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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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Big Ships, Boarding, and Catapults

Big Ships, Boarding, and Catapults

(p.143) 5 Big Ships, Boarding, and Catapults
The Age of Titans

William M. Murray

Oxford University Press

Traditionally, the use of catapults (both bolt and stone projectors) and boarding tactics were thought to account for the production of larger and larger warships during the Hellenistic period. While larger warships allowed for an increase in carrying capacity for both catapults and deck troops, no ancient evidence supports the modern claim that catapults negated the role of ramming warfare and thus led to boarding tactics. Naval artillery weapons were generally limited to small calibers (especially stone projectors) and, to judge from Philo, were used primarily to target deck fighters and siege machinery, not oarcrews. Moreover, Philo specifically advises marines to avoid boarding enemy warships and to rely on their own ships’ rams. Despite the well-known Roman reliance on boarding tactics in some battles, big ships of the Hellenistic period generally preferred first to utilize their powerful rams in frontal attacks, hoping thereby to disable or swamp an enemy vessel before resorting to boarding.

Keywords:   bolt, projector, stone, catapult, boarding, marines, deck, fighters

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