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Distinguished Speakers in Military History - Lent 2011

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  • UserProf. Boris Rankov (Royal Holloway, University of London)
  • ClockTuesday 08 March 2011, 17:30-19:00
  • HouseUpper Hall, Peterhouse.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Ilya Berkovich.

Thalassocracy: the Role of Sea Power in the Ancient Mediterranean

Although the role and exercise of sea power in the ancient Mediterranean shared some characteristics with later periods, there are a number of aspects in which they differed significantly. Indeed, they varied considerably even within the Greco-Roman period. A key determinant throughout was the capabilities and limitations of ancient oared galleys. The latter went through a number of often startling developments as tactics and needs changed. The triremes (‘threes’) of the Classical period gave way to larger vessels and eventually the monster polyremes of the Hellenistic period. By the end of the 3rd century BC, these had culminated in the ‘forty’ of Ptolemy IV Philopator of Egypt, which was 420 feet long and could carry almost 3,000 troops, and yet such vessels had disappeared by the first century BC, and the main fleets of the Roman imperial period consisted largely of triremes not so very different from those which had been built for the Athenian navy some 800 years before. Professor Rankov, will consider how our understanding of ancient sea-power is being transformed both by new archaeological discoveries and by a reconsideration of the ancient evidence currently being undertaken by a number of different scholars from around the world.

Professor of Ancient History at Royal Holloway, Boris Rankov has worked extensively on Roman army, Roman Britain, and intelligence in the ancient world. Prof. Rankov maintains a particularly strong interest in ancient shipping. He served as rowing master on the Olympias trireme reconstruction in the late 1980s and 1990s, and is now serving as Chairman of the Trireme Trust.

This talk is part of the Violence and Conflict Graduate Workshop, Faculty of History series.

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