy and was similar to a modern frigate, in that it was a modest vessel with a modest crew but flexible in patrolling sea or river. Such ships may or may not have a ram fitted. No 'Liburnian' has been found yet but we have sculpture and paintings which give the main evidence for what they looked like.

The model would be great for wargaming with figures, just make it a waterline version and build in stiff card.

You can download a nicely made  PDF with full instructions so you just have to print and cut and build. It might be fiddly in places but replace card struts with matchsticks etc. Oars with split satay sticks etc

The PDF is in German but if you cannot figure out how to translate this you probably could not build the model anyway.

The model was put up on Papermau, a great blog for paper models, so I link there and you can make the jump to the PDF from there. PAPERMAU. Happy building !

If you think the model is good, why not leave an encouraging  comment at Kallboys or Papermau ?

Friday 10 November 2017

Olympias in All Her Glory

I bumped into a new short video of Olympias in action last summer.
The Greek Navy makes some PR trips with a crew of navy and public every now and then apparently. This is not a selected, trained crew but still good to see it under oars.  Filmed with a drone maybe?
As winter comes on in northern latitudes this film is very inspiring...

A film from 2016 also...courtesy  Hellenic Maritime Navy Etiquette and Public Relations Directorate

see HERE
 BONUS vid.... an homage to the trieres. Graphics, music and Greek language.
see HERE

Tuesday 31 October 2017

Romans v Seleucids : Ad Mare Bellum

Another test battle. Abbreviated.

I tried this to see what would happen with a strong but outnumbered fleet in these rules. Also to use light ships and more with missiles and boarding.

The Seleucids had-
Squadron  A 2 Fours 4 Threes 4 Lembus
(here Lembi are dieres/bireme, Lembi were more on a par with a Three than a ship's boat...)
Squadron  B 2 Eights 4 Fives 4 Fours
Squadron C as A

Romans had-
2 x Squadron : 5 Fives
1 x Squadron : 1xDeceres 4x Fives with corvus

The Seleucids advanced and sent the light flanks out wide to try and stretch the Roman line.
The Romans opened the right to match the length of the enemy flank. Kept the other squadrons tight.

The flanks meet before the centre and there was an exchange of ships which favoured the Seleucids who had more light vessesls. Even if they meet and lose to a Five then a companion ships comes up and takes the Roman in the side.

The sequence problem reared its head a few times. At this point, for example, the Roman(Red cards)  knows he has the next two phases to himself.

The centres come to grips and the heavy ships cannot knock each other out frontally quickly. The Roman flanks are overwhelmed and the Seleucid flanks come in to close the net.

At this point a cat jumped on the table and the Romans ran for home under cover of the chaos.

Seleucids 1 : Romans 0


1) Light ships can still sink heavy from beam attacks. The heavy cannot reply suffciently with missiles to keep them off.

2)Bow-on ramming is nowhere near as bloody as in Poseidon's Warriors. It is about right I think - usually stalemate between equals or heavy ships have upper hand.

3)Manoeuvre is not very decisive. I think limiting turns is needed in addition to  separating speeds according to classes.
I used :
Ships up to FOUR can turn 60 degrees in 1 inch.
Ships Five to Six can turn 45 degees
Larger turn max 30 degrees

A contact on a turn inch is a collision not a ram.

This means the sequence a player is choosing to move ships is important. No fudging and saying ' oh, it will fit after they have all moved and it is tidied up'. Ships need space. Big ships need more space.

This means speeds need adjusting too -

Three =6 inches.
It is universally accepted that the Three is the fastest galley it is possible to construct.
Others less than Five =5 inches
Five to Seven = 4 inches
Larger =3 inches

4) Boarding and  deck fighting lacks something. A marker is needed for LOCKED and CORVUS.
Multiple combats need a system.

 I used...
'Each combat is diced separately. and is simultaneous.'

5)Deck crews/marines : a trireme crew will inflict much more damage on a larger ship's crew if it wins. A step reduction rather than just 'halving' is needed.

I used...
'Crew hits give -2 to Marines strength and Shooting Strength. Not to Artillery.'

6)Artillery and shooting. It seems odd to have different Shooting and Marines factors. The argument for a concise set of rules should support a single deck soldiers factor and they shoot as well.
Artillery shown by letter for size of piece. Dice when a CREW hit and a piece is lost as well.

I will use  (X) light/poor troops,  X standard troops, [ X] heavy/better troops.
Where X is a combat factor equating to the number of men.
Shooting will use the X number.
Fighting will use X -2 for the light,X +2 for the heavy troops, otherwise X.

7) No difference between a Six and a Seven and Eight and Nine

8) A WRECKED ship is diced for to see if it sinks. Usually, ancient galleys did not sink but settled in the water , possibly capsizing.
I used :
A WRECK is still manned and can be boarded and defend itself. It counts for a prize if taken.
A 'sunk' WRECK is an 'ABANDONED' ship. It cannot be taken as a prize and has no crew, it drifts.
This means an extra marker...

9) Corvus in boarding. If two ships are LOCKED with a Corvus then it should not be possible to separate the ships until both ships are in control of one side. By its nature, the boarding bridge could not be raised again in a combat situation.

10) There is no provision for a rammer getting stuck.

I used:
ANY ram contact dices to see if the attacker has its ram stuck fast in the target. They will not be separated again by any means during the game. When wishing to break contact throw 2xD6 score 2 or 12 and it means you are stuck.

11) Acute angle ramming down the side of a targe is, as with all sets of galley rules, a potential problem. Acute angles aid defence but are great for atttackes to penetrate lines. There is no intended rule for oar sweeps clashing.
I used:
If a ship cannot fit into the gap to get its ram in contact with the  edge line of the target's oar sweep then no attack can be made. If its oar sweep will touch before the ram then no attack can be made.
Alternatively, allow this touching of oarsweeps to cause a DAMAGE on BOTH ships with no throws for KOing artillery.

12) DAMAGE'd status is very comprehensive. It affects, Missile factor, deck combat and speed and contributes to wrecking. What does it represent?

I used:
DAMAGE is oars broken/rowers killed, steering, hull damage.
Speed is halved. Turning is one class worse.
Corvus is made ineffective by listing, damage or operators killed.

13) Usual problem of keeping young cats out of the room when dice are rolling and small counters are being moved.....too attractive !

Sunday 29 October 2017

Toblerone Fleets

I updated the simple paper fleets to use for trying out galley rules. Or, maybe they are all you need.

There are two sheets of the simply-made models. Use different shades of blue for the card bases and then the two fleets are easily differentiated.

Click HERE to find the fleets AND A QRF FOR AD MARE BELLUM

HERE is where I have used them to test Poseidon's Warriors.

HERE is where I have used them to test Ad Mare Bellum.

It is easy to make a marker scheme for AMB

Saturday 28 October 2017

Ad Mare Bellum

To War at Sea ! is where we now go with David Manley's  set of rules from Long Face Games.

I bought these as a PDF download for a fistful of dollars .i.e. 1 dollar per finger from Wargame Vault.com.  Now 7 dollar I think. This is crazily cheap for the effort it takes to make a set of rules. One can buy them without deliberating too long. The format is not what you get for a hardback full colour tome but neither do you expect it. There are some colour illustrations....

I reviewed the initial appearance of the booklet HERE. I have now done some test games. I did them with card printouts because I do not have 1/1200 models.

Some oddities here. A Five(quinquireme) could have 120 fighters on deck and gets 6 as its combat factor viz. deck fighting. A Three(trireme) could have max 40 men on deck but usually 12 or so - this gets 4 deck fighting factors ... The Five can shoot but the Three gets no missile capability..a bit odd. Fours and larger were by definition closed ships so designating them C-cataphract is a bit redundant and then they only get a minus 1 in shooting as a benefit.. .
Anyway, it is traditional to quibble with the data tables in a set of rules and they can alway sbe amended to one's own liking so this is no real problem.
Then the characteristic of 'Stoutness' - not a very ancient term, could equally be called 'Bottom'. Why not plain old 'Strength' or 'Defence'? Maybe DISPLACEMENT is a good alternative, an indication of the bulk and strength of the hull.

Early optimistic formations - need to be tighter
No real fleet lists but, rather, suggestions for proportions of types. It was also tnecessary  to decide if the whole fleet must stay within 10" of the commander or this means a squadron staying within 10" of its commander - must mean the latter. (page 6). No points system.

A small metre square table is envisaged with shallows, rocky shores and sandy shores. Terrain advice is minimal. I used a small table with no terrain features.

Card sequence - scary if enemy gets his cards in a row
Each side gets three impulses randomly mixed and sequenced by using cards. I could not really see why this is superior to IGOUGO on a dice throw, One problem is that if side A drew two or 3 of its cards then the other side  know for certain they have 2 or 3 successive moves to use uninterrupted. I tried dicing for the sequence and deducting 1 to the side which was  first in the last go. Uncertainty remains at all times. It may be possible to let individual squadrons move rather than the whole of each side without wrecking the game...even more exciting.

This game is not big on moving and manoeuvre. So much so that skilled nations get a +1 in combat for being good rather than any capability to do extra stuff in their physical movement. Sailing ships cannot sail within 60 degrees of windward and nor can they tack..They never turn at all ? Ships turn at the start of a move and half way through  but not at the end. I presume this is to stop sneaky stuff in getting in ram attacks at sides . The different classes do not seem to be suffciently different in capabilities. However - this is a justifiable trade-off one can make to give a more playable game with many ships. I used 60 ships without any problems. There are no special rules for diekplous and periplous. Ships back at half speed. Larger and smaller ships can turn equally well.

Plunging in to open formations gives a lot of beam attacks

There is no mention in the rules of formations or special rules for them. I ended up, after some games with a lot of sneaking-in beam rammings, with squadrons adopting tight phalanxes and the manoeuvre being in squadrons rather than risking individual ships doing heroic actions. This is a good feature of the rules - more realistic tactics get rewards in the game.

This was OK but a bit repetetive with the dicing formula. 'Engines' 'fire' in this game..aaarrggh.
With the number of dice I was throwing a simple score needed to do damage would have been nicer, but the results did not give too much carnage which was ok.

Maybe taking off a stone or arrow marker when an artillery piece has shot is better than adding a puff of cotton smoke - both have to be adjusted at the end of the turn . Engines only FIRE in one of the three impulses but there is no restriction on which one. Shooting arcs and LOS are rudimentary and a simple LOS allows all weapons to shoot at a target. Maybe the centre of the ship should be used.

Not much technical detail. Move to contact and you're in. No minimum run-up or speed necessary. Again this is an OK trade-off at this scale. A different formula for stern, beam and bow attacks makes a nice variation of results possible. Not too onerous and gives a spread of results. Does not equal the carnage of 'Poseidon's Warriors' unless very unequal types are clashing. Could easily be tweaked.

This could be done with small troop blocks in 1/600 or larger. In 1/1200 it is just dice and a few markers but relatively painless. The shooting allows for softening up a ship then nailing it with boarders. Again, realistic. Not much detail for the corvus or other boarding devices. Boarding inclined nations get a +1 for their art. Tweaking possible.

Multiple attacks - there is no advice how to adjudicate them.

General level of chaos and damage can be quite satisfying : essential to try and keep some ordered squadrons in reserve
The much-loved splintering of oars is not catered-for specifically  but ships can be 'DAMAGED' or 'IMMOBILISED'.  Simple collisions cannot occur.

The combat results are a bit uneven. Repeated 'halving' gives needless calculation when a subtraction would do the job, surely? A second 'CREW' hit in one phase does no further damage for some unexplained reason. Also the 'CREW' seems only to mean deck fighters. A 'Damaged' ship loses some of each of its boarding, shooting and moving capabilities - it seems to represent a mix of physical damage and crew casualties.

Fify percent rule. Modify it to taste.

There were some crucial clauses that were hidden away a bit but once found they were easy to remember. I may make a better QR sheet than the one provided.

The layout is more old WRG than decimalised heirarchical referencing but I prefer that. Just read and try them a few times to get to grips.

Make some nice markers if you have nice ships!

These rules seem to have been playtested. Others do not have that quality. They work well with a lot of ships. The action and results gives a flavour of a big galley battle even if the element of manoeuvre is somewhat lacking. If you use multiple squadrons and more than one line or try and sneak ships through in columns you can get some authentic tactics going.

There is no excess complication but most things are represented. If a certain aspect is your hobby horse then just modify the rules to your taste.

I would change the characteristics chart and make a 'fleet generator' table.

These rules beat the Sof A Corvus rules and Poseidon's Warriors in my opinion. They do not use a grid - great ! The enjoyable part of them is picking on a few enemy vessels with missiles then finishing with boarding or getting a squadron in on the flank and watching the enemyl line flee in panic.

Let's face it,  7 dollars and some ink and paper is not much for a galley-lovers' blood sweat and tears. The fact that they give a fun game that feels like an ancient galley battle means..buy 'em and try' em.
Let battle commence!

Now I think I will try some games with my 1/350 models.....and a big game.

And I put up a QRF same place as the Toblerone simple fleets.

Sunday 22 October 2017

New Book on the Stocks : Launched 30/10

Marc Desantis who wrote the title 'Rome Siezes the Trident' has another launch from Pen and Sword.

click HERE to visit
I will put a short review of each up soon. Pen and Sword have put out a lot of titles with ancient naval connections in the last couple of years. They are a very mixed bag. The format PandS choose: 300 pages, few maps, 10 or os sides of figures/fotos is a bit limiting. But no one else is putting much out....

Wednesday 11 October 2017


I have decided to put my video links up.
On the page accessed by clicking on VIDEOS                    ►          ►

Most on YTube, of course.  I will put them up as I have time and inclination, just good to have them all in one place. I have no time to review them but I will not link to crap.

Friday 6 October 2017

The Eye of Faith

Towers on ships are often mentioned in ancient sources and often depicted in sculpture. There are also a few wall paintings from Pompeii and Herculaneum which show towers on ships.
But do they all ? 

Michael Pitassi's books on the Roman navy are detailed, readable and 'must haves' for anyone interested in galley warfare. (see end of piece for refs.)
I did spot one thing worth investigating closer, though.

One of the illustrations in 'The Roman Navy' is a b/w version of a wall painting displayed at the Palazzo Massimo Roman museum. The painting is from the first century BC.

A tower on a galley  ( ?)

Pitassi identifies a tower in the bow of the galley and, one can see why, at a quick glance.

As I have blogged before HERE, one should always try to check illustrations for scale and internal integrity to see if they check out. This works with 2000 year old illustrations too !

Here is a wider, colour view of the wall painting.

STEP 1 : Scaling : If this is a tower it should stand higher than the prow ornament. if this is a tower it should stand higher than the men on the same vessel.
This picture needs to be viewed full size... The blue bars are the heights of men in the ship. The green shows the tower height ..not impressive. The red line is an artefact - a crack in the wall or mold etc. The yellow ellipse is indicating that the top of the 'tower' is in fact a distinct element which is elliptical in shape.

STEP 2: Internal details : If this is a tower it should look like one. Let's take a closer look.
Trying different enlargements and false colour images it is impssible to see any detail relating to a rectilinear structure or paint strokes matching such.
STEP 3 : The last stage is to look for analogous details on other ships in the same composition.
There are no other towers. There are warriors with elliptical shields in the bow areas of other gallleys. The sea fight here is between small single-banked galleys. Maybe it is a scene from the Iliad or maybe it is based on a naumachia fought in a flooded arena.

The warrior in the focsle of the lower ship has his shield raised and is in a similar location to the 'tower'. Thee oarsmen behind him are rendered in a comparable scale, so any tower should be rendered proportionately. It seems the 'tower' is a warrior, or two, defending themselves in the focsle of the upper ship. The original painting was unclear or time has destroyed some details. The top ship is also maybe attacking the centre ship and therfore the warriors have their shields raised, giving the impression of a tower.

The galleys shown here are all rather small. Unlikely to carry a tower anyway. The date of the illustration is after when shops larger than a Three or Liburnian were a rarity.
It is even possible that the artists inspiration was a naumachia at an arena.
Caesar gave a naumachia in 46BC with 6000 participants/victims.
Augustsus gave one in 2BC with 3000 deck fighters and 30 ships.
Claudius continued the tradition in 52AD with 100 vessels  on Lake Fucine.
In 80AD the inauguration of the colosseum was celebrated with two naumachia  with 000's of men.
In 85AD and 89AD Domitian also gave naumachia - in arena.

In summary, the 'tower' is an artefact created by the style of the illustration and the technique used. Quickly painted figures on a plaster wall, painted by a landlubber artist who may  never have seen a galley in action, never mind a tower - but may have seen a naumachia with small ships - do not make for the illustration one wants to see.

It is easy to look at a somewhat fuzzy picture and see what you want to see. The human brain is wired to recognise patterns we already know. That is why your girlfriend's flat has much you recognise or like!  That is why our ancestors ran from a shadow that looked like a crouching lion.

It takes a bit of time, but it is possible to analyse and elucidate any dubious cases.

Pitassi's books, both recommended, are

Michael Pitassi, The Navies of Rome.   Woodbridge, UK/Rochester, NY:  Boydell Press, 2009.  Pp. 348; 8 p. of plates.  ISBN 9781843834090.
Reviewed HERE. bear in mind Mr Pitassi is a retired lawyer, not a classics academic.

and..The Roman Navy, Ships, Men and Warfare350 BC-AD475, Seaforth Publishing 2012

Reviewed HERE.