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Ancient Roman Trireme
An Ancient Roman Trireme (Reconstruction)

The trireme was planned for fighting at close quarters.  The bow was strongly built, to withstand the shock when its powerful metal ram pierced the side of an enemy ship.  The ram protruded from below the raised deck or castle tower, at the front, the part of a ship now known as the forecastle.  Sometimes the warship had one sail, often two or more. 

Back of the tower was a long deck for light-armed soldiers, with places for the oarsmen below.  The rowers were arranged about as in the Greek trireme.  Near the stern was a deckhouse for the captain, with seats for the steersmen who guided the ship with sweeps hanging one from each side. 

In front of the stern post a carved ornament, the "goose-head," symbolized the floating powers of the ship.  In later times, even down to the nineteenth century, vessels with several banks of oars, called galleys, were rowed by captives and prisoners known as galley slaves.

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