Conference: 88th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History, Fort Worth, Texas – Spring 2022
Session: Issues of Governance, War, and Identity from Rome to Vietnam
Paper Title: The Syracusan Trireme 413 BCE: Reinterpretation, Technology, and Tactics
Abstract: During the Peloponnesian War, the Athenian Empire toyed with hegemonic success over its Greek neighbors but was eventually defeated by their own hubris and the tactical innovations of their enemies. One of the most devastating losses for the Athenians was the Sicilian Expedition, which lasted from 415 to 413 BCE. When the Athenians began the Sicilian Expedition, their intent was to capture the city of Syracuse and subjugate all of Sicily. They had no inclination that it would end in the complete destruction of the Athenian expeditionary force sent to the island. The Athenians were essentially defeated by disadvantages, which included limited space in the Syracusan harbor to perform ramming maneuvers such as the diekplous and periplous, exhaustion from a prolonged campaign, and waterlogged warships. Arguably, these disadvantages had less of an effect on the Syracusan victory. Rather, the Syracusans improvements to their own triremes in order to ram the enemy ships prow to prow led to their triumph. Thucydides’ Histories and Diodorus Siculus’ Bibliotheca Historica describe these modifications in detail. By reinterpreting the ancient sources and modern scholarship alongside recent archaeological discoveries, it is possible to conceive what these modifications may have looked like. The aim of this paper is not to offer a full hypothetical reconstruction of the Syracusan trireme, but to discuss the proposed limitations of its construction and tactical advantages and disadvantages as they pertain to naval warfare. A better understanding of this period in naval warfare provides greater insight into the developments of shipbuilding and combat in the Classical and Hellenistic periods, as well as an alternative narrative of Athenian naval superiority during the Peloponnesian War.
Conference: Texas A&M Anthropology Department Conference, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas – Spring 2021
Session: Greeks, Romans, & Egyptians…Oh My!
Paper Title: The Athenian Trireme: A Hermaphroditic Role
Abstract: Warfare and weapons are typically talked about in androcentric terms. However, in Attic Greek plays the Athenian trireme takes on a dualistic gendered role. The trireme is both a masculine and feminine entity that possesses both masculine and feminine traits. Its dualistic gendered nature is presented to us through jokes, metaphors, and euphemisms within the ancient sources. These sources reveal that the trireme, and many parts of ships in general, are sexualized in the Greek world. From the tip of the ram to the interior of the hull, each part of the Athenian trireme represents some masculine or feminine ideal. Being a warship, the trireme operates in an androcentric sphere, with its prime directive being a male penetrative ramming force. On the other hand, the trireme is viewed as a female force that is nurturing and life-giving. The trireme is personified as having both male and female reproductive organs, which indicates its hermaphroditic nature. The dual masculine and feminine role that the trireme plays makes the Athenian trireme a microcosm of the complex sexual discourses taking place in Athens and in the Athenian navy during the 5th and 4th centuries BCE.
Conference: Texas A&M History Conference, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas – Spring 2020
Session: Reconstructing Ancient Sicilian
Paper Title: Possibilities and Limitations of Reconstructing the Battle of the Egadi Islands and Other Ancient Naval Battles
Award: Best Original Research Paper in the Doctoral Category
Abstract: On March 10th, 241 BCE, a Roman and Carthaginian fleet met in a naval engagement off the coast of Sicily. This battle would determine the fate of the First Punic War and set the stage for Rome’s imperialistic expansion. In recent years, naval rams have continuously been discovered off the coast of the Egadi Islands where the encounter is said to have occurred according to the ancient sources. These rams are the first direct evidence of an actual naval battle site and provide a plethora of evidence related to naval warfare during this period. With this newfound archaeological evidence along with ancient sources, it is possible to better reconstruct the naval battle. I argue that there are certain possibilities and limitations of reconstructing the Battle of the Egadi Islands as well as other ancient naval battles in general based on the information available. Reconstructions are important as they can provide invaluable evidence into how ancient naval battles were conducted and an insight into how ancient societies viewed war. Even with the possibilities of reconstruction, there are always a set of limitations that restrict any reconstruction which, in part, includes the reliability of the sources, types of weaponry involved, and the kinds of tactics used by both combatants.
Conference: Florida Conference of Historians, New College of Florida, Sarasota, Florida – Spring 2019
Session: Sources of Historical Knowledge
Paper Title: Egadi Rams: Practical Methods for Inscribing a Naval Ram and Epigraphic Categorization
Abstract: On the 10th of March 241 BCE, two fleets met off the shores of the Egadi Islands, which would decide the fate of the First Punic War. The Roman naval commander, Gaius Catulus, led his fleet of about 200 quinqueremes against a virtually equal Carthaginian fleet. The ensuing encounter, as described in one account by the ancient historian Polybius, was a remarkable victory for the Romans. The team of historians and maritime archaeologists working at the Egadi Islands uncovered a plethora of artifacts including amphoras, helmets, and naval rams. The discovery and excavation of these rams is fascinating for two reasons. Firstly, they are among some of the only naval rams that have been discovered from this period of antiquity. Secondly, several of these rams unexpectedly have inscriptions on them. Within recent years Tusa and Prag published two articles, respectively, entitled “The Landscape of Naval Battle at the Egadi Islands (241 B.C.)” and “Bronze Rostra from the Egadi Islands off NW Sicily: The Latin Inscriptions.”. The objective of this paper is to investigate and evaluate the methods in which an inscription could have been engraved or produced on a naval ram. I argue that there are five logical, distinct processes in which naval ram inscriptions were created. I list them in order based on the likelihood that some of the naval rams were inscribed in such ways, the simplicity of each technique, and the evidence that supports each procedure. These methods are as follows: raised casting, sunken casting, simple chiseling, ingot placing, and extensive chiseling. Moreover, this paper aims to discuss the Roman quaestors, who were Roman state officials whose offices and names have been inscribed on these naval rams and determine their purpose in the production process. I also provide a place for these inscriptions to be categorized within the greater epigraphic corpora.
Conference: Phi Alpha Theta Regional Conference, University of North Florida, Jacksonville, Florida – Spring 2019
Session: Ancient Rome
Paper Title: Greek Paideia vs. Roman Virtus: Plutarch’s Subversion and Re-Definition of Masculinity in the Lives of Marius and Pyrrhus
Abstract: Historians have studied Greek and Roman masculinity through a variety of sources but seldom through Plutarch’s Lives. Throughout the Moralia, Plutarch presents paideia as a defining characteristic of ideal ‘masculine’ leaders. Its civilizing force promotes moderation and self-restraint, qualities that Greeks held to be the distinctive characteristics of masculinity or arete. By contrast, Roman masculinity, virtus, traditionally emphasized courage and military prowess. Under the influence of their own paideia, many Roman elite men embraced a definition of masculinity that more closely resembled arete than primitive forms of virtus. Nonetheless, Roman emperors were still judged both as leaders and men based on their military prowess. The sense of superiority they felt as rulers of the Mediterranean world could render them ignorant to the useful lessons and suggestions of their fellow citizens, but even more so of their provincial subjects. In his Lives of Pyrrhus and Marius, Plutarch demonstrates the limitations of Roman martial notions of virtus for statesmen. Although both these men were talented and successful generals, they lacked the self-restraint taught by paideia and, consequently, failed as both leaders and men. Plutarch suggests that if they enjoyed the benefits of paideia, they could have easily avoided their shameful ends by moderating their philotimia, or ambition, and andreia. An examination of these Lives reveals Plutarch’s attempts to convince his Roman overlords to adopt his own notions of masculinity with the intention of teaching them to appreciate the masculinity of their subjects as well as the virtue of learning from one’s inferiors.