Lords of the Sea (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
The traditional approach linking military service to democracy is to argue that, when ancient Greek city-states ceased to rely on cavalry and instead employed hoplites (heavily armed infantrymen fighting in a tight formation), the aristocrats had to share political power with those commoners who were able to equip themselves with armor and weapons. In Lords of the Sea, John R. Hale extends this argument to include the truly poor who rowed the triremessleek warships with three banks of oars. Triremes possessed the speed and agility to make ramming enemy vessels a superior tactic to boarding them and fighting a land battle on water.
The trireme was not a sturdy vessel. It was light, could fight only in calm water, and was so subject to destruction by the teredo worm that it had to be brought onto shore each evening to dry out. It required constant work, scraping the hull and keeping it covered with pitch (causing ancient historians and playwrights to speak of “black ships”), and the ships had to be sheltered in expensive sheds throughout the winter. Trireme crews had to be recruited, trained, and paid.
Hale’s description of all these processesincluding the development of troop carriers and horse transportssupersedes all previous efforts at producing an Athenian naval history. The illustrations and maps included in his study are first rate as well. His narrative is enthusiastic and compelling.
Naval warfare was not new...
(The entire section is 1834 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
Archaeology 62, no. 4 (July/August, 2009): 14.
Booklist 105, no. 15 (April 1, 2009): 9.
History: Reviews of New Books 38, no. 1 (Fall, 2009): 29-30.
Library Journal 134, no. 19 (November 15, 2009): 40.
The New York Times, August 7, 2009, p. 23.
Publishers Weekly 256, no. 17 (April 27, 2009): 123.
(The entire section is 29 words.)