Ancient Naval History

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Ancient Naval History dates back thousands of years. In ancient maritime history, evidence of maritime trade between civilizations dates back at least three millennia. The first state to establish a navy was the Egyptian Empire or New Kingdom of Egypt around 1550 BC. Below is a brief overview of the main navies of the ancient world through to the end of the 5th Century AD.

Overview

Illustration of the Sumerian port city of Eridu, c. 5000 BCE

Ancient Naval History dates back thousands of years. In ancient maritime history, evidence of maritime trade between civilizations dates back at least three millennia. The Arabian Sea has been an important marine trade route since the era of the coastal sailing vessels from possibly as early as the 3rd millennium BC, certainly the late 2nd millennium BC through later days in the Age of exploration. The Mediterranean has always been the epicentre of great political entities, such as the Carthaginians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians. In the Indian Ocean naval history began during the 3rd millennium BCE when inhabitants of the Indus Valley initiated maritime trading contact with Mesopotamia. The Roman historian Strabo mentions an increase in Roman trade with India following the Roman annexation of Egypt. In the East Asia the naval history of China dates back thousands of years, with archives existing since the late Spring and Autumn period (722 BC – 481 BC) about the ancient navy of China and the various ship types used in war.

Arabian and Red Sea

Maritime History

The Arabian Sea has been an important marine trade route since the era of the coastal sailing vessels from possibly as early as the 3rd millennium BCE, certainly the late 2nd millennium BCE through the later days known as the Age of Sail. By the time of Julius Caesar, several well-established combined land-sea trade routes depended upon water transport through the Sea around the rough inland terrain features to its north. The Arabian Sea historically and geographically has been referred to by many different names by Arabian and European geographers and travellers, including Indian Sea, Persian Sea,[5] Sindhu Sagar, Arabbi Samudra, Erythraean Sea, Sindh Sea, and Akhzar Sea.

The earliest known exploration of the Red Sea was conducted by ancient Egyptians, as they attempted to establish commercial routes to Punt. One such expedition took place around 2500 BC, and another around 1500 BC (by Hatshepsut). In the 6th century BC, Darius the Great of Persia sent reconnaissance missions to the Red Sea. In the late 4th century BC, Alexander the Great sent Greek naval expeditions down the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean. Greek navigators continued to explore and compile data on the Red Sea. Agatharchides collected information about the sea in the 2nd century BC. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea ("Periplus of the Red Sea"), a Greek periplus written by an unknown author around the 1st century AD, contains a detailed description of the Red Sea's ports and sea routes. The Periplus also describes how Hippalus first discovered the direct route from the Red Sea to India. The Red Sea was favored for Roman trade with India starting with the reign of Augustus, when the Roman Empire gained control over the Mediterranean, Egypt, and the northern Red Sea. The route had been used by previous states but grew in the volume of traffic under the Romans. From Indian ports goods from China were introduced to the Roman world. Contact between Rome and China depended on the Red Sea, but the route was broken by the Aksumite Empire around the 3rd century AD.

Naval powers

The leading naval powers the operated in the Arabian and Red Seas during this period included:

Leading Naval Powers
Main article — Egyptian Navy (1550 – 332 BC)

The Ancient Egyptian Navy became the foremost naval power during middle bronze age following massive reorganization of the Egyptian military in the New Kingdom of Egypt in 1550 BC and the expansionist foreign policy pursued by the Kings. The navy lost its role of maritime superpower after the end of the New Kingdom in 1069 BC. It continued as an independent force until 524 BC when it was absorbed into the Persian Navy as a constituent component. It was finally reestablished as an independent force in 330 BC as part of the armed forces of the Ptolemaic Kingdom until 31 BC.[1]

Main Article — Persian Navy (550-330 BC)

The Persian Navy or the Imperial Persian Navy in one form or another has existed since the 6th century BC and was the main naval force of the Achaemenid Empire. The navy played an important role in the military efforts of the Persians in late antiquity in protecting and expanding trade routes along the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean.[2]

Mediterranean Sea

Battle of the Nile Delta 1175 BC between the Egyptian Navy and the Sea Peoples, painting by Igor Dzis

Maritime History

The Mediterranean Sea was an important route for merchants and travellers of ancient times that allowed for trade and cultural exchange between emergent peoples of the region. The history of the Mediterranean Sea is crucial to understanding the origins and development of many modern societies. The Mediterranean Sea was the central superhighway of transport, trade and cultural exchange between diverse peoples encompassing three continents: Western Asia, North Africa, and Southern Europe. The history of the cultures and people of the Mediterranean Basin is important for understanding the origin and development of the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Canaanite, Phoenician, Hebrew, Carthaginian, Greek, Persian, Thracian, Etruscan, Iberian, Roman, Byzantine, Bulgarian, Arab, Ottoman, Christian and Islamic cultures.

Naval Powers

The naval powers the operated in the Mediterranean Sea during this period included:

Mycenaean Navy

The Mycenaean Navy was the main naval force of the the Greek Mycenaean Kingdom from 1600 to 1100 BC. The Mycenaean's supplanted the Minoan Navy as the main sea power in the Aegean Sea around about 1450 BC taking over its trading bases and maritime commerce. However there is no confirmed evidence if this was a a result of a massive naval engagement between both navies. Around 1200 BC sea raiding forces began to disrupt trade lanes in the Eastern Mediterranean that also affected the New Kingdom of Egypt. The increase in this type of activity led to the eventual collapse of the Mycenaean civilization this bringing an end to age of maritime enterprise and the beginning of the age of the sea raiders the most well known of which are called by modern historians the Sea Peoples.[3] [4]

Hittite Navy

The Hittite Navy was the main naval force of the Hittite Kingdom then later Hittite Empire from 1550-1100 BC. It was one of the main adversary's of the Egyptian Navy.[5]

Egyptian Navy

Egypt has had a navy since Ancient Egyptian times. The Egyptian Navy↓ began to become ever more crucial in maintaining Egyptian power and influence abroad. The Ancient Egyptian Navy was a vital part of the military of ancient Egypt, helping to transport troops along the Nile River and fighting many battles such as the Battle of the Delta against the Sea Peoples. The Egyptian navy maintained 4 separate fleets responsible for the Nile, East Mediterranean, Red Sea and the main royal fleet at Memphis.

Minoan Navy

The Minoan Navy was the main naval force of the Minoan Kingdom established to defend its extensive thalassocratic maritime empire during the early to middle bronze age and according to the ancient Greek historian Thucydides it was the first European state to possess a navy from 1950 to 1500 BC..[6][7]

Ptolemaic Navy

The Ptolemaic Navy was the naval force of the Ptolemaic Kingdom and later empire from 305 to 30 BC. It was founded by King Ptolemy I. Its main naval bases were at Alexandria, Egypt and Neo Paphos or (New Paphos) in Cyrpus. It operated in the East Mediterranean in the Levantine Sea, but also on the river Nile and in the Red Sea towards the Indian Ocean.[8]

Phoenician Navy

The Phoenician Navy (1500 - 535 BC) was the main naval force of the Phoenician Empire throughout its history it was used mainly in colonization operations and then for defending trade routes between Phoenician colony's and Phoenicia. Its most famous colony was Carthage which developed as an independent oligarchical republic with its own navy in 7th century.[9]

Lydian Navy

The Lydian Navy was the main naval force of the Kingdom of Lydia established around.[10]

Etruscan Navy

The Etruscan Navy was the main naval force of the Etruscan Kingdom established in 900 BC it existed until 500 BC.[11]

Macedonian Navy

The Macedonian Navy had existed at least since the formation of the Kingdom of Macedon although it was an extremely small naval force. It started to expand during the reign of Phillip II of Macedon who reigned from 359–336 BC and which it continued to expand under the Antigonid dynasty until 148 BC.[12]

Spartan Navy

The Spartan Navy first came into existences around 700 BC and was the main naval force of the Kingdom of Sparta more famously known for its army.

Carthaginian Navy

The Carthaginian Navy (600 - 149 BC) was the strongest force of the Carthaginian Armed Forces of the Carthaginian Empire. The empire was born of the Phoenician state Kingdom of Carthage. The military forces of Carthage was one of the largest military forces in the Ancient World.[13]

Persian Navy

The Persian Navy (550-330 BC) was the main force of the worlds first Super Power the Achaemenid Empire at the Battle of Salamis in Greece in 480 BC it consisted of over 1,200 ships.

Athenian Navy

The Athenian Navy (492-322 BC) was the main naval force of the city state of Athens, and later Athenian Empire. The Athenean Navy developed during the Persian Wars Athens developed a very large, powerful navy in the eastern Mediterranean that destroyed the even larger Persian navy at the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC.[14]

Roman Navy

The Roman Navy (311 BC - 348 AD) comprised the naval forces of the ancient Roman Republic and later Roman Empire. The navy was instrumental in the Roman conquest of the Mediterranean Basin.

Indian Ocean

Maritime History

The history of the Indian Ocean is marked by maritime trade; cultural and commercial exchange probably date back at least seven thousand years. During this period, independent, short-distance oversea communications along its littoral margins have evolved into an all-embracing network. The Sumerians traded grain, pottery, and bitumen (used for reed boats) for copper, stone, timber, tin, dates, onions, and pearls. Coast-bound vessels transported goods between the Indus Valley Civilisation (2600–1900 BCE) in the Indian subcontinent (modern-day Pakistan and Northwest India) and the Persian Gulf and Egypt.

The world's earliest civilizations in Mesopotamia (beginning with Sumer), ancient Egypt, and the Indian subcontinent (beginning with the Indus Valley civilization), which began along the valleys of the Tigris-Euphrates, Nile and Indus rivers respectively, all developed around the Indian Ocean. Civilizations soon arose in Persia (beginning with Elam) and later in Southeast Asia (beginning with Funan). During Egypt's first dynasty (c. 3000 BCE), sailors were sent out onto its waters, journeying to Punt, thought to be part of present-day Somalia. Returning ships brought gold and slaves. The earliest known maritime trade between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley (c. 2500 BCE) was conducted along the Indian Ocean. Phoenicians of the late 3rd millennium BCE may have entered the area, but no settlements resulted.

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, an Alexandrian guide to the world beyond the Red Sea — including Africa and India — from the first century CE, not only gives insights into trade in the region but also shows that Roman and Greek sailors had already gained knowledge about the monsoon winds.[23] The contemporaneous settlement of Madagascar by Austronesian sailors shows that the littoral margins of the Indian Ocean were being both well-populated and regularly traversed at least by this time. Albeit the monsoon must have been common knowledge in the Indian Ocean for centuries.

The Indian Ocean's relatively calmer waters opened the areas bordering it to trade earlier than the Atlantic or Pacific oceans. The powerful monsoons also meant ships could easily sail west early in the season, then wait a few months and return eastwards. This allowed ancient Indonesian peoples to cross the Indian Ocean to settle in Madagascar around 1 CE. During the 1st and 2nd centuries AD intensive trade relations developed between Roman Egypt and the Tamil kingdoms of the Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas in Southern India. Like the Indonesian peoples above, the western sailors used the monsoon to cross the ocean.

Naval Powers

The leading sea powers the operated in the Indian Ocean during this period included:

Persian Navy

The Persian Navy or the Imperial Persian Navy in one form or another has existed since the 6th century BC and was the main naval force of the Achaemenid Empire. The navy played an important role in the military efforts of the Persians in late antiquity in protecting and expanding trade routes along the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean.

Mauryan Navy

The Mauryan Navy historically was first mentioned by Megasthenes (c. 350—290 BCE), and is attributed to Chandragupta Maurya (reign 322—298 BCE). The Mauryan Navy continued till the times of Emperor Ashoka (reign 273—32 BCE), used the navy to send massive diplomatic missions to Greece, Syria, Egypt, Cyrene, Macedonia and Epirus. Following nomadic interference in Siberia—one of the sources for India's bullion—India diverted its attention to the Malay peninsula, which became its new source for gold and was soon exposed to the world via a series of maritime trade routes. The period under the Mauryan Empire also witnessed various other regions of the world engage increasingly in the Indian Ocean maritime voyages.

Chola Navy

The Chola Navy comprised the naval forces of the Chola Empire along with several other naval-arms of the country. The Chola navy played a vital role in the expansion of the Chola Empire, including the conquest of the Ceylon islands and naval raids on Sri Vijaya (present-day Indonesia).

East and South China Sea, Sea of Japan

Maritime History

The South China Sea is the dominant term used in English for the sea, and the name in most European languages is equivalent. This name is a result of early European interest in the sea as a route from Europe and South Asia to the trading opportunities of China. The Yizhoushu, which was a chronicle of the Western Zhou dynasty (1046–771 BCE) gives the first Chinese name for the South China Sea as Nanfang Hai (Chinese: 南方海; pinyin: Nánfāng Hǎi; literally: 'Southern Sea'), claiming that barbarians from that sea gave tributes of hawksbill sea turtles to the Zhou rulers. In the Spring and Autumn period (771–476 BCE) also referred to the sea, but by the name Nan Hai (Chinese: 南海; pinyin: Nán Hǎi; literally: 'South Sea') in reference to the State of Chu's expeditions there. Nan Hai, the South Sea, was one of the Four Seas of Chinese literature. There are three other seas, one for each of the four cardinal directions. During the Eastern Han dynasty (23–220 CE), China's rulers called the Sea Zhang Hai (Chinese: 漲海; pinyin: Zhǎng Hǎi; literally: 'distended sea'). Fei Hai (Chinese: 沸海; pinyin: Fèi Hǎi; literally: 'boil sea') became popular during the Southern and Northern Dynasties period. Usage of the current Chinese name, Nan Hai (South Sea), became gradually widespread during the Qing Dynasty.

The naval history of the East China Sea dates back thousands of years since the prehistoric times when simple fishing ships were used. Military naval history dates back to the Three Kingdoms period and Unified Silla dynasties of Korea in the 7th century. Because of the constant coastal attacks by the Wa Japanese and other barbarian tribes, Korean shipbuilding excelled to counter these threats as a result. During the Unified Silla period, Jang Bogo, a merchant, rose as an admiral and created the first maritime trading within East Asian countries. During the Goryeo dynasty, sturdy wooden ships were built and used to fight pirates. Korean shipbuilding again excelled during the Imjin war, when Admiral Yi defeated the advancing Japanese fleets.

In the Sea of Japan ambassadorial visits to Japan by the later Northern Chinese dynasties Wei and Jin (Encounters of the Eastern Barbarians, Wei Chronicles) recorded that some Japanese people claimed to be descendants of Taibo of Wu, refugees after the fall of the Wu state in the 5th century BCE. History books do have records of Wu Taibo sending 4000 males and 4000 females to Japan. The first major naval contacts occurred in the Yayoi period in the 3rd century BCE, when rice-farming and metallurgy were introduced, from the continent. The 14 AD incursion of Silla (新羅, Shiragi in Japanese), one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, is the earliest Japanese military action recorded in Samguk Sagi. According to that record, Wa (the proto-Japanese nation) sent one hundred ships and led an incursion on the coastal area of Silla before being driven off. During the Yamato period, Japan had intense naval interaction with the Asian continent, largely centered around diplomacy and trade with China, the Korean kingdoms, and other mainland states, since at latest the beginning of the Kofun period in the 3rd century. According to the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, Empress Jingū is claimed to have invaded Korea in the 3rd century, and to have returned victorious after three years. Whether Japan actually ruled a part of Korea in ancient times is debated.

Naval Powers

The leading sea powers the operated in the Mediterranean Sea during this period included:

Han Navy

The Han Navy originally called the Tower Ship Navy was the main naval force of the Han Empire (202 BC-220 AD) it was the first independently established navy in Chinese history. In 112 BC the Han Emperor sent a huge naval force to attack the state of Nanye. In 220 AD the empire collapsed and was split into three kingdoms (Shu, Wu and Wei).[15]

Wu Navy

The Wu Navy was established in 220 AD following the collapse of the Han Empire. Its navy during this period was very powerful this allowed the state of Wu to successfully resit attacks by the state of Wei who had considerably stronger land forces than it did naval forces. [16]

Footnotes

  1. Gilbert, Gregory P. "Ancient Egyptian Sea Power and the origin of Maritime Forces" (PDF). navy.gov.au. Canberra, ACT, Australia: Sea Power Centre, Department of Defence. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  2. "The Achaemenid Persian Empire (550–330 B.C.)". www.metmuseum.org. New York, NY, United States: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2000–2019. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  3. Casson, Lionel (1981). The Ancient Mariners: Seafarers and Sea Fighters of the Mediterranean in Ancient Times. Princeton, New Jersey, United States: Princeton University Press. pp. 33–34. ISBN 9780691014777.
  4. Casson, Lionel (1991). The Ancient Mariners: Seafarers and Sea Fighters of the Mediterranean in Ancient Times. Princeton, New Jersey, United States: Princeton University Press. p. 33. ISBN 9780691014777.
  5. The Cambridge ancient history:Volume 2, Part 1: The Middle East and the Aegean Region, c.1800-1380 BC (Third ed.). Cambridge, England: CUP. 1973. p. 490. ISBN 9780521082303.
  6. Baikie, James (1913). "The Sea-Kings of Crete". gutenberg.org. Adam and Charles Black. pp. 211–227. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  7. Movellan, Luis, Mireia (31 January 2018). "Rise and Fall of the Mighty Minoans". National Geographic. National Geographic Magazine. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  8. Fischer-Bovet, Christelle (2014). Army and Society in Ptolemaic Egypt. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. pp. 58–59. ISBN 9781107007758.
  9. Kenrick, John (1855). Phoenicia. London, England: B. Fellowes. p. 402.
  10. Starr, Chester G. (1960). A History of the World. Chicago, Illinois, United States: Rand McNally. p. 102.
  11. Turfa, Jean MacIntosh (2011). Catalogue of the Etruscan Gallery of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 2. ISBN 9781934536254.
  12. Roisman, Joseph; Worthington, Ian (2011). A Companion to Ancient Macedonia. Hoboken, New Jersey, United States: John Wiley & Sons. p. 351. ISBN 9781444351637.
  13. Dodge, Theodore Ayrault (1893). "II The Punic Army and Navy 600 to 200 BC". Hannibal : a History of the Art of War: Among the Carthaginians and Romans Down to the Battle of Pydna, 168 B. C., with a Detailed Account of the Second Punic War : with 227 Charts, Maps, Plans of Battles and Tactical Manoeuvres, Cuts of Armor, Weapons and Uniforms. United States: Tales End Press. ISBN 9781105579844.
  14. Potts, Samuel. "The Athenian Navy: An investigation into the operations, politics and ideology of the Athenian fleet between 480 and 322 BC" (PDF). orca.cf.ac.uk. Cardiff, Wales: University of Cardiff. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  15. Graff, David Andrew; Higham, Robin (2012). A Military History of China. Lexington, Kentucky, United States: University Press of Kentucky. pp. 84–85. ISBN 9780813135847.
  16. Graff, David Andrew; Higham, Robin (2012). A Military History of China. Lexington, Kentucky, United States: University Press of Kentucky. p. 85. ISBN 9780813135847.