Tuesday, January 05, 2016

First, There Was Ramming Speed (Part 2)


By 1210 BC, the first-recorded naval battle was fought between Suppiluliuma II, king of the Hittites, and Cyprus. Before crossbows and black powder had been invented by China, early navies had relied upon ramming to sink enemy vessels. Explosive ramming (with spar torpedo) was not used successfully until the H. L. Hunley sank the USS Housatonic as the first successful attack submarine in 1864.

A Rather Curious, Interim Naval Tactic

In 184 BC, over a millenium after the first-recorded naval battle, Hannibal of Carthage instructed his sailors to throw clay pots filled with venomous snakes onto the decks of  King Eumenes of Pergamon's ships.

The snake tactic was copied by the Greeks in famous fifth century BC and fourth century AD battles with a modification: snake venom was either removed from vipers beforehand or non venomous snakes were thrown onto enemy ships instead.  Apparently, venom removal and look-alikes rendered the dangerous tactic less effective in creating confusion, fear, and chaos aboard enemy vessels so the concept was eventually discontinued.  

As such naval combat refinements continued, Julius Caesar would hold the first simulated naval spectacle in Rome's Colosseum (46 BC).  Actual sailors from Roman naval headquarters at Misenum were used to work the Colosseum's giant sun shades (velaria).[30]  Otherwise, Caesar's spectacle featured gladiators as the combatants. Some 106 years later (52 AD)  Claudius produced more realistic entertainment in a real body of water (Lago Fucino).

Submarines are always silent and strange.

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