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  • T1, R1, Prng 8: Arab Shalandi vs Norse/Viking Longships

    In your opinion, which of these two warship types was most significant, influential and/or effective?
    Feel free to apply those criteria as you please, along with any others you think appropriate.
    Note: Suggestions for some additional criteria are at the foot of this post.


    According to the criteria as you see and apply them, please vote for your preferred candidate in the attached poll.
    If your chosen criteria are significantly different from those suggested, telling us what they are and why you used them would be helpful.





    15. Arab Shalandi, 7th-9th Centuries


    The Shalandi was a type of galley developed for the Arabs, by Syrian and Egyptian shipwrights during the 7th century AD.
    Prior to this time, these craftsmen had been building ships for the Byzantines and had "switched masters" when their new rulers took over the area.
    Adaptations included the ability to carry more marines, as well as higher hull sides to provide a better fighting platform.
    These features were incorporated into ships in a range of sizes from fairly compact monoreme, single-masted vessels to larger bireme types and two masts.
    Both basic types continued side-by-side in production and service in the Arab fleets.
    Sails were of the "lateen" style; that is, essentially triangular rather than squarish in shape.
    The idea is thought to go back at least as far as the 2nd Century AD, originating somewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean region.
    The triangular sail made it feasible for the yard to be set at angles closer to fore/aft, allowing the vessel to "tack" more easily and/or sail "closer to the wind".
    The wider employment of lateen sails by the Arabs accelerated the spread of their use throughout the Mediterranean and further, helping to facilitate a resurgence of commerce.
    This in turn led to the use of various combinations of triangular and square sails on later vessels used by other powers.
    It contributed significantly to the development of much more capable, fully ocean-going ships.

    This first picture shows a smaller-sized Arab Shalandi from around the mid 7th Century (about 650 AD).





    Below, we see a shipboard catapult as used during the 7th Century.
    Such weapons - which can be broadly classified as an early form of artillery - were employed on both Arab and Byzantine warships.
    The basic idea was not new and had been used by other maritime powers (for example, the Romans) a good number of centuries prior to this.
    Munitions for catapults had however been developed somewhat further in the interval.
    An Arab variant is pictured here. The Byzantine type was probably very similar; the differences being relatively minor AFAIK.





    This illustration represents a later and in this case, much larger twin-masted bireme Arab Shalandi from the mid 9th Century (about 850AD).
    This particular variant was called a musattah. It had two fighting platforms; one each at the bow and amidships.
    This ship was easily large enough to carry catapults such as the one shown above.







    17. Norse/Viking Longship, Late 8th-13th Centuries


    Variations of the Norse/Viking Longboat/Longship were in use for at least five centuries.
    Generally, these vessels might be considered a "Nordic" variation of the galley concept.
    They usually had a relatively shallow draft, allowing them to navigate rivers very extensively, as well as shallow coastal waterways.
    They were also relatively easy to "beach"
    The medium-to-larger variants also had passable seagoing qualities, by comparison with many other types of the early medieval period.
    The fragmented geography of the Scandinavian region bred a hardy race of people who were very much at home on the water.
    Indeed, they both traded with and at times terrorized, much of NW Europe for two or three centuries.
    The Vikings travelled far and wide, around and throughout the waterways of Europe as well as across the North Atlantic.
    They are known to have operated at least as far North-West as the continent of North America and as far South-East as the Volga and the Caspian sea.

    This nicely rendered drawing (painting?) shows a Viking Longship under way using full sail power and its oars shipped.
    It has 15 rowing stations on each side, for a total of 30 oarsmen.
    That would make it somewhere around medium sized, as there were variants both larger, as well as somewhat smaller, than this.
    There were some design variations too, over the half-millennium or so that this basic type of Norse/Viking vessel was in use.
    Sail power alone was a good way to move when conditions favoured it (wind strong enough and blowing in somewhere near the right direction).
    The crew could take a break from their usual exertions.
    More often, oars alone would be used but sometimes it was possible, or necessary, to employ both sources of power.





    This photo shows a modern reconstruction of a medium-to-smaller sized Longship/Longboat.
    It has 10 oar stations on each side for a maximum rowing strength of 20 men; however in this instance 9 per side are being employed.
    These guys look as if they are really getting into the spirit of things, with quite authentic looking period costumes!
    Also, I'm thinking this is probably a fjord or if not, a river or piece of coastline with very steep terrain behind it.





    In this picture, we have a good clear photo of a well preserved Viking longship in a museum.
    It is known as the Oseberg ship, after the locality where it was found, and was excavated in 1904, in Norway.
    The hull is "clinker built", which refers to the method of construction using a framework covered by planks or strips of timber that overlapped at the edges.
    This was the most common building method for most of the "dark age"/medieval period in Europe; and the technique itself goes back further than that.
    The decorations on its prow and stern date it to approximately 800AD.
    It has rowing stations for 30 oarsmen (15 per side), making it a fairly average sized example if my reading serves me correctly.







    Well then, my friends ... what say you?
    Which of these will get your vote?


    Suggested additional criteria you might wish to consider, along with any others you deem appropriate.
    (Note: Some of these could be considered already covered by Significant, Influential and Effective)

    Which warship type ...
    • was the best?
    • was the greatest?
    • was the most widely used?
    • had the greatest longevity in service?
    • was the most versatile?
    • represented the best value for the cost/effort invested ("bang for the buck" in today's language)?
    • was the easiest to operate?

    Any other criteria you have applied (please tell us what they were).
    41
    15. Arab Shalandi 7th - 11th Centuries AD
    26.83%
    11
    17. Norse/Viking Longships 8th - 13th Centuries AD
    73.17%
    30

    The poll is expired.

    Last edited by panther3485; 19 Aug 17, 03:38.
    "England expects that every man will do his duty!" (English crew members had better get ready for a tough fight against the combined French and Spanish fleets because that's what England expects! However, Scotland, Wales and Ireland appear to expect nothing so the Scottish, Welsh and Irish crew members can relax below decks if they like!)

  • #2
    According to Romola and R C Anderson [The Sailing Ship] the origins of the lateen rig are not clear and candidate sources include early Indian outrigger ships and Javanese Praos. both of which were known to have used forms of lateen from way back. However their money is on the Nile and probably considerably earlier than the 2nd century AD. Lateen sailing vessels can still be seen on the Nile (I've been in one) where their ability to tack rapidly is very useful in confined waters. However given that a very similar arrangement developed quite independently in Northern waters as the lug sail it is entirely possible that it was a case of parallel evolution in a number of places - similar problems lead to similar solutions and this type of fore and aft rig may have developed in a number of places.

    There appears to have been a limit on the size of ship that could take a lateen rig although in the 18th and 19th centuries there were some lateen rigged frigates (including the one that Cochran overcame in the little Speedy).

    The Viking longship was mainly intended for warfare and raiding in coastal waters, fiords and rivers. For long sea and ocean passages the much bigger and broader knarr which could haved up to 100 crew, was used, especially for trading rather than rape and pillage. The Vinland settlements which sent back timber to Iceland would have been served by knars. The longship was designed for a different kind of warfare than the Shalandi so its difficult to make comparisons. However the latter would have been able to run rings around the longship in open waters (until the wind dropped anyway) so I'll go for that
    Last edited by MarkV; 15 Aug 17, 06:02.
    Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
    Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

    Comment


    • #3
      From my (admittedly still limited) reading so far, yes, I would tend to concur that lateen sails probably originated somewhere in that region (the Nile area).
      I tend to lean towards caution and being very new to research on the history of naval warfare, felt relatively safe sticking with "eastern Mediterranean".
      It points to an area but is general enough to give me some wriggle room.

      With regard to the knarr, up until now at least I wasn't able to find all that much about it relating to use in warfare as such; so thought it best to stick with the "longship" variant/s only.
      Had I found sufficient material of that kind however, I would probably have been tempted to give the knarr it's own slot in these polls, being sufficiently different from the longships IMO.

      Thanks for the useful and informative feedback. +1.
      Last edited by panther3485; 15 Aug 17, 06:02.
      "England expects that every man will do his duty!" (English crew members had better get ready for a tough fight against the combined French and Spanish fleets because that's what England expects! However, Scotland, Wales and Ireland appear to expect nothing so the Scottish, Welsh and Irish crew members can relax below decks if they like!)

      Comment


      • #4
        The catapult is the type the Romans called the Onager (wild ass) because it kicked with its hind legs. When the throwing arm hit the cross bar the rear end of the frame tended to leave the ground quite violently and the whole thing could tip over forward or jump some distance.. People who have built replicas have confirmed this. I would imagine therefore that it wouldn't just sit on deck as in the illustration but would be anchored to some substantial deck timber
        Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
        Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by MarkV View Post
          The catapult is the type the Romans called the Onager (wild ass) because it kicked with its hind legs. When the throwing arm hit the cross bar the rear end of the frame tended to leave the ground quite violently and the whole thing could tip over forward or jump some distance.. People who have built replicas have confirmed this. I would imagine therefore that it wouldn't just sit on deck as in the illustration but would be anchored to some substantial deck timber
          Yep, that makes perfect sense.
          I'm guessing the artist must have concentrated on doing a nice illustration of the weapon but didn't think too much about what was going to restrain it.
          "England expects that every man will do his duty!" (English crew members had better get ready for a tough fight against the combined French and Spanish fleets because that's what England expects! However, Scotland, Wales and Ireland appear to expect nothing so the Scottish, Welsh and Irish crew members can relax below decks if they like!)

          Comment


          • #6
            I am more familiar with the Long Ship.

            Pruitt
            Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

            Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

            by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by MarkV View Post
              The catapult is the type the Romans called the Onager (wild ass) because it kicked with its hind legs. When the throwing arm hit the cross bar the rear end of the frame tended to leave the ground quite violently and the whole thing could tip over forward or jump some distance.. People who have built replicas have confirmed this. I would imagine therefore that it wouldn't just sit on deck as in the illustration but would be anchored to some substantial deck timber
              Oh yes.

              I helped to transport one belonging to another group, and was permitted to watch it being shot.

              Despite being a small example (about half the size of the smallest class actually used), it weighed a ton, and took 14 of us to shift.

              Once cocked, the shooter picked up a long lanyard and retreated - the rest of us didn't hang around - the lanyard was pulled from a safe distance, the projectile (a watermelon) vanished into the ether, and the whole contraption threw itself toward the nose, the rear portion being a good 2 feet off the ground, before settling back with a bang that rattled our fillings.

              The performance of a larger weapon - and the reason they weren't fitted with wheels - can well be imagined.
              Indyref2 - still, "Yes."

              Comment


              • #8
                I had more trouble deciding this one than most of the others.

                For sheer length of reach and the terror they instilled over such a wide area for so long, it looks to me as if the Norse/Viking Longship should get the nod.
                On the other hand, most of the fighting was not done by, or from, the Longships themselves.
                Most often, they were effectively little more than a means of transport to get to the fight, and home again when all the fighting was done.

                The Arab Shalandi, by a most important contrast, was IMO a true fighting ship per se.
                I think the Longships probably deserve their win here but on the basis of that last point, my vote goes to the Shalandi.
                Last edited by panther3485; 27 Aug 17, 01:18.
                "England expects that every man will do his duty!" (English crew members had better get ready for a tough fight against the combined French and Spanish fleets because that's what England expects! However, Scotland, Wales and Ireland appear to expect nothing so the Scottish, Welsh and Irish crew members can relax below decks if they like!)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Even though I voted for it, was the longship a "warship"? Did the Vikings fight from it or was it used only for transport? We don't read much about the Vikings fighting at sea do we?
                  Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by R. Evans View Post
                    Even though I voted for it, was the longship a "warship"? Did the Vikings fight from it or was it used only for transport? We don't read much about the Vikings fighting at sea do we?
                    From my understanding and a limited amount of reading, the longships were used mainly and most usually as transport, for raiding and/or to get to a land battle.
                    However, I believe that from time to time they would also have been used as a fighting platform so I think they must have been used "ship-to-ship" on at least a few occasions.

                    Anyway, that's my take on this.
                    "England expects that every man will do his duty!" (English crew members had better get ready for a tough fight against the combined French and Spanish fleets because that's what England expects! However, Scotland, Wales and Ireland appear to expect nothing so the Scottish, Welsh and Irish crew members can relax below decks if they like!)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by panther3485 View Post
                      From my understanding and a limited amount of reading, the longships were used mainly and most usually as transport, for raiding and/or to get to a land battle.
                      However, I believe that from time to time they would also have been used as a fighting platform so I think they must have been used "ship-to-ship" on at least a few occasions.

                      Anyway, that's my take on this.
                      The longships were used for raiding rather than naval actions and when facing better designed and bigger ships did quite poorly as Alfred's naval actions illustrated

                      Then King Alfred gave orders for building long ships against the esks, which were full-nigh twice as long as the others. Some had sixty oars, some more; and they were both swifter and steadier, and also higher than the others.

                      They were not shaped either after the Frisian or the Danish model, but so as he himself thought that they might be most serviceable.
                      In one year no less than 20 long ships were taken or destroyed mostly off river mouths which they had either emerged from after a raid or up which they had intended to raid. The chroniclers describe them as unable to escape because in the action so many of their rowers were killed or badly wounded which suggests that Alfred's ships came along side and used their greater height to allow the long ship's deck to be swept with missile fire - probably arrows.
                      Last edited by MarkV; 28 Aug 17, 03:47.
                      Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                      Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Thanks MarkV; and I can't say I'm all that surprised.
                        It's a substantial part of my reason for voting for the Arab Shalandi.

                        I decided to include the Longships anyway, even if they only engaged occasionally in ship-to-ship combat and regardless of their effectiveness in this mode (which, if faced with anything other than small lightly armed vessels I didn't have high expectations for in any case).

                        Reasons for my decision included the fact that they are so well known and had a reputation as being symbols of terror.
                        However, I also considered it probable that the Norsemen - while on the water - would from time to time at least have attacked relatively weak or even defenceless vessels, when suitable opportunities arose.
                        Even if such actions were relatively rare as I would expect, that notion - combined with their great notoriety - seemed enough of an excuse to just squeak the longships across the line and into this tournament.
                        "England expects that every man will do his duty!" (English crew members had better get ready for a tough fight against the combined French and Spanish fleets because that's what England expects! However, Scotland, Wales and Ireland appear to expect nothing so the Scottish, Welsh and Irish crew members can relax below decks if they like!)

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by panther3485 View Post
                          Thanks MarkV; and I can't say I'm all that surprised.
                          It's a substantial part of my reason for voting for the Arab Shalandi.

                          I decided to include the Longships anyway, even if they only engaged occasionally in ship-to-ship combat and regardless of their effectiveness in this mode (which, if faced with anything other than small lightly armed vessels I didn't have high expectations for in any case).

                          Reasons for my decision included the fact that they are so well known and had a reputation as being symbols of terror.
                          However, I also considered it probable that the Norsemen - while on the water - would from time to time at least have attacked relatively weak or even defenceless vessels, when suitable opportunities arose.
                          Even if such actions were relatively rare as I would expect, that notion - combined with their great notoriety - seemed enough of an excuse to just squeak the longships across the line and into this tournament.
                          I think the Norsemen used terror in much the same way as IS does today and initially with the same results as IS got when they took over so much of Iraq so easily
                          Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                          Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Thanks for answers, gentlemen.
                            Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by panther3485 View Post
                              I had more trouble deciding this one than most of the others.

                              For sheer length of reach and the terror they instilled over such a wide area for so long, it looks to me as if the Norse/Viking Longship should get the nod.
                              On the other hand, most of the fighting was not done by, or from, the Longships themselves.
                              Most often, they were effectively little more than a means of transport to get to the fight, and home again when all the fighting was done.

                              The Arab Shalandi, by a most important contrast, was IMO a true fighting ship per se.
                              I think the Longships probably deserve their win here but on the basis of that last point, my vote goes to the Shalandi.
                              I agree with this, but voted longship.

                              Comment

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