Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία

Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία
Ελληνική ιστορία και προϊστορία

Τρίτη, 5 Φεβρουαρίου 2019

Greeks in the Roman navy (Part B) : Organisation, crews, high command, ship types, armament and types

The bulk of a galley's crew was formed by the rowers, the remiges (sing. remex) or eretai (sing.eretēs) in Greek. Despite popular perceptions, the Roman fleet, and ancient fleets in general, relied throughout their existence on rowers of free status, and not on galley slaves. Slaves were employed only in times of pressing manpower demands or extreme emergency, and even then, they were freed first. In Imperial times, non-citizen freeborn provincials (peregrini), chiefly from nations with a maritime background such as Greeks, Hellenized Phoenicians, Hellenized Syrians and Hellenized Egyptians, formed the bulk of the fleets' crews.
During the early Principate, a ship's crew, regardless of its size, was organized as a centuria. Crewmen could sign on as marines (Called Marinus), rowers/seamen, craftsmen and various other jobs, though all personnel serving in the imperial fleet were classed as milites ("soldiers"), regardless of their function; only when differentiation with the army was required, were the adjectives classiarius or classicus added. Along with several other instances of prevalence of army terminology, this testifies to the lower social status of naval personnel, considered inferior to the auxiliaries and the legionaries. Emperor Claudius first gave legal privileges to the navy's crewmen, enabling them to receive Roman citizenship after their period of service. This period was initially set at a minimum of 26 years, and was later expanded to 28. Upon honorable discharge (honesta missio), the sailors received a sizable cash payment as well. As in the army, the ship's centuria was headed by a centurion with an optio as his deputy, while abeneficiarius supervised a small administrative staff. Among the crew were also a number ofprincipales (junior officers) and immunes. Some of these positions, mostly administrative, were identical to those of the army auxiliaries, while some (mostly of Greek provenance) were peculiar to the fleet. An inscription from the island of Cos, dated to the First Mithridatic War, provides us with a list of a ship's officers, the nautae: the gubernator (kybernētēs in Greek) was the helmsman or pilot, the celeusta (keleustēs in Greek) supervised the rowers, a proreta (prōreus in Greek) was the look-out stationed at the bow, a pentacontarchos was apparently a junior officer, and an iatros (Lat. medicus), the ship's doctor. Each ship was commanded by a trierarchus, whose exact relationship with the ship's centurion is unclear. Squadrons, most likely of ten ships each, were put under a nauarchus, who often appears to have risen from the ranks of the trierarchi. The post of nauarchus archigubernes ornauarchus princeps appeared later in the Imperial period, and functioned either as a commander of several squadrons or as an executive officer under a civilian admiral, equivalent to the legionary primus pilus. All these were professional officers, usually peregrini, who had a status equal to an auxiliary centurion (and were thus increasingly called centuriones [classiarii] after ca. 70 AD). Until the reign of Antoninus Pius, their careers were restricted to the fleet.Only in the 3rd century were these officers equated to the legionary centurions in status and pay, and could henceforth be transferred to a similar position in the legions.
During the Republic, command of a fleet was given to a serving magistrate or promagistrate, usually of consular or praetorian rank. In the Punic Wars for instance, one consul would usually command the fleet, and another the army. In the subsequent wars in the Eastern Mediterranean, praetors would assume the command of the fleet. However, since these men were political appointees, the actual handling of the fleets and of separate squadrons was entrusted to their more experienced legates and subordinates. It was therefore during the Punic Wars that the separate position of praefectus classis ("fleet prefect") first appeared. Initially subordinate to the magistrate in command, after the fleet's reorganization by Augustus, the praefectus classis became a procuratorial position in charge of each of the permanent fleets. These posts were initially filled either from among the equestrian class, or, especially under Claudius, from the Emperor's freedmen, thus securing imperial control over the fleets. From the period of the Flavian emperors, the status of the praefectura was raised, and only equestrians with military experience who had gone through the militia equestri were appointed. Nevertheless, the prefects remained largely political appointees, and despite their military experience, usually in command of army auxiliary units, their knowledge of naval matters was minimal, forcing them to rely on their professional subordinates. The difference in importance of the fleets they commanded was also reflected by the rank and the corresponding pay of the commanders. The prefects of the two praetorian fleets were ranked procuratores ducenarii, meaning they earned 200,000 sesterces annually, the prefects of the Classis Germanica, theClassis Britannica and later the Classis Pontica were centenarii, while the other fleet prefects were sexagenarii.
The generic Roman term for an oar-driven galley warship was "long ship" (Latin: navis longa, Greek: naus makra), as opposed to the sail-driven navis oneraria (from onus, oneris: burden), a merchant vessel, or the minor craft (navigia minora) like thescapha. The navy consisted of a wide variety of different classes of warships, from heavy polyremes to light raiding and scouting vessels. Unlike the rich Hellenistic Successor kingdoms in the East however, the Romans did not rely on heavy warships, with quinqueremes (Geek. pentērēs), and to a lesser extent quadriremes (Greek. tetrērēs) and triremes (Greek. triērēs) providing the mainstay of the Roman fleets from the Punic Wars to the end of the Civil Wars. The heaviest vessel mentioned in Roman fleets during this period was the hexareme, of which a few were used as flagships. Lighter vessels such as the liburnians and the hemiolia, both swift types invented by pirates, were also adopted as scouts and light transport vessels. During the final confrontation between Octavian and Mark Antony, Octavian's fleet was composed of quinqueremes, together with some "sixes" and many triremes and liburnians, while Antony, who had the resources of Ptolemaic Egypt to draw upon, fielded a fleet also mostly composed of quinqueremes, but with a sizeable complement of heavier warships, ranging from "sixes" to "tens" (Greek. dekērēs). Later historical tradition made much of the prevalence of lighter and swifter vessels in Octavian's fleet, with Vegetius even explicitly ascribing Octavian's victory to the liburnians.
This prominence of lighter craft in the historical narrative is perhaps best explained in light of subsequent developments. After Actium, the operational landscape had changed: for the remainder of the Principate, no opponent existed to challenge Roman naval hegemony, and no massed naval confrontation was likely. The tasks at hand for the Roman navy were now the policing of the Mediterranean waterways and the border rivers, suppression of piracy, and escort duties for the grain shipments to Rome and for imperial army expeditions. Lighter ships were far better suited to these tasks, and after the reorganization of the fleet following Actium, the largest ship kept in service was a hexareme, the flagship of the Classis Misenensis. The bulk of the fleets was composed of the lighter triremes and liburnians (Latin: liburna, Greek: libyrnis), with the latter apparently providing the majority of the provincial fleets. In time, the term "liburnian" came to mean "warship" in a generic sense. In addition, there were smaller oared vessels, such as the navis actuaria, with 30 oars (15 on each bank), a ship primarily used for transport in coastal and fluvial operations, for which its shallow draught and flat keel were ideal. In late antiquity, it was succeeded in this role by the navis lusoria("playful ship"), which was extensively used for patrols and raids by the legionary flotillas in the Rhine and Danube frontiers. Roman ships were commonly named after gods (Mars, Iuppiter, Minerva, Isis), mythological heroes (Hercules), geographical maritime features such as Rhenus or Oceanus, concepts such as Harmony, Peace, Loyalty, Victory (Concordia, Pax, Fides, Victoria) or after important events (Dacicus for the Trajan's Dacian Wars or Salamina for the Battle of Salamis). They were distinguished by their figurehead (insigne or parasemum), and, during the Civil Wars at least, by the paint schemes on their turrets, which varied according to each fleet.
In classical antiquity, a ship's main weapon was the ram (rostra, hence the name navis rostrata for a warship), which was used to sink or immobilize an enemy ship by holing its hull. Its use, however, required a skilled and experienced crew and a fast and agile ship like a trireme or quinquereme. In the Hellenistic period, the larger navies came instead to rely on greater vessels. This had several advantages: the heavier and sturdier construction lessened the effects of ramming, and the greater space and stability of the vessels allowed the transport not only of more marines, but also the placement of deck-mounted ballistae and catapults. Although the ram continued to be a standard feature of all warships and ramming the standard mode of attack, these developments transformed the role of a warship: from the old "manned missile", designed to sink enemy ships, they became mobile artillery platforms, which engaged in missile exchange andboarding actions. The Romans in particular, being initially inexperienced at sea combat, relied upon boarding actions through the use of the corvus. Although it brought them some decisive losses, it was discontinued because it tended to unbalance the quinqueremes in high seas; two Roman fleets are recorded to have been lost during storms in the First Punic War. During the Civil Wars, a number of technical innovations, which are attributed to Agrippa, took place: the harpax, a catapult-fired grappling hook, which was used to clamp onto an enemy ship, reel it in and board it, in a much more efficient way than with the old corvus, and the use of collapsible fighting towers placed one apiece bow and stern, which were used to provide the boarders with supporting fire.
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