A Roman Quadrième, first Punic War, 260 BC.


A Roman Quinquerema, Imperial Rome, 68 AD


The naval operations during the first Punic War were decisive for the victory of the Roman arms. Even playing bad luck in losing two fleets following the disfavour of the Gods (Tempests), the Roman naval forces constituted hastily but not in the traditionally maintained imagery copied from the Greek builders or from a captured and replicated Carthaginian ship In large quantities, for Rome had for a long time maintained small fleets by means of Taranto or Syracuse, and had access long before 200 BC. J.C. has the implementation of Pentécontores, Biremes and Triemes. It was only when the new Greek standard became the "4" (Tetris) developed successfully by Rhodes and taken over by the Carthaginians (see Marsala's ship), that the Romans in turn welcomed this type of building, Scarcely greater than the trire but having greater maneuvering force. Nevertheless, legend has it that, by capturing a Rhodian Tether serving as a fast ship to the Carthaginian fleet, the Roman Publicans had it replicated in mass and in record time to 200 copies, constituting the first fleet of Rome .

The illustration from the top here describes a four-quarters of the time of Republican Rome, about 260 BC. It is one of the very first "Tetras" Romanes, and its construction denotes Greek influences and Roman peculiarities: The stern, still complex, is clearly Greek inspiration. Thereafter, the Roman ships simplified their hull to the rear, and replaced the figure of curved stern by a simple extension of the keel, in particular to simplify the construction. The hull is high, but reinforced by porques which protrude between the aposti, and a longitudinal reinforcement short from the bow to the stern, on which a thick string comes to solidarize the stern. Six jet machines are visible, including four lateral ballista and two scorpions at the front. A raven is clearly visible at the front (the famous Roman boarding bridge), secured to the front mast.

The use of two masts with several advantages: It makes it possible to mix more easily two medium sails than a very large one, and then the masts fold more easily in the event of maneuver. It is not certain that, like the Hellenes, the Romans systematically left their masts and sails in battle. Finally, wise minds will have noticed that having two rows of oars, this galley was a bireme. In fact, the standard configuration of a Tetra was two thranites (upper bench), a zygite (middle), and only one thalamite (bottom) per shell, maneuvering three oars in three rows, such as the trire, or two Zygites and two Thalamites handling two rows of oars. It is assumed nowadays that the "4" and "5" and beyond had a maximum of three rows of oars. But nothing prohibited the construction of a two-rowed vessel with more rowing rowers, in this case three zygites and two thalamites per lane. For example, the Greek Heptera. However, most of the bas-reliefs and rare precise mosaics attest to the use of "cataphract ships" with three rows of apostis (ie oars).

The second illustration of the bottom surprised in contrast by describing a model of heavy quinquera (a pleonasm for the Roman ships), of the fleet of Misene. The style, from the start, has changed and is becoming more Latin. One still senses the presence of Greek art in the figure of the stern, although simplified, and conceived in the prolongation of the keel, a characteristic volute at the front, which becomes an immense and pompous figure of style. One will also notice the spur in the front, raised in a beak inspired by the elements present on the fastest galleys (including the famous Rhodian Tetris). Two rounds of archers are present, although the standard is one to the rear in general.

Scorpions and catapults are visible throughout. There are no more shields fixed to the railings, but a real bulwark decorated with pseudo sculpted shields. Recurring feature on precise bas-reliefs, this quinquereme has a figurehead, the anti-rostrum, here a homage to the wars carried out in Africa by the legendary Scipio, but no painted eyes. This sacred symbol intended to guide the ship in uncertain waters has probably disappeared from the pragmatic concerns of the Roman army. The invention of the "modern" prow is there. The Byzantines later adopted a lion's head with a flame-throwing siphon.

However, the ancient Greeks and Egyptians gave their rostres animal forms, before this instrument normalized itself as a weapon. The ramming function began to disappear on the Roman ships after the fall of the last great Hellenistic fleet, that of the Lagids. The rig consists of what is best at the time, a mainsail surmounted by a supparum, sketch of forestay sail, and a sail of bowsprit intended for the maneuvers, and to make manageable monsters constructed in Cedar. The bowsprit mast was sprinkled as well on the pentecontors as the trières and other classical galleys. This quinquereme, approximately 58 meters long and 7 meters wide, has practically the dimensions of a decree (between 60 and 80 meters). The configuration in two oars by rowing was already weak for the formidable weight of these ships which remained slow. Their weapons of throw and their troops embarked (here about 130, a fraction of cohort), make the difference. Of all the jobs of the Roman empire, that of rowing on board a galley was therefore unenviable and unwanted.

But the conscripts who found themselves there found a pay and thus escaped misery. These were provincials from less favored regions in general, who after 26 years of service could claim Roman citizenship and its advantages. His swim was composed of three zygites and two thalamites per side. They may have been standing. Under the swim compartment, completely closed and probably smelly and suffocating, there was a hold sufficiently high for a man to stand upright. There was ballast in the form of stones or lead, but also considerable water supplies in the form of stretched leather waistcoats, jars filled with dried meat and dried fruit, as the Roman fleets were sometimes more Long at sea, especially in "punitive cruises" such as those carried out during the imperial era against piracy and its many bases scattered in the eastern Mediterranean. Rigging became more important, serving more often to spare the health of rowers, whose strength was tested during warfare maneuvers only. It is now commonly accepted that masts were never laid down.

As far as the Greek trire was sufficiently airy and light to dry, the reinforced Roman trireme at the full deck was much heavier but still lacked power. With one or two extra rowers per side, the problem seemed resolved. Quinqueremes were ordered to the nearby Greek cities, then replicated and adapted, and engaged en masse during the first Punic War. This new standard developed by the Greek Cities and the great Hellenistic empires (Macedonians, Lagids, Seleucids, etc.), but also the Carthaginians, was the Pentery, which the pragmatic Romans adapted, notably to counteract lighter Carthaginian ships and They concentrated on the construction of Quinqueremes.

The latter, although more expensive to build, maneuvering more powerfully but less swiftly, had above all a formidable arsenal of balisters, scorpions and catapults, intended in particular to destroy the oars of the opposing galleys, but also more room for other, Advantage of troops, including the famous heavy Romaine infantry, soldiers trained on the ground and summarily adapted, unlike the infantrymen of the Carthaginians, inspired by the Greek epibates. With this first advantage of superior troops in number, the Romans added their knowledge of the use of the archers (towers) and weapons of jet, the height of their buildings, and finally the "corbeau", famous swingable bridge equipped with a Who pounced on the enemy's bridge, allowing an easy collision, and of which the following is a description of Polybius:

"... their vessels (the Romans) being poorly built and difficult to maneuver, someone suggested that they use a certain craft to fight under better conditions, which was later to be referred to as "The raven was a round post, the height of which was four orgyres, and the diameter of three fins, was erected at the front of the ship, at the top of which was fixed a pulley and around the mast There was a footbridge made of planks nailed transversally, four feet wide, and six orgyres long. The hole through which the pole passed was oval in shape and located at two orgyres from the lower end of the footbridge. At the upper end of the footbridge was fixed an iron mass in the form of a pestle, terminating in a point, and bearing in its The upper part a ring.