Ancient naval warfare
This entry was posted on October 10, 2018.
If you follow the Ancient Warfare Facebook page religiously, you will have seen how I reorganised by bookcases this spring. It was a pleasant reminder of my collection's scope. It also proved that I lose track of which books I already own from time to time... This spring would've been a good time to start cataloging my books, because I just found out that I've once again managed to buy another duplicate! Keep reading for a chance to win a copy of John D. Grainger, Hellenistic & Roman Naval Wars.
When it comes to naval warfare in the Hellenistic era, we all tend to think of the enormous warships, the so-called multiremes, built by the Antigonid and Ptolemaic empires. We do indeed read of a "thirteen" by the end of the fourth century, and a "fifteen" and "sixteen" captured by Lysimachus and Ptolemy after he drove Demetrius Poliorcetes out of Athens. As I'm sure you know, it doesn't stop there. In a likely case of one-upsmanship, a "twenty", "thirty" and "forty" were constructed. These undoubtedly enormous and fascinating ships - they certainly command their own subcategory of academic literature - probably colour our notions of naval warfare in the Hellenistic era. They certainly did exist, but there is no evidence that anything larger than a "ten" ever fought in a naval battle. In the western Mediterranean, Rome and Carthage certainly did not build anything larger than a "six", leading to the famous disparity in ship sizes at Actium (see Ancient Warfare V.5) with Octavian and Agrippa's smaller ships outmanoeuvring Antony and Cleopatra's larger vessels. It may very well have been a 'put-up job' to contrast the two fleets with such emphasis as the ancient historians do, but it does fit our other evidence. In other words: for our upcoming issue on Hellenistic naval warfare, don't expect the aquatic equivalent of elephant combat. ;-)
So, finally, to have a chance at winning a copy of Grainger's book, post below the answer to the following question:
Which nation is most associated with naval warfare in the eastern Mediterranean during the Hellenistic era after the time of the giant warships had passed?
I'll pick a winner at random from the correct answers (and note - the answer is arguable, feel free to provide your interpretation as it will be considered!).
--- Edit: the contest is now closed ---
Rhodes was indeed the answer I was thinking of. In the eastern Mediterranean, it was the preeminent naval power after the end of the super-galleys in the mid-late third century BC, largely as an ally of Rome. By the first century BC, Rhodes' role was largely played out and Rome, in due course took over. So that too would be a correct answer, though with a longer time-lapse in between. Rob S.Rice's PhD dissertation on the Rhodian navy is unfortunately unpublished (though I got a copy). Perhaps he should have a chat with Pen & Sword?
I wanted to give everyone a chance to win, but I gave those who answered "Rhodes" three entries, "Rome" two, and the rest one. That gave me a total of 23 entries. The random number generator at https://www.mathgoodies.com/calculators/random_no_custom gave number 7. In my Excel sheet, Bob Robertson's name was at that number. Congratulations - you've got mail!