Thucydides 1.14.1 Penteconters

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Paul Derouda
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Thucydides 1.14.1 Penteconters

Post by Paul Derouda » Wed Feb 14, 2018 5:09 pm

δυνατώτατα γὰρ ταῦτα τῶν ναυτικῶν ἦν. φαίνεται δὲ καὶ ταῦτα πολλαῖς γενεαῖς ὕστερα γενόμενα τῶν Τρωικῶν τριήρεσι μὲν ὀλίγαις χρώμενα, πεντηκοντόροις δ᾽ ἔτι καὶ πλοίοις μακροῖς ἐξηρτυμένα ὥσπερ ἐκεῖνα.

I've been reading somewhat lazily the first pages of Thucydides, without looking very deep into matters, since I've read this passage already before. I was wondering what exactly is the distinction between πεντεκόντορος and πλοῖον μακρόν here. I think in Herodotus they are more or less synonymous (or perhaps πλοῖον μακρόν was known there as νηῦς μακρή), the point being that the more modern triremes were comparatively shorter, as their rowers were packed closer together, and this made them more maneuverable. Can πεντεκόντορος be a subcategory of πλοῖον μακρόν?

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Re: Thucydides 1.14.1 Penteconters

Post by Hylander » Fri Feb 16, 2018 4:45 pm

For what it's worth, Gomme thinks that πλοίοις μακροῖς are war vessels, "presumably of a different build from pentekonters." That seems to be the thrust of the Greek, doesn't it?

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Re: Thucydides 1.14.1 Penteconters

Post by Paul Derouda » Fri Feb 16, 2018 5:21 pm

Yes, that's what the Greek seems to say, but in Herodotus I think penteconters and "long ships" were, if I remember correctly, the same thing. We're emptying our apartment to make some renovations, so most of my books are in cardboard boxes, and I can't check anything up. But I guess this kind of thing isn't necessarily consistent from one author to another.

What I'm wondering is when exactly warships came to be called "long/tall ships". Long/tall in contrast to what? To merchant ships (which were "round", στρογγύλος, so apparently broader in than, for example, warships)? Or to triremes, which didn't have to be as long to accommodate a similar number of rowers, and were thus more maneuverable? If the implied contrast is to triremes, it means that the term must be rather recent.

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Re: Thucydides 1.14.1 Penteconters

Post by Paul Derouda » Fri Feb 16, 2018 5:26 pm

In addition, apparently navis longa is warship in Latin. It seems to me that penteconters were ancient history by Roman times. Is the word a poetic loan word from Greek?

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Re: Thucydides 1.14.1 Penteconters

Post by Timothée » Fri Feb 16, 2018 5:45 pm

Note that ‘ship’, ‘boat’ in Welsh is llong: borrowed from the Latin (nauis) longa into the British language during the Roman occupation of Britain.

I checked the LS, but of course in cases like this it’s unhelpful: πεντηκόντεροι ships with fifty oars, πλοῖα μακρά ships of wars, with references to this passus. Which leads to the following: are there commendable Thucydidean dictionaries? A Google search provided one from 1824, Lexicon Thucydidaeum, but that seems just too old.

In addition, πεντηκόντορος is deemed as a uaria lectio of πεντηκόντερος in the LS. What is the present opinion on this?

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Re: Thucydides 1.14.1 Penteconters

Post by Hylander » Fri Feb 16, 2018 5:52 pm

I found the old Lexicon Thucydideum by Bétant (cir. 1843) quite useful, but you have to know Latin -- it's a Greek to Latin lexicon. I think there's a more recent Greek to English lexicon for Thucydides, which is probably better -- astronomically priced, of course.

Here's the 1824 Geek to English lexicon:

https://archive.org/details/lexiconthucydida00lond

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Re: Thucydides 1.14.1 Penteconters

Post by Timothée » Fri Feb 16, 2018 9:48 pm

Hylander wrote:Geek to English lexicon
Inderdaad! :D

I wonder what that more recent Thucydides lexicon you mention is. I couldn’t find it, though I may have had wrong or otherwise poor search criteria.
Paul Derouda wrote:In addition, apparently navis longa is warship in Latin. It seems to me that penteconters were ancient history by Roman times. Is the word a poetic loan word from Greek?
This is an interesting question, for which I have no answer unfortunately (someone else surely does). What the dictionaries say is that we have nauis longa in Plautus and Ennius, which suggests that this collocation existed in Latin before the year 200 BCE (still a whopping 200 years after Thucydides). Archaeology would have so much more to say, no doubt. Maybe a mere look at the RE or the New Pauly would suffice to give a nice overview.

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Re: Thucydides 1.14.1 Penteconters

Post by RandyGibbons » Sat Feb 17, 2018 2:25 pm

Paul, if it were me and I seriously wanted to know the answer to your question, I wouldn't rely on etymologies, dictionaries, or encyclopedias, especially considering the contributions recent maritime archaeology must have made (as Timothée suggests). Instead, I would look for the most recent scholarship and scholars. Here's something I found randomly on the web. I'd try writing to Professor Carr, who I'm sure would be delighted in the interest and would have something to say.

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Re: Thucydides 1.14.1 Penteconters

Post by mwh » Sat Feb 17, 2018 10:39 pm

Paul, I think you had it right in your original post. The 50-oar type was in use before the more elaborate trireme came on the scene. Pentekonters were long (length:breadth ratio greater than with other kinds of boat, including triremes, and also longer than most other kinds of boat), and were evidently viewed as the standard but not the only kind of long boat.

Good luck on your voyage on the good ship Thucydides, which has more than length to commend it. I hope not all your posts will be about Realien.

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Re: Thucydides 1.14.1 Penteconters

Post by Paul Derouda » Fri Feb 23, 2018 10:48 pm

Thanks for you replies. I've been in bit of a hurry recently.

Randy, I actually read a whole book about shipbuilding when reading Homer (whose conclusions I've come to view with some suspicions now). I'm not going to go that deep this time, I'd like to finish one day! I was just hoping for some easy answers here, and/or confirmation...

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