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“Lords of the Sea” by John Hale Literature Analysis Report

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Updated: Apr 13th, 2020

About John R. Hale

Mr. John R. Hale went for is graduate studies at Yale where he was honored with classical archeology. This is the place where he got the passion to dig deeper into the history of the Athenians. After this institution, he pursued his doctorate studies on the Viking Longship’s evolution at the Cambridge. It is after this that he decided to embark on archeology where he studied mostly issues concerning ancient warships.

He has worked as a field archeologist in the University of Louisville since1980 to 1983 where he then became a lecturer in the anthropology department up to 1988. At the moment, the author is a director of the University of Louisville in the department of liberal studies. He is still an archeologist who has had numerous underwater expeditions.

He has also written for the Scientific American and has featured in various profiles including the New York Times and the NPR, the journal of Roman archeology and also the antiquity. Some of the other books that the same author has written are “Art of War and Renaissance England,” “Renaissance Venice” and “Great Ages of Man: Age of Exploration.”

The author has conducted various other archeologically related fieldworks in the Scandinavia, Ohio River and also in other countries like Portugal and Britain and mostly in Greece. During the research for his doctorate which he did at the Cambridge University, he engaged in the Scandinavian art where he studied the design of boats which could be found in the Bronze Age.

In his scholarly work, he came to discover that some of the vessels that most people thought were skin boats was not the case but was the work of woodwork which had a direct relationship in ancestry with the Viking long-ship. By being an oarsman, he made a reconstruction of the techniques that were used to row in the primeval Greek trireme (Hale 5).

The Athenian trireme: a description of the vessel

A trireme is a type of a very olden warship that was used during the Mediterranean civilizations in the maritime factors mostly by the primordial Romans and Greeks. The Athenian trireme was built with the incorporation of two very big cables which were double the length of the ship which was called in their language, hypozamata meaning undergirding. They were rigged from end to end along the middle line of the hull where they would be used to avert hogging.

The hypozamata also had other great significances in that it acted as a guard against instances of ramming against other substances which gave it an upper hand when it came to combat. The ships were not so big in that their length was approximately 40 meters and the size of the hull above the water surface was less than 21/2 meters in height.

According to the book, the triremes were very expensive to make and used softwoods so that they could be light. To sail them, they were propelled with 170 oars, which were each manned by a single person. They had two masts, each with a big main one and a smaller one with square sails. Two paddles which were located at the tern provided the steering or the ship. These ships could however only travel at a maximum of 6 knots unless the ships were new and the crew experienced enough such that they could make up to 8 knots.

In combat, they either rammed their enemies or boarded the enemy ship. They would directly roar towards the enemies and ram it with the intention of breaking its hull. The other methods were moved alongside the enemy ship and break their oars such that they could no longer move. Before this, they would lower their masts so that the enemy could not hook them down (Hale 30).

Description and comparison of the careers of Themistocles and Alcibiades

To begin with, both these two individuals had very closely related careers. The two individuals have been defined as the most successful people from Athens who had to visit Sparta.

In a dialogue with Socrates in one of the ancient written works found in papyrus, some people argued that Alcibiades was not equipped enough to engage in politics since he did not have a caring attitude towards himself and that he pretended to know more than was the reality. Alcibiades was a student of Socrates who has been depicted to merely have depended on him for knowledge and improvement in his skills.

He is also seen to have a very extravagant behavior that was feared by most people because he seemed tyrannical. Alcibiades is a person whose character changed from his boyish innocence to someone who had affairs with other people’s wives at the latter days. In his time, women of varying social states were discriminated against.

On the other hand, Themistocles was a political figure who had a lot of support from the lower class. He was described as a populist, and he also had issues with those who belonged to the noble class. He is also infamous for urging Athens to spend a fortune in expanding the navy. He was greatly involved n the improvement of the Athenian’s naval powers something which made him gain a lot of popularity and also made him one of the most remembered readers.

His later arrogance led him to be exiled though he remains the more important of the two in that he played a great part in salvaging the Greeks from the Persians. The two leaders can thus be compared in the history they left behind and arrogance to their subjects (Hale 137).

The fate of the Athenian naval power in the century after the Battle of Aegospotami

This was a naval battle in which the Athenians lost and which was part of the Peloponnesian War. The Athenians had a fleet of 180 triremes which had taken shore at Aegospotami. This was about three miles from the Peloponnesian fleet which they had planned to attack from Lysander.

The Athenians were then under Alcibiades who was in exile. At this time Alcibiades tried to get involved by giving advice to the general about relocating though he was ignored, forcing him to get back to his home. Lysander attacked them and captured almost all their triremes.

Because very may people were executed in this battle, the few, about ten ships that made to escape from being captured were too weak. The Athenians did not have the required means to build new ships. The land had besieged them, and they were incapable of importing basic needs, including food.

This made them come to terms later on in around the year 404 B.C., which meant the end of the Peloponnesian war. This war was the last biggest battle in this war, and the Athenian naval power was destroyed, and Lysander emerged victorious (Hale 204).

The essence of the existence of the Athenian navy

This question can be approached in two ways. In the first place, it is good to consider that the Athenian naval empire was the root cause of the end of the Peloponnesian war. This makes it important in that its existence led to the end of a war which had almost devastated Greece.

Before the war, Athens was the strongest empire which was in constant squabbles with the Spartans. This war led to the reshaping of the entire country, thus making the battle of very much significance and thus to the factions that made the battle end, a lot of significance comes in too.

Considering the amount of time and resources that the navy consumed, it beats logic as to whether the navy was important at all. This can be considered to imply that it did not matter to the security of the Athenians, whether there was a need to have a navy or not. In terms of time, one trireme consumed 6000 man hours to build, and it could not last for long. To maintain the fleet of about 300 triremes, the government of the day had to make 20 of them each year.

This was quite expensive though it would have been ignoring if the navy was strong enough to protect Athens. It, however, proved not to be the case when Athens was defeated and the navy together with the triremes destroyed by the Spartans during the battle of Aegospotami (Hale, 391).

Works cited

Hale, John. Lords of the sea: the epic story of the Athenian navy and the birth of democracy. New York: Viking, 2009. Print.

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