Hellenistic Tesserakonteres: Largest Human-Powered Vessels In History

Hellenistic Tesserakonteres: Largest Human-Powered Vessels In History

During the Hellenistic era, heavy polyremes warships such as hexaremes, septiremes, etc, became fairly common and were definitely used in battle, although the pentere remained the main line-of-battle galley.

“Appearing at the end of the fourth century BC in the fleet of Demetrios Poliorketes, these super-galleys expanded quickly to reach the level of twenty and thirty rows of oars and culminate, towards the end of the third century BC, with the forty of Ptolemy IV Philopator powered by 4000 rowers.”

~Patrice Pomey.

During the war between Ptolemaios Keraunos and Antigonos Gonatas, the Heraklean fleet (which fought on Keraunos’ side) was made up of “hexaremes, penteres and an octere”. The latter, probably the flagship, had 1600 oarsmen and 1200 soldiers and mariners on the decks, and two helmsmen. Memnon states that this giant ship was actually effective during the battle.

“These warships resembled to floating fortresses, very similar in size to the modern battleships and aircraft carriers. The tessarakonteres had a crew of 6.000 men (officers, oarsmen, sailors, marines and others), as many as a modern aircraft carrier.”

~Periklis Deligiannis.

Stats of the tesserakonteres: Length: 130 m. Beam: 17 m per catamaran hull. Longest rowing oars: 17 m. Oarsmen: 4,000, officers, ratings, deckhands: 400, Marines: 2,850.

Source & Illustration: Paweł Moszczyński for Mówią Wieki Magazine, Feb. 2010.

Medieval Cats

Detail of miniatures of cats catching mice, mice stealing eucharistic wafers, and (below), an ancestor of Keyboard Cat: a later marginal doodle of a cat playing a stringed instrument; from a bestiary, England (Salisbury?), 2nd quarter of the 13th century.

Detail of a miniature of a nun spinning thread, as her pet cat plays with the spindle; from the Maastricht Hours, the Netherlands (Liège), 1st quarter of the 14th century.

Now this is the weirdest one by far. (The story, of course, is bogus.):

Alexander the Great, whose fictional explorations of the natural world were retold throughout the Middle Ages, included a cat, along with the cock and the dog, as his companions in a proto-submarine. Here, the animal was not merely a pet, but a natural rebreather, purifying the air so Alexander would not stifle in the enclosed space. The dog was more unfortunate, chosen as an emergency escape mechanism: water, medieval readers were assured, would expell the impurity of a dog’s dead carcasse. If Alexander encountered danger, he had only to kill the dog, which would be expelled to the surface, bringing Alexander with it. As for the cock – everyone knows how valuable they are for telling time with their crows, a useful function underwater, out of sight of the sky.

The Euphronios Krater

Today in Museum History —> On this day in 2008 – The Euphronios Krater is unveiled in Rome after being returned to Italy by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Here’s a picture of that beautiful Greek vase, created by Euphronios about 515 B.C.

The Euphronios Krater (or Sarpedon Krater) is an ancient Greek terra cotta calyx-krater, a bowl used for mixing wine with water. Created around the year 515 BC, it is the only complete example of the surviving 27 vases painted by the renowned Euphronios and is considered one of the finest Greek vase artifacts in existence. Part of the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1972 to 2008, the vase was repatriated to Italy under an agreement negotiated in February 2006, and it is now in the collection of the Archaeological Museum of Cerveteri as part of a strategy of returning stolen works of art to their place of origin

The Hydra

The Hydra, also called the Lernean Hydra, in Greek mythology, the offspring of Typhon and Echidna (according to Hesiod’s Theogony), a gigantic water-snake-like monster with nine heads (the number varies), one of which was immortal. The monster’s haunt was the marshes of Lerna, near Árgos, from which he periodically emerged to harry the people and livestock of Lerna. Anyone who attempted to behead the Hydra found that as soon as one head was cut off, two more heads would emerge from the fresh wound.

The destruction of the Lernean Hydra became one of the 12 Labours of Heracles. For that and other labours, Heracles enlisted the aid of his nephew Iolaus. As Heracles severed each mortal head, Iolaus was set to the task of cauterizing the fresh wounds so that no new heads would emerge. When only the immortal head remained, Heracles cut it off too and buried it under a heavy rock. Further, he dipped his arrows in the beast’s poisonous blood (or venom) to be able to inflict fatal wounds. According to Sophocles(Trachinian Women), that measure eventually caused his own accidental death at the hands of his wife, Deianeira.

In modern English, hydra or hydra-headed can describe a difficult or multifarious situation. The name hydra has been assigned to a genus of invertebrate freshwater animals having a circlet of 4 to 25 tentacles on one end of its tubelike body.


Cerberus, whom Homer calls “the hound of Hades,” was one of the brood of monsters, which include the Hydra of Lerna and the Chimaera, spawned by Typhon and the half maiden, half serpent Echidna. He was variously described as having as many as fifty or one hundred heads and as few as three. The mythographer Apollodorus writes that Cerberus, the three-headed dog, had the tail of a dragon and snakes’ heads growing from his back. For the poet Hesiod, Cerberus was an eater of raw flesh and had a bark like clashing bronze.

Cerberus’s duty was to allow the deceased to enter the House of Hades but to block the living from entering and the dead from leaving. On the instruction of the Sibyl of Cumae, the living hero Aeneas secured passage into Hades by throwing Cerberus a drugged honey cake. The best-known myth involving Cerberus is the tale of Hercules’s twelfth and final Labor (or by some accounts, the tenth): Hercules was ordered to bring Cerberus up from the Underworld, a task that he accomplished by overpowering the beast without the use of weapons. As the poet Ovid writes, upon reaching the realm of the living, the distressed hound raged, foam from its mouth falling upon the earth to produce the poisonous plant aconite, which the sorceress Medea used in attempting to kill the hero Theseus.

Hylas and the Nymphs

Hylas and the Nymphs

Hylas and the Nymphs is not one of John William Waterhouse’s most well known works, however it is a prime example of his skill as an artist and therefore has received very little negative comment since its completion in 1896.

Taken from the story of Jason and the Argonauts, Hylas was an Argonaut warrior and the assistant and lover of Herlkas. He was also known to be a very handsome youth.

When Jason’s boat landed on an island during his search for the Golden Fleece, Hylas was sent to fetch water for the camp. Finding a pool in a clearing, he reached down and put his pitcher into the water. Before he could lift his pitcher he looked up to discover water nymphs encircling him. Drawn by his beauty, one of the nymphs reached up to kiss Hylas.

The tale stops there and Hylas disappeared without trace from that moment, it was said that Herlkas searched the island for his beloved, in fact such a time passed that the boat left without him.

5 Fun Facts about the Acropolis

5 Fun Facts about the Acropolis:

1. During the Ottoman occupation, the Parthenon was a mosque and the Erechtheion next to it a harem. When the Ottoman occupation ended, the new king Otto wanted to build his palace on the Acropolis hill. Luckily, his father, who was very fond of the ancient Greek civilization, talked him out of it.

2. It is believed that Socrates was one of the stonemasons working on the monument’s construction.

3. Every column required 19,000 man-hours, which is the number of man-hours needed to construct a medium sized apartment block today.

4. The Parthenon’s sculptural decoration was finished by the 150 stonemasons and 50 sculptors who created it at the first place. Of those workmen, 20% were slaves, 30% Athenians and 50% metics (free, non-citizen residents).

5. The most important sculpture of the Parthenon was not outside but inside. There is evidence that the temple was built to measure in order to accommodate the chryselephantine statue of Athena by Pheidias.

The Colossus of Rhodes

The Colossus of Rhodes was a statue of the Greek sun-god Helios, on the island of Rhodes in 280 BC. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it was constructed to celebrate Rhodes’ victory over the ruler of Cyprus in 305 BC.

According to most contemporary descriptions, the Colossus stood approximately 33 metres (108 feet) high—the approximate height of the modern Statue of Liberty from feet to crown—making it the tallest statue of the ancient world.

Unfortunately It collapsed during an earthquake in 226 BC; although parts of it were preserved, it was never rebuilt. Fast forward to today and there are tentative plans to rebuild the Colossus at Rhodes Harbour although the exact position of the original is unknown.