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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well-written and authoritative book, 31 Mar 2011
This review is from: Hellenistic and Roman Naval Warfare 336BC - 31BC (Hardcover)
This is the third book by this author that I have read in as many weeks, so obviously I have a high opinion of him. The first two - Seleukos Nikator: Constructing a Hellenistic Kingdom; Hellenistic Phoenicia - were published by academic presses, whereas this is by a publisher targetting a more general readership. The book itself is as well written and reasearched as the previous two. The Notes however are mainly straightforward citation references, without the in-depth criticism of the sources you find in the academic volumes.

The 16 chapters are arranged thus:
1-6 66pp, Alexander, his Successors & the Ptolemaic Sea-Empire
7-9 46pp, Carthage, Sicily and Rome
10-14 60pp, Roman Domination and Empire-building
15,16 15pp, Roman Civil Wars
Plus Conclusion, Notes, Bibliography, Index and 10 pages of good maps.

Chapter 5 - Demetrios the Sea-King and the Super-Galleys - includes a discussion of ship-types and the introduction of the big ships, which dominate the fleets to the end of the period.
P51: "The names given to the ships describe the number of rowers. It was normal to propel a galley with two or three banks of oars, rowed by oarsmen in files, and it is the number of files which gives each class its name. The Trireme, always the basis from which the discussion must proceed, had three oars in each set, each pulled by one man, so there were six files of men the length of the ship. Quadriremes had two oars manned by two men each; quinquiremes had three oars, two of them pulled by two men, and the third by one. The size of each class of ship had to be greater, of course, as the number of files increased.

Going up from a trireme to a six was relatively straightforward, for a six can be considered to be just a trireme with two men rather than one man to each oar, though obviously it was bigger. The numbers of the rowers were growing, however, from the trireme's 170 to the quadrireme's 176 to the quinquireme's 300 - the quinquireme was thus a major change. Going beyond this size was more difficult, for the ships became heavier and required more men with each manipulation of size and shape. A seven, of which Demetrios had seven at Salamis, was a bigger ship than a six, and had about 400 oarsmen; it had three banks of rowers, one with three men pulling and the others with two. In some navies the six was the biggest ship built, and it was used as a command vessel, just as the quinquiremes had been in the navies of the Phoenician and Cypriot kings.

These larger ships, up to tens, were certainly used in battle, but anything above a ten was never seen in action, though they were certainly built. Nines and tens seem to have been bigger versions the quadrireme, with two banks of oars pulled by five and four men in a nine, and two sets of five in a ten.".

Chapter 13 - Pirates - is an interesting discussion of pirates and piracy; "The term 'piracy' is rarely applied by pirates to themselves and their activities. It is a description of the activities of one's enemies. It is therefore not necessarily an accurate characterization of that activity. The Phoenicians were regularly described as pirates by the Greeks, but most of what we know of them suggests trade with or without violence." P149.

Mr Grainger has been publishing books and articles for 20 years on this period. This is a well-written and authoritative book. The narrative flows smoothly from one period to the next, and you always know who is doing what, and most importantly, why they are doing it. The book shows you the importance of sea-power, and the right and wrong ways of using it.

Further recommended reading by John D. Grainger:
The League of Aitolians (Mnemosyne, Supplements)
The Syrian Wars (Mnemosyne, Supplements)
The Roman War of Antiochos the Great (Mnemosyne, Supplements)
Alexander the Great Failure: The Collapse of the Macedonian Empire (Hambledon Continuum)
Hellenistic Phoenicia
Seleukos Nikator: Constructing a Hellenistic Kingdom

An Aside - the Hellenistic period (Philip and Alexander to Actium) can be confusing, especially when there are both Greek and Roman versions of names. I have found that playing historical board games help in learning names & places. The following are particularly useful for this period.

Sword of Rome (GMT Games)
Successors (GMT Games)
Hannibal (Valley Games)
Julius Caesar (Columbia Games)
Spartacus (Compass Games)
www boardgamegeek com
www boardgameguru co uk
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