Republican Roman Warships 509-27 BC, Raffaele D'Amato

Republican Roman Warships 509-27 BC, Raffaele D'Amato

New Vanguard 225

In theory this book covers the entire period from the first sea treaty with Carthage in 509 BC to the battle of Actium of 31 BC and the foundation of the principate in 26 BC. In fact the first documented Roman warship doesn't appear until 394 BC, and Rome doesn't appear to have become a major naval power until the First Punic War (264-242 BC), so most of the text focuses on the second half of the period. This still gives us two and half centuries to cover.

The text also covers a wide range of topics, including the layout of the various types of warships, the arrangement of rowers, how the rowers were controlled, decoration, weaponry and the campaigns and battles of the period. Fortunately this was a period of fairly gradual technological change, and the larger warships of the Punic Wars would still have been usable at Actium. That doesn't mean that the period was static, but it does mean that the topic can be handled in a book of this size.

In some places the text is perhaps a bit technical, assuming that the reader can remember what a particular Latin or Greek phrase means rather too quickly (one picture caption informs us that the thranite oars are fitted with paraxeiresia, meaning that the top row of oars had outriggers, which would have been a rather more useful caption). There is also a tendency to draw the reader's attention to a feature of an illustration that isn't immediately obvious (one example would be oar boxes – features that stick out from the side of the galley – these aren't terribly easy to spot in a side-on view of a galley.

On the plus side this does indicate that the author really knows his material, and the technical terms become clearer on a re-read. A great of information is packed into the 48 pages, covering some areas that I haven't seen before (the information on rowing techniques for instance). The text is supported by an impressive number of illustrations, although I'd love to know how some of the images on coins or carvings can be so confidently identified as different types of ships! Overall this is a good overview of this topic, and gives a good background to the naval wars of the period.

Historical Background
Roman Ships and Fleets
Decoration and Equipment
Armament and Tactics
Rowing a Roman Warship

Author: Raffaele D'Amato
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 48
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2015

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us - Privacy