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Strange Hooks on Roman Ships

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Does anyone know what these “hooks” are called, and what their use is? I’ve noticed them a lot on Roman ship depictions of around the 1st-3rd century. They only seem to appear on ships with spirit sails, and in some depictions there is a rope or even a pulley system tying it to the spirit-mast. I can’t find any info on them online or in the books about Roman ships I have, and I’ve never seen them depicted in any reconstructions.



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Hi. Am not any expert, but what I know, on Roman warships there were often moveable bridges on the prove used for "aboardage"  - after the ship hit the enemy, the bridge was lowered (it had some kind of iron hooks that would bite to the enemy ship's deck) so the infantry could board the ship. Romans were not so keen sailors and when possible, to fight as on the land was preferred.

Check this. Could this be that strange thing, of course, simplified by the artist?


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Yeah, I don't think it's a "corvus" as it's only on cargo vessels. I think loading tackle might be a good possibility.


As there is always a rope attached to it. could it be some sort of tensioner/stay for the spirit-mast? The reliefs seem to show that the forestay is tied to the base of the spirit-mast, so perhaps to keep the spirit-mast from being pulled upwards it needed it's own stay? Is there anything like that on later ships? I'm curious what material it is made of, and how it even attaches to the stem. Is it attached to the side? Is it socketed in to it?


EDIT: Or maybe a proto-head/beak or proto-bowspirit? Bonino in Navi mercantili e barche di età romana does mention it in passing actually, and he calls it a "sort of bowspirit". He doesn't really discuss it depth though, or try to explain the strange shape they have on the reliefs.

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It is always associated with a spar and an attached yard and sail jutting out over the bow.

Do a mock up and determine what sort of staying lines and retaining structure is needed to make this sail functional.

Determine if it would require an active human presence at the fore end to handle the sail. 

This could clear up the function and just how large and strong it would have to be.  It is near impossible to forget how it all evolved over the next 1500 years but the bare minimum is likely to be close.

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