Dromon

Archetype of the Byzantine war ship, the Dromon ruled over the eastern Mediterranean until the fall of Constantinople..

The Dromon is the most famous Byzantine ship. This fast galley was indeed the standard of the fleet of the Eastern Roman Empire from 800 to 1300 AD. The name evoked speed, but the Dromon was also a general type, including other units. The one that remained under this name was large enough to be much sharper than the heavy Roman quinqueremes, and much faster thanks to the systematic adoption of multiple rowing lines (from 2 to 3 rowers by oar). In general, the Dromon, a bireme, was propelled by 80 oars (for the biggest ones like the one represented above, of 50 by 7 meters), and could total 240 rowers, not counting the 80 soldiers, archers, officers, and crew for balisters and catapults. The weapon of choice, which preserved the spur, was of course the Siphon, an archaic flame-thrower, composed of a tube thrusting the bronze lion's mouth, projecting at large distances the famous Greek fire, a mixture of Tar, saltpeter, sulfur and crude oil that burned particularly well in contact with any surface, including water. Catapults launched incendiary "bombs", "fire pots", terracotta bottles filled with the same liquid, that can rain down a thousand meters around the ship. Sand and skins coated with vinegar were the only protections against these weapons. Moreover, the hull of the Dromons was often doubled in copper, in order to avoid the consequences of ramming, so these were also early ironclads. The Byzantine naval domination was also largely due to these ships, much improved over the centuries and soon at the origin of the whole range of specialized vessels, large and small.