Roman Warships in Experiment: Reconstruction and Sailing Tests
Hans Moritz Guenther (CfA)
Monday 2 April 2012, 12:00 pm
Pratt conference room, 60 Garden Street
Warning: This talk is non-astronomical and contains actual videos and possibly sound.
After the climax of its power, internal struggle weakened the military position of the Roman Empire. A series of attacks in the 2nd and 3rd century AD forced an adjustment of the military strategy in central Europe.
Instead of further expansion, the border of the empire were increasingly fortified. In Germany this lead to the construction of an impressive naval fleet on the rivers Rhine and Danube. Several of the boat have been excavated.
Out team has attempted a reconstruction of two types of vessel, the "navis lusoria" and the "Oberstimm", with a level of detail down to the hand-smithened nails with the correct metallurgy. A series of three working boats have been built in original size.
I will show pictures of the reconstruction phase, but concentrate on the on-the-water tests we have performed with different teams to access the speed, maneuverability and sailing performance of these boats.
Particularly in sailing the possibilities far exceeded the expectations. This result indicates a much larger operating radius of these vessels than previously estimated and thus a much higher flexibility of the river defense scheme which the empire relied on to keep the barbarians at bay.