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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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The Culmination of the Big Ship Phenomenon

The Culmination of the Big Ship Phenomenon

(p.171) 6 The Culmination of the Big Ship Phenomenon
The Age of Titans

William M. Murray

Oxford University Press

The largest ships, like Lysimachus’s Leontophoros “eight,” or Ptolemy II’s “twenties” and “thirty,” were likely built as self-propelled siege platforms on which were stationed large pieces of siege machinery like siege towers. These super-galleys were a fleet phenomenon and were never intended to fight without a host of support ships. They should not be seen, therefore, as warships that plowed into clusters of smaller ships with catapults firing and troops ready to leap. On the contrary, they coordinated with a host of support ships that comprised the naval siege unit. The largest of the great Hellenistic fleets was constructed by Ptolemy II Philadelphus toward the end of his reign to position his son and successor Ptolemy III Euergetes to recover lost coastal cities that were spread from Thrace in the northern Aegean to Ionia, Caria, Lycia, Pamphylia, Cilicia, and Syria. Finally, the monstrous “forty” built by Ptolemy IV Philopator can be explained as a showpiece that was built following this monarch’s victory at Raphia (217 BC). Although it was never intended to see action, the “forty” glorified the connections between Ptolemy and the god Dionysus as it evoked past traditions of Ptolemaic naval dominance.

Keywords:   “twenty”, “thirty”, “forty”, Leontophoros, Ptolemy II, Ptolemy III, Lysimachus, fleet

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