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  #1  
Old 20 Jan 10, 01:48
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Ancient Roman Warships

Recently I've begun to look into the various types of warships used by the ancient Romans and this is what I've found so far.
I'm not entirely sure about the accuracy of all of the numbers but I think that they do fit the descriptions and all of the math seems to work out.

Interesting fact: The numbered names of ships did not have to do with the number of oar decks Is was commonly believed, they instead refer to the number of banks of oresmen. So, for example a quinquereme would still have only 3 oar decks, however they would have been split up with two rowers on the top, two on the second level, and 1 on the bottom adding up to 5 total as the name implies.

(A Roman Quinquereme)


Hemoila (800 B.C.)
Initially used by pirates but soon incorporated into all major navies both as scouts and for light hit-and-run tactics.
Crew 108 rowers, 11 sailors, 30 marines
Size 24 metre length x 2.7 metre beam


Liburnia (600 B.C.)
The Bireme was the warship used at the time of the Trojan wars. It had a broad bottom with a shallow draft. Biremes were propelled by two banks of oars and virtually skimmed over the seas. The bow had a portion that protruded out at water level. It is thought that this configuration was intended for ramming and piercing the enemy's ships hull. A bireme was outclassed in combat by a trireme's speed and weight but its combat power should not be underestimated. The Romans renamed it Liburnia and mainly used it as a patrol ship.
Crew 144 rowers, 15 sailors, 40 marines
Size 33 metre length x 3.6 metre beam


Trireme (500 B.C.)
The Trireme was a powerful warship propelled by three banks of oars and a sail. It could ram opposing ships and launch boarding actions. Originally a Greek design it was widely copied because of its good qualities. Skilled oarsmen were needed but then this gave the ship tremendous power in a 'sprint' at ramming speed. As might be expected the trireme was its own main weapon, as it carried an iron-tipped ram on the bow at the waterline. Once an enemy ship has been rammed or had its oars smashed, the crew withdrew before seek another target. The Trireme became the work horse of the Roman navy.
Crew 150 rowers, 16 sailors and 60 marines
Size 38 metres length x 3 metre beam


Quadrireme (486 B.C.)
Quadrireme or Tetreres were invented by Carthage and in general use until 31 BC, although a limited number were used in later centuries. They were mainly used as heavy escort ships.
Crew 250 rowers, 25 sailors, 100 marines
Size 39 metre length x 4 metre beam


Quinquereme (397 B.C.)
The Quinquereme were developed from the earlier trireme and remained in general use until 31 BC. It was a powerful but lumbering warship intended for fleet actions. Its mass made it hard to sink. Quinqueremes also carried a detachment of marines and some shipboard artillery as means of attack - when you can't be sure of ramming an opponent, bombardment or boarding become the most effective tactics.
Corvus Quinquereme
The corvus was developed by Rome during the first Punic War as a means of turning sea battles into land battles, and allowing its superior infantry to become decisive. It was an iron 'beak' on a hinged walkway that was designed to smash down into enemy decking doing two jobs in one: making a bridge for the marines to cross, and locking the two ships together so that the battle had to be fought on the Quinquereme captain's terms.
Crew 280 rowers, 30 sailors, 160 marines
Size 37 metre length x 5 metre beam


Hexere (397 B.C.)
These and all subsequently larger warships were used primarily as fleet flagships.
Crew 300 rowers, 20 sailors, 120 marines
Size 41 metre length x 8.5 metre beam

And then you have various levels of ships all the way up to the

Deceres (320 B.C.)
The mighty Deceres was a dreadnought in the ancient Mediterranean. In size, number of men and fighting potential it dwarfed all other vessels. Deceres were among the largest ships afloat with its combat power being formidable. Apart from a couple of fighting towers, a Deceres also carried onagers and ballistae to bombard enemies, plus a large contingent of marines for boarding and defence. At least one ballista would also be set up to fire a harpoon-like grappling hook (called a harpago) at enemy vessels so that they could be dragged alongside and destroyed. As a tactic the harpago has much to recommend it over the grappling 'corvus' of smaller ships because it allowed enemies to be snagged at greater range.
Crew 572 rowers, 30 sailors, 250 marines
Size 46 metre length x 8.5 metre beam
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  #2  
Old 20 Jan 10, 02:45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RepublicanGuard View Post

Deceres (320 B.C.)
The mighty Deceres was a dreadnought in the ancient Mediterranean. In size, number of men and fighting potential it dwarfed all other vessels. Deceres were among the largest ships afloat with its combat power being formidable. Apart from a couple of fighting towers, a Deceres also carried onagers and ballistae to bombard enemies, plus a large contingent of marines for boarding and defence. At least one ballista would also be set up to fire a harpoon-like grappling hook (called a harpago) at enemy vessels so that they could be dragged alongside and destroyed. As a tactic the harpago has much to recommend it over the grappling 'corvus' of smaller ships because it allowed enemies to be snagged at greater range.
Crew 572 rowers, 30 sailors, 250 marines
Size 46 metre length x 8.5 metre beam
Any chance you could give some idea of where this information is coming from. I have a long-standing interest in larger Grecian-Roman warships and would like finding out more about them.
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Old 20 Jan 10, 03:14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Demon_Llama View Post
Any chance you could give some idea of where this information is coming from. I have a long-standing interest in larger Grecian-Roman warships and would like finding out more about them.
Rome Total War:
http://pc.ign.com/articles/549/549046p19.html


Some Australian website about Greco-Roman ships:
http://users.sa.chariot.net.au/~marcof/ships.htm
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Old 20 Jan 10, 03:33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Intranetusa View Post
Rome Total War:
http://pc.ign.com/articles/549/549046p19.html


Some Australian website about Greco-Roman ships:
http://users.sa.chariot.net.au/~marcof/ships.htm
I got most of my information from the latter however the math seems to check out.

It is generally estimated about 550-600 rowers on the decere that breaks down to about 300 rowers on each side. as the decere is the 10-ship that breaks that 300 into 30 ranks of oars on each side. Now, we can assume that each rowing bench is a little over 1 meter apart and add in extra room for the fore and aft sections that would indeed put us at about 40-50 meters. Similar math concerning the capacity needed for the ship will also tell us the approximate width.


Here is some more reading on even larger ships if you want to check it out.
http://www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/GiantShips.htm

here is the wikipedia page as well which lists a large number of sources.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helleni..._note-Pliny-41
Including some of the ancient literature

Last edited by RepublicanGuard; 20 Jan 10 at 03:40..
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Old 20 Jan 10, 03:36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Intranetusa View Post
Rome Total War:
http://pc.ign.com/articles/549/549046p19.html


Some Australian website about Greco-Roman ships:
http://users.sa.chariot.net.au/~marcof/ships.htm
That doesn't really tell me where those sites are getting their information though... i.e. ancient literature, archaeological evidence, etc.
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