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George.
03-19-2007, 11:59 AM
Very little is known about triremes, or about their tactics in battle. We do know that they formed up in a line, that they sought to have at least one, but preferrably both flanks protected by land, and that there were two main attack tactics: the periplion, or going around the enemy line to ram it from behind, and the something else, (diaplion?), where they tried to go through the enemy line and then turn around and ram.

Now, as wooden boaters, we all know something about naval maneuvers, and should be able to reconstruct a classical naval battle.

One thing that jumps to mind is that a motionless line of ships may be easier to maintain in formation, but has no steerage way. Fast moving ships can steer and ram to effect, but once set in motion must be more or less committed to the attack, given the momentum - the worst case scenario must be an aborted charge, with the attackers left motionless and in disarray right in front of the enemy line.

Another consideration is that running down another ship's side would be very nasty for the rowers of both ships. Keep in mind that Greek rowers were free citizens, not slaves chained to their benches. So I assume one wants to ram head on, but avoid sideswiping the enemy.

Speculations?

Sam F
03-19-2007, 12:19 PM
I'll stick my oar in... but I've little time for more.
If you haven't seen them already here are a few sites that may be helpful:

http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~loxias/trireme.htm

http://www.artsales.com/Ancient%20Ships/kGreekWarShips.htm

http://www.atm.ox.ac.uk/rowing/trireme/

Thorne
03-19-2007, 12:44 PM
Considering that war galleys were used heavily through the 16th Century, there should be a LOT of material written on how they were used in battle.

Once artillery (either cannon or mechanical) came it things changed, but I'd guess that tactics used on a sunny day in 1500 BC would be quite similar to those used in a heavy rainstorm in, say, AD 1571...

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/07/Lepanto.jpg

Kaa
03-19-2007, 01:34 PM
Evidently in the Ancient Greek times there were two main methods to take out an enemy ship -- either set it on fire or ram it below the waterline. Given the trireme's characteristic profile, it seems that ramming was a very popular option :-)

If you want to ram, you probably want to hit the enemy ship amidships, so the main point of maneuvering would be to position yourself for a ramming attack at a side of an enemy ship. Thus the preference for arranging ships into lines -- your flanks are covered.

In a way, that's the exact opposite of crossing the T which was what you strive for if you have a broadside of cannons. But if you want to ram you need to point your bow at the enemy's side.

Kaa

Sam F
03-19-2007, 02:26 PM
The oar arrangement seems to work well enough...
go look at:
http://www.atm.ox.ac.uk/rowing/trireme/IMG_3246.jpg
...to see a modern re-creation.

George.
03-19-2007, 02:27 PM
But to ram the enemy's side, assuming he is facing you head-on, means that you have to turn 90 degrees.

This requires room between triremes, which presumably the enemy is trying to keep in close order, as well as a very fast turn.

Turning fast is doable if you build some momentum during your charge - if the enemy is "standing and receiving" he will not be able to turn as fast as you, even by backing oars on one side.

But how do you get the room to execute this maneuver? If you try to ram through the enemy line and come up from behind, you will have to make it through without hitting oar bank against oar bank. And once you are through, if I were the enemy, I'd have a second line ready to ram you as you execute the turn.

I just can't figure it out. A frontal charge would seem like suicide, or mutual slaughter at best. And unlike a hoplite land battle, which involves similar statics but dissimilar dynamics, you can't just close in and thrust and yell and hope to scare them into breaking ranks.

Or can you? What if you close in enough for your bow-and-arrow men on the bow to shoot, perhaps concentrating fire on a small group of enemy ships, trying to make their rowers panic and break ranks?

Kaa
03-19-2007, 02:54 PM
Well, a couple of information chunks from Wikipedia:


Fleets of triremes employed a variety of tactics. The periplous ("sailing around") involved outflanking or encircling the enemy so as to attack them in the vulnerable rear; the diekplous ("Sailing out through") involved a concentrated charge so as to break a hole in the enemy line, allowing galleys to break through and attack the line from behind; and the kuklos ("circle") was a defensive circle employed against these tactics. In all of these maneuvers, the ability to accelerate faster, row faster, and turn more sharply than one's enemy was very important.
In 19851987 a shipbuilder in Piraeus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piraeus) ... built a reconstructed Athenian trireme, Olympias (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olympias_%28trireme%29). Crewed by 170 volunteer oarsmen and oarswomen, Olympias in 1988 achieved 9 knots (17 km/h). These results, achieved with inexperienced crew, suggest that the ancient writers were not exaggerating about straight-line performance. In addition, Olympias was able to execute a 180-degree turn in one minute and in an arc no wider than two and one half (2.5) ship-lengths.You can also consult this, I guess :-)

http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0017-3835(198810)2%3A35%3A2%3C149%3AFTOTT%3E2.0.CO%3B2-B (http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0017-3835%28198810%292%3A35%3A2%3C149%3AFTOTT%3E2.0.CO% 3B2-B)

Kaa

George Roberts
03-19-2007, 03:01 PM
The tactic to use is the one that is not expected.

Certainly boats acting independently on their own have some chance of success (50% perhaps), but several boats acting in concert would have an advantage over an equal number acting independently.

Kaa
03-19-2007, 03:06 PM
Has anyone tried to row one from, say, Athens to Alexandria? This is the sort of capability you'ld need in order to have fleet engagements.

Not at all. If you enemy's technological level is the same as yours, he's basically fielding the same ships. If your ships can't go more than a few dozen miles away from the shore, then neither can his.

This means that you have fleet engagements near the coast -- often in the straits, narrows, bay entrances. No need to fight in the middle of the Mediterranean.

Kaa

John of Phoenix
03-19-2007, 03:07 PM
You playing "Age of Empires" by any chance, George? ;)

George.
03-19-2007, 03:19 PM
Triremes sailed to distant ports or battle sites. They only rowed in battle.

And they hugged the shore, because water for 200 men or so was not storable on board of a light ship which is already carrying said 200 men. In this manner, they did indeed project power far - as far as Egypt and Sicily.

Also, they hugged the shore because that way at least one flank was protected. Often, there would be a land army on that flank.

George.
03-20-2007, 08:56 AM
This seems to be not nearly as popular as the dogfight or the 300 thread. Maybe it should have been posted up in the orlop...

Andrew Craig-Bennett
03-20-2007, 09:02 AM
No, this is the best thread we've had in ages!

All sorts of people weighing in with all sorts of expertise - brings back the Golden Age of WBF!

Anyway, somewhere in Thucydides is the time required to row from Athens to Mytilene (early chapter - "The revolt of Mytilene" - where Athens despatched a fleet, thought again and despatched another)

George.
03-20-2007, 09:29 AM
Maybe a couple of images will get people excited about triremes. This is Olympias, the only replica of a trireme ever constructed.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/b/b7/Trireme_Olympias.jpg/800px-Trireme_Olympias.jpg

http://www.hellenicnavy.gr/images/trihrhs/trihrhs04.jpg


Crewed by 170 volunteer oarsmen and oarswomen, Olympias in 1988 achieved 9 knots (17 km/h). These results, achieved with inexperienced crew, suggest that the ancient writers were not exaggerating about straight-line performance. In addition, Olympias was able to execute a 180-degree turn in one minute and in an arc no wider than two and one half (2.5) ship-lengths.

In searching for these pictures, I came across a telling bit of information. It appears that in the Hellenistic and Roman period (200+ years after Salamis), they started to armor the bows of warships against ramming attacks, and also to rely more on boarding and arrows.

One may therefore surmise that triremes did indeed ram each other head on, which makes the tactics a lot more understandable. But it also means that they must have had exquisite control of direction, as a ram-to-ram collision probably did the attacker no good. One would have to ram just to port or starboard of the enemy's ram.

Andrew Craig-Bennett
03-20-2007, 10:10 AM
I recall reading, somewhere, that one tactic involved shearing off the oars of an opponent with the ram.

I am not quite sure about this, breaking so many oars would surely not be that easy, and what did the attacking ship do with her own oars on that side?

George.
03-20-2007, 10:36 AM
That makes little sense to me as well. The attacked ship could presumably withdraw oars as fast as the attacking ship - or faster, given that it would not be using them during the charge.

Andrew Craig-Bennett
03-20-2007, 10:50 AM
Thanks for posting the pictures of the Olympias.

That was quite a project - and a fine piece of wooden boatbuilding!

George.
03-20-2007, 01:49 PM
Ben Hur was supposed to be a slave, chained to his bench and whipped into rowing. You probably wouldn't do that with free citizen rowers - they might mutiny, with reason.

George.
03-20-2007, 02:25 PM
Athenians had slaves, but didn't use them in war. Everyone who couldn't afford hoplite weapons (lots of bronze, very expensive) served in the triremes. It was a requirement for citizenship. And that is why Athens (as well as some other maritime cities) had a broader-based democracy than the land powers of the time.

Nicholas Carey
03-20-2007, 02:27 PM
Athenians didn't have slaves?

Here's a thought about ramming as a tactic. What would stop the rammed boat from immediately grappling your ship, thereby keeping the hole plugged and possibly dragging you down. It would seem to be a very easy thing to do with no downside for the attacked ship. Withdrawing the beak would be an iffy prospect under the best of circumstances and a few well placed ropes would make it impossible.One doesn't ram straight on. You don't want to punch a hole in the offending vessel. Rather, you want a raking shot that rips a long gash in her side -- a la Iceberg v. TITANIC -- that lets you then turn away without losing momentum.

George.
03-20-2007, 02:36 PM
And maybe you could use your archers to keep the enemy from rushing up and grapplig you before you could back off.

Nicholas Carey
03-20-2007, 02:58 PM
Again, the oar question pops up. Those top oars must have been extremely long and just about impossible to pull inboard at the last second to prevent them shearing off.Clearly, more research needs to be done on the tactics of using a trireme in battle -- someone needs to build some more so they can be destroyed in the course of determining optimal trireme tactics :D

Kaa
03-20-2007, 03:12 PM
Here are some original sources for you :-)

The battle of Salamis as described by Herodotus, The History of Herodotus, George Rawlinson, tr. vol. 4:

82. ... With this ship, which deserted to their side at Salamis, and the Lemnian vessel which came over before at Artemisium, the Greek fleet was brought to the full number of 380 ships; otherwise it fell short by two of that amount.

83. ... whereupon the Greeks put to sea with all their fleet.

84. The fleet had scarce left the land when they were attacked by the barbarians. At once most of the Greeks began to back water, and were about touching the shore, when Ameinias of Pallene,[16] one of the Athenian captains, darted forth in front of the line, and charged a ship of the enemy. The two vessels became entangled, and could not separate, whereupon the rest of the fleet came up to help Ameinias, and engaged with the Persians. Such is the account which the Athenians give of the way in which the battle began; but the Eginetans maintain that the vessel which had been to Egina for the Aeacidae, was the one that brought on the fight. It is also reported, that a phantom in the form of a woman appeared to the Greeks, and, in a voice that was heard from end to end of the fleet, cheered them on to the fight; first, however, rebuking them, and saying - "Strange men, how long are ye going to back water?"

85. Against the Athenians, who held the western extremity of the line towards Eleusis, were placed the Phoenicians; against the Lacedaemonians, whose station was eastward towards the Piraeus,[17] the Ionians. Of these last a few only followed the advice of Themistocles, to fight backwardly; the greater number did far otherwise. I could mention here the names of many trierarchs who took vessels from the Greeks, but I shall pass over all excepting Theomestor, the son of Androdamas, and Phylacus, the son of Histiaeus, both Samians. I show this preference to them, inasmuch as for this service Theomestor was made tyrant of Samos by the Persians, which Phylacus was enrolled among the king's benefactors, and presented with a large estate in land. In the Persian tongue the king's benefactors are called Orosangs.

86. Far the greater number of the Persian ships engaged in this battle were disabled, either by the Athenians or by the Eginetans. For as the Greeks fought in order and kept their line, while the barbarians were in confusion and had no plan in anything that they did, the issue of the battle could scarce be other than it was. Yet the Persians fought far more bravely here than at Euboea, and indeed surpassed themselves; each did his utmost through fear of Xerxes, for each thought that the king's eye was upon himself.[18]

87. What part the several nations, whether Greek or barbarian, took in the combat, I am not able to say for certain; Artemisia, however, I know, distinguished herself in such a way as raised her even higher than she stood before in the esteem of the king. For after confusion had spread throughout the whole of the king's fleet, and her ship was closely pursued by an Athenian trireme, she, having no way to fly, since in front of her were a number of friendly vessels, and she was nearest of all the Persians to the enemy, resolved on a measure which in fact proved her safety. Pressed by the Athenian pursuer, she bore straight against one of the ships of her own party, a Calyndian, which had Damasithymus, the Calyndian king, himself on board. I cannot say whether she had had any quarrel with the man while the fleet was at the Hellespont, or no - neither can I decide whether she of set purpose attacked his vessel, or whether it merely chanced that the Calyndian ship came in her way - but certain it is that she bore down upon his vessel and sank it, and that thereby she had the good fortune to procure herself a double advantage. For the commander of the Athenian trireme, when he saw her bear down on one of the enemy's fleet, thought immediately that her vessel was a Greek, or else had deserted from the Persians, and was now fighting on the Greek side; he therefore gave up the chase, and turned away to attack others.

88. Thus in the first place she saved her life by the action, and was enabled to get clear off from the battle; while further, it fell out that in the very act of doing the king an injury she raised herself to a greater height than ever in his esteem. For as Xerxes beheld the fight, he remarked (it is said) the destruction of the vessel, whereupon the bystanders observed to him - "Seest thou, master, how well Artemisia fights, and how she has just sunk a ship of the enemy?" Then Xerxes asked if it were really Artemisia's doing; and they answered, "Certainly; for they knew her ensign: " while all made sure that the sunken vessel belonged to the opposite side. Everything, it is said, conspired to prosper the queen - it was especially fortunate for her that not one of those on board the Calyndian ship survived to become her accuser. Xerxes, they say, in reply to the remarks made to him, observed - "My men have behaved like women, my women like men!"

89. There fell in this combat Ariabignes, one of the chief commanders of the fleet, who was son of Darius and brother of Xerxes; and with him perished a vast number of men of high repute, Persians, Medes, and allies. Of the Greeks there died only a few; for, as they were able to swim, all those that were not slain outright by the enemy escaped from the sinking vessels and swam across to Salamis. But on the side of the barbarians more perished by drowning than in any other way, since they did not know how to swim. The great destruction took place when the ships which had been first engaged began to fly; for they who were stationed in the rear, anxious to display their valour before the eyes of the king, made every effort to force their way to the front, and thus became entangled with such of their own vessels as were retreating.

90. In this confusion the following event occurred: Certain Phoenicians belonging to the ships which had thus perished made their appearance before the king, and laid the blame of their loss on the Ionians, declaring that they were traitors, and had wilfully destroyed the vessels. But the upshot of this complaint was, that the Ionian captains escaped the death which threatened them, while their Phoenician accusers received death as their reward. For it happened that, exactly as they spoke, a Samothracian vessel bore down on an Athenian and sank it, but was attacked and crippled immediately by one of the Eginetan squadron. Now the Samothracians were expert with the javelin, and aimed their weapons so well, that they cleared the deck of the vessel which had disabled their own, after which they sprang on board, and took it. This saved the Ionians. Xerxes, when he saw the exploit, turned fiercely on the Phoenicians - (he was ready, in his extreme vexation, to find fault with any one) - and ordered their heads to be cut off, to prevent them, he said, from casting the blame of their own misconduct upon braver men. During the whole time of the battle Xerxes sate at the base of the hill called Aegaleos, over against Salamis; and whenever he saw any of his own captains perform any worthy exploit he inquired concerning him; and the man's name was taken down by his scribes, together with the names of his father and his city. Ariaramnes too, a Persian,[19] who was a friend of the Ionians, and present at the time whereof I speak, had a share in bringing about the punishment of the Phoenicians.

91. When the rout of the barbarians began, and they sought to make their escape to Phalerum, the Eginetans, awaiting them in the channel, performed exploits worthy to be recorded. Through the whole of the confused struggle the Athenians employed themselves in destroying such ships as either made resistance or fled to shore, while the Eginetans dealt with those which endeavoured to escape down the strait; so that the Persian vessels were no sooner clear of the Athenians than forthwith they fell into the hands of the Eginetan squadron.

92. It chanced here that there was a meeting between the ship of Themistocles, which was hasting in pursuit of the enemy, and that of Polycritus, son of Crius the Eginetan,[20] which had just charged a Sidonian trireme. The Sidonian vessel was the same that captured the Eginetan guard-ship off Sciathus, which had Pytheas, the son of Ischenous, on board - that Pytheas, I mean, who fell covered with wounds, and whom the Sidonians kept on board their ship, from admiration of his gallantry. This man afterwards returned in safety to Egina; for when the Sidonian vessel with its Persian crew fell into the hands of the Greeks, he was still found on board. Polycritus no sooner saw the Athenian trireme than, knowing at once whose vessel it was, as he observed that it bore the ensign of the admiral, he shouted to Themistocles jeeringly, and asked him, in a tone of reproach, if the Eginetans did not show themselves rare friends to the Medes. At the same time, while he thus reproached Themistocles, Polycritus bore straight down on the Sidonian. Such of the barbarian vessels as escaped from the battle fled to Phalerum, and there sheltered themselves under the protection of the land army.


Kaa

George.
03-23-2007, 04:00 PM
By Posseidon! The trireme thread is sinking!

Bump... :D

George.
03-23-2007, 04:06 PM
Good post, kaa. But like Themistocles and Aristophanes, Herotodus focuses on the unusual. Like most chorniclers of ancient land battles, they assume that the reader knows how it ordinarely works, and thus concentrate on offbeat anecdotes and individual feats of valor or cowardice.

The most enlightening bit to us moderns is this:


The fleet had scarce left the land when they were attacked by the barbarians. At once most of the Greeks began to back water, and were about touching the shore, when Ameinias of Pallene,[16] one of the Athenian captains, darted forth in front of the line, and charged a ship of the enemy. The two vessels became entangled, and could not separate, whereupon the rest of the fleet came up to help Ameinias, and engaged with the Persians. Such is the account which the Athenians give of the way in which the battle began;

It seems that once the Greeks had no more retreating-room, and having accomplished their probable goal of drawing the Persian line into their pincers (not unlike what Hannibal did with the Romans at Cannae), they sent Ameinias to try and stop the Persian line, and perhaps cause some disarray.

Which leads one to speculate that a frontal charge against a well-formed line of triremes was not a wise tactic, just like a frontal charge against a well-formed phalanx would be suicidal, by land. But if you can expose their flanks and provoke a localized breach, then you are in business.

My idle speculations, of course. Counter-speculations welcome.

rbgarr
03-23-2007, 04:51 PM
The very fastest eight man rowing crews in sliding seat boats can travel at about 11 knots. I'm skeptical about a trireme making 9 knots even in short bursts. The rowers didn't have sliding seats, the oars were longer and canted at very awkward angles. I know there were lots more rowers, but it just seems unlikely to me... fwiw.

Backfin
03-23-2007, 05:13 PM
During the Punic Wars, the Romans, with superior foot soldiers, used the corvus (boarding bridge) to defeat Carthaginian vessels(descendents of the Phoenician biremes). It was the cedars of Lebanon that made these vessels fast. The corvus was a significant but short lived change in strategy since the additional apparatus created instability.

Go trireme thread!

Backfin
03-23-2007, 05:31 PM
Got me Googlin'

This dude says 11+ knots.
http://members.tripod.com/~baddwarf/trireme_info.htm

As for turning radius, I imagine these vessels could stop, spin or back down during a battle in close quarters. A well trained crew could make these vessels extremely manuverable.

rbgarr
03-23-2007, 05:43 PM
From that site link above:

"The length of a trireme has been given as 35 meters, the beam as 3.5 meters (due to the outrigger the dimensions could be smaller than for the penteconter, and the ship could still pack more punch). The tonnage of the trireme has been estimated at approximately 40 metric tons (one third of which would be due to the 170 rowers). The top speed is usually estimated at 11.5 knots, although there are some speculations about ancient galleys actually entering the glide phase, which would defeat most of the wave restistance and allow speeds of up to 18 or 20 knots for very short bursts (wave resistance is the major factor in determining the top speed for a floating hull of a given lenght). There is convincing historical evidence that at least on one occasion a trireme with a crack crew managed to maintain 9 knots for 24 hours."

LOL. I think he's dreaming! A well trained rower can expend about 1 horsepower in a sprint, so let's say the 170 oarsmen could exert about 170 horsepower. I doubt an engine that size could move a hull 120 feet long by 12 foot beam at that speed. Nathanael Herreshoff's CUSHING at 138 feet long by 15 foot beam needed 2000 hp to reach 22 knots.

Backfin
03-23-2007, 05:49 PM
How about this bit:

It could accelerate from standstill to half speed in 8 seconds, and to top speed in approximately 30 seconds.

rbgarr
03-23-2007, 06:01 PM
If top speed were four knots I could see that being true. ;)

George.
03-23-2007, 06:07 PM
During the Punic Wars, the Romans, with superior foot soldiers, used the corvus (boarding bridge) to defeat Carthaginian vessels(descendents of the Phoenician biremes).


That was the Romans trying to turn sea-battles into the land battles they understood. Worked pretty well, until they realized that a Med winter storm hitting a corvus-fitted very light and unballasted galley was deadlier than an angry Carthagenian fleet.



Go trireme thread!

Go Dutch! :D

George.
03-23-2007, 06:08 PM
The very fastest eight man rowing crews in sliding seat boats can travel at about 11 knots. I'm skeptical about a trireme making 9 knots even in short bursts.

Think very long lwl, and very light construction.

Backfin
03-23-2007, 06:13 PM
Go Dutch!

George, you have been misinformed.

George.
03-23-2007, 06:30 PM
Some more inspiration...

http://www.naftotopos.gr/ShipsHistory/00_Ancient/AtheneanTrireme/TriremeAfisa_SM.jpg

rbgarr
03-23-2007, 06:33 PM
The boat could weigh nothing and at nine knots, the water is passing by the boat at 15 feet per second. A trireme rower with a 13 foot oar could barely keep control of the oar that speed, much less get the boat to go that fast in the first place.

Regarding lwl, the hull speed of a boat that long is about 14 knots... but that doesn't mean they ever went that fast under oars alone. I'm stumped as to why the builders/testers of the trireme didn't present some kind of proof (knotmeter anyone?) to back up their claim. I haven't seen it anywhere. Anyone else seen it somewhere?

George.
03-23-2007, 06:53 PM
Good point. With heavy long oars, it does seem difficult to even keep up with 11 knots, let alone contribute to the thrush. Any naval physicists out there care to explain or rebut?

Unrelated, but in the same website, this interesting tidbit:


Οι νέες τακτικές που εισήγαγαν οι Αθηναίοι "διέκπλου με αναστροφή" και "περίπλου" τους έκαναν αήττητους στην θάλασσα γιατί μέχρι τότε οι ναυμαχίες θύμιζαν πιο πολύ πεζομαχία παρά ναυμαχία, ενώ με τις νέες τακτικές τους οι Αθηναίοι, το εμβόλιζαν και εγκατέλειπαν τον αντίπαλο λαβωμένο εκτός μάχης.

What this means in English is that George Dot is the wisest bilge-rat that ever was, and the rest of you should defer to his opinions, and have your women fan him and feed him grapes, or Posseiden will skewer you with his trident.










No, really, :D, it roughly says that "The new Athenian tactics, 'through ships with turning around' and 'around ships' made them unbeatable at sea, because until then sea-battles resembled land battles, while with their new tactics, the Athenians perfected... "

In brief, it seems that the Athenians of the time invented the first maritime tactics unrelated to land battle tactics.

George.
04-14-2007, 08:07 AM
OK, here is a bilge virtual historical re-enactment project. Join in with commentary, speculations, critiques, and graphics, if anyone cares to draw and post diagrams.

We are in command of a trireme about to go into battle. We are part one of two long lines of triremes facing each other. Say 200 triremes in each line, all Greek - say Athens vs. Ionian allies - all similar to the one drawn above.

On one flank - say the left - we have land. The sea is calm and there is no wind, with none forecast by local fishermen. The men on both sides rowed a similar distance to get to the battle site, and are well fed and rested - let's keep the simulation simple for the time being.

The lines are facing each other in the moments before joining battle. Makes sense to say extreme arrow range, since there are archers on board, so say 100 yards apart (let's use English measures to encourage the provincial Yanks to join in :D). The triremes are about 12 yards across counting oars, so say the space between ships is 20 yards - too narrow for an enemy ship to slip through and turn around behind us, but far enough to avoid collisions.

Let's furthermore deploy both sides in two lines - 120 ships in front and another 80 back on reserve, ready to take on any successful "through-ship" maneuvers or to help dispatch rammed enemy ships in case of an advance.

Both sides are treading oars back and forth to keep to stations. Our side has just been ordered to advance.

Armchair naval tacticians, experienced rowers, bilge historians, please ammend or critique as you see fit.

George.
04-14-2007, 09:17 AM
So we are attacking. How fast?

Forget the polemic 9 to 11 knots that triremes supposedly made. They certainly could do six knots, and that is certainly fast enough to ram and sink - I am not sure I would want to ram another ship in a 120' LOD trireme doing nine knots and weighing at least 40 tons, no matter how tough and well-built I think my stem and ram are. :eek:

Let's say we can do 0-6 knots in about 30 seconds, based on what has been posted above. It means that we can get this baby up to ramming speed in fifty yards. That means that we can close in as fast or as slowly as we like for the first fifty yards, as long as we can take the arrows. Our own four archers, bowman, helmsman, and commander crouch behind the hoplite's shields - we have ten hoplites, so there is enough shield for everyone to hide and take it for a little while.

We choose an opposing ship and go in for the kill. Now bear with me as I speculate. We are accelerating to six knots. Within seconds, with thirty yards or more to go, we have serious response. It's a light, long ship. We can turn fast and sharp even without backing oars on one side. We can even pull in oars at the last moment and still make a last sharp turn.

The opposing line, if it stands and receives our charge, has no steerage way. Their ships can still turn fairly fast, but only by backing oars on one side.

That means that until the last three or four seconds - or however long it takes for an order of "in oars!" to be carried out - we can still change the plan from ramming to shearing oars, and catch them with their oars out. If they pull in their oars as we close in to avoid that, they lose all turning ability, letting a sharp trierarch with a crack helmsman finalize the charge with an in-and-out swing and deliver a nasty oblique blow of the ram along the side of the enemy ship. Damage oars, kill oarsmen, and hopefully stow in the hull.

Can we pull it off? What countermeasures might the enemy ship take?

rbgarr
04-14-2007, 09:35 AM
torpedoes ;)

George.
04-14-2007, 02:33 PM
:D

Also to be considered is support from the rest of our line. At the very least, you would want several adjacent ships to charge together, to keep the enemy line busy and cover each other's flanks.

And I suppose the ultimate objective is to break through the enemy line. A division of, say, ten ships that charges and makes it through can turn around and do serious damage to the enemy formation. All the more reason to keep that reserve line of triremes up close to the front line...

George.
04-15-2007, 07:29 AM
Well, well. Triremes must indeed be a dull subject. Can't keep the thread from sinking, unlike triremes, which were unballasted and floated even if stove in. After all, where but in a dead thread could I make up hypothesis about military tactics without even being chastised by one of the bilge's resident right-wing old soldiers? :D

Seriously, if this had been a black-powder warfare thread, it would go to three pages on day two. I thought triremes, being wooden boats and all, might also draw some interest...

Pericles
04-16-2007, 03:03 AM
Hero(n) of Alexandria invented a form of steam propulsion and I think it was Rosemary Sutcliffe who in one of her books, extrapolated the concept into a steam powered Greek battleship, capable of 15 knots. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeolipile

The aeolipile, (65 AD) if it had been scaled up and later combined with Greek Fire projectors (607 AD), might have changed the world, in much the same way , the Babbage Difference Engine could have done if it had worked at the time it was built. Imagine a steam powered computer.:D:D http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Difference_engine

Pericles

JimD
04-16-2007, 03:23 AM
Now this guy could row a boat:


http://www.briansdriveintheater.com/hercules/samsonburke/samsonburke15.jpg

JimD
04-16-2007, 03:27 AM
Ol' Ben wasn't too shabby neither:

http://www.doctormacro.com/Images/Heston,%20Charlton/Annex/Annex%20-%20Heston,%20Charlton%20(Ben-Hur)_02.jpg

George.
04-17-2007, 11:54 AM
Ben Hur rowed in a Roman galley. The rowers were slaves.

A major difference is that in Athenian triremes at least, but also in those of other Greek democratic city-states, the rowers were free citizens. Military service was a requirement of citizenship, and the only sort available to the poor - unable to afford the hoplite panoply, with all that expensive bronze - was as a rower in a trireme.

One could argue that Athens became a democracy because that was the only way to develop itself into a naval power. So in a way, triremes are the reason democracy came into being.

Popeye
04-17-2007, 11:58 AM
trireme , is that like an italian dessert ?

George.
04-17-2007, 12:50 PM
It tastes divine with salamis.

George.
04-27-2007, 10:14 AM
Well, what do you know. I must be the unchallenged bilge top expert on trireme warfare! :D

So, we have established that the attacking trireme is far more maneuverable, and can even glide with oars in during the final seconds while still able to steer. That, along with the few (ten or so) hoplites on each trireme - contrast that with the amount of foot soldiers carried by the Persians or Romans - means that a head-on ramming must be the least preferred tactic. An oar shear, or a glancing blow, are far preferrable - real damage to the enemy without affecting your ability to get away.

rbgarr
04-27-2007, 10:52 AM
Silence doesn't equate to consent. It may just be indifference to the whole topic!

Kaa
04-27-2007, 11:06 AM
Heh. Think you overestimate the maneuvering advantage of the attacking trireme. Think about its position a few seconds before contact. Two possibilities -- either it's coming in straight on, bow to bow (or ram to ram), or it's angling in from one side.

If it's coming in straight on, its capability to ram the side of the other ship is quite limited. The defender can just pull in oars and prepare to do some nastiness (bows, spears, greek fire, etc.) to the attacking ship as it passes by. Remember also that the next trireme in line is just 20 yards away -- not much space to execute an out-and-in turn.

If it's coming in angled, the defender knows which side it is going to attack. That means it can pull in oars on that side and use the oars on the other side to turn its bow towards the attacker which, again, is denied a ramming attack into the side.

Kaa

George.
04-27-2007, 12:37 PM
What if it comes in head-on but executes an out-and-in hook, oars in, within the last 30 seconds before contact?

30 seconds at 6 knots = 90 meters. Should be enough distance for a keel-less long and light vessel to yaw out 30 degrees and yaw back in to strike at the chosen point and angle. 30 seconds is not, however, enough time for a ship with no steerage way to significantly change its heading.

Or so I speculate...

Kaa
04-27-2007, 01:23 PM
What if it comes in head-on but executes an out-and-in hook, oars in, within the last 30 seconds before contact?

30 seconds at 6 knots = 90 meters. Should be enough distance for a keel-less long and light vessel to yaw out 30 degrees and yaw back in to strike at the chosen point and angle. 30 seconds is not, however, enough time for a ship with no steerage way to significantly change its heading.

Or so I speculate...

Two points.

First, 30 seconds is enough time for a "keel-less long and light vessel" to change it's heading even while stationary -- one side rowing and one side backing oars generates a LOT of turning momentum. Especially if the rowers want to live :D

Second, remember that we have a line. As you execute your out-and-in-hook, you're very vulnerable to a neigbouring trireme which might sprint and ram YOU.

I think we have to think about formations of attacking triremes. A single one attacking a line will be toast in any case.

Kaa

George.
04-27-2007, 01:33 PM
A neighbouring trireme cannot "sprint" and ram you within 30 seconds from a standstill.

As for turning ability - granted that the stationary vessel can turn - at the cost of having its oars out and vulnerable. The attacking vessel should be able to do a greater, faster turn in the same time, as it can use both oars and rudder. And it can keep turning after withdrawing oars.

Kaa
04-27-2007, 01:41 PM
A neighbouring trireme cannot "sprint" and ram you within 30 seconds from a standstill.

Um... George, let me remind you what you said a few posts above:



Let's say we can do 0-6 knots in about 30 seconds, based on what has been posted above.

As to


As for turning ability - granted that the stationary vessel can turn - at the cost of having its oars out and vulnerable. The attacking vessel should be able to do a greater, faster turn in the same time, as it can use both oars and rudder. And it can keep turning after withdrawing oars.

Yes, but all the defending ship has to do is to keep her bow pointed towards the attacker. The attacker must do TWO turns -- first out, and then in. I am not at all convinced that an attacking trireme can achieve a ram at a 30 degree angle even if the defender just rotates in place.

Kaa

George.
04-27-2007, 01:58 PM
If you turn as you are accelerating you certainly will not do 0-6 knots in 30 seconds. The attacking ship did its initial acceleration starting at extreme arrow range, remember?



all the defending ship has to do is to keep her bow pointed towards the attacker


But if it turns to do so, it is exposing its flank to the next enemy ship in the attacking formation. The same is not true of the attacking trireme - the enemy is at a standstill and cannot ram it as it turns.

Kaa
04-27-2007, 02:09 PM
Eh, we need pictures and I'm too far away from a scanner and not sufficiently motivated to do proper ASCII art :-)

But basically, if the attacker is coming in at an angle, the neighbouring defending trireme (which is only 20 yards away, remember?) can accelerate almost straight ahead to ram the attacker.

Anyway, in practice I doubt the defender would stand still to receive a charge (they are not pikemen facing cavalry) but would probably start moving as soon as they notice the enemy attacking. It's also clear that while it might be hard to ram an enemy trireme by yourself, two cooperating ships will have a much easier task trying to nail a single trireme attempting to evade.

I suspect we are back to the known and standard tactics -- either encircle the enemy and hit him in the rear and/or flanks, or create a local force advantage and punch a hole through the enemy line.

Kaa

George.
04-27-2007, 02:44 PM
create a local force advantage and punch a hole through the enemy line

Yes, but how? You can't pack them any closer to each other. And triremes are not hoplites - the ones in the back can't push the ones in front.

Perhaps the tactic is for your first line to ram as best as it can, and then for your second line to come up and hit the now-entangled enemy, while a third line stays in reserve.

Still, there has to be some advantage to the attacking line due to their having the initiaive and more steerageway. Maybe not exactly as I speculate, but some factor that makes the head-on charge, like the Athenians and Aeginans did at Salamis, feasible.

George.
04-27-2007, 03:59 PM
OK, I have thought this through a bit. Here is the deal. In a trireme accelerating straight ahead, all rowers "point" their full horsepower forward. The rudder applies torque at the optimum position, with maximum leverage.

In a slow-moving trireme trying to turn by backing oars on one side, only the rowers in the middle - the position with least leverage for a turn - apply force at 90 degrees to the ship's axis. The ones at the bow and stern are actually cancelling each other out more than contributing torque to the turn (think vector diagrams on a long thin trireme).

Ergo, the charging trireme must be moving faster and turning faster. The only way to counter effectively is to get steerage way too.

So perhaps we can conclude Trireme Tactics Lesson #1 from all this: if charged, charge back. Stand-and-receive doesn't work well at sea.

Backfin
04-27-2007, 06:20 PM
How effectively do you think these vessels could back down? If charged, backing down ala judo might be an acceptable tactic; still bow to, and in position to come ahead into the offending boat.

ahp
04-27-2007, 07:21 PM
Did the modern reconstruction have rowers on fixed benches, like a rowboat. This may hve been a mistake. Some now think that the the rowing benches ran fore-and-aft, and the rowers staddled the bench and wore something like a sheepskin diaper that was greased, the equivelent of a modern seat on rollers as found in racing shells.

James McMullen
04-27-2007, 10:58 PM
How fast would I have to be travelling to be sure that the jet-ski I ram will be mortally wounded and sink straight to the bottom? I think I'd rather try setting them on fire from a distance to be on the safe side. Has anyone ever figured out what the secret of "greek fire" that the Byzantine Empire galleys used to destroy their enemies?