Leontophoros (Leontophorus), property of Lysimachus, King of Thrace, offered to Ptolemy II. It was probably the largest monorama ever built. Particularly narrow and yet having eight rowers per bench, which made it a "triple" octave to the standard of the time (100 oars), it had to be very fast but was defeated by the Isthmia of Antigone Gonatas.


The Isthmia, in the colors of Macedonia, of which he was the ambassador, was very different. More sturdy (20 meters wide but only 70 meters long), it was slightly slower but still had 2300 rowers in two rows (rows of 64 oars), but much more manageable and stable, more powerful and devastating in Ramming.


These two illustrations describe two of the Leviathans of that period. Incarnating two different philosophies, they were none the less remarkable in their perfect incarnation of a genre that was not to survive the classical era. It was the reign of ships that no engraving, or even any remnant, proved beyond presuppositions from concordant accounts of many ancient authors. We were obliged to admit the existence of vessels at 4, 5 and up to 40 levels of superposed oars, which seemed absurd, If not to resort to the ancient method, as practiced by the pirates and peoples of the sea, betting with their Hemioliae (and Liburnes) on a great maneuverability precisely by multiplying the number of rowers per bench. From there, and without arriving at ships of delirious proportions, it became possible to open the veil weighing on this ancient enigma of marine archeology. A "16", for example, could very well be a simple trirel lining up 7, 6 and 5 rowers per bench.

Given the difficulty of managing three levels of oars handled by a single man (tested during Coates and Morrisson trials), what about ships lining up to Famous "40" of Ptolemy Philopator - 10 rowers per bench? The only consideration of the point of leverage is a puzzle for a good mathematician. Two certainties, however: Such a rowing had to be so long that it must also be massive (which is attested by the rare wooden oars preserved dating from the seventeenth century) and necessarily have handles because it can not be caught directly at full hand.

Moreover, the declivity of rowing presupposed an equal declivity of the upper bench, pushing up the deck of the ship, making it highly unstable for lack of ballast in the lively works, and above all, a very large gauge of the first rower facing The aposti and thus a much larger swimming span, almost doubling the width of the ship in relation to its waterline, adding further difficulties in stabilizing it in rolling... Nothing preventing Of the rowers are standing, the last ones at the end of the train making a real walk with return in addition to their traction / push forces, bearing all their weight on the oars. This led to internal bridges or full bridges, which was difficult with offset rows of low height. Whatever the case, construction, maneuvering and learning to swim should be particularly difficult.



A "twenty" Lagid. This fleet lined up a single specimen, provided with three rows of oars. It was disappointing in front of the "thirty" then built in two copies.

It is very probable, indeed, that the rowers in the "hyper-galleys" (more than five rowers per rowing) were standing, so that the last rowers, which were furthest away from the rowing point, Make a displacement over three or four steps at least (amplitude of two meters), this distance decreasing until the rower closest to the apostis. It seems inconceivable under these conditions that there were seated rowers and others standing on the same train. Finally, the fact that the rowers were standing and evolving in length raises the problem of bridges: One must imagine for a "40", four bridges complete superimposed, which seems to carry the ship to colossal heights and suddenly becomes implausible.

On the other hand, maintaining a reasonable height, especially for the "40" which was to have four rows of trains each handled by ten rowers, the thranites provided the greatest effort because of the length of the train compared to the height of the row. And, on the other hand, the rowers were staggered to the height of the half-body, which excludes anything other than a single swimming chamber for all rowers, an immense space punctuated by longitudinal cross-pieces, offset gangways for rowers, The transverse and vertical beams...

The internal structure of this room was to be a real nightmare for any naval architect of the time (caprice of princes ...) The fact that these oars were provided with handles seems obvious as its width Was considerable (we speak of four-tonne oars and more than seventeen meters for the tekkerakonteros.) The other difficulty of the ream was its great fineness compared to its length (problems of torsional strength and flexibility to that time ). Were there any young pines chosen on purpose? Or of another species of which one joined several decreasing sections, beveled and surrounded by a ring of metal or ropes?... The mystery would require a reconstruction - at least of a side...

Coupe 18 thirty

We know that the Lagids had a fleet of considerable proportions (the equivalent of the Royal Navy in 1914 or the US Navy today), not only numerically but also qualitatively with a high proportion of "7", " 6 "," 9 ", and" 11 "," 12 "," 13 "known as" breaking "... (See Lagide fleet). The Macedonians were not to be outdone, including the exacerbated naval rivalry between Ptolemy II and Antigone Gonatas (see Macedonian fleet), which gave birth to fabulous pachyderms. Some independent cities also built them. Syracuse, certainly, since it sold to Ptolemy its Alexandrian merchant ship of biblical proportions, but merely derived from the Corbites built to convey the corn from Sicily to Italy. Rhodes, acclaimed by both her experience and her visionary spirit, held on to reasonable ships, but she undoubtedly possessed at least one "dekere". Pergamos, who fought both Macedonians and Seleucids at the pleasure of alliances, also possessed a considerable fleet, and at least ten "cataphract ships". Each sovereign of the time proved the power of his nation on the seas by sporting these wooden giants.

Nemo ship model

Model of the remains of the "Nemi I". Vessel much more marine than the Floating Palace Nemi II. Very broad, it had three pins, and its height, deduced from the prow and the drift, was rather small. The Nemi I measured 70 m by 20 m and was propelled by the oar, but in a disposition that remains mysterious. (Http://nemiship.multiservers.com/archeo/)

Nemi reconstruction

Summary reconstruction, according to the work of the Italian archaeologists in 1930.

Finally, this maritime epicentenary found its epilogue during the battle of Actium, consecrating the end of the last great Hellene fleet at the same time as the time of these "hyper-galleys", outclassed by a new technique, judiciously compared After the confrontation of the battleships with the torpedo boats at the end of the 19th century. But the final word certainly comes back to late Roman nostalgia, especially those of Caligula, the emperor who built two giant ships dedicated to Diane to sail on Lake Nemi. Both were discovered in 1930 by partially emptying the lake, confirming the writings of Suetonius. The first, called Nemi I, was the supposedly exact replica, for according to the descriptions made by Pausanias, he admired it at the Sanctuary of the Bulls at Delos of the Isthmia, which had been there for centuries. The Nemi II was a rematch a simple floating palace almost as wide as long, and in no way marine, just good at becoming the focus of naumachies on a large scale. The two ships, recovered in good condition (bactericidal vases), restored and kept in sheds, were unfortunately burnt by German soldiers-by the SS, pure vengeance of the Italian armistice-during their retreat at the beginning of 1944. This loss is Also a technique of construction that could have told us much more about these famous galleys, a void that does not fill the "modest" ship of Marsala.

Nemi photo