Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A quinquereme was a galley, a warship propelled by oars, developed from the earlier trireme. It was used by the Greeks of the Hellenistic period and later by the Carthaginians and Romans, from the 4th century BC to the 1st century AD.
In the 4th century BC, after the Peloponnesian War, there was a shortage of oarsmen of sufficient skill to man large navies of triremes. The search for designs of galley that would allow oarsmen to use muscle power instead of skill led Dionysius of Syracuse to build tetreres (quadriremes) and penteres (quinqueremes). For a long time, modern scholars were confused by the word penteres. If they were analogous to trieres (triremes) they would have had five rows of oars, but such a galley would surely have been impossible to construct and impossibly unstable. Later accounts talk about hexeres, hepteres and even larger galleys than those; clearly a different classification scheme was in operation.
There are no explicit descriptions or archeological remains of quinqueremes, so the construction is unclear. According to modern historians, the numbers used to describe galleys counted the number of rows of men on each side, and not the numbers of oars. There were thus three possible designs of quadrireme: one row of oars with four men on each oar, two rows of oars with two men on each oar or three rows of oars with two men pulling the top oars on each side (probably galleys of all three designs were built). Quinqueremes are thought to have had three rows of oars, with two men pulling each of the top two oars.
It had become apparent at the Battle of Syracuse in 413 BC that the topmost tier of rowers, the thranites, were vulnerable to attack by arrows and catapults, so the newer vessels completely enclosed all the rowers below the deck. According to Polybius, a quinquereme had a complement of 300 oarsmen, 120 marines, and 50 crew. Historian Fik Meijer suggests that on each side of a quinquereme there would have been 58 thranites pulling 29 oars, 58 zygites (the middle row of oarsmen) pulling 29 oars and 34 thalamites (the bottom row) with an oar each.
Quinqueremes were even more difficult to make stable than triremes, and the increase in speed was not so great as to give the larger galleys much of an advantage. Perhaps the Greeks were conservative in their innovation, or perhaps they simply had enough trained oarsmen to row their triremes; certainly quinqueremes were not produced in large numbers, and triremes remained the mainstay of the Mediterranean navies.
The wars of the Diadochi, the successors to the empire of Alexander the Great, caused another arms race. This time the trend was to build bigger and bigger galleys. Macedon was building hexiremes (probably with two men on each of three oars) in 340 BC; by 315 BC Antigonus, the successor to Alexander the Great in Macedon, was building septiremes, which saw action at the Battle of Salamis in Cyprus (306 BC); his son Demetrius, involved in a naval war with Ptolemy of Egypt, built eights (octeres), nines, tens, twelves and finally sixteens!
A change in the technology of conflict had taken place to allow these juggernauts of the seas to be created, as the development of catapults had neutralised the power of the ram, and speed and manoeuvrability were no longer as important as they had been. It was easy to mount catapults on galleys; Alexander the Great had used them to considerable effect when he besieged Tyre from the sea in 332 BC. The catapults did not aim to sink the enemy galleys, but rather to injure or kill the rowers (remember that one rower out of place would ruin the performance of the entire ship and prevent its ram from being effective). Now combat at sea returned to the boarding and fighting that it had been before the development of the ram, and larger galleys could carry more soldiers.
Some of the later galleys were monstrous in size, with oars as long as 17 metres pulled by as many as eight rowers. With so many rowers, if one of them was killed by a catapult shot, the rest could continue and not interrupt the stroke. The innermost oarsman on such a galley had to step forward and back a few paces with each stroke.
The very largest galleys were probably catamarans, according to J. S. Morrison. An account by Memnon describes how Demetrius' rival Lysimachus of Asia Minor built a galley, the Leontophorus, so large it required 1600 rowers and could support 1200 marines. Plutarch described a quadragintareme (forty) built for Ptolemy IV of Egypt in about 200 BC that was 128 m long, required 4,000 rowers and 400 other crew, and could support a force of 3,000 marines on its decks. He wrote, "This ship was only for show. It scarcely differed from buildings which are rooted in the ground and had great difficulty in being put to sea."
The large galleys must have been very sluggish and could be defeated by large numbers of smaller ships. The Roman navies consisted of triremes, quadriremes and quinqueremes. Though armed with a ram, these ships usually fought by boarding rather than ramming. The Romans during the First Punic war used a special ramp with spike that would be dropped onto an enemy ship to facilitate boarding. This device was called a corvus or "crow".
In the last great naval battle of the ancient world, at Actium in 31 BC, Octavian's lighter and more manoeuvrable ships defeated Antony's heavy fleet. After that, with the Roman Empire in charge of the entire Mediterranean, a large navy was no longer needed. By AD 325 there were no more quinqueremes.
- Vernon Foley and Werner Soedel, Ancient oared warships, Scientific American 244(4):116–129, April 1981.
- Fik Meijer, A History of Seafaring in the Classical World, Croom and Helm, 1986.
- J. S. Morrison and R. T. Williams, Greek Oared Ships: 900–322 BC, Cambridge University Press, 1968.
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details