The Romans and Ships

The Roman learned the art of fighting at sea from its long struggle with the fleets of Carthage (264-241B.C.). Roman war galleys used the corvus, a weighted gangplank, to board enemy ship.

The long Roman civil wars of the first century B.C. ended in a great sea battle between the fleets of Octavius Caesar and Mark Antony off the Greek coast at Actium (December 2,31 B.C.), in which the fortresslike galleys of Antony (below) were captured one by one. After Actium, Rome’s emperors kept a navy of fast galleys to protect the sea-lanes of the Roman Empire from attacks by pirates who swarmed the islands of the Mediterranean.

The Roman invasion of Britain in A.D. 43 was supported by a powerful fleet of warships.
Under the Roman Empire, merchant ships brought food and goods to Rome from all over the Mediterranean, sailing from Egypt as far east as India.