Roman Warships

Roman Warships

Michael Pitassi


Boydell Press



An examination of Roman naval development, drawing upon archaeological evidence, documentary accounts and visual representation.
The Roman Imperial Navy was the most powerful maritime force ever to have existed, prior to the European naval development of relatively recent centuries. It was able to deploy huge fleets and dominate the seas around western Europe, north Africa, and the Middle East, as well as the great rivers that formed a large part of the eastern boundary of the Roman world. It secured the trade routes and maintained the communications that allowed the Roman Empire to exist. It brought previously untouchable and unreachable enemies to battle and enabled the expansion of Imperial power into areas thought hitherto inaccessible. At the height of its power the Roman Navy employed tens of thousands of sailors, marines and craftsmen, who manned and maintained a fleet of warships far larger than anything in existence today. And yet these warships, the very tools that allowed the Roman Navy to dominate the seas, have remained largely unstudied.
Drawing upon archaeological evidence, documentary accounts and visual representations, this book seeks to chart the development and evolution of the Roman warship over eight centuries of naval activity, showing how ships were evolved to meet the circumstances of the different areas in which they had to operate, the different functions they needed to fulfil, and the changing nature of their enemies.


April 2011
40 colour, 81 black and white, 29 line illustrations
228 pages
24x17.2 cm
ISBN: 9781843836100
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press
BISAC SOC003000, HIS027000, HIS010020
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Table of Contents

Interpreting the Sources
Ship Fittings
The Earliest Types; 8th to 4th Centuries BC
Naval Ascendancy - 3rd and 2nd Centuries BC
Civil Wars and Imperial Fleets, 1st Centuries BC and AD
Height of Empire, 2nd and 3rd Centuries AD
The Late Empire, 4th and 5th Centuries AD
Appendix 1: Service Lives of Ship Types
Appendix 2: Types of Roman Warships
Appendix 3: Gazetteer. Where to see Roman Boats and Ships
Appendix 4: Glossary of Nautical Terms Used


Combine(s) astute observation of the literary and material evidence with a trial-and-error practicality of constructing scale miniatures and an impressive knowledge of naval mechanics. THE HISTORIAN, 2013

This is a fascinating approach to take, and produces some very convincing reproductions of Roman warships. The model building stage proves to be more important than I would have though, eliminating some possible designs that looked practical on paper, and also gives Pitassi some excellent illustrations. This book comes highly recommended.

Extremely valuable as a guide to approaching the reconstruction of part of the past. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MARITIME HISTORY

It is always gratifying to read a text that is well written, unambiguous, and easy to follow, with meticulous, accurate, and up-to-date scholarship and bibliography. Pitassi has produced an admirable work on the Roman warship. (...) This book is recommended for the students of ancient warfare, maritime history, and Roman culture. DEREMILITARI.ORG

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