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The Roman army very seldom transported men by ship - sea travel was dangerous and could take a long time. However, sometimes it was done - crossings of the Mediterranean and the english channel mainly.

Does anyone know of any evidence for the size of ship used to transport troops, or how many men could have been carried aboard each vessel? What about transporting cavalry units? Is there any comparable information from later eras (the medieval period, for example) when ship size and technology would have been roughly similar?
I have come across much relevant information in later Greek texts. Would you be interested in any era?
Who was it... that's it Symmachus! Symmachus records an instance of transporting (I think it was 9 horses) to Rome for a games and of those, 7 horses died en-route even with several stops along the Spanish, Gallic, and Italic coasts.

AFAIK the Western Roman Empire relied on merchant vessels for troopships between 439-468. Evidently there were still some Liburnians under Aetius (Ricimer used a small fleet to defeat the Vandals off the coast of Corsica; there is no record of new ships being built until 461 under Majorian).
One very good source I remember is Procopius, De bello Vandalico, B.1, ch.11. s.13

It is about the fleet of Belisarius, with which he sailed to Africa. According to the author, the fleet, besides the dromones IIRC, comprised 500 ships, of which none could carry more than 50,000 medimnoi and none less than 3,000. Surely, these ships were carrying the whole armament and supplies of the army but still, it is quite useful information as I see it.

I have many indirect quotes (number of ships plus attested size of army) but the ones I checked did not have more specific information....
Quote: Surely, these ships were carrying the whole armament and supplies of the army

How large was the army? It could be possible to do a rough 'troops divided by ships' calculation to try and guess how many men might have boarded each vessel. Do any of your other references allow an army size/ ship number division like this?
I will try hard to remember where I saw it.....

But I have seen a reconstruction of a troop ship that was perfectly sized to either carry a full century or a full turma - ie designed along exactly the same lines as the barracks.
Caesar (BC book 3.28) mentions two ships, one carrying two hundred and twenty recruits, the other somewhat less than two hundred veterans.
In Plutarch's Pompey (11.2.), he has the general sail against Domitius 6 full legions to Libya with 120 long ships (warships) and 800 transports. Although he specifically states that the transports were carrying wheat, missiles, money and war-engines, I think that they would also be the main method of transporting the legions too.

Aelius Gallus sailed to Arabia Felix with no less than 80 biremes, triremes and phaseloi ships, 130 transports and about 10,000 troops (Strabo 16.4.23.).

Scipio Africanus sailed to Africa with 52 long ships, 400 transports, many smaller vessels and an army of 16,000 infantry and 1,600 cavalry (Appianus, Libyca, 50.4.).

In 340 BC, the Carthaginians under Hamilcar and Hasdrubal sailed to Sicily with an army of more than 70,000 foot, no less than 10,000 horse and chariots, 200 long ships and over 1,000 transports (Diodorus, 16.77.4, Plutarch, Timoleon, 25.1.)

Belisarius' army was 10,000 foot and 5,000 horse strong as well as 1,000 horse archers. Theophanes Confessor, quoting Procopius also mentions the force and the fleet (189.13)

These are the relevant quotes I found in my notes, hope they help.
Don't forget the famous Battle of Cape Bon in 468.
What I got:

Quote:Die Zusammensetzung der Besatzung

Die Besatzung einer Triere besteht aus athenischen Bürgern, aus Metöken und aus angeworbenen Fremden11. Der Anteil dieser drei Gruppen an der Besatzung bestimmt sich nun wie folgt:
1) IG 112 1951 (a. 413?), Aristoph. Ach. 162f. (a. 425) und Thuk. 6,31,3 (a, 415) sichern, daß z. Zt. des peloponnesischen Krieges die 6 Mann der Schiffsführung. die 10 Epibaten, die 4 Bogenschützen und aus den Reihen der 170 Ruderer die 62 Thraniten athenische Bürger waren, also von den rund 200 Mann Besatzung rund 80 Mann.

Source: Ruschenbusch, Eberhard (1979), "Zur Besatzung athenischer Trieren", Historia 28: 106–110 (110)

-> The crew of an Athenian Trireme in the Peloponnesian War consisted of 170 rowers and 30 'marines'.

Quote:With the amount of deck space legislated by Marseilles for each pilgrim or crusader, ships of the size of the average three-decked ship could carry around 500–550 passengers. One thirteenth century Genoese ship, the Oliva, is known to have had a capacity of 1,100 passengers. Such ships were intercepted and captured by Saladin’s squadrons in the 1170s and 1180s and were referred to in Arabic sources as bu>ash. According to Arabic sources, one ba>sha wrecked off Damietta in 1181/1182 was carrying 2,500 passengers, of whom 1,690 were taken alive. The figures are probably exaggerated, but perhaps not by a great deal if the ship was indeed very large. They could also carry up to 100 horses, normally on the lowest deck, as revealed by a Marseillese contract of 1268 with Louis IX, which specified a fare of 25 shillings for passengers if horses were not stabled there.

Source: John Pryor: "Ships" in: The Crusades. An Encyclopedia, 2006

The contract between Venice and the Crusaders of the 4th crusade is also instructive:

Quote:The contract called for the transport of 4,500 knights and horses, 9,000 squires, and 20,000 foot soldiers. In addition, Enrico Dandolo, the doge of Venice, offered to supply 50 galleys crewed and armed at Venice’s expense. Horses and squires were to be carried on horse transports (Lat. uisserii, Fr. uissiers), and lords and their men on sailing ships. Transports were to be available for up to a year from departure on 29 June 1202. Venetian commerce was suspended while the fleet was being made ready. Some 7,500 men would have sailed in the battle fleet. For 4,500 knights and 20,000 foot soldiers, perhaps around 40 first-rate sailing ships would have been needed; proportionately more smaller ones would be required if larger ships were unavailable. Around 4,500 sailors would have been needed for a fleet with a capacity of 24,500 passengers. Venetian uissiers of 1202–1204 probably required around 130 men each, or 19,500 men in total. In the end not all the ships and men were needed, but the Venetians did not know that. The fleet that assembled had 50 war galleys and around 150 uissiers, with total crews of around 27,000 men, plus an unknown number of sailing ships with crews of around 4,500, a massive commitment.

Source: The Crusades. An Encyclopedia, 2006, p. 872
I have no details on size of the transports but during Caesar's first invasion of Britain in 55BC, which was hastily organized he commandeered roughly 100 ships from the territory of the Morini to act as transports. Eighteen of these were readied to carry his cavalry which was about 500 men and horses strong so just on my rough calculations thats 28 horses per ship. (Gallic War 4.21) and about 80 ships to transport 2 legions so if 10,000 men then about 125 men per ship. These were accompanied by various warships but invasion was a disaster as some transports were driven back by unfavourable winds and the ones that made it had to anchor some distance offshore so on his next invasion they used modified ships which Caesar personally designed. They were broader, had a lower freeboard and were powered by both oar and sail. This information from 'Roman Britain and the Roman Navy' by David J.P. Mason.
Michael Kerr
For his Persian campaign in AD363, Julian assembled a fleet of 1100 ships to sail down the Euphrates and then, via the Naarmalcha canal, into the Tigris. Of these, 1000 were transports carrying provisions, weapons and siege equipment, 50 were warships and 50 were for making bridges (Amm. 23.3.9). Nearing the Persian capital of Ctesiphon, he ordered the strongest of the transports to be unloaded and shipped 80 soldiers on each (octogenis - Rolfe, in the Loeb edition, translates this as 800!)(Amm. 24.6.4).
Quote:In Plutarch's Pompey (11.2.), he has the general sail against Domitius 6 full legions to Libya with 120 long ships (warships) and 800 transports. Although he specifically states that the transports were carrying wheat, missiles, money and war-engines, I think that they would also be the main method of transporting the legions too.

Imagine standing along the shorelines and watching that armada pass by (if it would have been possible to see with the naked eye). Pretty impressive.

Thanks for this thread Nathan. Very timely for me as I am modeling a Roman War scene with a bireme. As a spinoff question to your initial thread question I wonder if anyone has read anything with the Romans using biremes or other craft for ranged weapon support during a conflict. I currently have a Scorpio along with Syrian archers on the bireme providing indirect fire support. Am I somewhat in the ballpark on the historical record here or am I giving Hollywood a good run for their money?? Cry

I recall Simon Scarrow writing (historical fiction obviously) in one of his Macro/Cato Eagle books that the legion under the command of Vespasian pulled off a seaborne invasion akin to Normady 1944 (though not as large Smile)
Caesar's first landing in Britain immediately springs to mind:

When Caesar observed this, he ordered the ships of war, the appearance of which was somewhat strange to the barbarians and the motion more ready for service, to be withdrawn a little from the transport vessels, and to be propelled by their oars, and be stationed toward the open flank of the enemy, and the enemy to be beaten off and driven away, with slings, arrows, and engines: which plan was of great service to our men; for the barbarians being startled by the form of our ships and the motions of our oars and the nature of our engines, which was strange to them, stopped, and shortly after retreated a little. And while our men were hesitating [whether they should advance to the shore], chiefly on account of the depth of the sea, he who carried the eagle of the tenth legion, after supplicating the gods that the matter might turn out favorably to the legion, exclaimed, "Leap, fellow soldiers, unless you wish to betray your eagle to the enemy. I, for my part, will perform my duty to the commonwealth and my general." When he had said this with a loud voice, he leaped from the ship and proceeded to bear the eagle toward the enemy. Then our men, exhorting one another that so great a disgrace should not be incurred, all leaped from the ship. When those in the nearest vessels saw them, they speedily followed and approached the enemy.
As for horse transports, they were first mentioned by Thukydides IIRC.

Additional literature on medieval horse transporters:
Lillian Martin - Horse and Cargo Handling on Medieval Mediterranean Ships in: The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology
Bernard Bachrach - On the Origins of William the Conqueror's Horse Transports in: Technology and Culture

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