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Aldarion

Warship types in ASOIAF

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If somebody wants to read it in detail, I have explained here and here why sailing ships make better warships than galleys in high-Medieval / Renaissance technological context. Yet galleys are widely used in Westeros - Iron Islanders use Viking longships apparently, and flagships of both Royal Fleet and Stannis are war galleys. Fury is triple-decker, which would make it into either trireme or quinquereme. But why is that? Naval artillery is used in Westeros, and I do not recall any mention of ramming attacks. Yet in the absence of ramming, naval combat comes down to either missile exchange or boarding, both of which give sailing ships significant advantage. Ergo, it makes no sense for Westeros to utilize war galleys as widely as they do, unless fleet is seen as primarily, or even exclusively, coastal amphibious warfare force. Even then, however, most ships would be sailing vessels, as galleys do not make good troop transports.

Thoughts? Theories?

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Ramming was used during the Battle of the Blackwater. In Stannis’ fleet the only ship I recall had a ram was Bar Emmon’s Swordfish. Despite that Davos’ Black Betha rams Lady’s Shame, and if you went over Davos’ POV during the battle I’m sure there may be more instances of ships ramming each other.

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I would assume that the Narrow Sea is like the Mediterranean.  Galleys were standard in that Sea till about 1800.

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4 hours ago, McGuv19 said:

Ramming was used during the Battle of the Blackwater. In Stannis’ fleet the only ship I recall had a ram was Bar Emmon’s Swordfish. Despite that Davos’ Black Betha rams Lady’s Shame, and if you went over Davos’ POV during the battle I’m sure there may be more instances of ships ramming each other.

But that would also depend on purpose of ramming. It seems that ramming-to-sink in Roman times depended on the particulars of ship construction, and even then, trying to shear off the oars may have been more common than actual ramming. But ships in Westeros seem to have been built ribs-first instead of hull-first, which means that ramming to sink would not be effective. In later stages of galley warfare, from early Middle Ages onwards actually, ram-to-sink was replaced with ram-to-board - as early as 5th century or so, Byzantine writer (forgot the name, I think I may have mentioned him in one of the articles) believed that rams on ships of antiquity were there to protect ships from ramming rocks. In keeping with that, underwater ram was replaced with the boarding spur. Byzantine dromond utilized a spur, not a below-water ram, and Battle of Lepanto was fought primarily with boarding tactics. And in such environment, sailing ships had distinct advantage due to their height.

Some more reading:

https://books.google.hr/books?id=9aRWDgAAQBAJ&pg=PA36&lpg=PA36&dq=when+did+ramming+stop+being+utilized+as+naval+tactic&source=bl&ots=DyJCu_8L2e&sig=ACfU3U31bN2sfJyYR5VqRIJJLFsqvSha6w&hl=hr&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjD6IKlwLDkAhVkkosKHddSA4oQ6AEwC3oECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=when did ramming stop being utilized as naval tactic&f=false

https://books.google.hr/books?id=dfaZAAAAQBAJ&pg=PA202&lpg=PA202&dq=when+did+ramming+stop+being+utilized+as+naval+tactic&source=bl&ots=MUmSrA5WnJ&sig=ACfU3U1OJyLD0jq1UXTc0_3Tms1nMEABXA&hl=hr&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjD6IKlwLDkAhVkkosKHddSA4oQ6AEwDnoECAcQAQ#v=onepage&q=when did ramming stop being utilized as naval tactic&f=false

In this account you can see how greater height of sailing ship is a distinct advantage over a galley (155 - 157, 164 - 170):

http://deremilitari.org/2016/08/the-siege-of-constantinople-in-1453-according-to-kritovoulos/

Crews of sailing ships lose 22, those of galleys over a hundred, despite latter having numerical advantage.

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Ships were always the weakest part of GRRM worldbuilding imo. With the technology that Westeros has in shipmaking. siege weapons and liquid fire they should also be able to make cannons. The reason that Martin never introduced cannons is understandable though since they would nerf the Dragons a lot.

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I suspect that the reason why there are no firearms in Westeros is that those would make feodalism and heavy cavalry obsolete. Or firearms made "national armies" possible and so central governments much stronger and nobles had to became civil servants and they lost their own special powers and "autonomy". So the song would had been totally different if people had access to firearms.

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17 hours ago, Dreadscythe95 said:

Ships were always the weakest part of GRRM worldbuilding imo. With the technology that Westeros has in shipmaking. siege weapons and liquid fire they should also be able to make cannons. The reason that Martin never introduced cannons is understandable though since they would nerf the Dragons a lot.

Not necessarily. Roman Empire had liquid fire, definitely since seventh century but possibly as early as fifth century, yet they did not have gunpowder weapons until 14th century, and possibly never. Likewise with ships, you could conceivably have shipmaking technology as developed as 18th century but no cannons, as long as nobody developed proper gunpowder (that is, small-grain type which was used for cannons, as opposed to Chinese original gunpowder which was only really useful for fireworks).

1 hour ago, Loose Bolt said:

I suspect that the reason why there are no firearms in Westeros is that those would make feodalism and heavy cavalry obsolete. Or firearms made "national armies" possible and so central governments much stronger and nobles had to became civil servants and they lost their own special powers and "autonomy". So the song would had been totally different if people had access to firearms.

Quite probable. Now, you can have national armies without gunpowder - Roman Empire had professional military for long periods, and never developed anything like Western European feudalism - but gunpowder does enable centralization, as you cannot really have mass production of gunpowder and cannons without centralized state, and in any case cannons undercut the power of local magnates by making castles and fortifications in general much less useful.

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Also these...

GRRM also used this fire-powerwagon idea in other stories of his, and it ain't ever a good thing ;)

  • The World of Ice and Fire - The Targaryen Kings: Aegon IV

    Fortunately for the realm, the king's plans to invade Dorne in 174 AC proved a complete failure. Though His Grace built a huge fleet, thinking to succeed as Daeron the Young Dragon had done, it was broken and scattered by storms on its way to Dorne.

    This was far from the greatest folly of Aegon IV's stillborn invasion of Dorne, however, for His Grace had also turned to the dubious pyromancers of the ancient Guild of Alchemists, commanding them to "build me dragons." These wood-and-iron monstrosities, fitted with pumps that shot jets of wildfire, might perhaps have been of some use in a siege. But Aegon proposed to drag these devices up and through the Boneway, where there are places so steep that the Dornishmen have carved steps. They did not come even that far, however, for the first of the dragons went up in flames in the kingswood, far from the Boneway. Soon all seven were burning. Hundreds of men burned in those fires, along with almost a quarter of the kingswood. After that, the king gave up his ambitions and never spoke of Dorne again.

And of course these...

Twice in interviews George provides this foreboding notion of the dragons:

Dragons are the nuclear deterrent, and only [Daenerys Targaryen, one of the series’ heroines] has them, which in some ways makes her the most powerful person in the world,” Martin said in 2011. “But is that sufficient? These are the kind of issues I’m trying to explore. The United States right now has the ability to destroy the world with our nuclear arsenal, but that doesn’t mean we can achieve specific geopolitical goals. Power is more subtle than that. You can have the power to destroy, but it doesn’t give you the power to reform, or improve, or build.”

***

“I have tried to make it explicit in the novels that the dragons are destructive forces, and Dany (Daenerys Targaryen) has found that out as she tried to rule the city of Meereen and be queen there. She has the power to destroy, she can wipe out entire cities, and we certainly see that in Fire and Blood, we see the dragons wiping out entire armies, wiping out towns and cities, destroying them, but that doesn’t necessarily enable you to rule — it just enables you to destroy.”

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