Roman Military Riverboat Replica Launched

From Monsters and Critics:

Enthusiasts launched a replica of a Roman military riverboat Thursday and plan to test it next month to assess the striking power of legions on the German Rhine.

The Lusoria Rhenana took a year to construct out of oak planks. It was designed by computer, modelled on the wrecks of 1,700-year-old boats found in the Rhine mud.

The Roman Empire extended right up the Rhine Valley to the river mouth, but the Romans never conquered the north or east of Germany. Germanic tribes ultimately brought the empire down, with the Visigoths sacking Rome in 410 AD.

The enthusiasts, led by Ralf Lehr, are testing the hypothesis that oar-powered military boats patrolled the waterway.

They are now recruiting 24-man crews to row the 6-ton vessel. From summer, the boat will offer joyrides to paying passengers. It will also have a square sail for times when the wind is behind it.

Lehr, who works for the county council, was not fussed about an authentic launch at Woerth am Rhein, west of Karlsruhe, however -the Lusoria was lowered into the water in steel-cable slings with an electric crane.

The riverport was lined with shipping containers bearing the logo of the Hanjin Line, smoke wafted from nearby chemical factory chimneys and some of the crew wore red hard hats and neon yellow safety vests.

Chief constructor Matthias Helterhoff oversaw a team that used 4,000 hand-made nails to assemble the 18-metre boat. The nail-heads show on the surface.

Lehr said he got the idea from a television documentary that depicted Roman rowers and their boat.

‘I thought, I want one of them too,’ he said, and teamed up with an academic, Christoph Schaefer of the University of Trier ancient history department, who says there is evidence the Romans used the boats to strike fear into the hearts of the primitive German tribes.

‘We aim to see what it was like to actually use such a boat,’ said professor Schaefer. The university uses high-tech software to study the capabilities of ancient ships.

Students from an armed forces university will form crews to test whether average Roman legionaries could have handled the type, known as a navis lusoria, or whether it was a difficult job that had to be left to specialists.

That would some yield data about Roman military strategy on the Rhine.

Over at youtube, there’s a brief video (sans commentary) which appears to document the building of this ship … there’s another video which seems to be the same people, but I’m not quite sure whether it is talking about the Lusoria Rhenana or not. There are also some good photos here … and here (there’s a few … this links to the first one) …


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