Greek Hepters

Although the wise eye can compare this ship to a dier (2 rows of oars), it was indeed a "7" of the Macedonian fleet. A true cruiser of the time, this type of ships was common in the squadrons. They were supposed to be faster thanks to their 175 rowers on board (350 in all), they counted on a phalanx composed of Peltastes and hoplites, and on four short and medium range ballista. Their rigging (not shown here) often included two rigged square masts, to add a little lift in medium wind and relieve the rowers. The rowers were divided at the rate of three on the lower rowing and four on the upper (longer).

The heptere possessed two complete bridges, the first above the rowers and allowing the evolutions of troops and weapons of throw, and one under these same rowers, intended for provisions, water-bottles, reserves of pitch or vinegar, And possibly spare and lumber. Two details are to be explained: Just under the crest of prow there is a small ram's head. Far from being trivial, the latter was in fact the meatus of a tube throwing pitch under pressure, possibly lit by archers or peltastes, prefiguration of the Byzantine flame-throwing siphons. Moreover, a strong rope is visible at the rear, on the stern, intended to stiffen the latter made of planks light enough to be curved in this way. The Heptera were very present especially in Macedonian squadrons and were adopted after Alexander by the Seleucids as central units of their fleets. They began their decline when the Romans "pacified" the Mediterranean from 50 BC. JC, but also following the victory of Actium in 31 av. J.C. which proved definitively the primacy of light ships over the monsters of the Hellenistic age.
From tetris to deer.

In many respects, naval warfare in the Mediterranean is comparable to what the nations of the world experienced at the time of the First World War: an "arms race", and the primacy over those who would build more capital-ships than His opponents. If the difference could be made at the speed, armor and caliber and density of artillery, at the time of Pyrrhus of Epirus and Philip of Macedonia, it was made to massiveness: For simple tactical reasons , Since the ramming tactic was queen and in this shock fight the heaviest galleys were the most devastating. In addition, a large galley was completely decked, giving off room for combatants and throwing weapons.

The terms are indeed interesting, since whatever their category, these ships above the trire are counted as "kataphraktoi", which means "bridged" as "heavy" or "protected". It is true that brass plates were probably applied to the flotation in order to avoid seeing the structure always light, to see itself torn by a bronze rostrum. This flight, which is due to the increase in the number of rowers, concerns at the outset only the concern to make the trirems more efficient by placing two rowers at the lower level (longer rowing) or at the rank of the Thalamites. On the other hand, there are only a few bas-reliefs that tell us of the galleys of that period, Rome apart. And we discover "dières" (2 rows). Must we conclude that, in practice, the control of three ranks was difficult and required a long training which the emergencies of the war made impossible?

A priori therefore, the standard returned to two rows of oars, in particular because the compromise between the slopes of the benches, bypass and breadth of the boat became insoluble with three rows beyond a certain number of rowers per bench. The first, the Tetra, is "4", would in all probability first have been created by the Syracusans to succeed the trireme by having two Thalamites instead of one. The Rhodians probably introduced the two-row tether, which was probably simpler to handle and less tall, and therefore less heavy. And as the idea was obviously good, one approached the pentery, or "5", standard ship of the great Mediterranean fleets at least until the total domination of Rome on its "Latin lake". The Roman Quinqueremians imposed their laws on the Greek Pentery for reasons of combat technique rather than tactics. It seems that three-row penteres of oars have inspired the Roman quinquerems whose three-row representations are the most common.


In any case, the pentères formed the bulk of the fleets of the Hellenistic period, and the trireas became supporting ships, the pentecontents or the rare divisions of ships of liaison, wrapping, or harassment. This composition is due to the ancient military tactics, described accurately by the classical authors, since the Peloponnesian War (5th century), to the confrontations between the great empires born of that of Alexander the Great. The Lagites, the Seleucids (to a lesser extent), the Greek cities (from Sicily to Asia Minor) and Macedonia, Carthage, not to mention Rome, were protagonists of these giant battles. The three tactics in force at the time had in common the fact that they were conducted near the coast, so much so that the image of Epinal of the admiral or of the general giving his orders from a promontory of the coast, Is not so improbable, and especially that the ships were lightened to the maximum (no food, masts and sails deposited in port). The ramming maneuver was only carried out by the force of the arms.

The first of these tactics was the Periper, which was designed to wrap the opposing fleet in order to attack it on the flanks and backwards, an exhausting tactic for the rowers, the Diekplous, consisting of passing through the enemy fleet in Constituting two columns of galleys, carried out in front, and intended to break the oars of the adversaries. The latter, immobilized, was attacked from behind and in the middle by the assailants, at the boarding. This tactic prevailed for centuries so much so that Admiral German Hipper at the head of his battle cruisers similarly charged the opposing fleet at the Battle of Jutland in May 1916. Finally, the tactics of the "Kuklos ", The" defensive circle "was a concentration of ships in a circle, rostres turned towards the outside, and aiming, like the compact mass of the phalanges on earth, to make vain any attempt of breakthrough by the assailant. This purely defensive tactic worked with various fortunes in case of obvious numerical inferiority.

But the pentery, as a "standard", was quickly supported by much heavier units: hexers, or "six", hepteres or "seven", octeres (8), and possibly enères (Or Decers), or "10", whose configuration remains mysterious: There is no representation at present about them: We have only the clues left by classical authors, as Polybius. It seems that only the Decères were considered to be admirals, the others being only the upper part of a "standard". From the Pentere, all these great galleys were completely decked, which would give preeminence to bombardment and collision. One of the classic techniques, represented at great expense in the Fox "Cleopatra" peplum, and describing Actium, one of the last of these great conflagrations, consisted of bombarding the oars of the opposing ship with oxybels , Petroleum and other ballista, so as to slow down the fleeing vessel to approach it. The rest was a classic combat transposed on the bridge of ships, preceded by the shooting of archers and sometimes of Peltastes. The Hoplites of these great units, the epibates, far more numerous than on the triremes (from 10 to 14), constituted the naval infantry of the time. Less well off than their terrestrial correlgionaires, they saw their equipment paid by the state, but were no less motivated: Social promotion by the honor of fighting was always a powerful attraction.

Finally, there is a very concrete index that definitively ends all the presumptions of inventions or exaggerations of the authors: The memorial of Actium. The latter was built at the entrance of the Gulf of Atra (Ambracia), before Cap Aktio (Actium) in the south of Epirus, by Octavian to honor the victory he had won in 31 BC. J.C. against Cleopatra's Lagide fleet and the units of Marc Antoine combined. If some controversy still exists as to the very existence of a battle (Roman propaganda?), It is a fact that the forces of Octavian and his Admiral Agrippa captured nearly 500 ships, and that 10 ships, witnesses of Their respective classes, presented in special holds lined with a sanctuary dedicated to Apollo Actien, disappeared, and the second, from the "Octavian camp", by their bronze rostres in a monument now covered by brushwood. This second monument, in the absence of the rostres in question, had long been recovered by local inhabitants and remodeled, the imprint of these in the basement of the terrace, and designed in 29 av. J. T. The "tithe", 10 percent of the captured units, was present, that is to say that 33 to 35 rostres were visible. The long inscription above the rostrums confirms that the altar above was consecrated to Mars and Neptune.

That this monument contained rostres is confirmed by the only found almost intact, the rostrum of Ahlit. Retrieved near the small Israeli town, it provided the first concrete example of what this type of weapon could be at that time. Long 2.23 m and weighing 465 Kilos, it was first attributed to a "nine", one of the largest units of Ptolemy V or VI. Then, comparing it with the alveoli found in the monument of Actium, it appeared that it was clearly smaller than the smallest of the exposed rostres. Currently, it is considered that the Rostre d'Ahlit belonged to a "4". De facto, those of the monument belonged to "6" and superior, even much superior. It seems that the largest alveolus contained a 1.80 m wide rostrum, about 5.50 m or 6 m long, weighing 15 to 20 tons. A Decere would have been too small. There is therefore potential evidence for the presence of "15" and related "30" in the combined fleet. We know that the Lagide sovereigns liked this type of giant galley (see the Tesseracontère or "40") of Ptolemy Philopator. (See also the "Hellenistic hyper-galleys"). This monument in any case speaks volumes about the size and exceptional mass of these ships, which at that time reached the culminating point of their kind.

An example:
The deceiver of Philip, who was the flagship, fell in an extraordinary manner at the mercy of the enemy: as a trihemolia had appeared before her, she gave him a violent blow in the middle of the hull, and remained Fixed under the upper bench, the pilot having not been able to restrain the impetus of his ship, and with this boat hanging from him, the flagship was in distress, difficult to maneuver in any direction. At the same time, Dionysodoros and Deinocrates, two brothers who were the Admirals of the Emperor, Attalus, who had thrown himself on an enemy hepterite, and the other on an octere, experienced extraordinary hazards in this battle. Deinocrates, having thrown himself upon an octere, was himself attacked above The flotation line, the enemy ship having an elevated prow, but having damaged the enemy's ship under the hull, he could not at first disengage himself in spite of all his efforts to reverse; Therefore, as the Macedonians fought valiantly, he found himself in the most critical situation. But Attalus came to rescue him and separated the two hooked boats by spurring that of the enemy, so that Deinocrates was unexpectedly released, that the men of the enemy's ship were all killed by fighting valiantly and that Caught captured A ship where there was no one left."
Polybius, Stories, XVI, 2, 3-11

*Trihemiolia: or Tri-hemiolia. The Hemioliae (Greek term taken up by the Romans) were "half-galleys", or short galleys used by the peoples of the sea, and pirates in the eastern Mediterranean mainly. These were galleys rowing alternately by rowing. Remarkably quick and handy, they were suitable for an assault of envelopment and were taken over by the Romans with their liburnes, completing the ranks.
It is certain, however, that the Carthaginians were more moderate in this race, although they had a powerful fleet of triremes and quadretèmes, as evidenced by the port of Carthage. At the beginning of the Empire, the pre-eminence of Rome over the whole Mediterranean