sabato 1 novembre 2008


The bulk of a ship's crew was formed by the rowers. Despite popular perception, the Roman fleet relied throughout its existence on rowers of free status, and galley slaves were usually not put at the oars, except in times of pressing manpower demands or extreme emergency, and even then, they were employed after they had been freed. In Imperial times, non-citizen freeborn provincials chiefly from nations with a maritime background such as Greeks, Phoenicians, Syrians and Egyptians formed the bulk of the fleets' crews.

Each ship was commanded by a trierarchus , while squadrons were put under a nauarchus , who often appears to have risen from the ranks of the trierarchi. The post of nauarchus princeps appeared later in the Imperial period, and functioned either as a commander of several squadrons. Only in the 3rd century were these officers equated to the legionary centurions in status and pay, and could henceforth be transferred to a similar position in the legions.

During the Republic, command of a fleet was given to a serving magistrate or promagistrate , usually of consular or praetorian rank. However, since these men were political appointees, the actual handling of the fleets and of separate squadrons was entrusted to their more experienced legates and subordinates. It was therefore during the Punic Wars that the separate position of praefectus classis ("fleet prefect") first appeared. Initially subordinate to the magistrate in command, after the fleet's reorganization by Augustus, the praefectus classis became procuratorial positions in charge the permanent fleets.