Wednesday, 13 December 2017

All tiny hands on deck


maybe a touch larger than 2mm...
The most common scales for model galleys are 1/600 and 1/1200.

1/600 ships can look very nice with the extra space for detail and one can put figure blocks on the decks to represent deck troops.

1/1200 ships are perfectly good but no longer have space enough to accommodate figures or even a marker on their decks.

In terms of table space 1/600 gives a c.1km table edge on the traditional 6x4 whilst 1/1200 gives c.2km.
A game with Athenians v Spartans
I decided that deck troops look good and wanted to use some figures. The only options are 1/300 – 6mm figures and Irregular's 2mm range.

6mm is out straight away for these smaller scales. They look like giants on 1/600 ships and collossi on 1/1200.

2mm being the only option it is immediately apparent that they are too small on the 1/600 ships and still too large to use on 1/1200. Basically, 1/1200 is a scale where one cannot use any kind of figures or markers on deck.

What is 2mm scale ? If we take a fighter as 5'8” to six feet tall in his boots and helmet then a 2mm figure is modelled at 1/900-1/800.
2mm deck fighters on 1/800 triereis
Now, to ground scale. A 40 metre 'Mark II' trieres at 1/1200 is 3.3cm long. At 1/600 this will be 6,6cm. I noticed that a nice, round,5cm lies between, at 1/800 – 40 metres divided by 5cm is 800. Lo and behold it is Irregular's scale....

The ground scale can be rounded to 1/1000 which gives a table side of 1.8km and makes translations from maps easier.

But ships !? It is necessary to produce one's own for this scale. However, this is not so bad as it seems because they are not so fiddly as 1/1200 and not so detail-demanding as 1/600. Maybe I will cast some in lead eventually but until now they can be built from card, plastic and paper – and plenty of glue and paint.
2mm deck fighters ready for action

Sunday, 10 December 2017


 A blog discovery. A fantasy campaign using Rob Langton's Naumachia rules with 1/1200 ships.
A nice game at Battle for Breakfast and Theatre for Tea Blog  HERE

Friday, 8 December 2017

Dehydrated naumachia at Nimes Amphitheatre

A jolly re-enactment of a Roman games at Nimes. In a Roman amphitheatre with thousands of spectators and hundreds of costumed re-enactors. Cleopatra and the Battle of Actium featured!

A 2016 article from Mail online. A colourful gallery of photos and a video to boot. HERE

The ships look like fun - I wonder how they were propelled ? 

Sunday, 3 December 2017

The Background Music for Galley Battles

Belgians have no idea about the real thing....sigh...
Trieres included a maybe unexpected member of the crew. He was the auletes /αυλήτης or trieraules.
His purpose was to give the oarsmen the beat for their rowing rhythm. The instrument he played was the ancient two-pipe flute called the aulos.

The Poseidonia aulos
 The auletes was used by the rowing master - the keleustes - to maintain a steady beat over time. In larger or later vessels a drum may have been used by an individual entitled the portisculus/pausarius - the hammer-wielder or beat-giver. The auletes used a strap-brace to keep the instrument in place.

When Olympias was on trials a tannoy system was implemented to allow direct and simultaneous communication with the whole crew. Getting 170 men to work in unison is no easy matter..
On each trial  usually took some days before the oarsmen rowed properly in unison and once this basic standard was reached the necessity for communication was lessened. One must remember that the ancient crews grew up rowing and had the technique instilled in them. They needed occasional prompting not an ear-lashing to get them to work together and at the right rhythm.
'We're riding along on the crest of a wave...'
This year the Edinburgh Lyceum, in conjunction with the Actors Touring Company have a production of Aeschylus' 'The Suppliants' or 'Suppliant Women' directed by Ramin Gray. Passing over the rather tatty production values and the attempts to make modern political  parallels, one aspect of the production is worthy of note. The music includes an aulos. The auletes for the production is Barnaby Brown and he spent a year learning the instrument. He was , of course an accomplished flautist already. The Chorus of the Greek theatre sang and danced to the aulos, and so too did the oarsmen work to it.
                                     'Suppliant my arse - give them five minutes and they'll be telling you to tidy the house and change your underpants more often..'

Aeschylus, the renowned Athenian playwright, was not one of your modern Ivory Tower scribblers. In ancient Athens the Middle Class put their hoplons on the line for the city in order to maintain both their state and their status. Aeschylus definitely fought at Marathon and he may have fought at Salamis too - he would certainly have been present there. His brother lost a hand in the fighting. Listening to the aulos brought back to life by Barnaby Brown and others is to listen to the sound created by the auletes in the ships at Salamis. Not only that, but the all the galleys plying the seas of the Athenian Empire, the Black Sea and all over the Mediterranean. 170 sweaty, toiling men under the canopy of a trieres would share the drone and reedy wail of the aulos. They must have keenly eyed the auletes at the start of the voyage and hoped the new face knew his stuff - chaos and crumpled eardrums could otherwise ensue.

'Yes, Sire, I can confirm the Greeks are playing the theme from 'Das Boot',                                  just to wind you up...'
There are some excellent videos of aulos playing on YOUTUBE. Shut your eyes and imagine you are resting on your oar and just listening to the auletes for a minute. No doubt he could also whistle up a festive tune for the evening to relax by.

VID 1 - Barnaby Brown does the technical stuff...

VID 2 - Barnaby Brown at the breathtaking temples of Pæstum.

VID 3 - If you survived the first two, this is a reward. Not such an accurate copy but a great musician playing a nice melody. Anton Platonov gives it gas. See his other aulos videos too.

There is also the triple pipe from Sardinia, still played today, but I am subjected to this regularly on CD by my girlfriend. It is not 50% better than the aulos. I would rather face the Persians than a bunch of pipe-wielding Sardinian shepherds!

Friday, 1 December 2017

Tabletop Galleys

Have a look at the blog 'One Sided Miniature Wargaming Discourse'for some galley action with Xyston and Hotz ships and Galleys and Galleons rules. HERE

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Pitassi's Tower - Again

I found some nice photos of the Roman frescoes which include the 'tower' ship.

 They are  from  Villa Farnesina ,  Trastevere and were found in 1879. They were moved to The National Museum of Rome in  2010.
A really evocative port scene, somewhat faded but very immediate.
 I found them on the Blog 'Tomatoes from Canada' HERE. Luckily the Blogger has a keen eye for nice frescoes and took some very nice photos of items which non-nautical visitors and bloggers often overlook. There are other nice photos to look at there.

These colour photos are clearer than the b/w version in Pitassi's book. But still the limitations of the medium and the age, and the materials mean we are not dealing with sharp clean images.
 Shifting colours again, one can see there are perhap two warriors in the front of the ship with their shields raised.
 I did  not find any reason to change my analysis. The pictures are still wonderful. Active and dramatic. The ship in the foreground  seem to be something small like Triakonters or Pentekonters, with visible oarsmen and a few warriorS on each ship.The central ship could be a Liburnian with enclosed oarsmen and fighters on deck.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Research Proposal : Digital Simulation of Galley Warfare

Take a look at Dr.Jorit Wintjes proposal for a research project that would examine the realities of ancient galley warfare. How would the naval tactics really have functioned?
 A  slideshow  lays out his ideas and can while away a few minutes.
Proposed in 2016,  wonder if it progressed any further ?

Take a look HERE

 Wintjes has a prolific output in connection with ancient naval themes. Some interesting titles below... Hopefully the digital galley battle simulator is coming soon?
  • The ghost fleet of Seleucia Pieria, in: N. Hodgson, P. Bidwell, J. Schachtmann (ed.), Roman Frontier Studies 2009. Proceedings of the XXI International Congress of Roman Frontier Studies (Limes Congress) held at Newcastle upon Tyne in August 2009, Oxford 2017, 699-702.
  • Sea power without a navy? Roman naval forces in the principate, in: M. Jones (ed.), New Interpretations in Naval History. Selected Papers from the Seventeenth McMullen Naval History Symposium, Newport (Rhode Island) 2016, 13-24.
  • The classis Britannica - Just a "normal" provincial fleet? in: A. Morillo (ed.), Proceedings of the 20th International Congress of Roman Frontier Studies (2006). Leon 2009, 47-56.
  • Defending the Realm: Roman Naval Capabilities in Waters Beyond the Mediterranean, in: M. M. Yu (ed.), New Interpretations in Naval History. Annapolis 2009, 1-13.
  •  The Classis Britannica - aspects of the history of Roman naval units in North Western Europe, in: Hadrianic Society Bulletin 2, 2007, 13-19.
  • On a plank and a prayer – The Roman “navies” of the 5th to 7th centuries – The Roman Army School 2014, Hadrianic Society, St Chad's College, Durham, April 2014.
  • Fleeting Shadows on Shifting Sands? Roman Naval Bases in NW-Europe – The Roman Army School 2014, Hadrianic Society, St Chad's College, Durham, April 2014.
  • Challenging the orthodoxy – the late Roman navy – The Roman Army School 2013, Hadrianic Society, St Chad's College, Durham, März 2013.
  • Navy ranking, or: The tale of the troublesome trierarchs – The Roman Army School 2013, Hadrianic Society, St Chad's College, Durham, März 2013.
  • The Trireme – the ship that changed the ancient world? – International Commision of the History of Technology Conference, Barcelona Juli 2012.
  • East of Suez – Roman Sea Power in the Eastern Mediterranean – Israeli Society for the Promotion of Classical Studies Symposium, Jerusalem Juni 2012.
  • The “real” navy? The classis Ravennata – a case study  – The Roman Army School 2012, Hadrianic Society, St Aidan's College, Durham, April 2012.
  • Sea power without a navy? Roman naval forces in the principate - 2011 Naval History Symposium, United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, September 2011.
  • The battle of Bedriacum reconsidered - 2011 Spring Conference, British Commission for Military History, Lady Margaret Hall College, Oxford, Mai 2011.
  • New research on the Roman navy - The Roman Army School 2011, Hadrianic Society, St Aidan's College, Durham, April 2011.