Ancient History Volume V Issue 5: Securing seas and shores: Fleets of the Roman Empire.

Ancient History Volume V Issue 5: Securing seas and shores: Fleets of the Roman Empire.

Ancient History Volume V Issue 5: Securing seas and shores: Fleets of the Roman Empire.

The main theme of this issue of Ancient History magazine is the Imperial Roman Navy, a key part of the Roman defensive system but far less famous than the legions. The articles here cover an interested selection of subjects, but they do help show why the navy is less famous - so many key questions can't be answered, or involve a debate that rely on one or two inscriptions.

We start with an overview of the Roman navy - its distribution, ships and roles. Next is an examination of a series of letters written by a member of the fleet based in Alexandria, which provides a great insight into the daily concerns of a member of the Roman military, followed by a look at the tombstone of an officer in one of the Italian fleets. We enter more problematic waters with the next two articles, one looking at the official structure of the fleets (were there specialist oarsmen, sailors and marines or did everyone train for all jobs, was each ship a separate century or were some centuries split over several smaller vessels), the second looking at the provincial fleets. Most of these are reasonably well documented, but several quite important fleets are only known from a handful of inscriptions.

The article on the battle of Actium has been written by a sailor familiar with those waters, and presents a picture of a battle whose course was largely decided by the prevailing winds and the layout of the shore around Actium. Finally we look at the connection between the Emperor and his fleets, best documented for the early Empire, where several Emperors appear to have depended particularly heavily on the sailors for support.

Away from the main theme there is an interesting article examining Polybius's description of the space needed for Macedonian and Roman soldiers, attempting to work out from practical experiments if Polybius was accurate. There is also an examination of the different possible reasons for the death of Alexander the Great and an examination of a Scythian helmet probably chosen by its owner to protect an pre-existing head wound.

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Articles
The Source: A Voice from Egypt
An Officer of the Liburna Armata: The tombstone of Montanus
Marines and Mariners: Deciphering the structure of the fleets
Workhorses of the Imperial Navy: The Roman provincial fleets
The Winds of Fate: The battle of Actium
Classis Mea: The personal relationship between emperors and the navy
The Find: Head wounds, healing and helmets
The Anatomy of Battle: Testing Polybius' formations
The Debate: Death in Babylon

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