Monday, February 27, 2023

Another trireme effort

Chasing rabbits again: from an essay on "Could Napoleon have won?"(*) I ran across the tidbit that Napoleon III had indulged an interest in archaeology and had a trireme built. His son had a toy one.

Finding non-paywalled information was a bit hard. The Christian Science Monitor said it was used for target practice. There's a brief description of the project in French, and a much longer analysis (also in French) at (For more information about the 1980's Greek efforts with the Kyrenia II, this is succinct. I tried a rough translation of a few lines in the paper. I fear my French is somewhat like that of H.G. Wells: "the strange dialect which I have inadvertently made for myself out of French, a disemvowelled speech of epicene substantives and verbs of incalculable moods and temperaments"

Jal and Dupuy de Lome each seem to have thought they were directing the project. Jal was a historian, and was accused of treating ancient authors' descriptions with a less critical eye than he applied to more recent authors. de Lome seems to have wanted to make something better than the ancients had.

On 9-March-1861 it was launched for two days of tests on the river.

After the two days of tests, neither Jal, nor Dupuy de Lome, nor the emperor seem to have wanted to continue the program. Perhaps this was due to simple disinterest, a sign of hidden difficulties, or having seen an unacknowledged check. No document tells us. In June 1861 it was towed to Cherbourg and "disarmed"; in August 1863 it was beached, and 26-April-1878 it was decided to demolish the trireme. (Jal had been dead for 5 years, Napoleon III was not only not emperor anymore he was also dead. de Lome was now a senator.)

I found no details about how it was "demolished" but wikimedia seems to think it was dismantled instead of blown up. I wonder if people took souvenirs.

I've written about that ancient technology before here and here. It doesn't inspire enough curiosity for me to make it a hobby, but I notice it when it appears.

(*)Spoiler: yes, if Napoleon and the generals had adapted their technology and tactics to match their enemy's instead of sticking with the same old stuff.


J Melcher said...

An earlier version of Howard Hughes and the "Spuce Goose" ?

james said...

If you have the money to try it out...