Naves Actuaria - Naval Auxiliaries (Merchant Galleys)
Some types of cargo such as perishables, passengers or urgent messages needed a faster type of ship than a sail powered transport, so a merchant galley was developed. In addition to sail they were also fitted with oars and the name meant literally 'driven ships.
Those which had a length to beam ratio of about 6:1 rather than usual warship ratio of 10:1 could also be adapted for military use as Naval Auxiliaries. Having a useful compromise between maximum speed and carrying capacity.
In addition to the general descriptive term Actuaria which was applied to all types of merchant galley. The term was also used to describe a large type of merchant galley with up to 50 oarsmen, 25 on each side in a single bank.
Livy describes Actuaria being used in 212BC as landing-craft at the siege of Syracuse.
In preparation for Caesar's second raid of 54BC he ordered the construction of craft along the lines of Veneti vessels with flatter hulls, broader beam and lower sides. These were probably alterations made to the existing well known Actuaria design and allowed the ships to be hauled ashore with less damage than previous designs and also ease loading/unloading.
They were able to be adapted for military use when they were often built in large numbers for a specific campaign.
Like Actuaria, Lembus had both a general and specific meaning.
Originally the term described types such as harbour boats, fishing boats, ships boats and general river craft. All fitted with oars as well as sails.
By 200BC it was also used to describe the largest type of oar and sail powered ship. They were similar to Actuaria, and had 50 oars sometimes in two banks. Again their main advantage was speed and could also be adapted for military use.
Was a term used to describe a large range of cargo galleys which varied considerably in size. The larger seagoing versions exceeded 20m in length.
Were similar Cybaea but had a narrower beam and sharper bow profile.
Was a term used to describe a large range of cargo galleys which again varied considerably in size. The larger seagoing versions exceeded 20m in length.
Were similar to Cercerus but had a broader beam and more blunt bow profile so were more 'box-like' in appearance.
These were long and narrow in shape with the name translating as "bean-pod". Again they varied considerably in size with the largest undertaking voyages around the Mediterranean and as far as the Black sea.
Like Actuaria and Lembus types they could be adapted for military use.
The name translates as fast, and the original Greek name from which the term derives meant "racehorse". Mainly used for carrying urgent despatches and passengers. Smaller than a Lembus and with probably a maximum of 20 oarsmen.
This page last edited -
20 July, 2012.
Copyright © Ian M King, except where otherwise indicated.