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Page 13

The Cabins, Rigging, and Ram of a Trireme

 

    Forward and aft of the rowers' benches and the great central gangway are the fore and stern cabins. They furnish something akin to tolerable accommodations for the officers and a favored fraction of the crew. Above the forecastle rises a carved proudly curing prow, and just abaft it are high bulwarks to guard the javelin men when at close quarters with the foe. There is also on either side of the prow a huge red or orange "eye" painted around the hawse holes for the anchors. Above the stern cabin is the narrow deck reserved for the pilot, the "governor" of the ship, who will control the whole trireme with a touch now on one, now on the other, of the huge steering paddles which swing at the sides near the stern. Within the stern cabin itself is the little altar, sacred to the god or goddess to whom the vessel is dedicated, and on which incense will be burned before starting on a long cruise and before going into battle. Two masts rise above the deck, a tall mainmast nearly amidships, and a much smaller mast well forward. On each of these a square sail (red, orange, blue, or even, with gala ships, purple) will be swung from a long yard, while the vessel is cruising; but it is useless to set sails in battle. One could never turn the ship quickly enough to complete the maneuvers. The sails and yards will ordinarily be sent ashore as the first measure when the admiral signals "clear ship for action."

    We have now examined all of the "Invincible" except for her main weapon,—her beak; for the trireme is really herself one tremendous missile to be flung by the well-trained rowers at the ill-starred foe. Projecting well in front of the prow and close to the water line are three heavy metal spurs serrated one above the other ...[16]. Let this fang once crush against a foeman's broadside, and his timbers are crushed in like eggshells.

 

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