Ep. 015 – The Advent of the Mycenaean Galley

Today we discuss the rise of the Mycenaean galley, a style of ship characterized by oared propulsion and  a long, narrow hull built for speed and power rather than for transport. Depictions are numerous, so we focus on a few main items from around the Mycenaean world. We also discuss the 'Aegean List' of Amenhotep III, a list of foreign cities in the Aegean, cities which one professor believes were visited by the New Kingdom Egyptians. Finally, we also discuss a Mycenaean galley model found in a tomb in Gurob Egypt, making connections between the style in which it was decorated and the Homeric references to Achaean galleys during the Trojan War. This episode is filled to the brim with great info, so don't miss out!

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This Week's Book


Listen at the end of today's episode for a brief review of Medieval Maritime Warfare by Charles D. Stanton. It is available for purchase both at Pen & Sword Books and at Amazon. For a full review and more information about the book, go here. (and a confession: in the podcast I did misspeak when I called the book 'Medieval Maritime History')

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  2 comments for “Ep. 015 – The Advent of the Mycenaean Galley

  1. September 30, 2015 at 10:49 am

    Welcome back! Great episode. I think the idea that the semicircles represent rowers on the Kynos fragment is likely correct: assuming the ship is moving left to right, this would represent the curved back of the rowers as they pulled on their oars. One question: the Mycenaean galleys seem bowed, like the Egyptian and Minoan ships. Did they not have true keels? Were they stabilized by the (forget the term) fore-to-aft rope we heard about in an earlier episode?

    • brandon
      September 30, 2015 at 12:12 pm

      Hello Barliman!

      First off, I have to confess to being in the midst of a LoTR re-read, so I appreciate your screen name more at present than I would have a few weeks ago 🙂 Bree is up there among my favorite towns of Middle Earth.

      I do apologize if I was vague on this subject. As far as we can tell, the Mycenaean galleys were constructed around a central keel, like what we would think of in later ships. Some of the depictions do seem bowed, as you observed, though the bow isn’t as extreme as in the Egyptian ships and the majority of Mycenaean depictions are almost totally flat in the hull. The Egyptian maritime evidence contains much more detail re: the building method, and the Khufu ship especially has given great insight into the Egyptian method. The Mycenaean era galleys leave us with only the icon depictions or a few clay models. They, plus the later evolution into Greek and Roman galleys, give us the image of a keel-based ship with a vertical built stem and stern. I’ll get more into those once we talk about how they grew into the ‘ramming speed’ type warships of later years, but the vertical ends point heavily toward galleys with a keel and without any above-deck hogging truss or girdle like on Egyptian ships.

      TL;DR – Mycenaean galleys were keel-centric, as best we can tell. No physical ship remains from the period attest this, but the later galley styles were constructed in this manner.

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