14

This well-known image showing a Byzantine dromon type ship using Greek fire has a blue object behind or on the ship on the right for which I have not been able to find any explanation:

Greek fire

It doesn't look like anything I can even imagine. What is it?

  • 7
    Really, it doesn't look like anything? – SPavel Apr 11 '18 at 0:39
  • 1
    @SPavel Nice link :) – Lars Bosteen Apr 11 '18 at 0:42
  • 3
    @SPavel looks more like a Tardis to me... – Erno de Weerd Apr 11 '18 at 10:38
  • 4
    @ErnodeWeerd And the lead oarsman in the ship on the right is clearly using an iPad. – Jim Garrison Apr 11 '18 at 15:46
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    the TARDIS of course. It's much bigger on the inside – Kevin Fischer Apr 16 '18 at 16:31
12

It's probably a representation of the awning or tent that would have covered the Captain's berth at the stern of the vessel. The Wikipedia article on the Galley shows some other representations.

This model of a 16th century Maltese galley shows the awning at the stern quite clearly:

Maltese Galley

as does this 15th century representation of a Venetian Galley:

Venetian Galley

  • 2
    That does seem most likely, though the artist isn't helping much. Actually,it sort of looks like a folding or dressing screen but I guess that's rather unlikely in this context! :) – Lars Bosteen Apr 10 '18 at 23:53
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    @LarsBosteen One of my tutors once described it as looking rather like "a Medieval Portaloo!" ;-) – sempaiscuba Apr 10 '18 at 23:57
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    @sempaiscuba: In post-caravel sailing vessels it was called the head because of its location on the ship; perhaps it was formerly known as the tail. – Pieter Geerkens Apr 11 '18 at 0:33
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    @LarsBosteen: It's possible that the artist didn't know better since 3D-to-2D perspective projection wasn't widely known at the time or at least wasn't used in paintings. In Europe that only became common during the Renaissance. – David Foerster Apr 11 '18 at 11:51
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    @RubelliteFae A couple of points. Since the image is from a manuscript (the Madrid Skylitzes), I suspect the blue is created from a copper compound or Lapis Lazuli rather than indigo dye. And since the picture celebrated the victory of the Byzantine empire over the fleet of Peter the Slav, I think they may have sprung for the extra expense in that particular copy of the manuscript. :) – sempaiscuba Apr 21 '18 at 22:03
0

The odd structure appears to be standing on a hill behind the ship. Could it be a tower, perhaps a stand-in for an entire city?

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