Christian History Project. This site contains the text of 12 volumes on the history of mankind over the last 2,000 years written from a 'collectively-denominational' Christian perspective.

Dromon Warship |
The fighting ships of a war-torn sea

Dromon Warship is drawn from Chapter Nine, beginning on page 236, of Volume Six, The Quest for the City of the twelve-volume historical series The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years. If you would like to order this book please visit

The dromon was versatile, fast in battle, yet easily swamped in heavy weather, but nothing equaled the lithe-hulled Viking vessels at withstanding crashing waves

Dromon Warship - The fighting ships of a war-torn sea

Dromon Warship - The fighting ships of a war-torn sea

When Rome controlled the Mediterranean at the dawn of the Christian era, the great inland sea was a vast commercial highway, where ships hauling grain cargoes from African ports to the opposite coast grew ever larger. After the Muslim conquest of Syria, Palestine, Egypt, North Africa and Spain, however, the Mediterranean became a war zone for the next four centuries. Designed for fighting, not for commerce, ships grew smaller and faster and more maneuverable.

Chief among them was the dromon, portrayed in the sketch below and in the three at the top of the page opposite. Usually powered by both oars and sails, the dromon could make a steady four knots (roughly 4.5 miles per hour) under oars, in the frequent dead calms of summer. In battle it could make six to nine knots–for up to twenty minutes, before the oarsmen dropped exhausted. These were significant advantages. Its disadvantage lay in its short freeboard (i.e., the distance from gunwale to the waterline), which meant that it could easily be swamped in storms, and must therefore stay close to shore.

Below is the double-mast Byzantine dromon used in the centuries-long conflict. The single-mast vessel (top right, opposite) is a Muslim craft, unusual in depending on sail alone. The bas-relief (top left, opposite) from the Leaning Tower at Pisa, Italy, dated between 1000 and 1150, is believed to be a Christian representation of two dromons delivering souls to the port of heaven. Beneath it is a bas-relief from the historic fortress town of Aigues-Mortes in France, fifty miles west of Marseilles. Note the bow deck for boarding enemy vessels.

Other occasional visitors to the Mediterranean included the lithe vessels of the Vikings (see chapter 4), although their true sphere of operation was the open Atlantic, where their relatively high freeboard enabled them to withstand ocean storms, and their flexible hulls could bend before the crashing of the waves. n

This is the end of the Dromon Warship category article drawn from Chapter Nine, beginning on page 236, of Volume Six, The Quest for the City. To continue reading more about Dromon Warship from The Christians, Their First Two Thousand Years we suggest experiencing the rest of the book, complete with hundreds of magnificent illustrations, by ordering it at