February 21, 2017

Ancient Egyptian sea power and the origin of maritime forces by Gregory P. Gilbert

By Gregory P. Gilbert

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The actual extent of Egyptian sea power also fluctuated in association with Egyptian royal power, and it will be possible to see how the characteristics of actual Egyptian maritime operations changed over time when the evidence is examined later in this book. For now let us examine the evidence for the characteristics of Egyptian sea power during the Prehistoric Period and the rise of the Egyptian state. The earliest Egyptian boats were practical craft used for fishing and transportation rather than physical embodiments of Egyptian sea power.

77 Steering oars were essential to travelling ships, not just because of the limitations of the square sailing rig but in order to avoid obstacles in the dangerous Nile waters. 78 Such early rudder systems were very manoeuvrable but relied on the strength of the helmsmen and the pitch of the blades to change direction. By the New Kingdom the steering oars were sometimes tied to ship’s gunwales by manoeuvring cables capable of redirecting excessive loading, with the helmsman using a simple lever 29 A N CIENT EGYPTIAN S EA POW ER A ND THE OR I GI N OF M A R I TI M E F O RCE S arrangement or tiller to effect changes in direction of the ship.

I carried the boatless to the shore. I buried him who had no son. ’62 During the period of state collapse during the First Intermediate Period, nautical metaphors were used to emphasise the troubled times. ’63 The tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor is itself a metaphor for the opposing forces of good and evil, where the Giant Snake represents the Ancient Egyptian god Apophis, who is often linked with the chaotic behaviour of the sea. Another tale, the ‘Tale of the Eloquent Peasant’ sometimes used nautical terms to emphasise the advanced linguistic abilities of the hard done by peasant: 23 A N CIENT EGYPTIAN S EA POW ER A ND THE OR I GI N OF M A R I TI M E F O RCE S The divine bark of Amun carried upon the shoulders of priests When you go down to the sea of justice, And sail on it with a fair wind, No squall shall strip away your sail, Nor will your boat be idle.

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