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The Age of TitansThe Rise and Fall of the Great Hellenistic Navies$
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William Murray

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780195388640

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195388640.001.0001

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Frontal Ramming

Frontal Ramming

Structural Considerations

(p.31) 2 Frontal Ramming
The Age of Titans

William M. Murray

Oxford University Press

An authentic bronze warship ram from the Hellenistic period was found in the sea near Athlit, Israel, in 1980. The superior physical properties of its casting and heavy wooden support structure are remarkable and suggest that the weapon was carefully designed to generate and absorb tremendous forces. Evidence from the ram sockets at Augustus’s Actian naval victory monument reveal that the Athlit ram corresponds in size to a relatively small warship, probably a “four.” Both literary and pictorial evidence suggest a clear difference between “threes,” “fours” and “fives,” with “threes” classed among ships of “smaller build” and “fours” and “fives” classed among ships of “larger build.” This distinction can also be seen in surviving examples of authentic warship rams and suggests that the heavy Actian rams (from warships up to “tens” in size) were designed to deliver and sustain tremendous ramming blows. These powerful weapons gave big ships superior capabilities in frontal ramming, particularly in conjunction with attacks on cities and their harbor defenses.

Keywords:   Athlit, ram, Actian, Augustus, Octavian, Trophy, “four”, “five”, “three”

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