Saturday 18 September 2021



Sounds better than 'Here Come the Dikrotic Pentekontereis' for a kids' TV programme. As I wrote this I almost got PTSD on remembering seeing this show occasionally. But in black and white.

No, this is a late post to show my double-decker pentekontereis I made last spring but forgot to launch properly.

Dikrotic pentekontereis leave port as 'open' triereis enter

The double-tiered pentekonter was the spark which led to the triereis. The actual mechanism first used to achieve this is not agreed. Either the oarlocks were set one above the other or they were staggered. Staggering the oarlocks required the invention of the parexeiresia and gave a lowe overall height and a more stable ship.

upper tier with thole pins on the parexeiresia

Superimposed oarlocks meant a higher ship superstructure and the side of the ship was equipped with permanently fixed screens between the rowers.

War- and cargo-galleys. Both two-tier. Nineveh stelae showing Sidonian ship. Some say these are triereis with unmanned uppermost tiers...c.700BC

Some have resolved the puzzle about how the dikrotic ship was arrived at by allowing for two versions to be developed at different places simultaneously.

Part of the reason for the presence of two models may be due to different ways of representing the same thing. Maybe different conventions of how a ship was drawn prevailed at different places.

Geometric Period ship. The earliest dikrotik pentekonter -
 OR - a monokrote drawn in semi- persepective 800BCish

The modified ship was the pentekonter. This is why the resulting ship was a 50-oarer too. The shorter hull was less stressed in waves and allowed rapid turning which was key for ramming combat. Overall speed was less but for a warship type which was not expected to make extended voyages this must have been a reasonable trade-off.

The new ship was called a pentekonter. Not so helpful. It is difficult to tell if a dikrotic ship is meant when pentekontereis are mentioned in written sources. However, for a limited period, from c. 700BC down to 625 or so when the triereis was developed references must mean the most effective ship is meant, i.e. a two-tier ship. Thereafter, it is difficult to see how we can differentiate. A one-level pentekonter could be a scout ship or courier because it was faster but in a battle it would have been an easy mark for two or three-level vessels.

Somewhat more helpfully, new light warships with two tiers crop up with distinctive names. Lemboi, pristi and Liburnians are all double-decker pentekontereis. EARLIER POST ABOUT LEMBI ETC

My models are closed-in ' versions with no visible oarsmen. The complete deck allows the ship to be in a full-scale battle and this type could transport 50 men in addition to the rowers. 

Double-deckers did not necessarily have rams. They could fight by using boarding or obstruction tactics.

Next project...Phoenician pentekontereis and triereis.

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