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10th-11th century Byzantine dromon by Louie da fly - 1:50 - FINISHED!

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On 8/15/2020 at 11:26 PM, MESSIS said:

The oars had to be able to pass through the oar holes. So I guess being a little narrow was ballanced by the greater nr of the oars.

I am thinking these are more "sweeps" than "oars".  Sweeps generally appear narrower, but that is probably when compared to what we think of as a smalll boat oar.  In reality, that is quite a bit of surface area that has to be pulled against.  ...and as Messis said, a greater number.


The "oar holes" were made to support the oars/sweeps, not vice versa.  It didn't matter how wide the sweeps were, the holes would have been made big enough to permit passthru.

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Thanks everybody for the likes and the comments. And Cathead and Jamie, that made my day! I love the parrot sketch. "The only reason he's on his perch is that he's nailed there!" "WAKE UP POLLY!"


Chuck, apparently the main difference between oars and sweeps (I had to look it up) is that a sweep is single, held with both hands (so you need your rowers to be in pairs, one for each side of the vessel) whereas an "oar" is used in pairs by the one oarsman. So yes, technically these should probably be referred to as sweeps.


And you're right, the size of the oarblades determines the width of the holes, not the other way around. But with this model there are no surviving oars, and contemporary illustrations aren't reliable, so I'm reverse engineering - the dromon's oarports are copied from a surviving oarport in a strake from one of the Yenikapi galleys, and I've based the width of the oar blades on that.

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Working on the very final pair of oarsmen. Arms carved and glued on, and holes drilled at the shoulders for bamboo pivots, to fix the arms firmly to the body and allow me to swivel the arms for best fit to the oarhandle without them breaking off:


20200823_102044.thumb.jpg.30fa3811a88420023780f0959a13e980.jpg  20200823_102553.thumb.jpg.761eb7bfd7d73d49ba6e36d5584319bd.jpg  20200823_102612.thumb.jpg.308629c7a1121fcace159ea887bf4d97.jpg 


Filler added - rather than try to get each pair of arms exactly right (an almost possible task fitting and re-fitting to both rower and angled oar-handle) I carved them so the hands fitted on the handle as close as I could make it, and allowed a bit of extra at the shoulder, and added filler to close up any discrepancies.


20200823_104238.thumb.jpg.09909c62a70dd42f6a170ed814368175.jpg  20200823_104257.thumb.jpg.ac1ceecabfb31d3ab8b0b1cbbf90261c.jpg


And trimmed to shape and sanded smooth


20200823_130921.thumb.jpg.0b3c2c51f8cb3b3d8ccb8e87228cea46.jpg     20200823_130950.thumb.jpg.7dbbca4de13b5dea59b41b2a848a2710.jpg


And finally, painted. 




And, at last, all the oarsmen in place! (breathes great sigh of relief).:dancetl6:

  20200823_135009.thumb.jpg.08122c0cf4dfbd46d6627746aa4f1f3b.jpg  20200823_134940.thumb.jpg.438fab56f2397d3b1ab45cec159a7dcf.jpg









If I never carve any oarsmen again, it will be too soon!


Another thing.  I discovered the halyard knights were really too small - they were only about half a metre (18 inches) tall at 1:50 scale - this is the knight for the after mast, but the foremast one is pretty much identical. 




so I made new ones about waist height.




Then I thought about it some more and decided they might be tall enough now, but probably a bit flimsy to take the forces imposed on them by the halyards. So I made heftier ones.




Pretty happy with these now. A real milestone achieved.:champagne:




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And now it can be told.


I was planning to change the final configuration of the ship -  rather than have her under full sail I decided that it would look really cool to do a bit of "living history" - to leave maybe four pairs of oarbenches empty and carve new figures to take the place of those oarsmen I'd already done, but assign them to "other duties". I'd have the foresail hoisted but still furled, with two or three guys up on the yard unfurling it:


924921328_PortSaidlateenfurling.thumb.jpg.05d7316aa8e8e64f92d74d0b2a5bb069.jpg    1523815776_JoaoJoseVaz-Largo.jpg.8bc31407bdd5b5c628553cec57e1b017.jpg


and a bunch of others in the process of hoisting the after sail like this:


1723124857_dhowpullinghalyard.jpg.848fd13db9a0a7176a8994c110adec2d.jpg  903585338_pullinghalyard.jpg.9ad235aa7e971ed1b4521eb4ba0bca07.jpg

or perhaps this:




I even carved four guys based on the picture above:


   20200815_151006.thumb.jpg.8383f6d6d1fceaec4e51b5171b79e10d.jpg  image.png.b9b53f39a50049388af738cfa36d64d0.png


Then I changed my mind. Good though this might be, I really think it wouldn't look as good as an overall display as my original idea, to have both sails fully set and drawing (the wind directly aft - the only circumstancs the sails would be set in a dromon because of its low freeboard) and "goosewinged" as in the pictures below.


1104492215_barq_leman_savoiegoosewing.jpg.2e11365899bac30da087abfa29d0220e.jpg  image.png.914e4844dd8bd591d48f40eb2e06f86a.png


So there you go. I'm happier with this idea - I think it will look a lot better.


Perhaps I could feel that my making these new guys had gone to waste, but in fact it was fun - a welcome relief from doing so many figures all the same. I don't really care if they never get used. If I'm not stuck on a "sausage machine" production line, I really do enjoy carving.







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That crew looks great Steven, you had set your self quite a task and achieved the desired outcome very well.


As a coincidence, I was looking at a documentary called 'The Real Bjorn Ironsides' last night and about half way, and three quarters the way through they popped up a picture of a dromon (same one) - not sure if it would help you.  It is supposed to be one built in Spain for the protection of their cities when the vikings came raiding.







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Thanks everybody for the likes and comments. 

3 hours ago, bigpetr said:

You will have the ship under the sails and with rowers rowing simultaneously? I thought it was one or the other. Can it be done simultaneously?

Apparently so. I forget the reference, but apparently it was not all that unusual. However, once the wind is reliable, there's no good reason to wear your rowers out, so you'd probably stop rowing. But for example the Argo reconstruction that rowed and sailed from Greece to Southern Russia in the 1970s did it every now and then when they needed extra motive power IIRC. However, the wind has to be from directly astern and not too strong - if the ship heels more than 10 degrees it is in danger of capsizing, and any heel would interfere with the oars of one side.


Maybe I'll use those guys. We'll see.


Banyan, I started looking at that video and then the computer ran out of internet. I'll have another look later.

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Pat, I had a look at the documentary - thanks for that.


I'd seen most of those dromon pics before, except for the one with the red square sails. There's been a lot of speculation on the true form of dromons - these ones are of course modern reconstructions (as is my own model), and there are an infinite number of ways to interpret the evidence that's come down to us about them. These are quite valid interpretations, but I do prefer Prof Pryor's ideas (with some additions and alterations from my own study and observation).


I appreciate your alerting me to this.

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OK, now we hit the part I've been dreading -the rigging.


I'm happy with the shrouds and halyards, but the rest of the running rigging has me a bit bamboozled.


Unfortunately I really have trouble understanding all them ropes, and as this is a lateener, not a square rigger, there's no easily available information on how it all works. However, I've been studying a lot of mediaeval pictures (many of which are so oversimplified as to be completely useless and others quite informative),


        68128832_Skylitzesf.014vcalcet.JPG.5164b9534d5a4da7c5fa3b285853921f.JPG  image.png.b555a05a88c5d78000e4e178088c2d32.png  Giotto_di_Bondone_-_Navicella_-_WGA09363.jpg.8a2e2139039d89495595d40ea58de6f2.jpg  image.png.62c7c0787c7b29a8e834092238b5fa25.png


photos of modern lateeners (most of which are too small to have the problems and forces involved in something as large as a dromon), and some have bowsprits which hadn't been invented yet - though in several of them it doesn't affect the lateen sail anyway.


image.png.529185e5bc61bc19f0a83f5955f821ff.png  image.png.6243d185d1442ac885820ec0a2b9585d.png


and photos of dhows (when the sail is a lateen rather than a setee), many of which are big enough, but often the photos don't show the details I need to know about.




Also models of lateen-rigged xebecs from MSW and elsewhere.


There seems to be quite a bit of variation - some have no vangs, some have only one, some have two. Others have no brails, some have a single sheet (as far as I can see), some have two - and the same goes for tacks - some with one on each side, some (at least in the mediaeval pictures) have only a single tack.


My two main questions are


- have I covered all the ropes used in the running rigging?




- where are the belaying points?



I've decided to use the tacking technique outlined in Landstrom's book The Ship, with the lee shrouds loosened and the lower end of the yard pulled back to the mast and pushed over to the other side, so the sail isn't fouled by the mast on the new tack.





As far as I can make out, that would mean that the tacks would have to run back to belaying points quite a distance astern of the mast, so you could pull the fore end of the yard far enough back to pass around the mast.


I've put together an annotated photo of my dromon with what I think is an acceptable layout (sorry for the messy background) . The white curved lines represent the sails, and the red lines are the ropes, with red ovals to represent blocks. The idea is to have a ringbolt as the fixed end of each rope and a cleat to belay the free end. Not sure if brails had been developed in the 11th century. Other than that, i hink I've got it as close as I can to the real thing.




I'd appreciate comments and suggestions. I'm rather out of my depth in all this.



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14 hours ago, Louie da fly said:

Oh, I know, I know. I have toyed with the idea of doing a diorama - but first I want to finish what I'm making.

If you do, will it be like those paintings or the relief?


Well done on the rowers, it is quite a colourful group, just the one for the rudder left ... or were there two on a dromon? (Raspberry stain turned out good on the awning ;) )

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I wouldn't do a diorama for this model. I was thinking of doing one of something like the picture of Antwerp roads from 1515,




but only a section of it, not the whole thing. And of course to a smaller scale than 1:50  . . .


Two steersmen on a dromon, but sometimes they lifted one rudder from the water and just used one, depending on the conditions. 


"Raspberry stain"? That's Imperial Purple, I'll have you know - from the murex shellfish! (Actually, for something that size they wouldn't use murex to make purple - too expensive - just madder for red and overdye it with woad for blue.)

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Well, I'm afraid I'm waffling a bit whether to have the sails set. Bigpetr's question got me thinking - do I know they used the sails while they were rowing, did I read that somewhere, or is it just an assumption on my part? If I can't remember where I got the idea, maybe I'll never be sure I have it right. So I did a bit of investigating; unless I read all the way through Pryor's book Age of the Dromon I'm not likely to find the reference (if there is one). I'm prepared to do that, but it's going to take a while. In the meantime the pictorial record does provide some evidence. Here are some Byzantine representations of dromons with both oars and sails in use:  from the 9th century Sacra Parallela BNF Gr. 923 f. 207r and the 12th century illustrated copy of the Synopsis Historion of Ioannis Skylitzes held in the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid (yes, I do believe that's a sail).


179702628_2masteddromonsBNFGr923sacraparallelaC9f207r.JPG.814d17619adaed3a3cbea76d35f4610b.JPG   800px-Greekfire-madridskylitzes1.jpg.5b48d7e3cb176e4963cb8d15148a59b8.jpg


And one from the fifth century AD Roman Aenid of Vergil in the Vatican Library (Cod. Lat. Vat. 3867, fol. 77r) which is a little early, but a galley is a galley . . .  the 12th century Spanish Cantigas de Santa Maria, and the late 12th century Italian Liber ad honorem Augusti (f. 131)


383284710_VergiliusRomanusCod_Lat.Vat3867fol_77r.jpg.91ac7507628fcc77ff58a3c46ce9a8d5.jpg.87b8d3705f792a5a7bf16b4eda68a041.jpg  Cantigas_de_Santa_Maria-095b-4.jpg.6d7a640e4b80140d62c46334156dd5e1.jpg  Liber_ad_honorem_Augusti-f131r.jpg.03adefbd8234c5c2d6e4b07d3e1b7940.jpg


However, there are also plenty of contemporary pictures of galleys, and not only in combat, without sails set, and in most cases without the masts either. The first two from the Synopsis Historion, the third from the Cantigas de Santa Maria and the fourth from the 12th century Byzantine Sermons of Gregory of Nazianzus, (Pantaleimon Cod. 6 f. 183r.)

image.png.e62024fe740fd2b758eeeabadca51025.png   1280593748_SkylitzesF29vdromonwithspur.png.7abe8ee1d4d1bda86d7525f7c472332d.png Cantigas_de_Santa_Maria-035-1-large.jpg.ac9bfde95620fa379338f01073d8cf69.jpg  1193631053_SermonsGregoryofNazianzusPantaleimonCod_6f_183r.JPG.5fcb0e46d3ab94c99dd70fb4db260b7e.JPG


So, where does this leave me? There seems to be enough evidence to justify having the sails hoisted while the oars are in use - unless the artists just decided "Hey, we've got oars and sails - let's show everything!"  


However, I'm also up against the problem that when I laid the whole thing out - hull, superstructure etc - belaying points were the furthest thing from my mind. So one pair of shrouds fouls the midship castles, and I'm really not sure if the same thing won't happen with the running rigging. Perhaps I'll just have the thing under oars alone, with the masts and yards stored on their stands above the deck - it's still an option. I need to do some serious thinking about all this.


In the meantime, today I've been cleaning up remnants of white glue. I'm a bit over-enthusiastic about slathering it all over the place (still better than when I was 17 -  parts of the Great Harry are not a pretty sight). I've previously used rubbing alcohol (otherwise known as isopropyl alcohol or isopropanol) to dissolve glue to remove things I'd glued down, but Liteflight put me onto using it to remove gobs of glue. So this afternoon I got a bit of cloth, a toothpick and some isopropanol and started rubbing the messy bits of glue that detracted from the look of the model, particularly on the gunwale where the oars and pavesades were glued on. And it worked! Looks much better. A fair bit of elbow grease involved, but well worth it. So thank you, Liteflight.


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Hi Stephen


I have a couple of comments, hopefully they might be useful. But they wouldn't affect the rigging so much as giving alternative ideas on how they might have worked with a simple rig that has limitations:


Given what you say about the stability of these vessels, it is a possibility that they did not gybe the sails. It is a tricky manoeuvre even in a little dinghy, let alone such a large sail area & a tender boat. It sounds like a possibility that for them, sailing meant heading downwind or within maybe 5-10º off the wind, & to make any angle to the wind they dropped the sails - or a slight angle with no gybing. Why risk it all with a gybe?


Or - for one gybe they hoisted one of the sails (port tack, say).  If they wanted to change angle to the wind, they dropped that sail & hoisted the other one.


Or - looking at you sail plan, I would think they could gybe the foresail on deck - drop it & carry the spar & sail aft, around the mast & forwards again. It would be pretty easy with all that labour on tap.

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I'd agree with you, Mark. However, in Björn Landström's book The Ship there's a copy of a 16th century watercolour by Rafaello (no, not the turtle) showing a galley (almost certainly just as unstable as a dromon) doing just that.




It would take a fair bit of skill, I should imagine, to reduce the suddenness of the force as the sail changes position. But my experience in sailing is so minimal that I can only theorise. Landström is of the opinion that this watercolour was done using a model, but I'm hoping we can assume Rafaello actually did paint a manoeuvre he'd seen in real life.

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For my 2 denarii worth, she would look awesome with a pair of goose winged lateens.  ( and no glue globs)

Who knows if sail was used at the same time as oars (sweeps), but I would take a fair bet that it was done, because it could be done.


So when you have completed the research and rig- could you fancy a quinquireme (port of registry Nineveh, last port of call: Ophir) with full and weary crew and peacock sound effects?


I see you have a neat French bon mot as your signature.  I am always puzzled by the French canadien song about “ Alumette, gentil Alumette ,  je te plumerai.....”. 
Or do I have something grabled?

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  • ccoyle changed the title to 10th-11th century Byzantine dromon by Louie da fly - 1:50 - FINISHED!

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